La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1017)
Release Date: 2004
|3.||The Ball and The Dotanuki
|4.||The Suioryu Swordsmanship
|5.||The Bird and the Beast
|6.||Shiver: Itto Ogami the Assassin
|8.||The Wolf Crosses the Ocean
|9.||Bentenrai the Public Guard
|10.||The Ogamis and Sayaka Yagyu
|11.|| Duel at the Dune
|12.||Prologue: Shining Waters
|13.||Daigoro at a Rainy Night
|14.||The Wolf howls in the Wilds
|15.|| Main Title
|16.||Besieging Army of Ura Yagyu
|19.||The Wolf's Cub
|20.||The Setting Sun
|21.||The Kuroda Menbo Army
|22.|| The Running Wolf
|25.||Ending theme song from "Baby Cart to Hades"
|Total Album Time:||49:06|
|by Justus Pendleton
February 10, 2005
The Best of Lone Wolf and Cub features a selection of music from the six original Lone Wolf and Cub movies (Sword of Vengeance, Baby Cart at the River Styx, Baby Cart to Hades, Baby Cart in Peril, Baby Cart in the Land of the Demons, and White Heaven in Hell). The six movies were filmed in only two years and didn't do well with Japanese audiences at the time. They fared better with international audiences and have reached sufficient "classic" status to warrant this issue of collected music. As the music comes from six different movies - with several different composers (Hideakira Sakurai composed most of the music but Kunihiko Sakurai composed the music for White Heaven in Hell and Hiroshi Kamayatsu was responsible for the music on the closing track while Tadashi Yoshida is excerpted on track 13's "Daigoro at a Rainy Night")- the disc doesn't cohere in the same way a work from a single composer on a single film will. For instance, at track 7 you hit the ending song for one of the movies, track 13 is the main title for another, and track 25 is the ending theme for a third movie. Combine this with the brevity of most tracks - with 25 on the disc there isn't a lot of room for four- or five-minute pieces - and it begins to feel a bit like something your brother would put together when he forgets his Ritalin.
Compressed into these tracks you'll find "samurai music" that is nearly as iconic as the films themselves along with quite a few surprises if you are unfamiliar with the movies. Things open with the main title from Sword of Vengeance which, like most of the pieces, has a fairly simple arrangement - you won't find any swelling 500-piece orchestras here - of strong traditional Japanese motifs with a few Western cues.
The weakness of the multi-movie compilation approach begins to be seen with tracks 11 and 12. Eleven is the climactic "Duel at the Dune" from Baby Cart at the River Styx which is a buildup of percussive fury which then... abruptly ends and we move to the prologue for the next movie, Baby Cart to Hades. It is fairly unsatisfying.
Even more shocking however is when the music for Baby Cart in Peril appears as the Japanese influences you've become accustomed to disappear almost entirely to be replaced by 60s jazz and funk. Apparently Hideakira Sakurai got tired of the taiko and shakuhachi. Not having seeing Baby Cart in Peril I can't help but wonder if Shaft showed up to kick Ogami Itto's ass. That would explain the music, at least.
Track 18, the main title of Baby Cart in the Land of the Demons is a reprise of the main theme introduced on the first track but with these new funkalicious grooves thrown in to freshen it up. The trend continues through track 24 - the main title, and only representative from White Heaven in Hell. What I find most interesting about this variety is that the movies were filmed over a period of merely two years, so it's not as if there is a long time period involved to explain this shift in music styles.
To wrap things up we're treated to the ending theme song from Baby Cart to Hades which is a bit of a medley treat. It starts out like something from a Morricone western before a big brash flourish announces the entrance of Tomisaburo Wakayama - the actor who played Ogami Itto - who then sings the closing song. We can now truly sympathize with the pain that would cause a man to offer his child between instant death and the six-fold path to hell.
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