Imagination is a solo album composed by Tenpei Sato. Released in 1995, it features a mixture of vocal themes, featuring Tenpei Sato, Chaco, and Utako Kurahashi, and instrumental themes in a variety of styles. Is it worth picking up if you are able to find it?
The vocal themes on this album are a mixed bag. On one hand, I really appreciate the music behind many of the vocal themes, but at the same time, some of the vocal themes are really hard to get into due to the vocals. One of the better vocal themes is "My Mood is I-N-G". It's a playful jazz piece with a very nice melody and some beautiful instrumental backing, particularly in the piano, brass, and the guitar. The vocalist isn't particularly grating and her voice does tend to accentuate the playfulness of the music. "Born to Be Wild" is a rock and keyboard piece that features Tenpei Sato on vocals. It has a pretty infectious groove and melody, but Tenpei Sato's voice is one that takes time to get used to. It's not an entirely bad piece, and it is playful at times, but it takes a while to grow on you.
"Welcome to the Telephone Club," on the other hand, is one of Sato's experiments gone horribly, horribly wrong. The tone of the piece is a dark and smoky one with some pretty interesting piano and synth lines. While I appreciate the opening vocals that imitate a telephone ring and the beat of the piece, however, the vocals are utterly atrocious. They really kill the song in my opinion and feel totally out-of-place. Lastly, I'll mention "Lovin' You". Those familiar with Sato's works for Nippon Ichi Software will probably enjoy this piece the most. The vocalist's voice really shines in this piece while the string and piano accompaniment is extremely beautiful. It's probably my favorite vocal theme on the album, but only because I enjoy his ballads so much.
As for the instrumentals, I found them to be stronger overall. The title theme, "Imagination ~ Long Night," is a beautiful piano and string led piece that features a mix of more lighthearted and semi-dramatic passages. It also features a bit of Debussy's "Reverie" as well. The award for the most repetitive title ever probably goes to "A Relaxingly Relaxed Relaxing Conversation". This piece is a nice jazzy theme that features a pretty nice beat with some beautiful piano and acoustic guitar work. It has a bit of a tropical island feel to it as well. I'm really fond of the acoustic guitar solo as well as it really adds to the atmosphere of the piece.
Continuing the impressionistic theme, "Shinjuku Walking Bolero" is a playful orchestral piece probably inspired by Ravel. However, I don't really find this one to stick out too much. There are some interesting string and brass passages, but overall, it seems a bit clichéd. It also tries to do so much in its duration as there does seem to be a lack of cohesion throughout. There is also an instrumental version of "Lovin' You" entitled "Lovin' You ~ Precious Version." This arrangement is a very beautiful piano- and string-led composition that really accentuates the original. For those who aren't a fan of Japanese vocals, this version is probably for you. It's a simplistic piece, but sometimes simplicity has its advantages, especially when there is a strong melody to support it.
For the most part, Tenpei Sato's only solo album Imagination is enjoyable. A lot of the vocal themes have interesting music, though the vocals can either make or break the piece. The instrumentals are a mix of jazzy and more melancholy soundscapes, but are, for the most part, stronger than the vocal themes. If you find this one and are a big fan of Tenpei Sato, I'd say it's worth picking up, but there may be some pieces that may put you off, such as "Welcome to the Telephone Club". It's worth a shot if you are a die hard fan.