So on Friday I got Iida Kaori’s debut solo album Osavurio ~Ai wa Matte Kurenai~ (English Translation: Until Tomorrow ~Love Doesn’t Wait~) thanks to the wonderful world of ebay.
This is perfect relaxation music. I am so impressed. All the songs are covers of mediterranean songs and the music is almost classical at times. Kaori’s voice is absolutely beautiful throughout. I am nowhere near good enough to fully explain how good this album is. However here is a brief ramble…
The title track shows just how good a singer Kaori is. The music and the voice are about as far away from pop music as you can get. Like the rest of this album this is perfect Sunday afternoon music or for any other time where you get some time to yourself and just want to relax.
Track two Cherbourg no Amagasa (English: Cherbourg’s Umbrellas) continues in the same style. All beautiful lilting voice, a piano playing, and then the instruments kick in properly and add a sudden soaring quality. This is like suddenly realising you can fly. Actually this is like an European arthouse black and white film soundtrack. It’s like stepping into a whole other world and really what more could you want from entertainment? Here is the song on Youtube.
Track 3 will be familiar to most people one way or another. Ipanema no Musume (The Girl from Ipanema) is a song most English language people will know through Frank Sinatra. It is one of the handful of Sinatra songs that I really like. However that doesn’t put me off this version. Sung by a woman in a language foreign to me it doesn’t quite have the appeal of Sinatra’s version. Probably that’s due to familiarity with the English version. I also don’t like the music as much as in Sinatra’s version. The music here doesn’t have quite the same sunny day, longing quality. It’s a bit louder and seems faster. Nevertheless again Kaori’s voice is gorgeous and the song does work. Being second best to Sinatra is not a bad thing. The music sounds like it belongs on a 60’s film track and again that’s no bad thing.
Track 4 is Muzousa Shinshii (Umm…French translation: L’aquoiboniste). A cover version of a Jane Birkin song. Now Birkin I admire. Serge Gainsbourg had some great songs (see Mick Harvey’s two cover version albums if you want an English language introduction). Serge & Jane’s daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg brought out a great album two years ago (called 5:55) with help from Air, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. So it’s maximum points all round from the off just for the choice of singer to cover. Although Jane Birkin’s album that this song was taken from was a big selling album in Japan (it outsold any other foreign album during the few months it was in the charts) so it’s maybe not a surprising choice of cover. The song itself is unmistakenly French. Almost jazzy in style. It’s a change in style to the first 3 songs while still belonging. It fits yet is a change of pace.
Track 5 Eche Geya ~Sayounara~ (English: Have a Good Life ~Goodbye~) starts off with a sweeping violin before Kaori’s voice comes in and swoops and flies. Much like the first two songs this track summons up an image of a meditteranean senorita, in a black and white film, singing of loss while it’s raining and yet hot. Look I really can’t explain it better than that!
So track six…Down Town. This song works less well for me. Probably because I am so used to hearing the English version. Now whereas with The Girl from Ipanema it doesn’t matter so much as hearing that song sung by a woman somehow changes the feel enough to make the song seem like a totally different entity, with this song that is not the case. I am used to hearing it sung by a woman and so comparisons are harder to ignore. There is also the problem of Kaori’s pronounciation of “down town”. With the other songs I don’t speak the language so cannot comment on her pronounciation. All I know is her voice sounds heavenly. With this song she is singing a faster paced track and I do like the music and her voice but the pronounciation of those two words keeps dragging me out of the moment. I can’t really explain why because whenever I hear a H!P girl speaking English I go weak at the knees. I think here the pronounciation, unlike with the rest of the singing on the song, sounds too harsh. Still it’s by no means a bad song and the album can benefit from an injection of pace here and there so it’s certainly not a thumbs down by any means.
Track 7 is Amore Scusami (English: Forgive Me, My Love). To say this is music that they just don’t make anymore is an understatement. The whole album sounds like it was made during the 60’s, only in a good way instead of an obvious swinging 60’s way. This is the 60’s European style. The original song was Italian and has a catchier, faster tune to much of the preceding album. If she’s sorry I’d forgive her.
Track 8 is Suteki na Oujisama (English: Lovely Prince). A faster song that once again much like Amore Scusami sounds like Audrey Hepburn should be riding past on a scooter. This is about as poppy as the album gets. With horns in the background (no, not the motorbike type) it sweeps you up in it’s arms as it rides past and insists you accompany it.
Track 9 Otome no Namida (English: A Young Girl’s Tears) is possibly my favourite song of the album (although it faces stiff opposition from tracks 1 and 2). There are strings, acoustic guitars and an accordian and then there is Kaori’s voice yet again. Lilting, mesmerising and drawing you right in.
Track 10 is Barairo no Jinsei (English: Rosecolored Life). An Edith Piaf song that many will have heard even if they don’t recognise it by name (it’s French name is La Vie en Rose). The perfect ending to a beautiful album. The album starts off by drawing you into a beautiful relaxed state and the album finishes by making you wish you could just float away alone on the sea somewhere. Again sung beautifully, this song is the final escape. What is real life? It doesn’t exist for the duration of this album.
Overall this music is about as far from Morning Musume as it’s possible to get. Despite that it suits Kaori perfectly. She is great in Morning Musume but you get the feeling this is closer to the real person. It’s a journey of breathtaking beauty. A journey through a long-lost Europe with a beautiful Japanese singer. It’s a pleasure that almost defies description. It doesn’t sound like something that would work but the love that has gone into the album ensures it never fails. The music is perfectly played and the voice is beautiful. If you have never heard any of Kaori’s solo work and would like a change from the pop of Morning Musume then this is a great place to start. If I had to give stars it’d be 9 and a half out of 10. Wonderful.