Cowboy Bebop is one of the most popular anime series of all time. Hailed by fans and critics alike, it most likely a part of any otaku's (anime fan) collection. Not only the success but also the entire vibe of the series is due in part to Yoko Kanno's excellent compositions. Using her band the Seatbelts, Kanno flexes her compositional chops, with songs ranging from blazing jazz to relaxed westerns. Both of these are key influences in the series, which cites old westerns and the 1930's jazz scene as factors in the creation of the show.
These influences help create a stark contrast in one track to the next, which is one of the album's greatest strengths. Don't let the Big Band tag fool you; the sheer variety in the tracks is excellent. Because the tracks are all so different, I opted for a more track-by-track esque review.
Although the album does not comprise all of the music that is played during the series, it includes the more common themes and powerful tracks. Which leads us to the opener Tank!
. As the opening theme of the series and the opening track, it gives the listener a splendid taste of what to come, with its thumping bass line, wild bongos, and trumpet double stops. About 1:45 in, we are greeted with a wild sax solo, which isn't the first on the album. Tank! closes with some wild sax squeals and leads to the next track, Rush
. Fans may remember hearing this track during the fight between Spike and Asimov in the first episode. The song features a busy melody line, and features a nice trombone solo, closing with some nice percussion work.
After opening with two blazing big band tracks, Spokey Dokey
is next. The song is comprised entirely of harmonica, with some light guitar backing and interesting background ambience. After a wild intro, the song is pretty laid back. Overall it�s pretty solid.
This leads to two songs with pets in their visages, Bad Dog No Biscuits
, and Cat Blues
. Bad Dog features a ska-esque guitar line coupled with muted brass going wild in the background. It�s a wild track. Cat Blues is more laid back, with a catchy little melody that just oozes cool. The melody is passed around a bit, with percussion and trumpets adding nice accents. The transition from one to the other is rather startling, with blaring horns moving into a more subdued, relaxed piccolo line. Two very interesting cuts.
Here we come to Cosmos
, a short-but-sweet trumpet ballad. The muted solo is very melancholy, and leads nicely into the next track, Space Lion
. Being the longest track on the album, it�s the first that tends get a little bit boring for the listener. Despite some of the beautiful sax lines, the listener gets the sense that the track really isn�t going anywhere. Finally, some percussion joins in with the mournful sax line, along with some sort of child choir. If the track gives off a Native American vibe on the first listen, it�s no coincidence. Fans of the series will remember this song from the episode Jupiter Jazz Part 2, in which Old Man Bull watches a star fall as Gren dies.
After these two rather �sad� tracks, the laid back Waltz for Zizi
comes next. While not exactly as melancholy as the two songs that preceded it, Waltz for Zizi makes you just wanna let out a deep sigh, with its wobbling little guitar melody and accordion backing. It�s a really nice song to chill out to.
This leads to one of my personal favorites, Piano Black
. The up tempo song can first be heard in the third episode, Honky Tonk Women. It features a frantic piano line, along with some smooth sax accompaniment and odd synth. All the instruments have their chance to shine, making for one of the best songs on the album.
This is followed by Pot City
. As a song, it really fails to capture the listener�s interest for the most part. But as an accompaniment to series, it does its job perfectly, with its sleazy bass line, ambient synth echoes and lazy brass. Rather boring, but a nice vibe nonetheless.
However, we quickly shift gears into Too Good Too Bad
, my favorite big band track on the album. A quick sax/trumpet overture leads into a catchy low brass line. The playful sax line enters, playing around for a bit, before giving way to an alto sax solo. This is probably my favorite solo on the album. After about a good minute of soloing, the alto sax bows out and a tenor sax takes the lead for a bit, before a return to the original melody. The sax and trumpet then carry out the song.
From here, we have Car 24
. This is certainly one of the more different songs on the album. Carried mostly by light cymbal work, it features some playful sax/trumpet interplay and happy little melody line. Overall, it�s a great track.
The banging bongos (heh) of The Egg and I
then come in, featuring a catchy piccolo melody and some nice guitar work. This is followed by the western stylings of Felt Tip Pen
. The rhythm section stay pretty laid back and simple on this track, letting a twangy clean guitar play around for the entire track. These two tracks are both solid, but not the best on the album.
And here we come to Rain
, which is featured when Spike walks into the church in the episode Ballad of Fallen Angels. This is the only song featuring vocals on the album. The problem is, instead of the female vocals heard in the episode, the OST version is sung by a man named Steve Conte. Many will probably find his voice slightly annoying, and if they don�t find that annoying, then they might find fault with the organ pulsing in the background. I found that subsequent listens of this song were better and better, especially with the nice electric guitar parts at the end.
The album ends with two rather brief tracks, Digging My Potato
. The former is another harmonica feature; a bit tired but still good nonetheless. The latter is a lilting little melody played on a music box. Despite checking in at 1:31, it�s one of my favorite songs on the album.
Overall, Cowboy Bebop OST
receives top marks for its compositional variety, wild solos, and merely just for supplying 17 quality tunes. I would recommend this album to both fans and non-fans alike, or pretty much anyone who enjoys instrumental music in general. This is something for everyone on this album.
The album�s only weakness is that most of the tracks are too short. This is understandable, since most of them are only played for a grand total of 30 seconds during the show, but Yoko Kanno could have extended them for the OST. Also minus points for the choice of Steve Conte on �Rain.� The female vocals on the show were far more emotive and superb. I could whine about the tracks that weren�t included, but there are other Cowboy Bebop albums with them.
But in the end, it comes down to what is on there, and what is the album is pretty darned good.
Recommended Tracks: Rush
Waltz for Zizi
Too Good Too Bad