Takeaki Kunimoto Works -Hill of Sheep- :: Review by Don
The Takeaki Kunimoto Works -Hill of Sheep- is the latest release by Sweep Record commemorating the classic works of a composer. In this case, Sweep Record took the opportunity to honor Takeaki Kunimoto, known for his work on classic Hudson games such as Challenger, Star Soldier, and Hector '87. Featuring a mixture of original tunes and arrangements of his classic works, it is a fairly diverse album, but is it worth a listen?
"Opening" is an original composition by Takeaki Kunimoto that sports both a very dreamy atmosphere as well as one that focuses heavily on jazz influence. From the flowing flute work to the jazz bass and percussion, it works very well to open the album. In addition to the opening, there are also a series of other original works featured on the album as well. "You, Me, the Stars in the Night Sky" is a catchy pop rock tune featuring Akira Hagiwara on vocals. It works very well in hooking the listener in with its melody and also includes a nice guitar solo at the end. Overall, it's a fairly strong composition.
"Breakfast at the Round Table" has a very lounge jazz vibe that conjures up images of sitting on the beach. The combination of nose flute, light jazz percussion and accompanying backing vocals sets a nice image in conjunction with the synthesizer tone. For the most part this is another solid tune; however, I think that the incorporation of the nose flute, while creative, definitely stands out among a rather relaxing tune. "Stalemate" is one of the more energetic tunes on the soundtrack. It's very much in the style of a shmup with its pounding electronic accompaniment; however, it also features some more romantic elements like some pop strings accompaniment that work nicely with the quirky synthesizer melody.
Of course, there are also some arrangements of some of Kunimoto's gaming works. "Sixteen Shooting," from Star Soldier, opens up with a chiptune rendition of the original before moving into a heroic, synth rock soundscape. It really captures the essence of the original and proves to be a thrilling ride from start to finish. Also from Star Soldier, "Mr. Blue Sky" is a rock tune that gives off a funk soundscape. This is one of the highlights of the arrangements on the album. The combination of smooth rock, the fantastic jazzy piano solo and improvisation that comes out of nowhere, and the funky bass work make for an amazing listen from start to finish.
The item dedicated to Challenger appears to be a medley of sorts. Although a bit repetitive in the beginning, it evolves into something more energetic and enjoyable, giving off a bit of a rock vibe and features some beautiful piano lines and some acoustic guitar work. The track ends with a more relaxing sound featuring accordion and some slick bass work before ending with the recurrence of the second tune. "Hector Breaker," from Hector '87, opens up with some calming rock before moving into a more intense rock sound. Compared to some of the other arrangements on the album, it's a bit less complex, but it is still highly enjoyable thanks to its amazing synthesizer and heavy rock sound.
"Labyrinth Waltz," from Milon's Secret Castle, also features Akira Hasigawa. Although it opens up with an ethereal ambience, the track moves into a strong waltz metre that has a lounge jazz sound combined with some light chiptune accompaniment. While it is an interesting listen musically, I find that the vocalist isn't as successful in this style as she was with the original tune heard earlier in the soundtrack. The album closes with an original tune titled "Hill of Sheep," perhaps the defining original tune on the album, is an excellent way to close the album off. Featuring an ethereal jazz soundscape, it really manages to hit on all notes. From the backing choral vocals to the sultry saxophone lead, it is an engaging listen from start to finish.
In the end, I think that Takeaki Kunimoto Works -Hill of Sheep- is a solid offering by the historic composer. For the most part, the original tunes and arrangements create a diverse listening experience with only some minor missteps along the way. Not everything is super complex and some of the stylings may not please everyone. I would recommend this for Kunimoto fans who would like to hear how he reinterprets his originals as well as hearing how his current style sounds compared to his old. It's fantastic that SuperSweep gives an opportunity for composers to release solo albums like this.
Overall Score: 7/10