Cowboy Bebop OST 1

Yushiro (Former Staff) — September 3rd, 2002
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Thelonious Monk once stated, "If you really understand the meaning of bebop, you understand the meaning of freedom." It would seem Yoko Kanno, along with her group, the Seatbelts, have indeed realized the meaning of Monk's words and have to come to show it off on this album. The Cowoy Bebop Original Soundtrack (1) is a perfect compliment to the series which takes on the name of the singular style that is bebop. But it is also a showcase of the freedom Kanno is able to exercise in adapting the style to work so well with anime and, to a lesser degree here than the other Cowboy Bebop soundtracks, her ability to traverse genres and styles. First and foremost, if you couldn't tell by the quote, this is fundamentally a jazz album. While it is delightful to see that anime can accommodate itself to different forms of music, every anime fan may not have an inclination towards jazz. If you aren't already an enthusiast of the genre, or didn't find yourself getting into the music while watching the series, you might want to look to one of the other OSTs, such as the more diverse Blue. Just a word of caution.

That said, those who are into the music will find OST 1 to be a more than satisfying experience. Expect catchy drum/rim beats, blaring brass, and stirring saxes, along with the occasional flute, tuba, piano, or any of a half-dozen other instruments than lend themselves to creating melodies that will set your feet and head in motion. This is epitomized in a song like the oft-played (in the series, that is) Rush or the driving Bad Dog No Biscuits. The album covers a wide range of jazz styles, from the laid-back traditional (Cat Blues), to the folksy (The Egg and I), to heavy blues (Cosmos), and even a few cheery lines thrown in for good measure (Car 24). The listener will also find, of course, Tank!, an extended version of the opening song to the series, which I imagine was collectively our first encounter with the bebop themes of the series. The song is a perfect match to the strong personality of the series and comparatively a bit more vigorous, though not by too much, than most of the album. I think you'll find that the opening song is a fair gauge of the direction the OST wants to take you, though. Suffice to say, a full range and scope of the variations of jazz are represented here - in force and played with heart.

Though most of the album is comprised of the aforementioned energetic bebop or laid-back traditional styles, there are a handful of songs that veer into other styles. One such song is the moody Space Lion, a heartrending conveyance of the series' darker tones (which corresponds extremely well with the episode it is featured in, the ending of Jupiter Jazz Part II). It's one of those songs that is both devastating emotionally (thanks to the mournful sax that plays throughout) and somehow hearting at the same time (due largely to the childern's chanting in the second half); easily my personal favorite on the album. The other diversions from the predominately jazz songs include the music box-like Memory and a vocal piece, Rain, that is almost hymn-like, thanks to a pipe organ as the main instrumentation (though, for some reason, it breaks to a light guitar well into the song). Melancholy songs such as this offer a refreshing interruption of the more upbeat tone of the album. - not to the point of jarring, but just a quiet respite from the rambunctious trumpets and percussion. It all meshes with the overall tone of the record quite well and doesn't feel out of place at all.

Each song on this outstanding soundtrack is undeniably well composed and skillfully played, as well as a joy to listen to. However, the album remains, and apologies for reiterating myself, very much a jazz fan's album. As such, I can't recommend it that highly outside of those who are followers of the genre or of Yoko Kanno's music. (Though I have no doubt that both groups will absolutely love it.) Those who enjoyed the series may want to look into it, simply to own the now classic opening or as a glimpse into the sorrow and joy that jazz, and its voices, are capable of.