2018/05/08

AWFUL: Hikari Sentai Maskman BGM


While I am absolutely useless at deciphering song lyrics in plain English, every once in awhile a nugget sticks with me. The lyric that struck me today actually comes from a song that I don't care for, but I'll share it anyway...

"You know the good ole days weren't always good. And tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."

That's from Billy Joel's Keeping The Faith. It's a line that's always stuck with me considering how much people moan about "good ole days" when it comes to cars, movies, television shows, and...music. They're only the "good ole days" thanks to a combination of how memory works and possibly a smidge of revisionist history. I'm not ashamed to say I dig new music every once in awhile if it's genuine--even when it comes to Tokusatsu. I've made it fairly known that I enjoyed the Kyoryuger soundtrack even before I realized the series shared a composer with Carranger/Ultraman Powered/Gingaman.

Today I'm going to talk about an example of a classic series having an absolute shit music collection: Hikari Sentai Maskman.

Musical tastes are subjective, but there is no denying that the Maskman music collection is woefully...incomplete(?). The almost complete lack of an orchestra really takes the punch out of the entire mood. Whatever the story was behind-the-scenes, composer Goro Omi turned in a collection of the most disjointed sludge ever to poison our ears.

The Good

Admittedly there are some worthwhile pieces of music. Hearing real instruments is extremely rare throughout this collection, but there are some nice dramatic tracks that feature some nice acoustic strings. That is about as traditional as this music collection got. Even the previous Sentai/Toku series that skewed heavily toward orchestral soundtracks would have some bare acoustic tracks for the heavier scenes.

The Bad

The best way I can describe the music from this series is like this... Tracks will feature a lone real instrument (horn, guitar, violin) and be absolutely ruined by a horrible synth tone and THE SINGLE WORST DRUM MACHINE IN EXISTENCE. This isn't even the first Sentai music collection employ the use of a drum machine, but whatever equipment they were using was at least four years out of date by 1987. Nearly every track is like this. If this is what was at Omi's disposal, that's rather unfortunate. The problem is actually deeper than that, however.

Omi cannot hold a rhythm. The music oscillates between teeth-shattering shrill to so herky-jerky that it could be some great break dance music with very little modification. That's great and all, but this is for a children's action show. There really is no great fight music, just this unnaturally uptempo noise. Some of the more hollow dramatic pieces featuring little more than a lone female vocalization are just cheap cop-outs. An example of a series that does this correctly is Gingaman.

If you're listening at home, the worst of the worst of this music lives on the Volume 2 disc. I don't think any of it was actually used in the show...at least I don't remember a lot of the wackier stuff being included. Mostly because I enjoyed this series and I think a lot of this music is enough to sink the show.

The Remedy

I can't really think of a series with a bigger disconnect between it's music and song collection. The saving grace here is that Omi didn't really have much to do with the vocal song collection, but he actually is behind the awesome Dashitemiyo ze! Aura Power. There are some pretty good tunes that really sound absolutely nothing like the music.

Ehhh...not bad.

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Part of the reason I spent the entire month of April posting those daily reviews of Akina Nakamori albums was to kinda force myself to *really* go back and listen to the music. I wrote about the Complete Super Sentai Music Collection series from the mid-90s some years ago and, embarassingly, it's one of the most popular posts on the site. I really want you to pay close attention to what I wrote about the Maskman music collections. I talked about how rare the CDs are and how eye-watering the prices have gotten, but did I talk about the music even a little bit? Nope.

My aim is swing back around and talk about these series if there is anything else to add and to give the CDs themselves their fair shake. This post here isn't so much a review of the CDs, it's just something that's been biting at me. I might not enjoy the blandness that some of the music from current shows has adopted, but the opposite of inoffensive is...offensive. Something like the Maskman music collection is likely a zero budget, slapdash effort gone horribly wrong. While things did get MUCH better the next year with Chojuu Sentai Liveman, I would hardly call that music collection perfect.

What do you think of the Maskman music collection? Do you think Toei did enough to kinda work with what was turned in? Am I criticizing what is surely a misunderstood classic??

Thanks for stopping by this week!

-CC

More CD Collection Posts

UPDATE: I posted this to my Twitter account for the uninitiated...

9 comments:

  1. Speaking as a fan of Maskman, the BGM is pretty lackluster. There's no real "fight" BGM music to speak of, with just two themes (the fast-paced one and the ominous one) put on repeat. I'm not entirely sure if it was Omi being unsure of the series' tone or having only a short amount of time to prepare BGM, but the soundtrack is a little slapdash. It would have been better if the music had taken more cues from the song collection's instrumental. Heck, the show realizes this, as almost all of the significant fight scenes use the OP song as the BGM.

    That's not to say there aren't a few good tracks. I do kind of like that first "meditation" piece with the chorus and some of Akira's swordfight music.

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    1. There are plenty of series that have unused music released on the CD music collections...but when I was listening to both discs during this writing session I was like...what IS this music?? Hahaa. Like I hardly remember any of it being used.

      There have been times when composers have admitted that they were unprepared. Toshihiko Sahashi (why do I keep bringing him up??) has said that he wasn't ready for Carranger. I've suspected that being the reason it sounds so similar to his Ultraman Powered soundtrack. The only thing new for the Carranger soundtrack was the Zonette music.

      When it comes to Omi, I just think he didn't have the chops for it. His short resume is kinda indicative of that.

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  2. You enjoyed Kyoryuger's music collection so your review is positive?

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    1. Of the music collection? Sure. I really enjoyed those CDs. I can't say I enjoyed the show, but the music is good.

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    2. I can safely say that the show really liked developing it's characters and i think the Deboth legion was the last threatening villain faction in a while

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  3. I'm not sure if this is just with the copy I've listened too, but does the instrumental of Ai No Soldier sound...broken at all? It starts to sputter and make scratchy noises by the second loop, and its happened with my cd and other versions of the album I've found online.

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    1. Just re-listened with my better headphones. Nope, it's crystal clear. If you don't mind me asking...is your CD a CD-R by chance? It sounds like it's a bad rip from a laser that's beginning to fail. It would make sense since Ai no Solider is the last track, and that's usually where bad lasers seem to have the hardest time.

      The other thing I can think of, is your copy of the 1987 original release? If so, I guess they fixed it by this 1998 release. It might be why this was released after Kakuranger instead of between Flashman and Liveman... Hmmm... The plot thickens.

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  4. I wasn't going to say anything since I like the Maskman music, but I gotta!

    I remember you saying before that you thought Maskman's BGM was bad, and I was kinda like "Eh, different strokes and all." But the next time I listened to the album, I was like "Well, I can see why maybe people find it off-putting." The weird thing to me is that I think it works well in the show, when you're watching the show, but when you're listening to the music on its own, on the album? Yeah, it's kinda weird and you can notice how sparse some of it is or just the bizarre turns some of the tracks can take. (Some of the weirder pieces are for the Tube, so I think most of it fits.)

    I also get the impression Oumi fancies himself a Jan Hammer type, like "Hey, I got a synth, it can be anything I program it to be, and I can do EVERYthing myself!"

    There's a lot of music that I like and think works anywhere, though, like any of the music that's associated with Takeru's memories of Mio. I don't know, maybe I'm a weirdo -- I hate the Timeranger BGM and everybody loves it.

    P.S. I thought I should say that I read your Akina Nakamori coverage. I know it sounds bad considering she's so popular, but I'm only familiar with a few of her '80s songs. (And if Southern Wind wasn't karaoke'd by Change Phoenix in that one episode, I probably wouldn't have sampled any of Nakamori's songs.)

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    1. Thanks man! I think Changeman and Bycrosser are the only two Tokusatsu shows any of Nakamori's songs have appeared in. At least, that's all that I noticed. Like I was saying, though, I was always a casual fan but her recent albums really got me to go back and fill in all of the holes. Was pleasantly surprised! I can count on one hand how many artists I've listened to the entire discography of.

      Something I probably could have touched on is how great the music was in the other shows of 1987. Metalder must have cost a fortune, while Kamen Rider Black was a bit more down to Earth with only a few duds. It's no secret that I love almost everything Eiji Kawamura did (gotta give him credit for phoning in the Kamen Rider J soundtrack at the same level as Toei did with the film), but Seiji Yokoyama was a great choice for Metalder (and Ohranger...not so much Winspector).

      Totally agreed on Timeranger music. Overrated. Back then I didn't have much money and was disappointed with all three music collections and the absurd costs I was paying. From then on, I tried to limit myself to buying used discs unless I knew for sure it was going to be good. But yeah, I thought Sentai music was all good from Liveman to GoGo Five (Megaranger was kinda weakish).

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