J-POP OVERVIEW

Ayumi Hamasaki - A BEST

Released: 3/28/01

ELEVEN The long-awaited first best compilation album from Jpop queen, Ayumi Hamasaki, is finally here! This disc is maxed out at 16 songs, taking over 76 minutes! Contained is a wide variety of Ayu hits spanning the artist's entire career so far, which (for the most part) are in chronological order.

The first three songs on the album have freshly recorded vocals. These three songs are all from her first album. The new vocal recordings are performed staggeringly better than the originals. The new vocal performance is so rich and beautiful, bringing out all the beauty of the artist's more recent vocal talent and style. She also takes some new liberties in the performance, adding her own more up-to-date style to these classic songs. Re-recording these three songs was an excellent choice on the part of the producer of this album. It's good to see that they are aware of the vocal inconsistencies found in Ayumi's first album that have always been so obvious to the artist's fans. Even some of the artist's more recent live performances of these songs were better-performed than the ones on her first album. These new tracks are excellent work. The new mixes of the instrumentals for these three songs are more or less the same as the originals.

Ayumi's first album was considerably worse than the work that followed. It was not until she started releasing some of the songs that were contained in her second album that her career really started to take off. These are the tracks that follow on "A BEST", beginning with track 4. "A BEST" contains a healthy portion of some of the artist's best-known work. Noticeably missing from this equation are some older singles, "Poker Face", "YOU", "For My Dear...", "WHATEVER", "kanariya" (which CD Japan even promised would be included), and her two latest singles, "evolution" and "NEVER EVER". Two songs from her famous "A" single are included; they are "trauma" and "End Roll". The first track of the four songs on the "A" single, "monochrome", is not present, which was a disappointment for me because it is still my personal favorite Ayumi Hamasaki song by a small margin. However, there is clearly plenty of good music contained on the album as it stands -- It's probably true that so many tracks are noticeably missing only because Ayumi has put out such an amazing amount of music at an incredible rate. It would be impossible to fit all of those songs on one disc, which makes this best album seem perhaps overdue, but I appreciate the fact that they held off for so long to release it -- There are enough Ayu releases as it is.

The album steps out of chronological order for a bit, closing the album with a song that, for whatever reason, has become sort of a fan favorite, "Who...". Though fans will likely notice at least one song lacking that they would have liked to see featured, the album contains almost every Ayumi Hamasaki single you could reasonably ask for, plus more, in one collection. The three re-performed tracks from her first album are also a nice (if not utterly necessary) touch. Even fans who already own most of her CDs should make good use of this album, not only due to the three re-performed tracks, but also because it puts so many of the artist's best songs in one collection. With such a perfect selection of Ayumi Hamasaki hits, completely filling the CD, it is hard to ignore the talent that brightly shines through in this album. There is no reason the CD should not be highly recommended to all parties who are at all interested.

Overall Rating: 10 - Excellent!

Track list:
01. A Song for XX
02. Trust
03. Depend on you
04. LOVE ~Destiny~
05. TO BE
06. Boys & Girls
07. Trauma
08. End roll
09. appears
10. Fly high
11. vogue
12. Far away
13. SEASONS
14. SURREAL
15. M16. Who...
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