Ayumi Hamasaki – A BEST

December 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

https://i0.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/abest1.pngALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – A BEST

1. A Song for ×× (New Vocal & Mix)
2. Trust (New Vocal & Mix)
3. Depend on you (New Vocal & Mix)
4. LOVE ~Destiny~
5. TO BE
6. Boys & Girls
7. Trauma
8. End roll (New Vocal & Mix)
9. appears
10. Fly high
11. vogue
12. Far away
15. M
16. Who…

♦ ♦ ♦

https://i0.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/abest2.pngA BEST is the first compilation album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on March 28, 2001. This album sold more than 4,300,000 copies to date. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Album Charts and charted for 48 weeks.

I really have to get used to the newly recorded vocals for A Song for ×× (New Vocal & Mix), but at least I can say Ayu sounds much more mature and even more confident so I prefer this over the original anytime. I don’t really hear the newly recorded arrangement, sounds pretty much the same to me, but it’s the new vocals that make this new version so appealing to me. It was a great song anyway so it doesn’t get any better than this for an opening.

Trust (New Vocal & Mix) should have a new arrangement as well, but again I only recognize the new vocals which sound great again. Ayu’s timbre and vibrato are so much better, and it’s just a little over two years after the original release so she definitely shows she made a lot of progress since then. I guess I always liked this song even though it’s pretty basic, but probably the little bell synths did the trick.

As the most agressive song on the first album (and also one of the best tracks), Depend on you (New Vocal & Mix) got an even bigger hot-factor with the new vocals. Ayu’s new vocals are deeper and less pitchy than in the original. After two relatively calm songs, it’s good to see a turning point now with a more agressive arrangement that was also some kind of prelude to how most of her music would sound later on. I find that I like this track more and more!

So, that was the ‘A Song for ××’, on to ‘LOVEppears’ with the first real ballad LOVE ~Destiny~. I always thought this was one of the best songs in her early career, she already displayed more control over her vocals and the track is just flawless and beautiful. It’s a very intimate ballad that I’ve always had a weak spot for since the first time I actually started to deliberately listen to it. Everyone should definitely give this a try if you ask me.

In TO BE I find so many appealing elements. The vocals are softer and lower pitched, which makes Ayu sound more mature and professional in some way, and the acoustic guitar riffs throughout the song are, I think, a first on this album (as well as in her entire discography). There’s a big contrast in the song with quite a warm verse but a more melancholic sounding chorus because of those little piano notes in the background. Interesting and good track.

Boys & Girls took its time to grow on me but I really like it now because of the huge amount of energy in there. Ayu’s vocals come off as a little bit pitchy at first, but I discard that thought because I find it isn’t all that bad after all. The track is like a great mixture of pop/rock with some dance elements and it makes for some edgy music indeed. I quite like Ayu’s singing in the verses too, sounds a bit like semi-rapping in the first part which is pretty cool.

When Trauma comes along, I always think of that crazy performance where she forgot her lyrics and started singing gibberish but w/e haha. I still like this song very much, I think that’s because it’s very uptempo and I always love a good electric guitar solo. Ayu is pitchy again in the chorus, but after six years of knowing her music I’m prepared to forgive her. I always thought this song would fit better in the ‘A Song for ××’ era. Fortunately, right now it doesn’t show.

Just take TO BE, give it more of a winter ballad mix and you get End roll (New Vocal & Mix). I know it doesn’t say ‘New Vocal and Mix’ on the tracklist but this song wasn’t announced to be newly recorded while it is, just give it a listen, you’ll notice. Anyway, I really think Ayu needed a winter pop ballad like this right at that point in her career since it was the groundbreaking song on the major ‘A’ single and I’m impressed by how the track eventually develops in a pretty solid effort.

https://i2.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/abest3.pngOh no, not this one again. I’m getting tired of hearing appears so much, probably due to that stuffed single with all the repetitive remixes. It lasts for over 5 and a half minutes, which is too long in my opinion for a song like this. It’s still repetitive in its original form and the fact that I’ve heard it too many times definitely ruined it for me big time.

The beginning of Fly high sounds more awkward without the introduction the album offered, but that’s forgotten pretty soon since this is probably one of Ayu’s more energetic and original tracks. I always liked her rapping and edited vocals in the verses and the fast beats and synth loops make this so enjoyable. Too bad this was just a recut single, I think it’s one of the best tracks on the ‘LOVEppears’ album anyway.

On to the ‘Duty’ era with vogue. From this point on, I have to admit, Ayu’s music started to have more variety and even more appeal, I still prefer her later era’s over the first one so… This first single for the third album definitely showed that variety with that Indian sitar sound and tribal percussion. One of the most original concepts on this first compilation albums. The pattern in the song could’ve been better but I always find myself enjoying this song.

The trouble with the third era is that some songs started to sound a little bit dated, which is exactly the case with Far away. I mean, I like the track, I still don’t even quite know if it’s a ballad or not because it has some midtempo qualities as well, but again there’s not much variety in the song’s pattern. It flows too well, you know. The melodies are still quite nice and Ayu’s singing isn’t too bad either.

SEASONS never fails to impress me. It’s just 100% right from beginning to end; a solid, beautiful ballad with lovely piano melodies and soft electric guitar riffs in the background. Ayu’s background vocals mixed with her main vocals gives this pretty effect that I always love, it adds so much more to an already interesting song. It’s probably the first song in her (chronological) discography that I didn’t just like, but LOVE.

I never liked SURREAL at first but now… It has such a good rock arrangement as one of the most agressive songs on the third album and a perfect follow-up to SEASONS. Ayu finally doesn’t sound as lifeless as she does sometimes, she put a lot of effort into singing this song and she needed to because of the all-over-the-place attitude it has. Should’ve given this a chance sooner since I really like it now after a couple of years,

Ah, there’s M, the only single from the ‘I am…’ era to be featured here. From this point on, her musical career really started to take flight and you can definitely hear it in this epic track. It starts off as some kind of epic winer ballad, but a midtempo beat and some heavy electric guitar come in soon afterwards. Ayu’s lower vocals fit perfectly and they don’t become pitchy until the very last portion of the song but that’s fine with me this time. A good turning point towards relatively more interesting music.

Oh, apparently they decided to throw in the non-single track Who… from the ‘LOVEppears’ era at the very last minute. I’m actually glad they did because this is another beautiful ballad I totally underestimated. It’s a gorgeous song that starts off pretty intimate and then builds into something stronger, especially near the end when they change the pitch and give the song a real highlight. It was the perfect album closer for said album, and it proves itsself again this time.

Well, for a first compilation album by an artist of which the first era’s don’t always appeal to me that much, I have enjoyed this. The newly recorded tracks were amazing, they took away all the flaws the originals had (e.g. lack of vocal control and pitchy sound) and they took away all my expectations. The other tracks on the album were piece by piece good A-sides when they were released, except for appears but it could’ve been worse (like.. ‘WHATEVER’ could’ve been on this album, thank god it’s not). These are not Ayu’s best tracks and I agree with her that it was way too soon to release this album, but still I wouldn’t say I don’t like this first part of her career.

Favorite tracks: A Song for ×× (New Vocal & Mix) | Trust (New Vocal & Mix) | Depend on you (New Vocal & Mix) | LOVE ~Destiny~ | Boys & Girls | Fly high | SEASONS | M | Who…

4 stars



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