Cowboy Bebop OST 3: Blue

Yushiro (Former Staff) — September 3rd, 2002
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There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the different facets this album - emotional, fun, depressing, jazzy, vocal, strange - though each word is not sufficient on its own and doesn't quite describe it as a whole. I suppose the word that best describes the ride that this record will take you through is one that represents the numerous styles of music you will find on here - 'eclectic'. Blue, the third original soundtrack for "the work which becomes a new genre itself", Cowboy Bebop, is a compilation of the more unique songs from the series, that most likely stood out to the viewer as something more than background music. The album doesn't have a sweeping overall theme, as each song is more of a stand alone creation (and therefore I'll try to touch on each a bit), but one could divide the songs into two categories - the dramatic and the quirky.

On the dramatic side, the album opens with the title track, Blue. Those who have finished the anime series will note this as the closing to the final episode, and hopefully I'm not required to go on about the pure grace that exudes from this track. Performed (vocally) by Mai Yamane, who also sings the regular closing song, The Real Folk Blues, the song couldn't possibly be any more fitting to the end of the series it is featured in - appropriately down-trodden, yet somehow, someway rousing the spirit. The light guitar, synth, the vocals, and a small choir of two children chanting blending together in seamless harmony are able to have that effect like little else can. Unlike the regular closing, Blue is performed entirely in English, and with nearly perfect pronunciation on the part of Yamane. She makes one other appearance on the album, in the form of a 'secret' track which isn't in the track listing and tacked onto the end, See You Space Cowboy, a remix of sorts of the aforementioned Real Folk Blues. The changes to the song, other than the length, are very subtle, so it's really less of a remix and more of an extended version of one played during the episode closings.

Like the opening and closing songs of the record, more than half of Blue is comprised of vocal songs. The songs are often in English, though you will find Japanese, of course, and even a bit of French and Italian. Eclectic, as I said. Steve Conte returns for the third OST as well, for two other vocal songs, Call Me Call Me and Words That We Couldn't Say. They have a half-moody jazz, half-light rock feel to them, which doesn't resonate well with everyone, and to be honest, they can feel out place in the series, though not necessarily on the record. I still find they are still enjoyable to listen to... just not when I pick up Blue looking for the music I characterize with Cowboy Bebop. One of the more conspicuous songs on Blue is a performance of the opera song Ave Maria by Jerzy Knetig and the Warsaw Philharmonic, the latter of which being the ones who do most of Kanno's orchestral music. It doesn't feel out of place nearly as much as Conte's songs, but it is a bit odd to find it here nonetheless. It certainly reinforces the feeling that this album is a mixed bag of songs from the series; which isn't necessarily bad, it just doesn't give the album any kind of continuity outside each song being somewhat similar to one or two others. Two heavy blues (and only two, other than Yamane's - rather odd, considering the title of the album) songs are included as well, Farewell Blues and Road to the West, the latter being a remix of sorts of the song Cosmos that appeared on the first Cowboy Bebop OST. (I say "of sorts", as it is basically the same tune, only longer, a bit looser on the rendition of the sax, and with some added background ambience noise.) Both songs are pure, unadulterated blues that hit you in your heart and plant themselves there - easily some of the best of the blues seen in Bebop's music. And finally, to round out the drama side of things, yet another vocalist making dual appearances on the album, Emily Bindiger, performs the somber Adieu and playful Flying Teapot. (The lyrics of the second happen to be written by Tomoko Tane, of whom I am a great admirer, by the way.) Both of the lounge style songs focus on the singer, with a very light piano accompaniment and either steady rap on a cymbal (Adieu) or terse line towards the end from a muted trumpet (Teapot). Beautiful songs, both.

The album has a clear and well defined presence of heavier aspects of music, but just as the anime has moments where you will want to cry, it wouldn't be Bebop if it didn't make you laugh at times as well. Blue also happens to contain some of the more... unique songs from the series. The songs tend to be idiosynctric of a certain character or moment from the series, and are the closest the music ever comes to have character themes, at least for one in particular. The easiest to pick out is Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, or her Japanese voice actor at least, Aoi Tada, who performs, or rather, hanamogerainates (don't look at me ^^), Wo Qui Non Coin. This is without a doubt one of the most adorable songs I've ever heard. The heart will melt at the quietly imparted tale of a lost dog, even if you don't understand lyrics, which start as Japanese and then effortlessly meld into French halfway. (And it is instantly evocative of Ed's final emotional appearance in the show. The song is an absolute perfect compliment to the scene in which it appears.) If nothing else, this song is worth the purchase of the album, in my opinion. The other 'Ed song' on Blue is Chicken Bone, a bouncy and quite... peculiar J-Pop tune, about the many joys of roast chicken ^^. You'll be uncontrollably giggling and bopping back and forth the entire time you first hear it - I guarantee it. It's aptly played in the episode Mushroom Samba, as Ed and Ein bound along a desert road in search of food, as is another song that made it to the album, Mushroom Hunting. The Seatbelts are quite accomplished in a variety of styles, as evidenced again by this more Brazilian jazz styled song, with Tulivu Cumberbatch walking you through the song with simple lyrics more related to the music itself than anything else. (At key points, he'll yell "Let's kick the beat!" or "The conga drums!".) An interesting addition, to say the least.

And then you've got a bunch of rather random stuff - Stella's music box from episode eight in Stella by Moor, a play on the western cowboy theme song, complete with Andy's trademark whistle, in Go Go Cactus Man, and even an song heavy with electronic influences in The Real Man. There are also two final jazz songs included in the form of N.Y. Rush and Autumn In Ganymede. They have quicker pace than most of Blue, but compared to the first Cowboy Bebop OST, which is predominantly quick and loud bebop, they are rather mild tunes. Most of the instrumentation is laid back and atmospheric, though the latter being a bit more swing influenced, with the trumpet taking the lead and wandering across the songs rather freely.

If it hasn't been made clear yet, there is something for everyone here, and I imagine if you give each song a chance on its own, you'll enjoy each personality Blue has to offer. You will be hard pressed to find an album with this much diversity and having the freedom to accomplish it within the scope of a 'mere' anime series, not to mention the gathering of the remarkable talents who contributed to it all. It's an excellent compilation of all of the different facets of the series it is featured in, and I feel this album is more universally appealing than most of the music found on the other Cowboy Bebop albums, which gears itself to a more narrow audience. Whether you are Cowboy Bebop fan, a Yoko Kanno lover, or even if you just plain like music, this one is essential.