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Primary Flowers

Primary Flowers

by Celsius005 on March 17, 2007 · 6 comments · AddThis

Kanon
Promotional image from [Primary Flowers] booklet
Title: Primary Flowers
Artist: Kanon
Release date: 2005.06.22
Product Code: SICL-110
Label: Sony Music Japan International

Almost a year after signing the contract with Sony Music Japan International in 2004, Kanon released her first full album [Primary Flowers] which, under various circumstances, failed to bring her true potential to light in the industrious year of 2005. Despite the dismal performance presented in the charts, Kanon remained true to her ‘New Age’ style and consequently gave an honest introduction of herself through the classical music offered in [Primary Flowers].

2005 was a stable year for Kanon, who entered it at a young 24 years of age. She started out with a live radio performance aired on KNB in the northern Japan vicinity on January 10th. February comprised three major live performances, one of which included a St. Valentine’s mini-concert performed on the 13th as a Valentine’s Day-eve special. The following month, Kanon held her one-man concert [Kanon Birthday Eve Live] on March 8 at Shibuya’s 7th floor. This live performance was held the night before her celebrated birthday when she turned 25.

On April 20th, Kanon’s 2nd single released under Sony [Gloria] was brought into the scene. She composed and wrote lyrics for the title track, which turned out to be successful among the public. “Gloria” had actually been published during her pre-Sony days in her 2004 album [Hymn of Grace] where it is originally written and sung in English. The B-side was a cover of Akai Tori’s hit song “Tsubasa wo Kudasai”, transcribed into English by Kanon. The artistic nature of these two songs from her single brought much decency to the crowd, and both eventually earned a spot in her approaching full album [Primary Flowers].

Entering May, Kanon held a live entitled Primary Flowers on the 15th. Presumably the performance mirrored what was to be expected in her coming album the following month. This live acted as a preview for the audience, giving the general public a taste of Kanon’s potential in preparation for her first studio album to be released under Sony. This anticipation and pure foreshadowing was finally resolved on June 22nd with its release.

This album provided a friendly introduction to the start of Kanon’s main career but displayed too weak a performance overall when contended with the many other 2005 releases from more mainstream artists. It failed to chart and was easily overshadowed by everything else happening at the time possibly due to a lack of interest from the general audience. Kanon’s ‘New Age’ style is more or less unpopular and unconventional in the Japanese music industry, but this, of course, did not take the dignity and grace of her music away from those already familiar with her soaring vocals.

 

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01. My Name is…

The first track of [Primary Flowers] is a short and sweet choral introduction. Anyone listening to this for the first time can immediately recognize this melody to be that of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D major, a Baroque piece that had gained much popularity over the centuries to become a timeless classic today. The canon progression isn’t nearly as in-depth as the original piece since this is an introductory piece in the album, but it is enough to give several impressions on Kanon’s style and on Kanon herself.

From the ringing bells in the song’s opening to the synthesizer sounds in the following measures, we get the vivid ‘contemporary classical’ image flowing through our minds. Familiarity with the progressional Canon in D is the impetus that grabs the listeners’ attention. Kanon’s heavenly voice is added to the canon to create one masterpiece of an opening. The stage name ‘Kanon’ is indubitably inspired from Pachelbel’s famous composition. Although his song is denoted as ‘Canon‘ in the English language, ‘Kanon‘ is the original German spelling and is thusly used.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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02. KISEKI Song of Love

The previous track behaved not only as an intro but also as its own transition leading into this next song. “KISEKI Song of Love” is yet another rendition of Canon in D major – this time complete. This song is the title track from Kanon’s first Sony single by the same name and was perhaps her first true statement made into the music industry. KISEKI is a wise selection to kick things off because of it’s logical placement after the canon opening and it’s strong, upbeat direction.

What I like most about this song is the absence of multiple “dead spots” in which there is a fairly long period of instrumental after a chorus or a phrase. The use of layers in this song is incredibly effective and creates a ceaseless progression that introduces a new idea each and every time a passage starts. In the beginning, a crescendo builds for a few seconds and immediately leads into Kanon’s singing. She makes no hesitation to declare the obvious Pachelbel foundation which this song is built upon. The fluid, orchestral instrumentation will possibly deceive first-time listeners of Kanon to thinking that her songs are strictly classical, easy-listening, and boring – completely untrue. There is an early and abrupt color change that sets a whole new stage. A small element of hip-hop throughout KISEKI is present and does very well to keep the pace in constant forward motion, which is the key to maintaining interest as most people enjoy fast upbeat tempos.

Kanon takes part in arranging all of her music and writes her own lyrics. She achieves a flawless balance by blending elements from a classical piece dating back to the 17th century with those of trendy music from modern-day culture. I also must point out the restrained feudal techniques that become apparent halfway into the song. This is a perfect example of musical arrangement at its greatest potential.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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03. Anata e

“Anata e” is a romantic ballad filled to the brim with emotion. The title’s English equivalence is “To You”, an obvious sign of its quixotic intention. Nothing in particular stands out besides Kanon’s crisp voice, which is where the focus should be anyway as her vocals are topnotch in this song. Because the music is so soft throughout, one can say it behaves more as an inset rather than as an accompaniment. The piano played by Kanon is implemented to augment the emotion which makes up its very quality, I think. It’s almost as if the piano acted as a substitute for Kanon’s voice when she wasn’t singing. “Anata e” is truly one of the most beautiful pieces among the tracks in [Primary Flowers].

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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04. Wings to Fly~Tsubasa wo Kudasai

As stated earlier, “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” is a popular Japanese song originating from the group Akai Tori. This song has been performed countless times by various artists, each version being a little bit different in style and feeling from the others. Kanon’s case is no different. She decides to take the more scenic route and sings it in her own English version with her own piano accompaniment.

I’m honestly left speechless. I don’t know what more to say about Kanon’s version other than it’s probably the most innovative and expressive cover of this song anyone could ever make. Upon hearing this for the first time, I realized just how water-like in quality her vocals are. I’ve never heard such clarity in any Japanese artist before – quite an accomplishment indeed. Because of her musical studies outside of Japan, Kanon had a life of opportunites to develop her English-speaking skills. The fluency of her diction in this song makes it very unique in the album and adds a feathery, graceful touch. “Wings to Fly” is undoubtedly one of the greatest songs in this album.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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05. Believe

Four epic pieces later a new tempo is established. “Believe” is one of Kanon’s mid-tempo songs, falling somewhere in-between “KISEKI Song of Love” and “Anata e”. Not only is this the first song to appear in [Primary Flowers] with a distinct tempo change, but it’s also the first “add-in” to make itself known. The song doesn’t feel as though it fits in as well as the previous tracks do, and it doesn’t make too strong an impact to my slight disappointment. The song could’ve been placed anywhere in the bulk of the album and not make a difference in its impression either way.

The instrumentation involves soft drums with a mix of acoustic guitar and piano sounds, the latter being more prominent. From beginning to end, the song remains steady in both tempo and excitement. There is no real climax in this song unless you really try and listen for it. This isn’t necessarily a weakness, but it certainly makes the song available for overshadowing by almost everything surrounding it. Also I think Kanon struggles a little bit during this song. She does fairly well when holding “believe” in the first two choruses and somewhat splatters it toward the end. The grace of her voice matches with the song, yet there seems to be an air of uncertainty in her singing.

I believe it’s a very soft-spoken song from Kanon; however, this characteristic serves as an excellent transition to the upcoming interlude, acting very much like a diminuendofermata.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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06. Theme from Vocalise (Interlude)

This is the interlude in [Primary Flowers]. As its name suggests, Kanon arranged this song based off of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. A vocalise is a vocal exercise in which a singer holds on fluctuating vowel notes. This isn’t your ordinary singing drill, however, mainly due to it’s complexity and richness in quality. Most of the time vocalises are good enough to be performed in front of an official audience.

“Theme from Vocalise” retains the orchestral composition from it’s original with the addition of a synth-drum line halfway through. Since this follows the standard vocalise format, Kanon doesn’t sing anything except for notes, but my is this a work of art. Once again the use of layers creates a heavenly atmosphere suitable for listening to in the comfort of night. It’s so esoteric, leaving you wanting more.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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07. futari

“futari” translates to “two”. The theme of the song resembles “Anata e” but sounds more similar to “Believe” than anything else listened to thus far. It opens up in orchestral fashion once again, but a quick color change occurs and the direction thusly heads toward pop. Once the synth-orchestral and drum features are added, the song plays itself at an unchanging tempo. I’m not particularly fond of “futari” as it’s a bit too bland for my tastes. In spite of this, there are some highlights that definitely require attention. The section involving the ‘voice’ with Kanon’s vocals soaring in the background is not often mimicked in any other song of hers, which makes the passage quite unique. Her style here is a branch of what she grew up with during her studies overseas and is noticeably more Western than most other techniques used. On a first-time’s hearing of “futari”, one can easily sense the western pop-feel of it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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08. Gloria

The [Primary Flowers] version of “Gloria” is, of course, reminiscent of the original English one Kanon published in [Hymn of Grace]. There is no doubt that the song stands out among Kanon’s compositions as it seems most original and descriptive of her and her alone. Unlike a grab bag of average artists, she’s not limited in terms of potential and vocal prowess so it’s just natural for her to write a song so complex and difficult to pull off. After all, it’s one thing to simply write a song that requires much talent to sing and another to actually perform the difficult piece of literature not only for the sake of song-writing but for the sheer challenge of it as well.

This is my favorite Kanon song of all time hands down. I just love how much control she has over every single syllable throughout the entire piece, a task that is not easy to accomplish. Ever since she started working with Sony, Kanon’s “Gloria” has indeed been glorified to become something completely different from her original English version. Her vocals in the original sound raw and unripened while they sound so tonal and mature in this version. The instrumentation stays orchestral from start to finish with choral layers in the inset. Once again Kanon has outdone herself with this song. Not only is the music rich and unified but her vocals have definitely improved from its predecessor. Aside from nailing every sound in the song, she acquires a better pronunciation of the few English lyrics still present in “Gloria”.

To add to its magnitude, “Gloria” is one of the few tracks in this album that actually has climax. Everything about its composition appears flawless and woven together tightly, leaving no room for dead spots. Even the instrumental passage before the bridge is noteworthy as you can hear a variation of the melody in the strings.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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09. Tenderly

Here comes a song that matches the tempo of “Wings to Fly~Tsubasa wo Kudasai”. Whether it’s safe to assume that the two songs are also on par with each other is a separate issue entirely, especially since Wings to Fly is divinely good. Like “Anata e”, this is a song that has music going on in the background that behaves more as an inset rather than an accompaniment to Kanon’s singing. We can hear piano and soft percussion, much like what is heard in typical soft pop-songs.

“Tenderly” is a very impressive display of intonation. If Vocalise ever became a real song, this is most likely what it would turn out to be, though this song may be too soft-spoken even for that. It very tenderly transitions into the next song while leaving a subtle impression on the listeners’ ears and an erogenic one at that. My top highlight for this song is quite simple – it’s sung entirely in English.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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10. Can’t Help Falling in Love

Formalities aren’t needed here – this song should be sharply familiar. This classic pop song was worked by acclaimed American songwriters George Weiss, Hugo Peretti, and Luigi Creatore in 1961 and has remained an undying legend in traditional pop songs ever since. It had been written for the film Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley as the song’s performer. The history doesn’t begin there, however. The roots of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” date back to the late 18th century from the classical French piece Plaisir d’amour by Jean-Paul Egide Martini. To think a tradition with such interesting roots would stay alive for so long is extraordinary indeed, and for it to be reworked by Kanon is something special.

Knowing Kanon’s erogenous style, I would have expected her to base her rendition on the original French classical, but this isn’t so. She personally enjoys working with popular folk/traditional songs, especially from Western culture, so she naturally chose the pop version over the other. As a listener this is very good, as I would like to hear another innovative cover of a popular song (this time from American culture) by Kanon.

The song opens up in the same fashion as KISEKI, but this time it’s almost expected that a color change will occur after the prologue after hearing so much of it earlier in the album. Kanon sings the song in the same English as the original and adds on a layer of her voicing. The spoken English is very crisp and understandable. It continues on this way, implementing layers of sound, until the end where the beauty of this track really is. You just can’t help but to fall in love with the dramatic ending.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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11. diamond

This is possibly the most beautiful ballad in this album. Given a choice between this and “Anata e”, it’s hard to tell which is superior, and I can find strong points unique to each. The latter has the more prominent, erogenic quality while the former is more recognizable and easy to listen to. “diamond” has the more mainstream feel to it, which is probably the deterrent that inclines people to choose it over “Anata e”.

It’s soft pop right from the start with orchestral elements written all over the place. A polyphonic bass line is present in the background while a strong cello sound is played with Kanon’s singing. Her voice is seemingly weightless in this song and provides much comfort when listened to in a quiet place. Another extravagant display of beauty. Not to mention that this is another song in which her vocals soar to lofty heights.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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12. SHINE

“SHINE” is another song arranged by Kanon based on a classical piece. Her song is based on Joseph-Maurice Ravel’s most famous ballet Boléro. This original work was published in 1928 so it’s fairly recent compared to the older songs alluded to in this album. The result of this venture is the most attractive rendition of any classical song completed by any artist today.

This is Kanon’s final statement in [Primary Flowers] – it couldn’t be made any more clearly. From the start, a tempo and atmosphere is established in considerable fashion. Anyone exposed to a lot of classical will instantly recognize the ballet from the melody introduced by the strings in the opening. After that, the song just explodes with vivid color; in other words, Kanon goes all-out.

This song is expressive to the highest degree. It’s purely the aggregate sentience of all the emotion built up previously, the accumulated energy released under a single name – SHINE. There isn’t anything absolute in Kanon’s vocals this time since she just goes all over the place, reaching all new heights while maintaining steady excitement. The instrumentation is entirely orchestral with traces of band and symphony elements. These attributes are heard best during the instrumental before the bridge and the ending as well. The stimulation of this song makes it shine above all else in the album, making it a favorite of mine and an obvious favorite of general fans. A revamped version of “SHINE” was inserted into the mini-album [Destiny], which was released four months after [Primary Flowers].

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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13. Lullabye (Good Night My Angel)

After the excitement of “SHINE”, the album switches gears one last time to dreamy scenery. This song is a cover of Billy Joel’s 1994 single by the same name. This is the only track in the album which Kanon played no major part in its creation. The absence of Kanon’s arranging talent made the final track a somewhat sluggish one, but that did not make it unattractive. Simple strings and piano sounds are heard accompanying her singing, making it very soft and sweet – how fitting for the conclusion to a beautiful album.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

Conclusion:
For ‘New Age’ material, the songs offered in [Primary Flowers] did very well to prove their worth despite their inability to make it to the charts. To say that Kanon should be a top-selling artist is an overstatement, and to say that she’s decent is a blatant understatement. Judging from the first track’s title, I think it’s safe to assume that her intention with this album wasn’t necessarily to sell well but to introduce herself to the bigger music scene. This is her first album under Sony after all, so I can’t exactly say how well it did to promote Kanon as a full-fledged singer-songwriter assuming the general public still didn’t notice her at the time of its release.

Though she may not have started out with a bang, it’s relieving to know that Kanon’s most recent album released last December at the very least made its way to the charts. Likewise, I’m glad to see her song “Brand New Breeze” having a tie-in with the current anime Kiniro no Corda ~primo passo~. At any rate, there is no denying that she has impressed us all with this album. From moving ballads to exquisite masterpieces – start to finish – [Primary Flowers] leaves us to sleep soundly in Kanon’s erotogenic embrace.

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

 

primary flowers cover

  1. My Name is…
  2. キセキ Song of Love
  3. あなたへ
  4. Wings to Fly~翼をください
  5. Believe
  6. Theme from Vocalise (Interlude)
  7. フタリ
  8. Gloria
  9. Tenderly
  10. Can’t Help Falling In Love
  11. ダイヤモンド
  12. SHINE
  13. Lullabye (Good Night My Angel)

Purchase this item: YesAsia US | YesAsia Global

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kobato January 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thank you so much for all of this information. I love Kanon a lot. I have two questions, though: 1) did Kanon write Gloria for the anime Angel Heart, or did they just use it? and 2) How close in meaning are the English and Japanese versions of Gloria?? Do they mean essentially the same thing, or was it translated differently??

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Jonathan July 21, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Very beautiful and lovely. I’m from Singapore. Any idea where can I get this cd?

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Wan Keat June 13, 2007 at 9:52 am

Whoa thx ALOT i get to here Kanon lovely songs, i am hook onto her song eversince i heard her song: brand new breeze, initally i thought she just sang that song, now i know there are more! and thx to you i am being great expose and bless to hear her song, hearing her voice gives me this clamness that is why i love her song. I felt that her song is a mixure of classic and pop (if i am not wrong, correct me if i am) that is why i simply love her song!!!

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Grace May 27, 2007 at 9:51 am

Lovely review. Came here to know more about Kanon after reading your review on her newest album “Kanon’s Sanctuary”. Must say you’ve certainly perked my interest in Kanon. Especially loved how she manages to weave in so beautifully classical themes into her songs, and her vocals are simply superb. Thanks for your review, looking forward to buying her cd! :)

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Akemi UNITED STATES April 7, 2007 at 12:38 am

Thanks so much for providing full clips of the album! I’ve been only listening to 30 second clips from other sites, and that wasn’t enough to know the true potential of the songs. So being able to hear the full versions really changed my opinions on the songs, in a positive way. So thanks. ^ ^
I still have yet to grab a hold of this album. Hopefully I can get it soon! ^ ^

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Rinoa March 17, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Excellent review you wrote there. I must say that the album is certainly quality material. Despite the fact that it did not chart, I must say it’s quite so much more well defined than most mainstream releases. In fact it seems to recieve a lot of positive response from the classical community. However I suspect this lack of sales results from a lack of promotion.

I like the idea of using classical European renaissance music and creating a classic-modern hybrid, especially since Kanon has such heavenly vocals. “KISEKI Song of Love” is definately one of the most majestic and dramatic tracks I’ve ever heard. Every single second of this song is rich and extremely vivid. However, I must say that “Wings to Fly” is certainly my most favourite out of this album. The composition is extremely beautiful yet so folorn in a manner to touch your heart. Finally “Gloria” is a beautiful track. I find this song manages to blend in Kanon’s vocals and the orchestral instrumentals seamlessly. There are definately other tracks which shine too. Overall this album really did deserve more spotlight. I highly suspect if Kanon was an artist in Europe, she’d be huge.

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