Kenji Ito Piano Works Collection -Everlasting Melodies-
Kenji Ito Piano Works Collection -Everlasting Melodies-
Scitron Digital Contents
June 21, 2006
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Many people are vocal about their dislike for Kenji Ito’s albums and track additions. For me, I could care less about the actual composer. Sometimes, the least accepted composer can create one of the most beautiful pieces heard on an album. Equally possible, as we’ve seen, are the horribly tracks produced by the top composers. The composer only influences the style of a track, not the actual sound of it. Traditionally, when I review an album, I’m looking at the tracks instead of the composer, and labeling it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on that. Perhaps that is why I find myself writing a review for a Kenji Ito album. Anyway, on with the review!
As far as I understand it, several of the tracks on this album are pieces that have appeared on other soundtracks. For me at least, I don’t recognize any of them, so no worries about comparing the new arrangements with the originals. The “Prologue” starts the album in a great way, with a very slow and simple melody that is delicate and pleasant to listen to. The simplicity of the track really allows the melody to shine through, because instead of disguising it among rolling chords or arpeggiated scales, you get the theme in its raw form: one of the best types of arrangements for a track played on a solo piano. The only downside to this track is the repetition. It would have been nice to hear a new addition to the theme every time it repeats in the track, rather than simply repeating what has come before. Allowing the theme to develop from a small piece to a grand arrangement is really necessary for tracks such as this, which on their own are pretty but lack any real substance.
Another simple arrangement is “Misty Night,” which consists of a single note melody and supporting chords. As this track moves into the lower octaves, the arrangement starts to take on a little more bulk, and the overall sound begins to fill in. As the track progresses, there are hints that something really cool is going to occur, but like the “Prologue,” it fails to really move beyond that simple melody. With Your Heart” has a very specific melody, in that it is incredibly structured. Many of the note changes in the theme are predictable, giving the impression that the track once had vocals. Although I don’t know if the original did have vocals, the potential for them is definitely there. That said, the track is a little bland, almost as if the possibility of a vocal accompaniment has been merged with the existing piano score of the track. The chord support in this track isn’t particularly strong, and there are very few strong lower octave chords that a track like this needs in order to avoid becoming stale.
“Similarly, “Time Passed Me By” is very structured in that the chord progressions resemble that of a hymn. This track in particular is extremely repetitive, with almost the entire track being limited to only a few octaves at the center of a piano. In addition, the repetition of the original theme (in that it repeats once the main theme has finished) is extremely noticeable since in the piano arrangement, you hear the same theme at least three times. For a track called “Gentle Wind” you would expect to hear a very flowing melody, which is quite soft and simple. Instead, we get a track that, in my opinion, is far too fast in the tempo with a very quick melody, and that overall presents an image of anything but a gentle autumn breeze. I don’t know whether or not the original track is similar to this arrangement, but when you consider that a piano arrangement offers the opportunity for a new expression of an emotion produced by the theme, there is no excuse for the fast tempo.
“Sayonara” is one track that I think Ito did the best on, in that the piano arrangement he came up with for the track, really gives the impression of someone saying goodbye. Also, the chord progression in this track is somewhat broader than the other tracks on the album, allowing the melody to have a wide range of support which makes the whole theme more enjoyable to listen to. An “Epilogue” to conclude reminds us of how the album started. Similar to the “Prologue,” the track is very delicate, simple, and soft. But also like the prologue, it is repetitive and very basic in its construction. I also find it quite odd that the loudest note on the entire album happens to be the final note of this track. I’ve heard of going out with a bang, but this is just exceptionally boring. This is another track where there was some real potential to create something unique and interesting to listen to, but instead we get something that isn’t particularly well put together.
The Japanese seem to have a fixation with including vocal tracks on every album they produce. Why a piano arrangement album needs a vocal piece is beyond me. For the most part, I will admit that when these vocal tracks are included, more often then not they do add something to the album as a whole. This track is not one of them. “Kokoro No Takarabako” is a badly sung, badly arranged, horribly put together addition to this album, and in short, is an overall mess. The vocalist, Noriko Fujimoto, couldn’t have a less-powerful voice, and contributes nothing to the track. The light instrumentation on this track also serves no purpose other than to try and give some support to this woman who should probably consider a career change. The piano lines in this track aren’t anything spectacular, and resemble the overall simplistic nature of the rest of the tracks on the album.
While this album isn’t bad, it isn’t great either. Many of Ito’s arrangements are pretty, yet they are missing some of the key factors which make piano arrangements so interesting to listen to. The swell of an octave switch, the drama of a key change, and the overall power of a full chord supported melody are all missing from these tracks. The arrangements themselves are too simple, and often involve nothing more than the basic theme and a few chords for balance. The emphasis on three-note lower chords is repetitive, and the chord progressions themselves are predictable, offering nothing of interest to the upper octaves. With the material he had to work with, Ito had the potential to create some really interesting arrangements, yet I feel he decided for simplistic beauty instead. A noble goal which was somewhat achieved, but in the end, the album gets very old very fast and the tracks are unmemorable.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andre Marentette. Last modified on January 17, 2016.