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100 Albums: "Cowboy Bebop Blue" by Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts
Title: Cowboy Bebop Blue
Released: 1999
Genre: various, but mostly jazz and rock fusion


Cowboy Bebop was a sci-fi-meets-spaghetti-Western anime that ran for twenty-six episodes from 1998 to 1999 in Japan. It was localized to America in 2001 as part of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block on Sunday evenings, and it helped popularize that programming block, as well as being an introduction to the more mature version of the art form to Western audiences. For a more thorough tribute to the show and its influences, I recommend Beyond Ghibli's video essay A Fistful Of Woolongs. The key part of the show was the score, written by Yoko Kanno to evoke jazz, funk, and rock. Blue is the third full-length soundtrack album released for the series.

The highlight of the album is Mushroom Hunting, a delightful little jazz number arranged like a dance track. In terms of the straight instrumental jazz pieces that are most immediately assocaited wtih the series, there's Autumn in Ganymede and NY Rush. Steve Conte of New York Dolls sings on a couple of tracks, including the fantastic Call Me, Call Me. And then there's the truly weird track Chicken Bone by Sydney With Sister R, a choir performs Ave Maria, and the disc ends with a Japanese-language rendition of the series closing credits track, See You Space Cowboy (Not Final Mix Mountain Root), originally sung in English as The Real Folk Blues.

The album is best of the series OSTs, as well as the most musically diverse, but still manages to hold together into a single listenable whole. And, if you're a fan of the anime, you'll have a great time revisiting the aural textures that helped make the show so compelling.

Further Listening: All of the soundtracks have highs and lows, but if you were to pick one other than Blue, I'd recommend Future Blues, the soundtrack to the movie. It has Yo Pumpkin Head, DigginGotta Knock A Little Harder, and Mai Yamane's version of Rain. And if you can find it, the two-disc version includes a single-disc redux of the Cowgirl Ed and Ask DNA EPs, which makes for a disjointed listening experience that is nonetheless chock full of amazing music. I would not recommend the four-disc box set as an introduction to the music of the series. It's full of spoken-word tracks (in Japanese) and extended and alternate takes.

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