With the Japanese pop scene growing ever more respectable over the years and incorporating ever-better performers and musicians, it has begun to spawn cover albums from some of the brighter stars from time to time. While some are clearly throwaways, others (such as Ken Hirai's Ken's Bar series) are becoming noteworthy albums in their own regard, reworking classic pieces from Japanese (and other) pop into more intimate pieces. Tsuruno (formerly of Shuchishin) takes on some of the modern classics of J-pop on his cover outing Tsuruno No Uta (Tsuruno's Songs). The bulk of the arrangements are done in a straightforward piano ballad format, with pieces like BoA's "Eien" getting a passionate, if a bit melodramatic, treatment. Tsuruno's vocals are always just a bit underpowered for the proceedings when trying to pull off the ballads, though -- he puts in his emotional prowess, but comes out a bit weak. He gets a little further with more upbeat tracks -- a combination with the always exciting Kyoko in Kobukuro's "Winding Road" leaves Tsuruno a bit overshadowed but shows more fun. A highly upbeat Tohoshinki piece ("Aruite Kaerou") shows off the better side of Tsuruno -- lots of upbeat fun, little emphasis on his voice in a bare and focused setting. Fans of J-pop may be pleased to hear a few of these songs reworked in different settings, and fans of Shuchishin should be thrilled to have the frontman's take on some classic material.
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