Thursday, July 12, 2012

B'z The Best Ultra Pleasure j-pop review

B'z The Best "Ultra Pleasure" is a compilation double-album by Japanese hard rock duo B'z. It was released on June 18, 2008, and it is part of their 20th anniversary celebration. It peaked at #1 at Oricon charts. It has sold 972,595 copies. It consists of two discs.

This is the first album that I have listened to by B'z. I have listened to random songs by them before, but not a whole album. I chose to listen to this one because it includes their greatest hits from teh 1990s as well as recent times.

Here is the song by song review. I start with CD 1

1. Bad communication- This is a rock song with some danceable elements. There are eletronic elements here and there along with a beat and essence I hear more in dance tracks. It is quite a powerful and catchy song. I didn't really notice it at first listen, but it is one of my favorite tracks on this cd now.

2. BE THERE- This song is reminiscent of some of Mr. Children's songs, especially tomorrow never knows. Although there are heavy guitars, it still sounds like a mid tempo pop-rock song. It sounds totally 1990s. 1990s j-pop song had this really nostalgic feel to them. There is something different about them, so they are really beautiful. This is without doubt, my favorite track on this album.

3. Easy come Easy go- This is a cheerful pop song with jazzy words. It sounds good enough and is really easy listening though it is technically rock, but it isn't hard on the ears. Like other tracks of this CD, it has a composition and feel similar to 1990s j-pop.

4. LADY NAVIGATION- I had heard this song even before I heard it on this album, but the version that I heard was a slow bluesy version. This one is the original is more of a dance track with powerful guitars. It has a strong drum part that tends to drown out even the guitar. Inaba's voice sounds much like Kuwata Keisuke from Southern All Stars. It gruff and jazzy.

5. ALONE- This is an acoustic ballad, though a bit fast and heavy on instruments than the typical ballad, it is relaxing nontheless. A classic j-pop acoustic song but Tak Matsumoto's wonderful composition lifts it from mediocrity and puts it is the realm of being 'special'. The vocals are heartfelt.

6. ZERO- A hard rock song. It is not forgettable but I can't really describe it as something different the way I can do for other songs on this album.

7. Itsuka no merry christmas (merry christmas, someday)- B'z's christmas. It is a masterpiece. Top singers in japan, from Ayumi Hamasaki to Namie Amuro and Gackt have all covered this classic hit, but Inaba Koshi is the one who can make this shine. His hoarse and emotional voice makes the lyrics and warmth of christmas come alive. The instrumental intro by Tak is nothing short of perfect. It's placing in the album is good, because it is preceded and followed by hard rock tracks. One of the best christmas songs with meaningful lyrics.

8. Ai no mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai- Really long title! It means 'Even if love is selfish, you're the only one I won't hurt'. The lyrics are superb and tug at the heartstrings. the melody is catchy to the extreme. This is the first song on this album that I could hum out the tune of. It is electronic rock and the vocals are powerful and belted out. This is their higest selling single, by the way. It sold in excess of 2 million copies.

9. Hadashi no Megami (Barefoot godess)- A rock track with more percussion and electric guitar than many other tracks on this album. Though there was nothing wrong with this track, I couldn't really feel something 'different' in it. It just didn't stand out.

10. Negai (Wish)- The intro is full of jazzy piano and for a while I started thinking this was going to be one of those nice jazz songs. The verse remains mellow with the piano accompaniment but the chorus is totally rock. The guitars come bursting in and the whole feel of the song changes. It is quite an unpredictable song.

11. Love me, I love you- It also has that distinct nostalgic feel like some other tracks on this album. A good track. It is cheerful and upbeat.

12. LOVE PHANTOM- It is one of B'z's signature hit songs. It starts with a beautiful orchestral piece and then the noise comes in along with Inaba screaming out the chorus.
Rating- 4.6/5

13. Mienai chikara ~the invisible one~- The title is quite inspiring but the song, though very upbeat, doesn't really 'inspire' me.

14. Calling- It is a hybrid of rock and ballad. So I guess it is a rock ballad? The thing is the chorus and some parts and definitely rock. And then suddenly all the sound disappears and there is just Inaba's voice and a piano in the background. It switches from mellow to noisy. There are a lot of dynamics changes.
Rating- 4.8/5

15. Samayoeru Aoi Dangan (Wandering Blue bullet)- This is 'real' rock. There is screaming, shreiking, frying, everything. It sounds a lot like the opening of an anime, with the energy and uninterrupted flow.
Rating- 4.5/5

Well, I couldn't really say that there was even a single bad  track on CD 1. I would have a hard time selecting favorites, but I loved all the songs except Hadashi no Megami, Samayoeru Aoi Dangan and Mienai Chikara, though these tracks were also pretty good. As I said, all the tracks are single tracks and so amazing in their own way, but I have chosen according to my tastes. My absolute favorites are Alone, BE THERE, LADY NAVIGATIONS, Itsuka no merry christmas, Calling, Ai no mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai (that's pretty much everything!)

CD 2

1. HOME- It starts off like hearing something on radio and then picks up pace. It is a decently catchy song with a good melody and it's difficult to get bored of this.

2. Giri Giri Chop- A hard rock track with plenty of vocal acrobatics. It was used in Detective conan. It was really too all over the place with more emphasis on vocal dynamics than the melody and arrangement. The only thing that saved it was the brilliant vocal performance.

3. Kon'ya Tsuki no Mieru Oka ni (Tonight, from top of the hill where we can see the moon)- It was used in the drama beautiful life starring Tokiwa Takako and Takuya Kimura. It is an acoustic song, but Inaba's voice gives it emotion and makes it sound like a rock song.

4. Juice- It is very similar to Giri Giri chop in melody and arrangement, but it stood out more than Giri, Giri chop.

5. Ultra soul- It is a rock song with a mysterious atmosphere. It sounded dark and suspenseful. It is my favorite rock track on this album.

6. Atsuki Kodō no Hate- It took me many, many listens to even make out that this song existed on this album. It is really too similar to everything else for me to be able to single it out.

7. It's Showtime!!- An energy filled track with great singing.

8. BANZAI- I really loved the part where they yelled BANZAI!. A heavy rock track like all it's predecessors, BANZAI is quiet catchy.

9. Ai no Bakudan- This track is really quite unremarkable. It was one of those tracks where I was thinking 'Was there really any track in the place'. It simple blended into the album. If I had listened to it separately, I could have said that it was a good track, but in this album, there are many songs which simply outshine it so much that it is not even noticeable.
Rating- 2.9/5

10. OCEAN- OCEAN is a ballad. It is quite peaceful and relaxing, much like sitting on a beach near a real ocean. The vocals were soft by B'z standards which made this song seem so delicate.

11. Shodo- It was a detective conan opening which I had heard before, but in this placement, it is even more prominent. The part where they say 'shooo-dou' is similar to the catchy part from BANZAI. But I have to say, I prefer Banzai to this.

12. Splash- It has a tune that kind of makes you want to sway, like arabian songs. It has 'flow', like water. Some Koda Kumi songs like Amai Wana or Shake it! have a similar effect where I just feel like closing my eyes and moving from side to side. This song is quite rhythmic.

13. Eien no tsubasa- A poweful rock ballad. It is undoubtedly the best track on this CD and one of the best on this album. It immediately stood out and caught me in the first listen.

14. SUPER LOVE SONG- Similar to almost all the rock tracks on this album, it really doesn't anything different going for it. But it's not 'lost' in the album, like some other tracks, maybe because of its placing.

15. Pleasure 2008 ~Jinsei no Kairaku~- A good song and a nice way to end this amazing album.

CD 2 was not quite as good as CD 1 because the tracks had no individuality. They would all have stood out as singles, but as tracks on an album, I had to rack my mind and re-listen to the whole CD just to find out what 'that' song was. They are all quite similar in composition, feeling and arrangement. My favorite tracks were Eien no tsubasa, OCEAN and ultra soul.

Overall this 2 CD album is a treat and features many, many great songs. It is a good way to get acquainted with the legend known as B'z. B'z is the highest selling contemporary act in Japanese history and listening to this album will leave no doubts in your mind about how deserving they are to be in that place.

Overall rating- 4.8/5

No filler tracks
CD 1 really has a lot of amazing tracks

Most tracks in CD 2 fail to stand out because of placement
Many songs sound very similar. I could only distinguish tracks after the first ten listens.
Most songs take time to 'grow' on you. They might sound boring on first listen


  1. Your musical tastes for ballads is absolutely evident in this review. Longer reviews for the ballads, sometimes one liners for the rock tracks.

    Musical taste is of course incredibly subjective; for instance some of my least favourites on this are your tops, and vice versa.

    'Ai No Bakudan' being a prime example, this is absolutely one of their catchiest, well written and performed tracks, brimming with melody and energy.

    Banzai, Juice, GiriGiri - those three I cannot get enough of; I am an admirer and a fan od B'z ballads (especially Merry Christmas & Alone from this collection) but am much more drawn to their wonderful ability to craft genius rock songs. A track like Juice is just filled with first rate hard rock rhythmic dynamics, and it thunders along at an infectious rate with great chorus melody.

    I just happen to love that sound - the thrilling sound of a "top rock band in full flight" as Bono of U2 remarked on his love for that sound also. Track like "Eien No Tsubasa" I find rather dull, and with an opposite view to yourself I find their ballads a bit 'samey' on occasion.

    Overall, a sterling collection, but the sister album "Ultra Best Treasure" is even better, with fan picks of album tracks, B-Sides, and singles not appeearing on this one.

  2. Thank you for the long comment. I agree that I am very partial to ballads but glad to hear your point of view. I think I will try listening to Best treasure afte ryour recommendation.