compiled by Nicholas
email: ndkent "at" optonline.net
Last updated 05.1.12
(*) means I don't
own this album
(@) means I've listened to this album but don't own one
a couple odds and
ends by Derek Higgins marked by "DH:"
and a few by Yosuke Morimoto ("YM:")
and some clarification by Jonas Wårstad who has his own discography
and some info from Axel Poque and David McKenzie
Sakamoto before 1984 page
Sakamoto Albums since 1994
2002.11.20 MIDI CD MDCL-1437
This is a compilation album of 18 commercially commissioned tracks RS composed between 1981 and 1984. A few pieces relate to released works but the actual tracks here generally weren't available before. CM is a Japanese industry term for Commercial Music, it can be television commercials, as some of these tracks are. Quite a few tracks are longer though all but one are under 5 minutes long.
A whole series of compilations of unreleased older work came out around this time. My guess is MIDI, Sakamoto's former label realized they could release this work either in response to WEA, Sakamoto's current label releasing some other works like it, or the other way around, WEA saw what MIDI was releasing and did their own releases. No matter the result was a lot of old rare material got released though I'm not sure all of it is really the highest quality creative work, much is more functional than what you hear on RS's major album projects.
I'll add info on the other CDs soon.
1984 Midi Gold CD: MDCZ-1091. Midi lp: MIL-1001, cd: MID1001
My LP copy came with the final 2 tracks on a separate 7" disk. Wild cover art. Tibetan Dance has YT and HH on it. Yan Tomita, Y. Shimizu, Omura, Van Tieghem also play. Sakamoto spent months recording his first post-YMO solo album. He recorded quite a number of additional tracks which never saw release. Cool cover design. (RS at a piano in B&W, the title and artist are not written in roman characters)
Ivar de Vries writes:
'Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia' is arguably Ryuichi Sakamoto's best album. It contains a rich selection of extremely well arranged tracks - my impression is that Sakamoto must have been saving up this music during his YMO years (which ended just prior to making this album) because clearly a lot of musical thought has gone into making it and there's not a single bad piece on the album. For some reason not all tracks released on the original LP + bonus-single made it onto the world-wide 1986 release (which instead has two songs on it earlier released as singles: 'Field Work' and 'Steppin' Into Asia'). This makes the Japanese reissue on CD which has all the original tracks plus 2 more by far the best version to get hold of.
The title '...Encyclopaedia' could suggest a bunch of unrelated tracks randomly thrown together but instead the album has a very coherent, vaguely Japanese feel to it, the focus being on piano and percussion with imaginative use of synthesizers and vocals. Quite a large list of guest-musicians make contributions as well, among whom the two other ex-YMO members and David van Tieghem. Highlights include 'In A Forest Of Feathers' with its subtle harmonies, 'Tibetan Dance' showing Sakamoto at work as some kind of big-band leader and great upbeat tune Self-Portrait, which funnily enough is the only track on which Sakamoto doesnt play himself ! Also the jazzy textures of Tribute to N.J.P. (a reference to pioneer Korean video performance artist Nam June Paik) and the fine clockwork intricacy of Replica
gold version and recent CDs add :
RS sings on kimi ni tsuite. It was not on earlier releases of this album, the LP version for instance. N.J.P. refers to Nam Jun Paik, a highly influential video artist. I've seen an early 1990s gallery show where the two collaborated on a new piece.
(@)1986 Virgin, 1987 cass: Ten by 10CDIX 34 (UK), LP:Ten by 10 Records DIX 34 (UK), CD: Ten by 10 Records DIXCD 34 (UK)
This is the shorter international version which is missing a bunch of tracks but adds RS/Dolby's Field Work and RS / Akiko Yano's Steppin' Into Asia. These singles are both cool, but do not match the rest of the music on the album. There are 2 different mixes of Tibetan Dance. The original Japaneser album one has very thick orchestration. "Tibetan Dance (Version)" heard here has the melody over a beat with the other parts dropping in dub style.
(*) 1984 Midi single Seiko Alba Presents
Seems to be a gift album? Ma Mère l'Oye means Mother Goose in French. It is the with the children's chorus. On Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia the track was called Zen-Gun. Zen-Gun might be a shorter mix in all formats as the times are different on the versions I've inspected
1985 7": Ten
by 10 Records TEN 112 (UK), Midi MIS-2 (J),
12": School/Midi MIS-502(J), Ten by 10 Records TEN 112-12 (UK), Virgin 607 954-213 (GER)
There are 5? versions of Field Work. A Tokyo Mix version that reflects RS's take on the piece, A London Mix that sounds more like a Dolby tune. Also an edited version of each for the 7" and another shorter version which seems to show up on compilations. Dolby sings and plays electric piano. RS plays the other synths.
Exhibition is not on the 7" it's a 15 minute Sakamoto solo cut similar in some respects to Hosono's 3-6-9 and #1-2. (process based and avant garde)
Field Work + Seppin' Into Asia
(*)Maxi.CD Midi MID-1503
cd combo of 2 12"s intact but not the edits.
(*) This is what is currently out in Japan I think. It contains all the mixes, Exhibition and The Arrangement EP.
1985 7" picture single: Midi MIPS-1
Cool piece with Akiko Yano vocals. These mixes are longer than the edited version (TV Track) which sometimes shows up on compilations. While no longer glam, the picture disk of RS makes him look like a student. Urban mix has a wicked brass riff, but the orginal has a better beat.
1985 Midi MDCL-1244 MDC7-1007 lp: MIL-1007, cd: 35MD 1007
Yas-Kaz and guitarist Arto Lindsey. Music for a Melissa Fenley dance piece.
Adelic Penguins is one of my favorite pieces. Some DVD info here.
1986 Midi MID-507, MDCL-1245,, MDCZ-1218, gold disc:Midi MDCZ-1095, lp: MIL-1015, lp: 35MD 1015 cass :School /Midi MIT-1015
Sakamoto's hommage to the Italian Futurist art movement. The opening number is full of Blade Runner sound bites. Later Bernard Fowler does vocals. Caoli Cano sings in Italian. She was in an eccentric mid 80s band called Ciccolata. Arto Lindsay is on one track. Plenty of interesting sounds to listen to. The album title translation is in Italian, Sakamoto sometimes translates this album to English as Future Boy. The cover has a color photo of RS in motion, I mention this because the cover does not have roman letters on it. Other factoids are Broadway Boogie Woogie was the name of Piet Mondrian's last completed painting possibly interpreting an optimistic future. Known to only a few, Ballet Mechanique, besides being the basis for a well promoted 1999 song, Chronic Love by Miki Nakatani, was actually a new arrangement for his own album of the song which he first wrote for Yukiko Okada , a young singer who recorded and released it, but died soon after. (I've heard her version, its good, I suspect its not easily available)Also the voice of the early 20th century founder of Futurism, Marenetti can be heard. He was and is somewhat controversial due to his Facist political leanings.
Ivar de Vries writes:
This is one of Ryuichi Sakamoto's more electronic albums and a good one too. It has "futurism" as its basic theme, but not in any pessimistic sense. The album is more or less pop-oriented with a few vocalists (Bernard Fowler and Caoli Cano) singing some strong melodies and plenty of heavy percussion throughout.
Broadway Boogie Woogie is a crazy loud piece which features a saxophone and Blade Runner voices (specifically: from the scene where Deckard and Rachel first meet) - a unique piece in Sakamoto's oeuvre. The next two pieces have nice uplifting tunes and are relatively quiet inbetween the "chemical beats" of the other tracks.
'Milan 1909' is a good experimental track and slightly reminiscent of 'Diva' from JM Jarre's album 'Zoolook' - it's got a robot-voice relating the history of the art movement called "futurism" which apparently started in Italy around 1909 and contrasted itself with 19th-century aesthetics.
'Daikoukai' must be the most futuristic-sounding track on the album with its crazy antics while 'Parolibre' on the other hand is a beautiful piano-based nostalgic piece - both these tracks feature Caoli Cano on vocals. Bernard Fowler would sing an epic slower version of 'Daikoukai' on the 1988 live-album Playing the Orchestra and Ballet Mecanique would also reappear much later in vocal and instrumental versions on the Miki Nakatani single Chronic Love.
To conclude, 'Future Boy' is not the most consistent of albums, but always interesting.
(*)1986 Midi single MIS-11
or The Adventures of Chatran (soundtrack)
1987 Midi cd: 35MD-1017, lp:MIL-1017
This album goes by
all three titles mentioned above. (some new fans get confused when they see
one name and then see another, yes there is only one version of this) Light
jazzy swing. Sakamoto produced but did not write all the tracks. The film came
out overseas retitled as Milo and Otis without any of Sakamoto's score!!
It takes real guts to buy an expensive cd with a cute kitten on the cover. Might be too light-hearted for some. The film was a big hit in Japan and Sakamoto won major awards for the score.
Ivar de Vries writes:
A very cheerful soundtrack to a very cheerful film by Masanori Hata, "The Adventures Of Chatran" contains a selection of upbeat pieces charting the adventures of a sweet little kitten during its discovery of the world. Not very profound stuff but as an album essential for any fan of Ryuichi Sakamoto.
He did not write all the tracks - nrs. 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 are orchestral tracks written by three other Japanese contributors, two of whom would participate again with Sakamoto in one of his next projects "Aile de Honneamise". These tracks however blend in perfectly with the tracks by Sakamoto who also uses the orchestra but adds his own piano and electronics. "Self Portrait" makes a strangely appropriate reappearance from his earlier album "Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia" but the rest is all new music. Track 7 "Watasuge No Hara" is one of those great slow Sakamoto movie-pieces and at the end Keiko Yoshinaga puts in a fantastic vocal performance in what can only be described as the perfect pop-song: "Koneko Monogatari".
Track 11, the only one by Sakamoto to sort of describe the abrupt physical movements of cats, points back musically to that other slightly jumpy piece immortalising cats, "M.A.Y. In The Backyard". Apparently, Modoki and Asura were two of Sakamoto's cats, who were sometimes being pestered by another one named Yanayatsu.
The movie has since been released on DVD in Japan (PCBC-50120) along with a making-of documentary and other extras. It is a release well worth buying, not only because it's quite a unique and funny film only featuring real animals, but also because it contains plenty of unreleased music by Sakamoto.
1987 cass: CBS 4600954(US), 28KH-2220 (J), LP: CBS 4600951,(US), 28AH-2200(J), CD: CBS 4600952 (US), 32DH-700 (J)
Bill Laswell co-produced, this seems to be the only album that came ever out on Laswell's sub-label Terrapin. Laswell is behind the band Material and the Rock-It sound of Herbie Hancock, which this sound is a sort of a major bridge between its sort of in your face sound and Laswell's multicultural worldbeat excursions which followed. In the 90s Laswell he developed his own spin of ambience (The Divination projects and his Sub-Harmonic label in general. His Axiom label has a world beat to it.) Laswell worked with Hosono in the mid 90s.
de Vries writes:
A no-nonsense and commercial album, 'Neo Geo' features a galaxy of guest-musicians/vocalists and has a cosmopolitan, slightly empty feel to it, in spite of its beautiful but short opening piano piece 'Before Long'. The album appears very much a collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Bill Laswell, who co-produced the album, co-wrote three songs and played bass-guitar. 'Risky' rather unlikely features Iggy Pop on vocals while the rest of those are supplied by various Japanese singers. Two tracks that really stand out are 'Parata', a clock-work marching track having a contemplative and slightly tragic feel to it, and the aptly titled 'After All', a subtle laid-back piece which manages to establish the atmosphere of a smoky late-night jazz-club - Japanese style.
All in all, the album sounds a bit dated (because very eighties) and can't be considered a high point in Sakamoto's oeuvre, although it's still reasonable enough to have a listen to once in a while.
DH adds: I have a test pressing of an extended mix of 'Shogunade' which appeared on 'Neo Geo' originally. This version was never released to my knowledge.
1987 7": CBS 6510177(US), 12": CBS 6510176(US), 07SH-1949(J), 651017 (UK)
Risky in extended mix
1987 School/Midi CD EP: MDCZ-1223, MID-507
Seemingly a mini album made up of material that didn't find a home on a full album. 3 New York studio tracks featuring old songs covered by the Neo Geo band with Bernard Fowler on vocals. Includes a new instrumental Ryougan Bisyou, I heard somewhere it was a TV theme. Plus shortened edits of 2 older singles that had appeared before. Some speculate Sakamoto had further plans for his NeoGeo band as a recording and touring unit that didn't pan out. Perhaps he had hoped he would have had some hits with this style of material.
* These tracks are new versions with Bernard Fowler vocals. Behind the Mask has the Michael Jackson written additional lyrics (he's not on the album nor has he performed them himself, at some point Jackson on his own wrote additional lyrics to this song which have generally been incorporated since).
there's also a smaller version of this CD, called just "Behind the Mask", same cover, but minus the "plus 3"
1987 Midi lp:35MD-1025, cd: MDCL-1247, Gold CD: MDCZ-1097;
4 CD set: MDCZ-1168~1171, this includes the soundtrack, the image sketch and 2 discs of the entire intact audio portion of the film (dialog sound effects, etc)
Buster: There are several ways to get this soundtrack. The main version
is quite simply the original soundtrack (on one regular CD)! Then there is the
"Image Sketch". Is this the soundtrack people ask? Is it different?
The answer is 'sort of '-- it is a 4 song mini album of Sakamoto's demos recorded
earlier, from before he did the final versions. Image Sketch, get it? He looked
at storyboards and art from the film and did demos of some soundtrack ideas
prior to the film being animated and perhaps a style for his collaborators to
follow. Finally there is the 4 CD collection. Do you get any extra music? No,
not really. You get the regular soundtrack. You get the Image sketch mini-album,
and you get 2 CDs of the audio from the film intact. So yes you can hear some
extra music, but it has voices and effects all on top.
BUT! The DVD has recently been released in the U.S. (and perhaps other places). The DVD has a fantastic bonus, I forget the exact count, maybe 105 minutes total of original music from the film in complete form without voices appears over a sort of slide show of the film's original production art and found in the bonus features section. This presentation most likely originated with the now out of print Japanese videodisc "Memorial Box" edition and the DVD winds up costing well under half the price of the commercial 4CD set with as far as I can tell has the same music plus quite a bit more.
The English translation would be Royal Space Force (Own-e-ah-mis). The animated video is well worth getting since it is out in the U.S. and is one of the best Japanese animated features. All kinds of styles, quite good. While produced by RS the soundtrack was written by RS, Koji Ueno, Yuji Nomi, Haru Kubota,. The lp included a big poster.
The deluxe 4CD set features the audio (music, effects, dialog) track from the entire movie plus the below Image Sketch. It seems many Japanese movies had albums of the entire audio tracks come out for collectors in the 70s? and definitely 80s. Maybe the popularity of Laser Discs put an end to this? To an american its really kind of pointless as if just about anyone would rather have a video or DVD of the anime itself
Aile de Honneamise - Memorial Box is an out of print Japanese Laser disc set that contains additional footage and music cues not on the CDs as a bonus.(Bandai Co.Ltd, BEAL-367, 14,369 yen)(*)
--But in 2001 a U.S. DVD of the original anime feature titled for U.S. release, Royal Space Force -Wings of Honeamise was released and it contains presumably the same material as on the Japanese Memorial Box so, as a bonus on the DVD you get an uncued medley of seemingly everything on the soundtrack album and many cues not included on it -- intact, full length and with no dialog or sound effects. Its fairly well hidden! You can hear it if you play the special feature about production art and drawings.
If the title is supposed to be in French, it should be Aile d'Honnêamise. "Aile" means something like flank or squadron in French. The film takes place in a 20th Century world with a different culture and history than Earth. Like one of those parallel earths you encounter in science fiction
1987 maxi cd: Midi MID-1501 lp: MIL-1501
Four demo tracks for the final score. Includes 3 slightly different versions from the album and a song sung by the characters of the film. A lot of people are confused by this item-- its a mini album of 3 earlier arrangements and a song sung by characters in the film that was left off the soundtrack album proper.
For those confused-- Whats on the 4 CD set??
1. regular soundtrack
2. image sketch mini album
3. & 4. entire music dialog and effects from the film.
If you want all the music and can play the DVD, I'd go with the DVD all you are really out is the packaging and perhaps inconvenience if you want to play it in your walkman
1988 Virgin VJD-32021
Sakamoto does all the major music except for the opening title and a few scattered scenes. Interestingly Byrne's music seems to be all Fairlight and Sakamoto's is with a full orchestra with light , if any synth. Hans Zimmer co-ordinated.The album Playing the Orchestra contains some unused tracks. RS won the Oscar for his score. Sakamoto also acts a sizable supporting role in the film and gets to look suave. Look out for New York composer Lucia Hwong who introduces a photo of the title character's bride to be and the hilarious Hajime Tachibana as a tounge-tied Japanese translator in a cameo.
de Vries writes:
Like he did for the earlier movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Ryuichi Sakamoto both acted in and contributed music to this famous Bertolucci movie about the life of the last Chinese emperor. He and fellow music contributors David Byrne and Cong Su got an Oscar for it, although Sakamoto provided the bulk of the music and certainly the most memorable themes.
Sakamoto applies his usual straight-forward but effective orchestral style here but, due to the nature of the movie, also uses various traditional Chinese instruments for authentic effect. Most of the short pieces are elobarations on the main themes, which are given a nice run-through in the last and longest track of his section. A year later, on tour with an orchestra, Sakamoto was to perform longer, much beefed-up and probably better versions of all Last Emperor music as well as pieces from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. These can be heard on the excellent 1988 live double-CD Playing The Orchestra, his debut solo-release on the Virgin Records label.
David Byrne's section is sort of similar to Sakamoto's, being recognisably Byrne with Chinese elements added to it, whilst Cong Su's single piece is completely Chinese in character.
(*)1988 7": Virgin VS 1038 (UK), 12": Virgin VS 1038-12 (UK)
(*) 1988 Virgin (US) 7": 7-99431 promo
(@) 1989 cd: KTCD-H001
This was commissioned for the Pavilion of Electricity at Expo 90. Sakamoto produces. I don't have the credit info but he is probably not the composer on some or most tracks (like A Kitten's Story and Hoineamise in the respect that he is producing multiple other artists creating a good portion of the cues). It had some sort of event related release at the time but never had a wide commercial release. It might have been bootlegged to some extent also so make sure you know what you are doing before you pay a lot for one. The music is kind of decent new age-science TV show style music and is quite nice though only bears distinctive Sakamoto styling from time to time.
1990 maxi cd: Virgin Japan VJD-15554
The track Laser Man was (I believe) the theme to an American indie film of the same name. Same basic melody as Good Morning. A great track. The track aslo showed up on (Riddley Scott's) Black Rain soundtrack album. In the film it is played in a night club. Paul Rymer noticed that the Black Rain version seems closer to a vocal-less version of Good Morning while the version here is more embelished. Out of print.
Undo is a Sapporo Beer commercial. (These tracks are normal song length, not say a half minute). They are like like different arrangements but may just be remixes, they share a number of elements.
Comes in a thin case with no cover and only a strip on one side. The CD has a flower decoration and no name like Playing the Orchestra.
Out of print.
1990 Virgin Records America cd: 7 91294-2, CDVUS 14, cass: Virgin America (US) VUSMC 14, OVEDC 382, LP: Virgin America VUSLP 14 (US)
Guests include Brian Wilson, Robert Wyatt, Shankar, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Robertson, Jill Jones, Youssou N'Dour, Arto Lindsay. A big first class album. The lp has fewer tracks. My CD came with a nice booklet which had all kinds of graphics then the lyrics all crowded at the end.
Adagio (for Strings) was a classical track written by Samuel Barber, the piece is best known from the original (strings) version in the movie Platoon. Its arranged by Sakamoto and only on the Japanese version of this album.
There is a 60 min. live video BEAUTY (U.S. Virgin Music Video 3-50155) which has 9 songs including the You Do Me music video. While the tape is fine, though visually a bit non-exciting, I caught the same show in New York which featured Arto Lindsay doing his song live and Youssou N'Dour knocking out the crowd with his song. the only flub came when a real long African sample got set off in the mniddle of a quiet song and nobody could stop it. The show was much longer and Sakamoto played some soundtrack themes on piano also. Pity that show wasn't taped.
A shorter (5:24), different mix of Chinsagu No Hana is on the cd nextwavenewmusicamerica10thanniversary (nma001) which was a compilation CD for New Music America available in New York.
Ivar de Vries writes:
The first international Ryuichi Sakamoto release in the nineties, Beauty starts off a series of cosmopolitan albums also including for example Heartbeat and Smoochy.
Sakamoto's wish to lead a sort of world-orchestra evidently
receives its first incarnation here, because members of a pool consisting of
more than twenty musicians and singers with various nationalities make some
or other contribution to the album. For each track a different number of them
combine into a line-up of what's called the Neo Geo Ensemble, the only constant
member being of course Sakamoto himself on keyboards and vocals. This international
idea behind the album is evidenced further by the song-lyrics having been written
by people working in at least four different languages and the music writing,
where just seven out of the eleven tracks are provided by Sakamoto. The music
sounds exotic to say the least, due mainly to the percussion and vocal styles
being used. Because the emphasis is on percussion, the melodies are on the whole
quite unsophisticated apart from the exquisite 'Diabaram' sung by Youssou N'Dour from Senegal with
his wonderfully expressive voice.
Most other tracks are somewhat interchangeable, the rather staccato rhythms not providing much variety. One notable exception to this (apart from 'Diabaram') is the interesting 'Amore' which has more of a dance-rhythm and again features Youssou N'Dour, here duetting with Arto Lindsay.
Also listen out for the stunning end to 'A Pile Of Time' - it makes you wish he'd made a whole track out of that. Pop-luminaries Brian Wilson and Robert Wyatt lend their vocals to sing-a-long Stones track 'We Love You' along with a host of others, all to no avail really - however a much better version can be heard on the Sweet Revenge Tour 1994 album.
So Beauty forms a good enough introduction to this new style, but its concept would be much advanced two years later on Heartbeat. In the meantime Sakamoto released a few singles from Beauty featuring various remixes and also took it out on a world-tour.
1989 single cd: Virgin (USA) prcd 3227
my copy is a promo cd with:
(*)Virgin (USA) 4-98982 includes:
(*) Virgin Records (US) 663 138-211 [info from Marco van Meerten]
1990 (*) Maxi. Virgin VJCP-1404
1991 (*) Virgin (Aus) 12": VOZ-102, Virgin (US) 0-96390
The remixed Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is said to be very radical and not well liked by some. (Logic System also did an interesting cover version as sort of a dance track)
1990 GNP/Crescendo(US) GNPD 8020
A smaller and more electronic score than the Bertolucci films. Piano theme. The cd's tracks are all lumped into 2 long tracks making it impossible to identify the individual pieces even though they all have names. BUT Ivar has done it for everyone! (see below)
Ivar de Vries writes:
This soundtrack to an American sociological SF-film contains two long tracks that are subdivided into the titles listed above which denote specific scenes and for which I've taken the trouble to identify the index-times (they should be pretty much correct).
The rather horrid movie-scenario tells of a future repressive American state where the few fertile women left are sexually exploited by the ruling elite to "produce" babies - the film focuses on one such woman called Kate who eventually manages to break free from her predicament.
This is not one of the usual orchestral scores by Sakamoto, but instead an electronic one. It sort of suffers the same fate as most movie-soundtracks with their shortish tracks lacking the images they support, but here Sakamoto makes use of a single theme which keeps reoccurring once in a while, specifically to support the emotional scenes with either Kate or her similarly fated friend Moira, thus making this soundtrack slightly more coherent. Some pieces (like 'Amazing Grace' and 'Old Hundreth') are American traditionals and in the movie presumably serve as a reminder of the good old days.
There are some nice bits and pieces here and there but the overall verdict must be that this is not quite Sakamoto at full throttle, perhaps because of the subject matter. Certainly, the album's sound is below par by modern standards.
In all, not an album you'd much listen to but it does have plenty of variation to it.
1990 Virgin America (USA) cd: 2-91597
Sakamoto does the first 13 tracks of classical style muisic which is very well written and recorded. The rest marked by a "*" are not by RS. Interestingly a Richard Horowitz track, Fever Ride was later also featured in the otherwise Vangelis scored film 1492: Conquest of Paradise.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Here moviemaker Bernardo Bertolucci and Ryuichi Sakamoto continue their partnership that started off so successfully with The Last Emperor. This time Sakamoto is on his own as far as new music is concerned, the other music present on the album being traditional Arabic music and jazzy stuff, presumably from the period in which the movie takes place, which is around 1950. It tells the story of three Americans spending time in Africa to no apparent purpose and losing their way there (in one case, even a life) - quite moody, psychological stuff about confrontation with ancient culture, which can always be a bit of a shock to westerners. Its imagery conveying the hot, brooding atmosphere of ancient African cities and deserts is quite breath taking.
To this theme Sakamoto provides appropriate music, almost exclusively orchestral and mainly consisting of elaborations on the main theme, although some excursions are made to other material. He is a really good at coming up with those grand movie-themes which are easily expandable into different orchestrations and tempos and thus able to encompass many moods at once - in this sense he is a real composer. The somewhat grave example here fits that bill as well as the movie which however, being quite long, makes sparing use of the musical material.
1991 -Alfa cd:ALCA-229
Medley of early 80s Sakamoto tunes remixed by Mark Plati. Out of print. Very deconstructed. An average entry in Alfa's label-wide "In the 90s" series where thay hired a "name" remixer to remix a medley songs from most of Alfa's best known artists (as I guess most had departed the label some years earlier).
1992 Virgin (US)
cd?: V2-86291Virgin Japan (*) VJCP-30093
A greater mix of styles, even something that sounds like an outtake from The Sheltering Sky and another sounding a bit like like High Heels. Duets with Ingrid Chavez, Sylvian, Lindsay amd N'Dour. Towa Tei and even Super DJ Dimitri (also of Dee-lite) show up. Unlike Beauty which had a nice booklet. My copy US of Heartbeat just has song credits. This is kind of frustrating since there were songs in foreign languages (like Russian) on the album (the Japanese version fits some of the lyrics inside the CD tray - though it too is untranslated). Beauty struck me as displaying different styles of music in a cohesive whole. Heartbeat sounds more like a compilation of singles and extra tracks in different styles than a unified work. Taken on their own, the pieces are quite interesting, though.
The Japanese version of Heartbeat has only 11 Tracks. Cloud#9 is missing and Tainai Kaiki II is replaced by Tainai Kaiki. The booklet is glued and folded so you can read it but not open it flat like a typical CD booklet. It winds up being kind of 3D scultural though not easy to read when long lines flow from one side over to the next.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Heartbeat epitomises Ryuichi Sakamoto's style for most of the nineties just as Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia stood out in the early eighties. It advances the cosmopolitan style introduced on Beauty two years earlier and results in a really lively, warm-blooded album with more than a touch of world-music to it at a time when that style briefly ruled the day.
Recorded mostly in New York, it shows Sakamoto the band-leader at work again, the "band" this time consisting of some NY DJs along with various oddities such as a harmonica and Jimi Hendrix sample on 'Rap The World' and avant-gardist John Cage speaking on 'Heartbeat II'. But Sakamoto the musician has a big hand in it all as well, with plenty of superior piano-playing and subtle electronic touches - the odd string-sound here and there, sometimes a bit of bass-sequencer.
As you might expect from the album-title, the music really swings and is very danceable due to the usual excellent bunch of percussionists added to wind-instruments like trumpets and saxophones. Sakamoto's knack for arrangements and great melodies also shines particularly here to produce some extremely sophisticated effects. Just listen to 'Triste' which manages to evoke a sort of fifties South-American party-atmosphere, or else perhaps 'Lulu' which transport you to a New Orleans jazz-café or something similar.
Most tracks feature some vocalist or other: Dee Dee Brave starts out on the title-track, David Sylvian came out of semi-retirement to close out the album with the last two tracks. Inbetween, Sakamoto sings a couple himself (picking out possibly the two best tunes: 'High Tide' and especially 'Sayonara', the highlight of highlights as far as I'm concerned), and the distinctive voice of Youssou N'Dour returns after one song on Beauty for another one here, the upbeat 'Borom Gal'.
Two thoughtful instrumental tracks provide welcome relief to the dance-tracks: the beautiful 'Epilogue' and 'Song Lines', a version of the theme to the then recently released High Heels soundtrack, which evokes even more this sort of South American atmosphere.
In short, a real "joie de vivre" album, but not in any naïve way, always very sophisticated. At least two CD-singles were released alongside it: one featuring some remixes of the title-track, the other the English and Japanese versions of 'Sayonara', along with a Japanese traditional called Shogane.
(@) 1992 CD3: Virgin VJDP-10170.
the second track is non-album. It's an Okinawa style track similar to Chinsagu No Hana on the last album.
1992 CD5": Virgin Records VUSCDG 57 (US)
This comes in a fairly thick box and includes some photos by Sylvian
(*)Virgin SPRO-12697. 1992/ US 12" promo.
1991 cd: Rincon, Rabbit Ears/Kid Rhino (USA) R2 70416 also released in Japan with standard packaging and different art.
This cd consists of a tracks for a half hour children's story read by Sigourney Weaver over Sakamoto's music. Then a bunch of similar RS instrumentals on the same themes. (about 20 min of instrumentals.) I have not figured out whether these are derived from the tracks Weaver reads over or different arrangements, I think they are arrangements recorded in the same session, like a film soundtrack suite. All synth produced traditional Japanese material. It is interesting to compare how Sakamoto handles a tale of ancient Japan to Hosono's earlier soundtrack Tales of the Genji. Short but great and electronic and out of print AFAIK. I think there were 2 packing variations for the U.S., the first being a larger than standard cardboard box, the latter being a clear plastic and rack hangable to hold a folded poster and standard CD case also inside (the poster was inside the earlier box packing too) There was also a video reading of the book on VHS tape. You would not get the instrumental-only tracks with the video.
1992 Antilles/Island (U.S.) cd:314-510 855-2
for the Almodovar film. 2 tracks not by Sakamoto. Has some string orchestra tracks. Some synth tracks. Some real tacky club instrumentals which clash with the orchestra tracks. The tracks should be re-ordered for better listening.
Ivar de Vries writes:
The soundtrack to High Heels, together with its close contemporary album Heartbeat, started off yet another thread in the ever-richer tapestry of Ryuichi Sakamoto's music. Its Spanish theme evolved later into a more South-American theme for Smoochy and Casa. But it might not have been that way, because apparently the main theme had been offered to Bertolucci for his new movie The Sheltering Sky, set in Africa. However, Bertolucci turned it down in favour of the more serious orchestral music Sakamoto was able to come up with subsequently.
There is orchestral music on this soundtrack too, but its more like chamber music, which is where the name of David Nadien leading the string section first crops up. The addition of Basilio Georges on acoustic guitar and two old-style chansons further take care of the Spanish feel. These chansons are sung in lively melodramatic fashion by Luz Casal, a female Spanish singer of some renown.
The films story is set in the world of television (hence the little Tele 7 jingle) and involves a love-triangle, a murder, a false confession etc. which means theres room for a few gloomier pieces as well. On the bright side, there are two catchy dance-tracks, both called El Cucu, which would have also fitted nicely on Heartbeat.
All these elements, the songs, the fine string-pieces, the more electronic stuff, combine to make High Heels one of Sakamoto's better soundtrack albums, also enjoyable to listen to outside the confines of the actual movie.
Arashigaoka (it's Japanese title)
1992 Toshiba-EMI, EastWorld TOCT-6691
Sakamoto goes sort of Celtic. Piano and strings featuring low whistle solos. Classy. The Japanese film title translates to Hill of a Storm because I guess the Bronte novel is too obscure. Only released in Japan. The film had a U.S. home video release around '97 - it never made it to U.S. theaters, it shows up on classier cable too. Excerpts of this score were re-recorded and are featured on the 2000 release Cinemage. The score is very elegant but perhaps there is some sameness too it at full CD length. It seems to work much better on screen since the story deals with a sort of driven obsession.
It looks to me that this Japan only CD went out of print recently. Maybe used shops in Japan or Japanese used CD hunting services might be able to find it.
1997 gütbounce CD5 single GTBC-0004
Sakamoto's Barcelona Olympics music from 1992. EP length, approx. 13 minutes. This is solid music in a big bold orchestral style. Because of the date, this is Sakamoto music I find more interesting than his latest work. Out of print. A new different recording is contained on Cinemage.
1993 Capitol (USA) cd:CDP 0777 7 89098 2 8, also on EMI
13 Sakamoto tracks plus 5 pop oldies. Sakamoto does great work in many styles. Plenty of synths and catchy.
1993 Virgin (US) cd:73138-35676-2 (Milan/BMG also?)
Big orchestral sound. Very lush with a slightly less memorable theme as some of his other films. Good atmosphere.
1994 Elektra (US) cd: 61680-2
I genuinely do not like this album. The production is great but the material, which has a kind of New York club sound or a light pop sound does not interest me. Maybe because I'm from New York this stuff sounds very mundane (and now dated). The Japanese version of this album is said to be better (and definitely has more tracks). I felt it was devoid of the elements I liked about RS, such his synth work, his integration of world music and his being on the cutting edge of modern pop. There is a limited Japanese lp edition. For some reason Psychedelic Afternoon, with David Byrne was left off the International editions. See my 'live' page for the CD of the tour.
Japan version (*):
Ivar de Vries writes:
Sweet Revenge is a successful first example of the less-is-more philosophy which Ryuichi Sakamoto would employ more and more on later albums. Stylistically, this album still belongs to his early-to-mid nineties cosmopolitan period, with plenty of other musicians contributing, mainly from the New York scene but also from England and Japan.
The album-title refers to Sakamoto's wish to bring a sense of melody back to the rhythm-obsessed pop-world and the result has a surprisingly warm feel-good atmosphere with some sweet melodies indeed. Sakamoto's basic but subtle keyboard-figures are sometimes enhanced by the odd other instrument (guitar, flute, clarinet) or by the David Nadien-led string-section, who'd work with Sakamoto again on his 1996 project. What remains from his earlier albums are the electronic feel and elaborate percussion, though softer-edged than before. All this means that ample room is given over to the vocalists, who mostly wrote their own lyrics and were clearly instructed to 'act them out' when singing their songs.
Especially the girls (J-Me, Latasha Natasha Diggs and Vivian Sessoms) manage to spin some excellent modern-life/big-city stories, sometimes familiar, sometimes bizarre. For example J-Me's Moving On, a touching story told by a teenager having just left the security of her parents' house to live her own life. Or the surrealistic Interruptions by Latasha Natasha Diggs, trying to learn some ancient Chinese wisdom in a NY apartment full of distractions.
Not to be outdone, some experienced male singer/songwriters join the cast, among them Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame and Holly 'Frankie' Johnson, who drops by on his way to Hollywood to write the lyrics and record vocals for Love & Hate, typically about modern society's dubious morals. Ryuichi Sakamoto (fronting the album-cover in what must be his 'YMO-suit') adds two instrumentals: the short opening track and title-track Sweet Revenge, with perhaps the richest melody of all.
As usual, the international release was preceded by a Japanese one which, strangely enough, is very different (some would say better) in terms of rhythms and mixing. It has a South-American piece called 'Anna' plus the wonderfully easy-going track Psychedelic Afternoon penned by David Byrne that also appears on the Sweet Revenge 1994 Tour live-album + DVD. Another item that followed on from this project was remix-album Hard Revenge, probably the first occurrence of Sakamoto letting his music be interpreted by others, although the trend had started a year earlier with YMO's final album Technodon. Finally, both Moving On and Love & Hate were released on CD-singles with more decent remixes.
(nick adds that the remix trend started even earlier with the In the 90s series with RS and earlier with YMO, though these remixers were chosen by the label, not the artist as is presumably the case here.)
(*) 1994 FLDG-1002
(*)limited edition CD digipak (1994 US release) WEA/Elektra/LC 0192/EKR 191CCD/7559-66188-2
1994 12" Promo Elektra (US) ED 5710
1994 cd single: Elektra (USA) Prcd 9045-2
A free promo cd came with the expensive art magazine mAp n.6. which also included 4 pages of RS album photos.
1994 güt/Electra maxi single: FLCG-3006
Just more remixes of Sweet Revenge. Nothing very different or full length.
Disc I: All Star Video
Disc II: TV-War
Disc III: Adelie Penguins
Dics IV: Esperanto
Disc V: Media Bahn
Disc VI: Neo Geo
Ivar de Vries writes:
Three concerts, two video-collages and a ballet comprise this six DVD set, only some of it previously available on videotape years ago, making this a very welcome release. Their lengths vary between 32 and 60 minutes and each item has its own artwork and small booklet, mostly in Japanese. The sound is available in both stereo and 5.1 surround.
The 1984 All Star Video is one of many projects Sakamoto has done throughout the years with renowned Korean artist Nam June Paik. With Sakamoto due to set up home in Manhattan, the film is a sort of hotchpotch introduction of him to some of the artists working there at the time. They are mostly performance artists (many now dead) who featured in films of events like smashing up a piano or the crazy cello antics of Charlotte Moorman. John Cage was very much a performance artist as well (one rather silly "performance" of New York city noises is featured here), Paik dabbled in music in his early career and studied with Cage, who is interviewed by Sakamoto. He in turn appears in some staged scenes in the video and occasionally the Replica and Paradise Lost tracks of his then recent Illustrated Encyclopaedia album can be heard.
The TV-War disc is probably the most interesting of the lot, as it has much previously unknown music by Sakamoto. The open-air concert took place at night in front of something called the Sony Jumbotron, actually a giant flat-screen. On it are shown archive images of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 (the 40th anniversary was the month before the concert), raging firestorms, chemical plants and later on images of the Vietnam war. Other parts are accompanied by rather primitive graphics; the section called "Live" for some reason features a lot of images of the Kraftwerk robot dummies. The DVD mostly shows the images from the screen interwoven with close-ups of the people on the stage in front. It's all a pretty grim affair and the music reflects this: pounding rhythms, industrial sounds, no tunes, at times almost techno-like.
Esperanto maybe doesn't quite work so well as an audio album, but this collection features its two visual spin-off projects: the 1985 ballet and a video released the following year. The 41-minute ballet has 5 lady dancers dressed in tunics on an otherwise empty stage in Tokyo doing the sort of twirly dance one imagines those New Age travellers indulge in at Stonehenge. After half an hour the tunics come off and in their white undies they dance a slower, more classical dance for the remainder. The choreography by lead dancer Molissa Fenley (at the time of writing still very active in this field) doesn't bear any obvious relation to the music.
The Adelie Penguins video was performed live at the same event as TV-War, but this seems to apply to the video itself rather than the music, which comes straight off the Esperanto album. "Adelie" is a type of penguin, on the album the track is called Adelic Penguins, "Adelic" being a made-up language like Esperanto. The video sometimes looks like the sort of homemade product more people (like Mike Oldfield) were starting to make at the time, i.e. normal film footage with elaborate graphics added. Footage includes Sakamoto running through what looks like the Beirut war-zone, and walking in a smart black-and-white suit among similarly coloured penguins. Also included during the Wongga Dance Song is another excerpt from Joseph Beuys' 1976 film of the WW-II battlefield on the Solomon islands, also featured briefly in the All Star video.
The Moto.Tronic compilation DVD released a year earlier (2003) proved to be a little taster for the other two concerts featured in this set. The 1986 Media Bahn concert took place in Japan but tries to be as Western as possible, in contrast to the 1988 one in New York (Neo Geo) , a more subdued and stylish affair with three Japanese singers/instrumentalists having major contributions. Soul-singer Bernard Fowler plays a large part in the Media Bahn concert but is mostly delegated to the role of backing singer in New York. It's a moot point whether the New York event is actually a real concert, there's hardly any audience noticeable and at 44 minutes it looks more like a promotional event for the media or a warm-up event for the crew. As is usual for Sakamoto concerts, it has an interlude with Sakamoto at the piano which in this case features the otherwise hard to find track '1900'. The New York film is rather simple with just a few camera angles, the Media Bahn film is more elaborate, alternating between colour and black&white and showing some backstage footage as well. Its music is mostly from then current album Futurista and on this DVD sounds awful in its surround version.
p.s. Nick was at the Neo Geo (New York) show.
-> to my page about Sakamoto before 1984
-> to Sakamoto Albums since 1994
-> to my page on Sakamoto Live Albums
-> to my page on Sakamoto Collaborations and "Best Of" albums.
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Thanks to: Kai Seidler, Yosuke Morimoto, Ross Clement, Yue Yaguchi, Wolfgang Wiggers, Kenji Mori, Otaku Bowler, David McKenzie for info.
see nick kent's YMO page for more links about Ryuichi Sakamoto
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