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Sailor Moon: Songs From The Hit TV Series by Nicole & Brynne Price, Jennifer Cihi, Sandy Howel, Patr
To start off, I should say the following: In the 1990's, localizing, re-recording, and re-writing anime soundtracks for the North American release was considered the norm. Everyone did it. However, not many companies went to as much trouble and determination as the people of writers of DiC Entertainment and the producers of Kid Rhino Records when recording the Sailor Moon english album "Sailor Moon: Songs From The Hit TV Series" on September 11th, 1995. This album was comprised of songs rerecord (and occasionally rewritten) from the actual show. Job well done, fellows.
The album starts off with the iconic, "Sailor Moon Theme Song", sung by Nicole and Brynne Price. A song we've all come to know and love (yes, no matter how cheesy we find the lyrics). This is the song that stands out from many anime english dub theme songs from the 90s, because it is actually the same tune and structure of the original (better) Japanese opening, "Moonlight Densetsu". Canada's version it also gives us a rocking guitar solo, not found in the original.
Immediately after the title track, we are treated to something a little different. "I Wanna Be A Star!", sung by Jennifer Cihi, who for most of the album, assumes the role of character from the show, Serena/Sailor Moon. Though for this track, just confuse us, sings a song attributed to Raye/Sailor Mars. To make it even more confusing for the listener, Raye's attributed singer, Sandy Howell, sings backup. This song is particularly interesting, I myself always thought of this track as "basically good with a cheesy bridge." Eventually, this turned into "a song with a lot of potential that all comes crashing down at the mind-numbingly-bad bridge." Then after repeated listenings solely for laughs, I slowly realized that the tune bore a striking resemblance to the superior Simple Minds hit song "Sanctify Yourself." With this shocking revelation, I also realized the song could be sung in Jim Kerr's strong, manly voice, and it sounds amazing. Though the "absolutely most famous teenage girl" line might raise a few eyebrows if sung in the presence of more than one other person, provided they lack a sense of humor.
The third track, "My Only Love" is quite reminiscent of Pink Floyd, especially the guitar solo. Includes some ABBA-esque vocals. Over all, another interesting track. It also bares some resemblance to the sound from Simple Minds' "Street Fighting Years" album.
The fourth track, "Call My Name (And I'll Be There)" is one of my favorites from the entire album. The lush guitar, bright organ, and hi-hat that kick the song off set a positive mood. This, is again sung by Cihi, rather than Sandy Howell. The producers must have though her voice was more suited to the song. In the end, this track comes off as sounding like the single from a Carlene Carter album. A very country-esque tune, with nice vocal harmony, crisp, clear sounding guitar, and another rocking electric guitar solo that this album is so evidently fond of. At the very end of the song, there is a chord on the organ that exceeds the other instruments. In the end, this sounds like something straight from They Might Be Giants's fifth album "John Henry."
"Oh Starry Night" is a soft, sweet song, again, similar to Pink Floyd. There are several way the writing of this song can be interpreted. One way, they were unaware of the lyrics irony: (the narrator of the song being hypothetically rescued by a Prince Charming type figure) to the the subject of the show: (strong, independent girls who set to always save the dude in distress.) The other interpretation is that they in fact were aware the lyrics' irony, and wrote them intentionally as a joke. On another note, Sandy Howell finally gets to sing as Sailor Mars, and the passion of her vocals does not go unnoticed. (It should also be noted that this is the song that sent me into depression when I realized how empty my life truly was.) This song is also to the tune of the original Japanese song "Eternal Melody."
Track six, "It's A New Day" is another one of my favorite tracks, it kicks off with a drumroll and organ glissando. The guitar arpeggio that plays throughout the intro and chorus of the song thoroughly reminds me of the keyboard riff from the They Might Be Giants song "Spiraling Shape." However this song predates the latter by two years! The electric guitar in the verses is once more, crisp and lush. Incredibly clear, save for the slightest distortion. Another highlight of this track is the saxophone solo just after the bridge, which continues to pipe in with its "comments" for the rest of the song. Whoever played saxophone on this track is undoubtably one of the unsung heroes of the 90s-anime-localization movement.
I had a lot of different thoughts about the seventh song on this album, "Carry On." At first, I felt the song was ruined by the lyrics, which referred to exactly what was happening at the point when it was played in the show, particularly the "evil queen, we will defeat" line. But just as all the other tracks from this album that I've warmed up to, this one soon joined. I eventually found myself completely ignoring the lyrics, and focusing more on who excellent the instrumentation was. It reminded me very much of the song "Fairy Dreamin'" a song sung by the wonderful Sayuri Shimizu for the ultra violent 80s anime "Genocyber." Give both of them a listen, one after another. You won't be disappointed. (Be warned, though. "Carry On" does have some kind of painful backing vocals near the end.)
"Rainy Day Man" has become something of a cult classic for fans of the dub, and I must say, I enjoyed this one. It's quite dark for a song from the Sailor Moon english dub, about a boy and a girl who started out as close friends,then became lovers, and started drifting apart afterwards. The instrumentation throughout is somewhat similar to ABBA, while the lyrics "my first brush with love left me shaking inside" may remind some listeners of Morrissey's depressing, adolescent love themed songs. It also makes good use of echo in the vocals. This one is sung by Patricia Tollett, Sailor Jupiter/Lita's singer.
"Only A Memory Away" was among the first songs I ever heard from this album, this is once again gloomy, yet more upbeat than "Rainy Day Man." Perhaps to compliment the (dub induced) nationality of the song's attributed character, it draws a lot of UK folk influences. The singer, Shandi Sinnamon (who had some moderate success in the 80s, and a song that became a local hit in Japan), is American, but has only the slightest almost-British accent in her performance of this song, that she comes off as sounding like an inferior Kate Bush (who, in fact, is very British, but often sounds less so than Shandi. Make of that what you will.) This has a nice, heartwarming tune, and was played in the episode where said "British" character nearly leaves, so, yes. It's okay to cry. The album version, like all the songs on this album is rerecorded, but this one is completely reworked from the version played in the actual episode, different instrumentation, new lyrics. One might hesitate to call this the same song. Some good lead guitar is featured in this song, and it's acoustic.
Something that should be done on any decent album, is save a really amazing song for the end, (or at least have one very close to the end.) This album gives us "She's Got The Power" by the moderately successful singer and guitarist Stan Bush (no relation to the aforementioned Kate.) All I can say is, "Who was the Simple Minds fan on the production and songwriting team!?" Between the lead guitar, which is very reminiscent of Simple Minds' Charlie Burchill, and the soft, yet powerful tone of Stan's voice which make it seem as if he's trying to copy Jim Kerr's vocal style, everything suddenly seems too perfect. Then again, Simple Minds had put out their 1995 album "Good News From The Next World" which wasn't all that unpopular in America, so who knows? The sci-fi, anime, and manga historian Fred Patten once criticized this song for not being specific enough to Sailor Moon. On the contrary, Fred. I think it was a bit too specific to sailor moon! The "prism power might" lyric in the first verse, which is obviously talking about the titular heroine seems far too awkward and out of place with the rest of the song. Over all, cheesy lyric aside this is an epic and enjoyable track.
Last, and, in fact least. We have "Sailor Moon Theme (Reprise)." It's a watered-down version of the regular theme song. What more can I say?
And that's "Sailor Moon: Songs From The Hit TV Series." Too many people like to spend their time bashing the Sailor Moon english dub, and don't think twice about it's surprisingly good soundtrack. In fact, these said dub-haters usually ignore this album, and it's two followups completely, which may explain the lack of bad reviews. It would be fair to say that this album has it's flaws. An obvious emptiness in many of it's tracks result in them sounding more like demos than final cuts, the most apparent cases being "I Wanna Be A Star!" "My Only Love" and "She's Got The Power." Another problem is lyrical cheesiness, but this was the 90s era of anime dubbing, this kind of thing should not be unexpected, (Though the talking part of "I Wanna Be A Star!" makes me cringe regardless.) I myself have never watched the entire Sailor Moon anime, but this album is a must for anyone who appreciates the ambition of DiC's english dub of the series. Although recording new soundtracks for english dubs didn't carry on into the 21st century (outside of the infamous 4Kids Entertainment, at least,) DiC and Kid Rhino, showed us that we can put effort into the practice, and often get better results then we would have expected. As for one defining genre of this album, I would have to go with "Alternative Pop." While the U.S, and Canada were moving towards either heavy grunge rock, or lightweight techno-pop as the accepted style of popular music, this soundtrack goes from country rock (Call My Name), eighties hard-rock (She's Got the Power), eighties synth-pop (I Wanna Be A Star, Oh Starry Night) seventies pop (Rainy Day Man) and even to seventies progressive rock (My Only Love.) This was something I found admirable for the soundtrack of such a mainstream success in the United States and Canada. Something, that carried on into "Sailor Moon: Songs From The Hit TV Series's" followup album "Sailor Moon and the Scouts: Lunarock," as well as an interesting blend of music that was at the time of its release (1999) popular.
All in all, I give album a 7.5 out of 10, for shear originality, good song structure, and the songwriter's taste in music.
If you liked this album then you may also like:
They Might Be Giants: John Henry
Simple Minds: Once Upon A Time
Carlene Carter: Little Love Letters
Kate Bush: The Red Shoes
ABBA: The Complete Studio Recordings
The Proclaimers: Life With You
And any of these artists' albums.
New City, NY