Rie Sugimoto, the winner of Falcom’s “Miss Lilia” contest, released a series of albums during the 90s with Falcom. Celceta is the third album. For more information on the history of Rie and Falcom, see the review for Lilia, the first album.
About six months after Krelia comes another album, featuring everyone’s favorite (er, only) Falcom idol Rie Sugimoto.
Among the first things I noticed about the album was Rie’s voice – she clearly grew up a lot in those six months, because her voice sounds a fair deal rounder and smoother. This is clearly illustrated in the first track, which despite its name is not as cheesy as the last two albums’ original work. The album on the whole is also very acoustic compared to the last two synth parties.
“Eternal Fantasia,” track two, though – this tune is why I agreed to review Rie’s albums. After an admittedly out of place a capella introduction, about 30 seconds in the chords of Ys I’s “The Syonin” glide their way into your ears. Whoa! Nobody – ever – arranges this song; it’s truly on the fringe, and you can easily miss it on most of its few and rare appearances. The only really remarkable versions of this tune besides is from Perfect Collection Ys, where it got a full, loving treatment into a full-length song. That version is one of my all-time favorite Ys tracks, so to see it gives such attention here is unexpected and fantastic. Rie’s version is upbeat yet relaxing; refreshing, but not cute or cheesy; it has just the right amount of synth touches behind the lush, acoustic arrangement, complete with a lovely classical guitar solo; and best of all, it expands on the source (which is only about 30 seconds long) appropriately and in a way that makes the song actually better instead of cluttering it. The track has an interesting style that’s hard to place – equal parts jazz, 70s pop rock, mediterranean and lounge (but better than the image that paints in one’s head, I’m betting…) and I dig the trombone touch a bit toward the last minute. The track has aged better than everything else Sugimoto sung with Falcom; I love this track, and it’s a great example of the good side of Rie’s albums.
“The Forest is Calling” sounds like Popful Mail, but it’s not from any actual Falcom titles. On one of her earlier albums, this would not be out of place, but after the phenomenal “Eternal Fantasia” it’s a letdown. The production value just isn’t there, and it sounds a little wimpy compared to the lush arrangements preceding it.
Thankfully, things look up again with track four, an arrangement and expansion of Ys II’s “Stay With Me Forever.” As Ys II’s credit roll and ending song, it’s one that’s seen a few good arrangements, but this one holds up with the best of them. Like track two, it’s pretty mellow in terms of synth and has a fresh acoustic sound that holds up with time quite well. They expand the tune a bit to extend beyond the original’s melody, which was a bit unnecessary but it works here well regardless. I love the guitar solo at 3:40, which reminds me a lot of Rockman X3’s “One More Time,” a favorite of mine.
Track five is laid back. Despite some really out of place synth effects among an otherwise quiet tune, it’s got a nice chorus and Rie’s voice sounds quite nice. Lots of piano on this track, which is great. Nothing to get excited over, but it’s pleasant, and a lot better than the ballad on Lilia. The next track, “Kiss Me for a Thousand Years,” is a little bland despite the crazy 80s intro. Same goes for track seven, “I’m an Asia Girl.” It took me a long time to figure out this is apparently based off an Ys II song, and the track as a whole is pretty much filler material with a hackneyed “Asian” sound, though I can see some listeners enjoying it.
“Sanctuary of the Lunar Eclipse” is a nice hard hitting 80s tune with a very classic J-pop sound. One of the better tracks in that regard, and another very Kozo Murashita-esque tune. “A Music Box Left by the Faeries” is yet another step up the quality latter from the last two albums and another enjoyable if predictable number.
“Celceta Flower” is great, once again, because of its very strong source material. While the arrangement is not the strongest out there – that goes to the version on “Feena” by Shoko Minami – it’s calming enough, and like most of these Sugimoto takes, has an extended chorus that deviates from the original a bit.
All told, Celceta is actually a pretty decent album. It’s got enough very strong gems between the filler that it’s worth tracking down for fans of Falcom or Japanese pop in general.