Request Best: Beautiful Memory

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After lead singer Izumi Sakai's passing in 2007, a few compilation albums from longtime J-pop stalwart Zard were put together hastily by their label. While these covered Zard's history from darker pop into bright and shiny stereotypical J-pop, as well as Sakai's personal musical history, the fans wanted more. After a half million or so requests to the label, Request Best was put together as a democratic compilation, 30 songs most liked by Sakai's die-hard fans. The result is a particularly sanitized collection, full of straightforward J-pop, flowing melodies, keyboards, and the occasional electric guitar or drum. Aside from the majority, though, there are a few noteworthy moments. The first disc of the collection opens with a particularly early and darker melodic item, "Glorious Mind," that showcases some of Zard's earlier aesthetics before going to more straight-laced pop. A full ten live tracks are added on (five on each disc), giving a nice little punch to the proceedings, despite the fact that most of the live tracks are just as sanitized and engineered as the studio tracks. Fans of Zard and Sakai should be thrilled at such a comprehensive collection. Those just looking for a taste of Zard's music may want to look at a different compilation as a first step -- Soffio di Vento being a nice introductory choice. [This three-disc edition includes a DVD of live performances.]

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