By Shelley Pallis.
As Golgo 13 was Japan’s nihilistic answer to both Bond and the master-thieves of many a crime caper, many elements of the score (now re-released on vinyl) echo the kind of 1970s action movies that would surely have been on the mind of the film’s producers. It’s baffling, in fact, listening to the often-jazzy sounds from Toshiyuki Kimori’s soundtrack, why Golgo 13 wasn’t a prime candidate for the sort of complete soundtrack replacement that Manga Entertainment did on the likes of Cyber City Oedo 808.
A movie that, if made today would have been all Hans Zimmer brass, and if made twenty years ago, would have surely been all metal, all the time, comes across very much as a piece of its time, with a jazz-fusion nostalgia ideally suited to the kind of bespoke vinyl we’ve come to expect from Tiger Lab. “Gold and Silver” mixes quiet, slow jazz with sudden bursts of jeopardy, in order to accompany the film’s account of the two eponymous mercenaries. Incidental pieces like “Tail to Nose” and “Danger Zone” flirt with the verve of Lalo Schifrin’s work on Mission: Impossible, but constantly slip back into jazz, as if the band would rather be playing a dance than the background to a series of brutal murders.
Composer (and in some cases on the album, arranger of others’ tunes) Toshiyuki Kimori (1947-1988) studied at the Dick Grove School of Music, other alumni of which have included Michael Jackson and Barry Manilow, and where faculty teachers had, at various times, included Henry Mancini and the aforementioned Schifrin. Back in Japan, Kimori became something of a 1980s hit factory, both under his own name, and under the monicker “Keith Morrison”, in which guise he produced the Japanese soundtracks for Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals and the 1982 Shaolin Temple movie. His anime contributions included Dirty Pair and My Youth in Arcadia, but these seem to be relatively minor entries in a crazy career that included producing Japanese records for little Jimmy Osmond, and writing a tune that went on the soundtrack of Raise the Titanic, at least in Japan and Spain.
Vocalist “Cindy Wood”, who sings the three songs on the soundtrack, has her own fascinating back-story that fades from public around the time of the 1983 Golgo 13 movie. She is better known internationally as Cynthia Wood, the Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1974, who briefly parleyed her photoset into several bit parts in the movies, including parading around in a blue cowboy hat as as one of the three Playboy Bunnies who dance for the troops in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979).
Before her Playboy appearance catapulted her to minor celebrity, Wood had been a music major at college. Which, somehow, led to the bizarre sight and sound of her suddenly turning up on Japanese TV belting out songs in English and Japanese. There is, to be sure, a story lurking behind such a crazy career path, although in the years since, Wood became a casting agent and a doctor in psychology.
“Pray for You”, the opening song on the album, as it was on the movie, features Wood singing largely in Japanese, with lyrics that prefigure the film’s closing scene, as well as encapsulating the murderous intentions of a woman scorned. It’s hence all the more surprising that “Pray for You” is the big opener, because if anything feels like a Bond title sequence in the making, it’s the later “Golgo 13 and I”, in which Wood demands in English that the listener “Kill me! Kill me once again!” and then immediately softens her message in Japanese, demanding to be embraced once more, although only a Japanese-speaking listener would know that!
Unfortunately, a combination of clunky lyrics and indistinct diction has meant that, to my cloth ears at least, Wood’s constant trilling about “Love’s Mystery” sounds more like someone proclaiming her passionate desire for “Mr Bean”, which is probably not what the composers had in mind. The album closes with a rather sweet piano reprise of “Love’s Mystery”, in which the absence of any lyrics allows the original tune to shine through.
Sep 3, 2020Jonathan Clements