Monday, November 28, 2011

15 Album Review

The Puffy Best of album 15 was released last week and I got my copy on time (technically early as shipping beat out time zones). I went with the deluxe version of 15, it was only a few dollars more. If there are any differences in the booklet, I would like to hear what they are but for purposes of the review I am going with the version I have on hand.

Getting to packaging, the case for the deluxe version is big (not "Sunrise" with the model kit included big but like two old school double cd cases big), about half of which is take up by the discs and the other half the special Rodney Greenblat hand towel (that I have not opened because I am a colleting nerd…). The discs unfold out and in a pocket is the booklet. The graphics are light on Ami and Yumi and heavy on Rodney Greenblat’s art. I would have liked to have seen the inside of “15” have the same kind of whimsical energy that Rodney’s cover portrayed.

Overall the packaging is nice and I especially like Rodney’s cover art as it combines all the singles he did for Puffy into one cohesive piece. I would have liked to have seen more graphics or images celebrating Ami and Yumi’s fifteen years together which with the art Rodney created for "15" would have put the interior over the top.

The sound quality of the tracks for “15” are good and in some cases I would say sound better than the albums the originally appear on. Some of this might be tweaks for airplay as noted by a couple of the readers here. For the most part I did not hear any huge differences in the 38 tracks that have appeared on some sort of album.
Barring one track, I personally have all the music presented in “15” so for me it was not a huge value, but given how mice the packaging is and what amounts to a good collection of songs I do not feel cheated out of anything. For fans new to Puffy or looking to learn more about their music, “15” would be a must to pick up.

Rolling down 15’s tracks...

Disc 1
1. Someone
2. Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi
3. Oriental Diamond
4. Boogie Woogie No. 5
6. Hi Hi
7. boom boom beat
8. Red Swing
9. Nice Buddy
10. Ai no Shirushi
12. Circuit no Musume
13. Hiyori Hime
14. My Story
15. Mole-Like
16. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera
17. All Because Of You
18. R.G.W.
19. Happy Birthday
20. Asia no Junshin

Disc 2
1. Shall We Dance?
2. Kimi to Otobai
3. Radio Tokyo
5. Violet
6. Jet Police
7. Hazumu Rhythm
8. Puffy's Rule
9. Security Blanket
10. Bring it on
11. Yokubou
12. Wedding Bell
13. Friends
14. Kirei na Namida ga Tarinai yo
15. UREI
16. Jet Love
17. Kimi ga Suki
18. Tokusuru Karada
19. Bye Bye

Disc 3 - DVD
Asia no Junshin - Ami Yumi Emi version

At 39 tracks there is a lot of music on “15” but something seemed off. At first I could not put my finger on what the problem was, then after some talk in the comments I decided something was off in regards to what albums generated the songs on this best of compilation. Then it hit me. So in this review I am going to break down the review more by where the songs came from and some thoughts about them rather than talk about each track in any great detail.

Here is how the “15” breaks down via the albums the tracks came from:

"Amiyumi" – 2 songs (Asia no Junshin, Tokusuru Karada)
"Bring it!" – 6 songs (Hiyori Hime, My Story, All Because of You, Wedding Bell, Bye Bye, Bring it on)
"Fever*Fever" – 1 song (Kirei na Namida ga Tarinai yo)
"Honeycreeper" – 3 songs (Oriental Diamond, boom boom beat, Kimi to Otobai)
"Jet-CD" – 6 songs (Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi, Ai no Shirushi, Mother, Circuit no Musume, Jet Police, Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera)
Miscellaneous – 5 songs (Friends, Someone, Sweet Drops, Hazumu Rythum, Kimi ga Suki, Hi Hi)
"Nice" – 3 songs (Red Wing, Long Beach Nightmare, Urei)
"Spike" – 3 songs (Boogie Woogie No 5, Violet, Puffy’s Rule)
"Splurge" – 4 songs (Nice Buddy, Mole-Like, Security Blanket, Shall We Dance)
"Thank you" – 4 songs (R.G.W., Yokubou, Happy Birthday, Jet Love)

As a note for songs that were either originally singles or extra tracks on a single I have categorized them as miscellaneous (even if they appeared on a compilation album previously).

"Jet-CD" represents the high point of ami and Yumi's career and I think all the song choices are solid.

First thing that I verified from the comments to the track list blog entry for “15” was that Fever*Fever is all but ignored in this collection. It generated four singles for Puffy and is certainly one of their best performing on the Oricon charts and likely sales figures reflect this as well as Fever*Fever was released at the apex of Puffy’s career thus far.

The two songs from "amiyumi" are completely sensible, I would not have expected any other tracks to make it and was pleasantly surprised Toku Suru Karada made it on.

“Fever*Fever” also happens to be one of my favorite albums, so therein lies a bias, but I am perplexed at the speed bumping here. Stray Cats Fever alone should be on this collection as it is one humdinger of a song live or in studio (but then again I can’t recall them ever playing it outside of their support tour in Japan for “Fever*Fever” a reader corrected this notion as it has appeared in medleys and during the 2001 tour).

The songs I slotted into the miscellaneous category are some interesting choices. This version feels a little underwhelming and less engineered than the English version. It is a good effort, but also a missed opportunity to have a couple new songs anchor “15.”

For the rest of the miscellaneous songs, I cannot stand Hi Hi, so that was a disappointing choice. But Ami and Yumi still throw this into their set lists live… Going to the other side of the spectrum Kimi ga Suki is a really fun choice to have on “15” so this miscellaneous pile of songs is a mixed bag.

Likewise what we see from the “Nice” album is a nice surprise with Urei, which is a song I really like (so much so I would put it in my Puffy top 15). Long Beach Nightmare is also a bit of a surprise, not one of my favorite songs, but I have mixed emotions about the whole “Nice” album and this song represents that feeling perfectly. Red Swing is no surprise and it is one of the best songs from “Nice”.

"Spike" has four entries for “15” and while I have never been keen on Boogie Woogie No 5 I really like that Violet made an appearance as well as Puffy’s rule. All sensible choices here though Shall We Dance (from the Japan release) sounds
less polished than the English version and maybe falls a bit short of the mark.

The selections representing honeycreeper are sort of surprising more for what was not included. I am surprised Kuchibiru Motion was not included for "15."

The tracks from "Splurge" I think are all good choices. I would have liked to have seen "Beginnings" included, but that is not taking away from any of the tracks.

It feels too soon to have tracks from "Thank you" on a best of album from Puffy. The selections are good, but I think it would have been better to have made room for older material. Not that "Thank you" is the biggest problem with older songs being left out.

Which brings us to the thousand pound gorilla in the room… “Bring it!” Six tracks from an album most Puffy fans (to put it politely) didn’t find to be their best effort. All three official singles from the album are represented on “15”even sadly All Because of You. Wedding Bell was used in a TV series so I guess that makes sense. Bring It On and Bye Bye are okay tracks. While I like My Story and Hiyori Hime and thier presence on "15" is justifiable, the rest of the tracks I have a hard time believing the deserved to be elevated to a best of album.

The DVD included in “15” is a disappointment. All that it contains is the video for Asia no Junshin the AmiYumiEmi version. While I like the video quite a bit, I think this was a missed opportunity and also very light on content that a more expensive edition of the album should have. I would have liked to have seen a full concert or at least 6-10 songs from concerts. Seems the deluxe version of Puffy albums is really hit or miss when it comes to bonus content. Much as the towel Rodney Greenblat designed is a great bonus item, this DVD knocks the deluxe edition down a notch or two.

It is hard to give “15” a grade like other albums I have reviewed on amiyumidas as it is a collection so I will tweak the categories.

Songs: B-
Packaging: B+
Bonus Material: C

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