May 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Best Of Lone Wolf And Cub  Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtracks
Music composed by Hideakira Sakurai and Kuuihiko Murai
  Available on LalaLand LLLCD - 1017
Running time: 49.16
LaLaLand records

lone wolf and cub

This new album from La-La Land Records is a compilation of original soundtrack recordings, with music composed by Hideakira Sakurai and Kuuihiko Murai, from the legendary 70's Japanese Samurai films series LONE WOLF AND CUB A.K.A. THE BABY CART SERIES. While being based on the famous Manga of the same name, this collection of music sets the tone for the films that have inspired a multitude of filmmakers ranging from John Woo (Mission: Impossible 2) to Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) and Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon A Time In Mexico). The films tell the story of a Father and his infant son who wander the Japanese countryside, the father lending his skill as an assassin to help those in need whilst trying to avenge the death of their family and restore honour to their name.

Never before available in North America in any format, this remastered compilation of music drawn out of all six Lone Wolf films showcases fascinating, eclectic movie music that combines traditional Japanese stylings with Western motifs. The CD booklet contains production stills and promotional art and features an in-depth look at the film series and its sensational music.

A musical highlight the 'main title' of Sword of Vengeance and it's 'Ending' that is basically a slight variation of the former. Both of them are built around simple percussion rhythms, overdrive electric guitar motifs and some atonal writing for flutes and strings that sound odd enough to be almost unrecognisable.

Moving on we find 'Bentenrai the Public Guard' which is a piece featuring some upbeat brass melodies and wild shakuhashi / flutes motifs all accompanied by groovy taiko and gong rhythms.

In 'The Ogamis and Sayaka Yagyu' a short and lovingly sad theme is performed by solo flutes and other wind instruments which build up for a welcome intermission. 'Duel at the dune' follows with war-like taiko playing, gong, brass (mainly trombone and trumpets) motifs, with strings successfully creating an intense feeling of agony.

The first (and only) hint of typical western music lies in the sad 'Prologue: Shining Waters' with beautiful writing for orchestra and solo violin.

'Daigoro at a Rainy Night' is a fabulous piece featuring Japanese traditional wind instruments (mainly the shakuhashi), and is echoed in several cues from Hans Zimmer's recent The Last Samurai.

In 'Besieging Army of Ura Yagyu' and 'Ending' from the Baby Cart in Peril we find the strangest entries for this album i.e. memorable brass motifs accompanied by very groovy drum beats and bass melodies in a track that could be easily classified as techno, and perhaps even sampled by such a band like Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers.

Another highlight can be found in the festive and glorious 'The Running Wolf' that features the only memorable theme on this album, an interesting trombones and trumpets motif with taiko, hi-hat and other percussion instruments.

'Ending theme song' is sung by Tomisaburo Wakayama to music by Hiroshi Kamayatsu in James Bond Style, which is appealing '70's music though possibly difficult for Western ears because of the Japanese lyrics.

This is typical Japanese '70's film music, vivid and alive musical pieces with some challenging underscore that flirts with atonal scoring. One could easily say this sounds a lot like Japan's equivalent to Ennio Morricone writing music for that nation's classic 'westerns'. The recordings have been taken from the best available sources in the Toho music vaults; in some cases the original master recordings have been lost or otherwise compromised and therefore the sound quality on some tracks will vary. This is of course not music for everyone, but definitely recommended to all fans of Japanese music, followers of Japanese cinema and of course to those who are in love with directors' like Quentin Tarantino influenced by that era and culture.

Demetris Christodoulides

*** 3

The Best Of Lone Wolf And Cub Track listing

Sword of Vengeance music: Hideakira Sakurai
  1. Main Title (1:37)
  2. The Vow (1:28)
  3. The Ball and The Dotanuki (3:28)
  4. The Suioryu Swordsmanship (:52)
  5. The Bird and the Beast (2:08)
  6. Shiver: Itto Ogami the Assassin (:43)
  7. Ending (1:42)
Baby Cart at the River Styx music: Hideakira Sakurai
  1. The Wolf Crosses the Ocean (1:16)
  2. Bentenrai the Public Guard (2:38)
  3. The Ogamis and Sayaka Yagyu (1:53)
  4. Duel at the Dune (2:59)
Baby Cart to Hades: Hideakira Sakurai
  1. Prologue: Shining Waters (1:39)
  2. Daigoro at a Rainy Night (from "Kozure Okami" composed by Tadashi Yoshida) (1:25)
  3. The Wolf howls in the Wilds (2:54)
Baby Cart in Peril music: Hideakira Sakurai
  1. Main Title (1:52)
  2. Besieging Army of Ura Yagyu (4:41)
  3. Ending (1:04)
Baby Cart in the Land of Demons music: Hideakira Sakurai
  1. Main Title (1:38)
  2. The Wolf's Cub (1:08)
  3. The Setting Sun (:25)
  4. The Kuroda Menbo Army (1:54)
  5. The Running Wolf (3:09)
  6. Ending (:30)
White Heaven in Hell music: Kunihiko Murai
  1. Main Title (2:36)
  2. Ending theme song from "Baby Cart to Hades " (3:27)
    Sung by Tomisaburo Wakayama
    Lyrics Kazuo Koike
    Music Hiroshi Kamayatsu
Total time: 49:16

From the LaLaLand website:

This is a compilation of original soundtrack recordings, by composers Hideakira Sakurai and Kuuihiko Murai, from the legendary 70's Japanese Samurai films series LONE WOLF AND CUB a.k.a. THE BABY CART SERIES. Based on the famous Manga of the same name, this collection of music helps set the tone for the films that have inspired a multitude of filmmakers ranging from John Woo (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2) to Quentin Tarantino (KILL BILL) and Robert Rodriguez (ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO). The films tell the story of a Father and infant son who wander the Japanese countryside lending their skill as an assassin to help those in need whilst trying to avenge the death of their family and restore honor to their name.

Never before available in North America in any format, this remastered compilation of music from all six LONE WOLF films showcases fascinating, eclectic movie music that combines traditional Japanese stylings with Western, 70's-era motifs. CD Booklet contains production stills and promotional art and features an in-depth look at the LONE WOLF film series and its sensational music.

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