Composer Hiroshi Miyagawa did more than change the world of anime music with his brilliant Symphonic Suite Yamato in 1977. He also planted the seeds for a whole new crop of Yamato music: the concept album.
In the symphonic version of The Scarlet Scarf, a melancholy ballad suddenly became a hot-blooded samba. In other tracks, instruments could be swapped out altogether. A human voice could stand in for a violin and vice-versa. Even a bebop guitar or a moog synthesizer wasn’t off limits if a sudden creative impulse took hold. It gave other musicians permission to think out of the box, and a good number of them turned this thinking back on Yamato itself.
There was a slow trickle at first that broke into a flood in the year 1982. Final Yamato was originally intended to premiere that summer, but slowdowns in the writing prevented this from happening. For the first time in five years, fans would have to go without a new Yamato to watch. But their cups ran over with new Yamato to listen to as one album after another explored the outer limits of the Miyagawa universe.
For Life Records, April 1978
CD: FLCF-5027 (Released October 2010)
The first concept album (if one doesn’t count Symphonic Suite Yamato) came from off the reservation. At this time, synthesizer was THE hot new instrument in pop music. The idea of one guy at a keyboard replacing an entire orchestra with digitized sounds no one had ever heard before became a major fad in the late 1970s. Space Fantasy was at the leading edge of this fad, at least in Japan. A team of high-tech musicians turned out 10 tracks for this album, five of which were covers of Miyagawa scores from Yamato. Of the others, three were original and two were based on John Williams’ score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
By today’s standards, the music is hopelessly dated, but its earnest intentions shine through as fresh now as they ever did. Of special note were the destinies of its two lead players. Hiroki Inui (below right) moved on to create two very progressive anime soundtracks in the 1980s: Armored Trooper Votoms and Blue Meteor SPT Layzner, both produced by Nippon Sunrise. (And in fact, one of his original tracks on this album would evolve into a Votoms cue.) The other principle musician was Hideki Matsutake (below left), who would become the top synthesizer artist in Japan and found the internationally-recognized progressive rock group Logic System. And bringing it all back to Yamato, Matsutake was the musician chosen to perform the Dark Nebula Empire theme for the score of The New Voyage a year after this album was released.
For Life Records also released a live album in 1978 titled, naturally Live Space Fantasy. Both were released as a 2-CD set to commemorate the label’s 35th anniversary in 2010.
Yamato: I Adore the Eternity of Love
‘New Disco Arrange’ album 12/1978
Polydor Records, LP: MR-3162 Cassette: Unknown
Eight months later, Hiroshi Miyagawa himself raised the conceptual bar higher with this all-disco album released by Polydor during the tenure of Yamato 2 on Japanese TV. It can also be singled out from all the other albums on this list for finding its way back into the anime, since three of its tracks appeared in the latter episodes.
Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s liner notes:
Wyoming may be the reason why Space Battleship Yamato‘s Disco Album was created. In 1978, many people were moved by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But many fans were also surprised by its sound. A synthesizer was used, and the music in the last scene gave the movie an especially emotional quality. However, when the CE3K Disco album came out [Encounters of Every Kind, Millenium Records/1977], I’m sure I wasn’t the only one pleasantly surprised by it. The music was reborn with a fresh new rhythm that still emphasized the visual theme. There was no major change from the original movie. We used that disco performance as the foundation to produce this album.
The completed album has the tremendous power to bring back the imagery of the movie, like cranking up the voltage from 100 to 150, or even 200. The music brings back the visual scene, and by looking at a still shot from the movie, one can also bring the music back to their ears. This is the strength of such a movie.
Aside from the musical scores, one can also say that when a particular tune matches a certain situation, it can bring back unforgettable feelings…like when you’re in love, for example. A song can bring back memories of a particular love when it matches the feelings in your heart.
But another reason this album was produced was for dancing, since Disco = Dancing. Mr. Miyagawa has made an excellent set of tracks with the disco rhythm to bring not only the memories of the movie back, but also to let you feel the wide spectacle of the music once again.
Read more about this album here.
Click here for a complete track listing and audio samples.
Space Battleship Yamato Choral Suite
Song Suite for Chorus, Piano and Percussion, 12/25/1979
Nippon Columbia, LP: CQ-7031 Cassette: CAK-686
Taking Yamato music into yet another direction, this album gathered compositions from Series 1 and Farewell to Yamato (along with five of the relevant songs) into new arrangements performed by a choral group with minimal accompaniment. It was hoped at the time that it would inspire more such albums, but the fad only lasted through the early 80s. A rare album today, it gained additional notoriety when its creator, Jo Hisaishi, went on to become director Hayao Miyazaki’s composer of choice. He also created a second choral album for The New Voyage in 1982. (Shown farther down.)
From the liner notes:
About the Choral Suite
Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Producer
I was very surprised when I listened to the Choral Suite, and it brought me great joy. It was not part of my original concept, but it brought Yamato to life on a scale grander than I could have dreamed. The members of the Doshisha Student Mixed Voices Chorus have my undying gratitude for expanding the drama of the story with their rich singing.
Yamato received the enthusiastic support of boys and girls from the ages of 6 to 15. When considering its music, the idea of an all-choral performance made me giddy and I believed it would make for a significant record. I’m very happy that Yamato could contribute new material and prestige to them. Please keep the dramatic scenes of Yamato in your heart while you listen.
Interesting! The birth of a new choral tune
Kan Ishii, Japan Choral Society
Most people think of Brahms, Mozart, or religious music when you say the word “chorus.” But this production shows how wide-ranging a chorus can be and will delight people at all levels of society. I expect that it will bring a new meaning to those who listen. At the same time, the wonderful music is very interesting and enjoyable, and these suites provide a great new addition to the conventional repertory. In the future we must continue our efforts to spread the joy of choral performance.
About the Arrangement
When I was asked to arrange a choral version of Yamato, I was lost in thought for a moment. To what extent was it possible to express this music in a purely choral form? It was written for a dramatic story rather than song poetry, which is quite different. I thought about this while I undertook the project.
The major difference between an orchestra and a chorus is that the former is expressed externally, as a function of the instruments, whereas a human voice comes from an internal place and is a direct result of a psychological function. Mr. Miyagawa’s melodies drift between darkness and romance. Could a chorus capture this? I also thought a lot about how to express the grand scale of infinite space.
I was concerned about all of this, and the technical ability of the Doshisha Student Chorus to reproduce it was amazing to me. Recording it at the Osaka Public Welfare Hall was very impressive. The single-minded enthusiasm of Conductor Hiroshi Kumagai and his conscientious staff stayed with me all the way home on the bullet train and I drank to them in congratulations. I hope you will enjoy this suite as much as they did.
This album was released to CD (COCC-12671) in limited numbers as part of Nippon Columbia’s reissue of the entire Yamato catalog in 1995.
In 2012, it was released again in the Yamato Sound Almanac series, split up as bonus tracks between the two Be Forever Yamato Music Collection CDs. Read more about it here.
Space Battleship Yamato
Main Title Theme & Hit Song Collection 12/1/1980
Nippon Columbia, LP: CQ-7058 Cassette: CAK-716
After the resounding success of Be Forever, Columbia rounded up all 13 of the existing Yamato songs and released them on a single LP. Songs that had originally been performed by artists on different record labels were covered by Isao Sasaki and Mitsuko Horie to clear them for use. At 9 and 4 tracks respectively, both singers were generously showcased in this collection.
Click here for a complete track listing.
This album was reissued in 1995, when Nippon Columbia brought the entire Yamato catalog to CD (below, COCC-12875). It has since been eclipsed by two all-song discs in the Eternal Edition series.
Yamato The New Voyage & Brave Raideen
Choral and Piano Suite, 2/1/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CQ-7072 Cassette: CAK-738
Kicking off the 1982 music blitz, this was Jo Hisaishi’s followup to the 1979 Choral and Piano Suite. He performed the same magic on side A, which was devoted entirely to The New Voyage. Contemporary arranger Shoetsu Kawasaki did the same on side B with the score from the 1974 “Super Robot” anime series Brave Raideen. The entire Yamato side was included as bonus tracks on the 2000 Eternal Edition CD devoted to The New Voyage.
Read more about this album here.
Prelude [Overture] to Final Yamato
Symphonic album, 5/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CX-7055 Cassette: CAY-569
This album was probably the most unusual of the Yamato symphonic LPs. The movie was proving difficult to write and taking longer than anyone expected, but enough raw ideas were in place for the composing to begin. The result was truly unique: a soundtrack “image album” that preceded its film by a year. It was the next best thing to a missing movie, and was explained by Yoshinobu Nishizaki this way in his liner notes:
Is it a first in Japan for an ‘overture’ record to come out a year before the movie? Of course, the details of the film cannot be explained here, but there is a general understanding of the world where Final Yamato comes from.
When I work on Yamato, I cannot produce it by thinking of the picture and the music as separate, independent things. Yamato is not simply a picture, a story, and some BGM. All three of these are unified in my mind as the total presentation even as we begin to write a script.
In all film work, especially in animation, the positioning of music as a part of the drama was established by Disney, and it grew considerably as he sent his many masterpieces out into the world. The importance of music is to provide a level of reality. It gives presence and atmosphere to a flat picture, and expresses the thoughts of the characters. Unless the picture and the story are combined with music, they do not form a three-dimensional work. (This is not completely understood, and there have been many cases where a very talented composer produces music that outshines the other two elements.)
This time, we spent about a year on the production of the story and developed this ‘prelude’ album in parallel. This record precedes the movie, which will bring ten years of Yamato to a conclusion. In this way, when someone asks what is the nature of this story, the music will already be there to convey it.
The big premise of Final Yamato is to go back to the beginning of history and trace the origin of life. It is the objective of this album, too. With this record’s magnificent stellar scale as a backdrop, everyone can dream of how Kodai, Yuki, and Yamato will act together, and it can help you to expand your imagination. The movie you see in a theatre next year will live up to it. As a producer, I am convinced of this.
Click here for a more detailed look at this album.
Yamato Rhapsody Series
Mellow Guitar Yamato
Symphonic album, 6/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CX-7049
Click here for a track listing.
Fascinating Piano Yamato
Symphonic album, 9/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CX-7061
Click here for a track listing.
Romantic Violin Yamato
Symphonic album, 12/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CX-7064
Click here for a track listing.
1982 was also the year that individual members of Symphony Orchestra Yamato stepped forward to make their own musical statements. Guitarist Yoshio Kimura, Pianist Kentaro Haneda, and Violinist Tsugio Tokunaga had played key roles throughout the production years and earned the nickname “Yamato Trio.” Kimura had been with the orchestra since the first Symphonic Suite, Haneda joined up for Farewell, and Tokunaga brought his virtuoso talent to Be Forever. All three had shone many times and were now celebrities in their own rite.
These three ‘Rhapsody’ albums rearranged Yamato scores from across the saga (up to and including Yamato III) to favor each of their own instruments. They were titled Mellow Guitar, Fascinating Piano, and Romantic Violin, and were equal in every way to the standards of the symphonic albums. Haneda did not actually perform on Fascinating Piano, since much of his time was devoted to co-writing the score to Final Yamato. Instead, he took on some of the arrangement duties and made room for secondary pianist Toshio Suzuki. The cover art for these innovative new albums threw off the image of anime altogether, opting instead for the look of a purely classical or instrumental LP.
Each of these albums was released on CD by Nippon Columbia in 1995. Below, left to right: Mellow Guitar (COCC-12669), Fascinating Piano (COCC-12670), Romantic Violin (COCC-12668).
The most recent reissues occurred in 2013 as part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series. Read more about them here.
Digital Trip Space Cruiser Yamato
Synthesizer Fantasy, 11/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP:CX-7075 Cassette: CAY-591
The synthesizer craze was still going strong in Japan in the early 1980s, and Nippon Columbia responded with a long line of Digital Trip albums that showcased a growing number of artists. For a time, any anime film or TV series was fair game. Since the only major expenses were licensing fees and the services of a lone musician, even the most obscure subject was bound to turn a profit. That said, Columbia showed sound judgment with this line, seldom taking a wrong step in their choice of properties.
This was the first of two Digital Trip albums devoted to Yamato. The second was devoted entirely to Final Yamato, and can be seen here. Musician Jun Fukamachi was a natural choice for both, having already performed on the Prelude to Final Yamato album earlier in the year. The tracks were derived from Series 1, Farewell, and Be Forever.
Click here for a complete track listing.
The Digital Trip album was first released on CD in 1993 by Nippon Columbia (above left, COCC-11074). After it went out of print, a burn-on-demand label named R-Ban made it available on CD-R in 1995 (above right, COR-11074).
The most recent reissue occurred in early 2014 as part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series. Read all about it here.
Anime Piano Suite, 11/21/1982
Nippon Columbia, LP: CX-7077 Cassette: CAY-593
Released on the same day as the Digital Trip album, this one is a real gem, an entire album of skillful piano sonatas with one side each devoted to Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam. The Yamato tracks were performed by soloist Aoki Nozomi and made such a strong impression on their own that they could be enjoyed by listeners who hadn’t yet seen the anime.
The Yamato side of this album was released once on CD, as bonus tracks on the 9th disc in the Eternal Edition series. Read more about that disc here. Fans could also buy a book of sheet music published by Nippon Columbia (shown at right) to create their own solo performances at home.
The Seventeen’s Legend
Athene Record, 1984
This unusual album was very likely pressed in limited numbers, based on the scarcity of information about its label, but it absolutely belongs in the Yamato pantheon. The English title is augmented by a Japanese one, “17-Year-Old’s Memory,” named no doubt for its teenage performers. It is a choral suite recorded by Class G of Shinagawa Senior High School (1983-84 school year), conducted by Yoshie Shiraishi and Sachiko Yoshioka. It’s possible that the album was something of a vanity project, sold to family and friends. Either way, the Space Battleship Yamato suite that fills Side A of the record won the highest award given at a local school festival when it was performed live.
The suite consists of six tracks: Overture, main theme, The Rival, Teresa Forever, Great Love, and From Yamato With Love. They all came from the Farewell to Yamato oeuvre, and Great Love (the love theme from the film) is an especially unique recording since this version has lyrics–whereas every other commercial recording is instrumental only. It was performed with lyrics at least once before, in a 1980 TV special to promote Be Forever, so it’s possible that the lyrics were published in one of the many sheet music books that were available at the time. Nevertheless, this is the only known source for a recorded version of it. Side B of the LP contains non-Yamato material.
Other albums from the Yamato family…
Voice Voice Voice Seiyuu [Voice Actor] Festival
Nippon Columbia, 1979
A live album presenting a variety show recorded in April, 1979 which featured Isao Sasaki and many of Yamato‘s voice actors in “showcase” stage roles. Read more about the Voice Voice Voice Festival here (scroll down to the 8th page spread).
Love, Courage, Youth…and to You
Nippon Columbia, 1979
A spoken-word album with inspirational messages recorded by voice actors from Yamato and their contemporaries. As with the Voice Voice Voice album, it is doubtful that this one was reissued on CD, making both of them true collector’s items.
Fugue of Yoko b/w A Kitten
45rpm single, 1980
Nippon Columbia, CK-568
This one-of-a-kind single was recorded by Yoko Asagami, the voice of Yuki. She enjoyed a highly successful voice-acting career in the post-Yamato years, which included the 2002 OAV series Yukikaze, available on DVD in America from Bandai Entertainment.
Special thanks to superfan Steve Harrison for research assistance.