Ayumi Hamasaki – Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

September 1, 2010 at 7:53 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

1. THE introduction
2. Microphone
3. count down
4. Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~
5. BALLAD</strong>
6. Last Links
7. montage
8. Don’t look back
9. Jump!
10. Lady Dynamite
11. Sexy little things
12. Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~
13. meaning of Love
14. You were…
15. RED LINE ~for TA~ [album version]

♦ ♦ ♦

Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki’s eleventh studio album, and it was released on April 14, 2010. The album was released in three versions: a CD-only version, a CD+DVD version and a box set with the CD, DVD a 3DVD-set with the <em>Ayumi Hamasaki Arena Tour 2009: Next Level</em>, a muck, red tea packages and a photobook. The photoshoot was inspired by and shot in London, England. The album was certified Platinum and sold 313,030 copies.

The opener for this album is, how surprising, THE introduction. With a soft percussion sound, the synth music swells up and it seems to say: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get started! The mars tempo in the percussion remind me of the guards at the London Tower, with their funny fur hats. A harp and an explosion of all brass instruments means the ending of a marvelous introduction!

Microphone can easily be called the strongest song on this album. Opened by an organ, this song follows more of a hard rock or even metal-like explosion of percussion and heavy electric guitars. Ayumi’s own vocals sound solid as a rock, especially in the calm bridge following the terrific electric guitar solo in the interlude. This song fits in very well after the introduction, but the only this is that this doesn’t represent the rest of the album at all.

When the introduction for count down plays, you’ll expect to hear another heavier rock song, but the piano takes over soon enough after the guitar riffs are gone. People consider this a ballad, but I prefer calling it a slow rock tune. There’s nothing ballad about the chorus when the electric guitars take over again in a rather slow tempo. I love the melody and lyrics in this song.

A real ballad then is Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~, and the piano intro is heartwarmingly beautiful. It’s a modest song with a message: this is a song about love (which I don’t really expect from Ayu, since her songs are mostly drowning in melancholism). No big layout for this track, but that’s what makes this ballad take a special place in my heart. Piano, strings, a choir and beautiful vocals can carry this song very well. I like this version best of both ~LOVE is ALL~ songs, but the Sunrise version won’t be bad either, later.

The title says it all, BALLAD is another beautiful ballad, much more symphonic this time, almost classical. It has a real winter ambience, including wind-like echoes, chimes, strings, a soft piano and lots and lots of strings in the chorus. In the instrumental bridge, the song takes a bit of an Oriental turn with a Chinese erhu. If I had to describe the ambience of this song in one sentence, it would be: ‘a cold, wintery day in Japan around Christmas time’.

Last Links opens with acoustic guitars playing a rather nice melody, and after two ballads, in the verse there’s finally some percussion added. Again, this is described to be a ballad, but I certainly don’t agree with this. It’s more of a slow paced song, yet still quite catchty and rocky with it’s heavier aspects. The percussion and guitars are dominant, but so are the soothing strings. A strong combination, and even more with Ayu’s vocals in this song. Am I wrong? No, I just ignore bad comments =)

I loved the symphonic aspect in BALLAD, but montage is a little too much for me. So… be careful what you wish for. I’ve found a sort of mixture between ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Frankenstein’, and the setting? A catholic church. I don’t know why Ayumi placed this classical piece on this album, it’s more fitting for Disney’s Fantasia or something.

Don’t look back has this totally different Arabian nights feeling about it! The singing melody in the chorus made this track sound quite hilarious to me, but that’s what makes this song so nice to hear! The whole instrumental package can’t be called ‘western’ anymore, I only recognize the Arabian music style in this song. Bellydance, Ayu! xD  It’s the kinda track with no other way: you either love it or hate it (and guess which side I chose? =D)

Jump! is a rather irritating techno/dance interlude. Can I please skip this one?

Lady Dynamite is a mediocre song. This song has a true sense of confidence all over. It’s strong, it has a good rhythm, but it’s just not that special at certain points. Only Ayu’s singing takes things further to some more unknown spaces, but the music stays mostly the same: a sort mixture between rock and danceable techno.

The next song, Sexy little things, starts a little out of place, and right after that a funny and boucny beat comes up with cute vocals from Ayumi. This track is very cute, strange, chaotic and yet so amazing, and it’s the song that fits the album title best. It’s the only track to have that circus ambience (I can already see Ayu floating between acrobats, hehe). I love the synths and brassy elements in this song, and the brass instrument in the end of the song (during the applause) reminds me of a (oh, yes, no kidding) VUVUZELA! xD

Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~ is the dance version of it’s preceeder ‘Sunset’, and I believe I already said this isn’t bad compared to the other version. A fast beat, some synths and an enthousiastic choir chanting ‘motto ooki nai koe de, motto ooki na ai wo’ every chorus. It seems as if it’s designed to stay in your head all day long, and it’s not that typical Ayumi Hamasaki summer tune.

Ayu’s sensitive side concerning her singing comes up again with meaning of Love, and this long track seems to have a familiar melody. It flows along on that melody, and it repeats itself once in a while. To me, it’s a lovely backing song for when you’re doing something (chatting, doing your homework…). The piano, strings, xylophone and soft beats make this the perfect ballad to listen to (my record’s on three times in a row).

I know You are… as the B-side for BALLAD, and just like BALLAD, this is a winter song. It also has that sweet winter ambience all over. It’s only a little more aggressive than it’s A-side track for Ayu uses more aggressive vocals and a lot of electric guitars and heavier percussion. I like this song very much because of it’s beautiful melody and ambience (since I secretly adore the winter and it’s mysterious ambience).

It seems like RED LINE ~for TA~ [album version] appears as a shorter version somewhere as well. It’s a midtempo track with a nice bounce in it’s beat, and the melody is lovely. What a cute thought, this song is dedicated to Ayumi’s fanclub (so.. to me as well?)! That’s probably why this song sounds so happy. The electric guitar solo in the bridge adds that little extra something again, and I’m completely sold when I hear Ayumi finishing off the song acapella. My mouth totally fell open about this song!

I have no regrets at all for listening to this album! It has become another bland of all kinds of styles, I’ve heard everything from pop to rock, to dance, to Oriental music, represented as ballads, midtempo and uptempo tracks. I’ve heard people calling this a ballad album, but in my opinion it truly isn’t! Even more true: Ayu’s stronger sides include singing ballads, and most of those ballads have been my favourite tracks on this album. What might have been better, was a better spreading of the ballads over this album, but I’m not dissatisfied. At ALL!

Favorite tracks: Microphone | Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ | BALLAD | Sexy little things| You were… | RED LINE ~for TA~

OVERALL RATING

5 stars

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