Twin Best: Jiro Sugita · Jiro's
International Title
Music By: Jiro Sugita
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Running Time: 58:54/60:11 Discs: 2
Release: October 1996 CD Number: TOCT-9649/50
Anthony Romero
First, thanks goes to Robert Storch for sending these discs in for review!

This disc, also commonly referred to as "Twin Best: Jiro Sugita & Jiro's", is a two disc compilation of songs by musical artist Jiro Sugita and the band Jiro's. Jiro's was a group that was formed back in 1967, facing a rough period in 1968 that lead to them disbanding. The musician worked his way briefly into Norihiko Hashida's Shoebelts, before Sugita reformed Jiro's in 1970, this time with artist Jiro Morishita. It is the music created during this period, during the second phase of the group, that is present on this release (coming largely from the For the Love & You album). Sadly, Jiro's disbanded for good in 1972 after being together for two years. This led to Jiro Sugita's long running solo career afterwards, to which Toho fans will be familiar with for his work on both Horror of the Wolf (1973) and Bye-Bye Jupiter (1984), the songs for the latter of which are included with this set. This particular release covers the "best" of Sugita's work from the time his band formed up until 1987, after which he changed record labels.

This release has a lot of content across its two discs, with each clocking in at around 60 minutes in length. Across the 30 songs present, the set has its ups and downs. To start with the first disc, the ups include songs like "For the Love & You", which has a great soothing beat and makes good use of the band present. "Only You", another song from the band, is a great tune as well, utilizing a bigger orchestra to really make the track stand out. "Children Don't Know War" is a great track with a nice big band like flavor as trumpets and other instruments are included into the mix. "Anak", probably the standout solo performance by Sugita on the first disc, is another exemplary track. It has a great, soothing tempo to it that really lets the deep and wonderfully distinct vocal work of the musician come through to the listener. On the downside, though, there are tracks like "My Heart", an adaptation of a song back from Sugita's days in the first Jiro's and the Shoebelts group, which is nice but falters on its English lyrics which sound like "lonely handbag". "Building Blocks" is also kind of a miss, starting off interesting with a more stereotypical oriental beat before diving into a more dated musical style. In fact, the last few tracks from the first disc are all a little lacking, due to the more modern techniques and styles they utilize, which does not hold up as well.

For the second disc, it leaps right into a very dated theme in the form of "(Youth) Like a Movie". This song is strange in that the background beat, although very much a product of its decade, is very lively and energetic to hear... but sadly clashes with the lyrics resulting in a odd mesh of the two. The disc drifts into some more work from Jiro's in the form of "From the Sunlit Sky", which is a stellar song with a great duo vocal performance. The work here then gets more diverse with the guitar heavy "A Song for Children", which sounds odd amongst the often acoustic guitar work that other tracks have. This is followed up by the very odd "A Heart of Courage", which has an almost southern-like twist to it mixed with a more Spanish tempo. All of which, sadly, sounds a little at odds with Sugita's voice, but when the more classical instruments swell it works. "Small One" is a nice change of pace from the others, as it gives Sugita's lyrics room to breath with a more subdued piano background at the start that allows his voice to take center stage as it should. It's a wonderful song, and one of the better entries on the second disc. The real star here, though, is the magnificent "Bye-Bye Jupiter" song, from the movie of the same name. It has a epic quality, helped by the huge orchestra that Sugita has at his disposal which works perfectly in tempo with his lyrics rather than against as some of the other work found on this disc. The second CD ends with "In the Mirror", a final track with the Jiro's, which is a nice track to end on although sounds a little rough, either because the best source was not available or due to the recording techniques utilized at the time.

Overall, despite some complaints, this is a pretty solid collection of Sugita's work. It's at its strongest when Sugita plays to his strength, which is his wonderful folk themes and ones that utilize a more classic orchestra. The ones that attempt to add a more contemporary flavor, like the previously mentioned "Building Blocks" and the awkwardly western-like "The Evening Gray Clock", tend to be a bit more of a miss. Regardless, though, the two disc set is pretty enjoyable and those who enjoy the musician's work, or folk music in general, should get a kick out of this release.
Rating: Star Rating
    Disc 1
  1. Children Don't Know War
    By: Jiro's
  2. Between Men
  3. Anak
  4. Ballad of Human Powered Flight
  5. Only You
    By: Jiro's
  6. A Tear for Tomorrow
    By: Jiro's
  7. For the Love & You
    By: Jiro's
  8. The Dividing Road of Youth
    By: Jiro's
  9. My Heart
  10. Title Less Love
  11. Building Blocks
  12. Life in the City
  13. The Evening Gray Clock
  14. Sunshine in the Rain
  15. My Ark
    Disc 2
  1. (Youth) Like a Movie
  2. Yatsugatake
  3. From the Sunlit Sky
    By: Jiro's
  4. Children
    By: Jiro's
  5. Memories of Autumn
  6. A Song for Children
  7. A Heart of Courage
  8. Small One
  9. A Lonely Spring
  10. The Opened Door
  11. The Unturned Trojan
  12. Domannaka of the Earth
  13. Bye-Bye Jupiter
  14. The Four Seasons of Earth
  15. In the Mirror
    By: Jiro's