Original Soundtrack

Cowboy Bebop: Blue

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AllMusic Review by

ShinichirĂ´ Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop -- arguably the most successful anime to hit the U.S. -- is inextricably tied to its great and thematically cohesive blues- and jazz-based soundtrack. Of the more than ten discs released in conjunction with Cowboy Bebop, Blue is undoubtedly the best, representing the widest variety of genres without becoming disjointed. Beginning at the end, so to speak, the album starts off with the title track, a piece played during the credits following the series' last episode. This tune could easily illicit goose bumps for fans and non-fans alike, with its emotionally evocative pace and wry vocals by Mai Yamane. Soprano Soichiro Otsuka sings a faint, child-like chant in the background which, paired with a shoegazer guitar-wall, leads to a remarkably well-balanced amalgamation of genres that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Plenty of straight-ahead jazz numbers by the Seatbelts such as "Autumn in Ganymede," "Mushroom Hunting," and "Go Go Cactus Man" glide seamlessly between Cuban jazz, ambient, and swing, creating texture and movement that is slick, stylized, and thoroughly danceable. Emily Bindiger sings the torch song "Adieu" with such breathy ease, it could easily be a 1930s Earl Brent jazz standard. The album also strays just far enough from its jazz roots to create fantastic variety, while adhering to the soundtrack's general mood. "Ave Maria," for instance, transcends its classical origins and evokes an urgent sense of personal longing, thanks to a stunning vocal by Jerzy Knetig, as well as Yoko Kanno's skill at arrangement and composition. Likewise, Steve Conte's Latin-tinged vocal and guitar style on "Words That We Couldn't Say" and "Call Me" maintain the utmost pop sensibility while sticking to the disc's wistful, bluesy feel. Even the music-boxy "Wo Qui Non Coin," sung in character by the voice actor Aoi Tada -- who plays a charmingly crazy computer-genius child -- is beautiful, despite its quirky bounce and the fact that it contains lyrics in multiple languages, one of which sounds entirely made up. With such a strong 17-song selection, Blue could easily be enjoyed by hardcore fans of the series as well as listeners who have never seen Cowboy Bebop, but simply could also entertain adventurous tastes in jazz.

blue highlight denotes track pick