Ashita e no Sanka
Natsukashii Mirai ~longing future~
Kaze no Tegami
Yume no GARDEN
Gunjou no Tani
Tsuki ga Watashi
RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~
Megumi no Ame
The album starts off with Tennyo ~interlude~. This is a pretty long interlude, its practically song limit going a bit over three minutes. Its a nice opening to the album and invokes such an atmosphere of surrealism. I thought alan’s mountain notes were a bit unnecessary if only because they seemed to come out of nowhere, otherwise a pretty good start to the album, even if it did play like one of those random instrumentals.
The first full length track on the album is Ashita e no Sanka. This is alan’s first single and I admit its quite the single to debut with, but I believe at this point the novelty has worn off. I do like how this incorporates traditional Chinese music, very nice and gave me such an ‘house of flying daggers’ vibe. alan’s vocals are pretty regular and then you get to the chorus where she hits these notes that sound so alien, its awe-inspiring and annoying at the same time, that’s the best way I can describe it. I do like how this song was put together, how there isn’t much going on with it, but its memorable and leaves quite an impression. I may not like this track as much as I once did, but this is definitely one of my favorites from her.
The next track on the album brings the pace up a tad with Sora Uta. I reviewed all five of alan’s elemental release singles and this is the second in the saga. This song just sounds different to me, like a whole lot more interesting. I like the oriental airy-ness of the arrangement, I mean its not ‘wow’ ing or anything, but it certainly gives off an refreshing type of feeling. alan’s vocal performance also sounds better to me, like not so annoying and more in control. I don’t know, I don’t dislike this song anymore, but I’m not sure if I fully like it either. I’ll have to give it a few more listens before I can fully decide, but I’ll give it one thing, it sounds a whole hell of a lot better this time around.
The next track on the album is the first single from alan’s elemental release saga, Natsukashii Mirai ~longing future~. This song sounds a lot different than it did on the single. I gave this track a lot of flack, but hearing it on the album I actually quite like it, if only because its almost like another version. I like the sound of the kids at the beginning, I like how the arrangement and the entire atmosphere of the song makes you think of the Earth and how precious and important it is to our well-being and survival as humans. alan gave a good and rather genuine vocal performance and though I still think her mountain notes sound like a cat wailing, they were appropriate. I love the choir singing along with her towards the end and the fact that this track just sounds a whole lot more inspirational this time around. I can safely say this has grown on me.
The next track on the album is the rather tame Hitotsu. I’ve always thought of this as a part two of ‘ashita e no sanka’ because they sound so similar to me. This is a pretty quiet song and I think that’s where its charm lies. The arrangement plays like air and alan gives a somewhat strong vocal performance without overdoing it, even during the high notes, she kept it to a minimum. I’ve always liked this track, right a long with ‘ashita e no sanka’ that hasn’t changed.
The next track speeds the pace up a tad with Kaze no Tegami. Ah, unlike ‘sora uta’ this song is still as underwhelming as it was on the single. I’m just really not feeling the pseudo-rock and experimental arrangement it just seems so dead and limp, like it should be coming out at me, engaging me, but its just as dull as lights flashing on and off. alan’s vocal performance was pretty stagnant as well. I mean there was no emotion in her voice, no feeling and it made the song tedious. I don’t know, this track was the perfect opportunity to give us something other than oriental ballads and the payoff was weak.
The next track on the album is surprisingly not a single. BRAVE is a pretty boring title. We finally get presented with a non-single track, but it was hardly worth the wait. The arrangement is very traditional, but it isn’t really all that interesting and sounds pretty typical and strange. alan’s vocal performance wasn’t really all that good either, it wasn’t bad, but it did nothing to hold my attention. I also hated the bombardment of caterwauling she kept doing, it sounded like she was drowning.
The next track on the album is the ethereal-esque Yume no GARDEN. Ah, yet another song that isn’t a single, that makes two in a row. Anyways as where the previous was annoying, this is pretty forgettable and boring. The arrangement is a series of sounds that I guess are supposed to give off the atmosphere of an otherworldly garden or something, but sounds like crickets chirping at night an the wind. alan’s vocal performance was decent, because needless to say she does have a nice voice, but it just came across as tired to me, because she wasn’t doing anything with it. I mean the ‘mountain notes’ would have actually sounded right in this track, unlike the previous. Its also long, which made the song drag and thus more dull than it should have been.
The next track on the album is the last single release before this album Gunjou no Tani. I still think this is a pretty good track. It has a nice arrangement and alan delivers a good vocal performance and uses the whole high note hitting to her advantage. It’ll never be a favorite of mine and I don’t think alan will ever release a single or record a song that can top ‘red cliff’, but this is an enjoyable and rather atmospheric listen.
The next track on the album keeps the slow pace going with my friend. This is a pretty mild song, that manages to do nothing really, but has a nice flow. The arrangement is quite pretty, despite being rather simple and alan gave a somewhat boring yet genuine vocal performance. I have a soft spot for ‘friend’ songs an though this doesn’t really stand out and is a little forgettable I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Its not bad.
The next track on the album is the one that was suppose to be a single, but thankfully wasn’t. Liberty is not so much boring as it is uninteresting (which seems to be the case with these non single tracks), I do like the flow, its nice and easy. The arrangement is a rather simple piano piece with some sparkle sounds that play like they were thrown in there every once in a while. alan’s vocal performance was rather nice though, but it didn’t stand out at all. This is a decent listen, but single material it was not and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that.
The next track on the album is the down-tempo Tsuki ga Watashi. This song is pretty similar to the last track. The arrangement is more traditional though, that’s always nice. alan’s vocal performance was quite like the previous, nice, but it didn’t stand out. I’m not sure why the single tracks are so underwhelming and safe, but this was a pretty listen none the less.
The next track on the album is the epic RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~. I swear alan must share my opinion in this being her best song, especially considering she releases it so much. I gushed about this song enough on my single review of it and my feelings towards it hasn’t changed. This is a great song, with a haunting and rather fantastic arrangement and a top-notch vocal performance, I wonder if she will ever be able to top this?
The second to last track on the album is the down-tempo Megumi no Ame. I gave this song quite the beating in my single review of it, but like ‘sora uta’ and ‘natsukashii mirai’ this track just sounds so much better, a lot better and surprisingly not boring at all. I like how simply pretty the arrangement is, there’s nothing to it and it plays so nice. alan’s vocal performance was also rather lovely. I quite enjoyed this song this time around, imagine that?
The last track on the album is the limited addition Together. This is the new track on the album that left the biggest impression on me and the only one I genuinely like. The arrangement was nice and dramatic and alan’s vocal performance was gorgeous. I thought it was interesting how she would switch up her tones, to where the song sounded incredibly depressing one second and then oddly up-lifting the next. This was a pretty good end to the album.
Rating: ** stars
alan’s first album Voice of EARTH is like the majority of debut albums, good, but not good enough. It took eight singles before this could be released and honestly had she snipped the eight to about three or four, I would have most definitely rated this album higher as she didn’t it becomes an orgy of tracks I’ve already heard and that really dumbs down the enjoyment factor. The main problem I had with this album, other than the mountain of singles, was the fact that the album only tracks were rather mediocre and safe. You go through all this trouble to glamorize the singles to make the album appealing and the songs that everyone are anticipating (the non single tracks) are pretty average and the only one that I’d even bother listening to again would be ‘together’ and ‘Tsuki ga Watashi’, ‘my friend’ possibly, but lets not stretch it. I did like how the elemental singles I didn’t like (all, but ‘red cliff’) played a lot better and the only one I still had qualms with was ‘kaze no tegami’. Voice of EARTH is a decent debut album, with some pretty nice tracks and some good vocals from alan (because lets face it, the woman can sing), but its just not all that good to me and was a pretty average if not boring listen.
*This is an old review, this is the first of a slew of reviews I did before I decided to go on my hiatus. [April 14th, 2009]