I'd been scouring auction services and used shops across the whole wide Internet for years in a desperate attempt to get this album. I finally have it. I wasn't disappointed.
For those unaware of the artist Motoaki Furukawa, you need to know that he is awesome. As a guitarist, his solos are always sublime (never in-your-face, always mellow and interesting... see Snatcher and/or Policenauts). As a composer and arranger as a member of Konami Kukeiha Club, he tends to write and arrange for jazz/funk fusion, though he's not afraid to taking on a J-pop ballad or a straight rock piece from time to time.
Kukeiha Club did plenty of "pro-fusion" albums in the 1990s. Tokimeki Memorial was one of the last albums in the pro-fusion series. The source material is hit or miss...fortunately, with so many tunes having been written for the game, there's bound to be a few great ones to work with. Lucky for us, the track selection for this album is fantastic.
The album starts with an über-cheese track. This is totally fitting for a series like Tokimeki Memorial. Neighborhood Park is one of those songs that makes you feel like the whole world is made of Skittles and beanbag chairs. It's just a happy time all around. This arrangement helps bring some additional happy-vibes to the song. But things go from super-happy to fighting-game-intense with "The Ambition of Cultman." The only song from the original Tokimemo to sound anything like a "battle theme" from a fighting game or RPG, this song was ripe for arrangement. And arrange they did! Furukawa and the crew clocked in over six minutes jamming to this super catchy tune.
Tracks 3 through 6 are all solid. And when I say "solid," imagine that I'm livin' in the 1970s and I really mean it. The funk is here, my friends. "Bowling" is especially funky. I wanted to go to a bowling alley/disco hybrid the first time I heard this song. It's inspirational...in, again, a cheesy way. But the musicianship is so good! Also, the addition of some spoken word voice samples in track 6 was a pleasant surprise. I'm going to use the word for the hundredth time now: cheesy. But still fantastic!
Tracks 7 and 9 are vocal tracks penned by Furukawa himself. Both songs beat the pants off of the music you typically find on a Tokimemo vocal album. That said, they're probably my least favorite songs on the album. "Real" has a good guitar solo in it, so that redeems the track a good bit.
The last two songs are some of my favorite (not just for the album, but across all Kukeiha Club albums). Very smooth, very chill.
Among the hardcore Kukeiha Club followers, there are many people who would consider this album inferior to much of the work done in the early 1990s, up to about 1996, from the Kukeiha Club. But I'm still a huge fan of this album, and am happy to have it in the ol' collection. It's one of a very select few albums from the prolific Tokimemo library that is worth holding onto.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann