YMO 101: Etc.

This is part three of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 4: The Solo Records

This is where things get tricky.

Writing about YMO’s studio albums was an easy endeavor. There aren’t that many of them and most are worth owning. Simple. Writing about the live albums was a bit more of a chore, but there’s still so much good to be found there that it was easy to decide what to recommend for everyone and what should only be sought out by the hardcore fans and collectors.

The compilations/remix albums and EPs portion of YMO’s back catalog is a bit more difficult. Mostly because it’s so massive, but also because it’s wildly uneven. Like any great band that’s a proven cash cow for a label, YMO’s music has been repackaged, remarketed, remixed (badly) and re-released about a thousand times over. Some of this stuff is great, and undoubtedly worth seeking out.

Sadly, much of it is not. And that’s why this chapter of my guide will probably be the most negative. A lot of these releases were put out as cash grabs, and they sound like it. Still, there is some great stuff to be found in here, so I hope you this is a help to someone.

And if you want the TL;DR version, buy UCYMO and the album below.

×∞Multiplies (1980)

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One of the strangest records in YMO’s catalog, not for its content, but for its release. There are three versions of this one out there.

First up is the original Japanese release, which came out as a 10″ record and then later on CD. This version is not a remix album or compilation, instead it’s a mini-LP with several new tracks, which are actually pretty good too. This is were “Nice Age” originated, as well as their funny cover of “Tighten Up” and the YMO version of the Sakamoto track “The End Of Asia.” Also of note is “Citizens of Science,” a great track and one of my favorite YMO pop tunes.

So that version is a must buy right? Wrong. In addition to the original tunes, the Japanese version also features comedy bits by the sketch comedy group Snakeman Show (who released several albums of their own throughout the 80s). These are entirely in Japanese, so unless you speak Japanese and enjoy Japanese humor (big caveats, trust me) then half the album is a complete waste of time. Sadly, this was a formula they would repeat on Service, which really bogs down that album as well.

But like I said, there are other versions of this one. The US version includes the new tracks “Citizens Of Science,” “Multiples” and “Nice Age” and it also replaces the comedy bits with some standout tracks from previous YMO releases, including “Behind The Mask” and “Rydeen.” Their crazy cover of “Day Tripper” is also thrown in there for good measure, which is a must listen. There’s also a European version which is some bizarre combination of both the US and Japanese releases, featuring the greatest hits from the US version as well as some of the sketches from the Japanese one.

Of the three, the US version is the best, but if you want to be a completist about it, you’ll need the Japanese one as well so you can get “The End of Asia,” which didn’t make the cut for the US release. That song does appear on several other YMO compilations, however. so you can go that route if you want it and avoid the double-dip. Both the US and Japanese versions have been reprinted on CD.

 

YMO Omnibus (1981)

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This vinyl-only release is a short collection of greatest hits designed as a promo record to showcase HMV/Victor home audio equipment in Japan. Its designation as a promo-only item makes it a cool curiosity (as does it’s totally rad metallic cover) but its lack of any rarities or remixes designates it as a pretty curio and not much else.

 

Best Selection (1982)

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Early-era budget compilation. Nothing of note here.

 

Naughty Boys Instrumental (1983)

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The title isn’t lying, this is an instrumental version of Naughty Boys. Gotta be honest, this is probably the YMO album I listen to the least, even less than Technodon. I really do like Naughty Boys too, it’s just that most of the songs on it don’t really lend themselves to the instrumental treatment. This does have one extra track worth noting however, the complete version of “You’ve Got To Help Yourself,” which only appears as a 30 second preview on the proper Naughty Boys album.

Not a needed purchase on its own, but sometimes you can find it bundled with Naughty Boys proper, and at not that much of an increased price at that. So if you see that version and you don’t already own Naughty Boys, it’s worth a pickup.

 

Sealed (1984)

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This 4LP set is more notable for its presentation than its contents. A career retrospective of the group up to that point, it splits their music by composer, giving each member their own LP, followed by a fourth LP of songs written by the entire group.

It’s an interesting concept, that’s for sure, but there’s nothing new here. There are two rarities, “Chaos Panic” and “Kageki Na Shukujo,” but you can get the former on the excellent 2 disc set UCYMO, and the latter is available as a live version on both Complete Service and After Service. It’s also on Techno Bible, which, if you’re going for superfluous YMO compilations, is slightly more essential than this one thanks to it including some rare material.

 

YMO Family Best Selection (1986)

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This is a weird one that features some of YMO’s greatest hits and mixes them together with solo material from all three members, as well as some contributions by YMO “family” bands Sheena & The Rokkets and Sandii & The Sunsetz (more on them in a coming chapter to this guide). Definitely a one of a kind release, but it’s pretty weak as a YMO greatest hits (no “Behind The Mask”) and there are separate greatest hits for all three solo members and the bands on this album that all do a better job of representing their bodies of work. Pass.

 

YMO History (1987)

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One of the earliest attempts at a career-spanning greatest hits compilation, and it’s not too bad. A good selection of tunes, and they even bother to throw in a few single edits and remixes to mix things up a bit. But UCYMO covers more ground and it covers it better too, so no need for this one.

 

YMO In The 90s (1990)

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It’s the 90s. It’s time for Klax.  It’s also apparently time to remix YMO. This is the first of many remix releases to come out in the decade. Spoiler for the rest of this article: almost all are bad.

This one is just two tracks. One is a 13-minute megamix, and the other is a four-minute radio edit of said mix. Neither are good. Megamixes are rarely great, and these prove to be no exception. “…in the 90s” releases were also made for each member’s solo discography, and they’re equally as inconsequential. In case you were wondering, the mixes were all done by Peter Lorimer AKA 29 Palms. He’s done better.

 

YMO Mega Mix (1990)

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Yes, two megamix singles were released in 1990. Ask me why (I don’t know why).

However, this one worth buying! The title track megamix is about 11 minutes in length and it actually does a really good job of mixing together tracks featured in a different and fun way. It sounds like an legit DJ mix, complete with scratches and crossfades, and not just a hodgepodge of different songs with a generic beat tacked on so they’ll segue smoothly. This also includes a radical remix of “Behind The Mask” that alone makes the single a worthwhile purchase. There aren’t many good remixes of YMO, so treasure the good ones.

 

Kyoretsu Na Rhythm (1991)

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When this came out it was an exclusive compilation for the states put out by Restless Records, probably as a half-hearted effort to get Americans interested in the group, although the effort couldn’t have come at a worst time as the group was still two years away from reforming.

As a single disc collection it’s not bad, featuring the smattering of hits you’d expect with a couple lesser known tracks as well. It also features that weird “YMO in the 90s” mix by Peter Lorimer, so if you want to hear that but can’t justify buying a two-track CD for it, there’s that.

Oddly, I see this on cassette tape all the time, but rarely on CD. I can’t imagine it goes for all that much though. You could do worse, but you could to better too.

 

Hi-Tech/No-Crime (1992)

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One of many completely inconsequential and needless YMO remix compilations. It should be noted that there are two versions of this one, a 12 track edition and a 14 track version that tacks on a remix of “Tong Poo” by The Orb. It should also be noted that said remix is remarkably bad, as is most of this record, despite featuring remixes from other big name artists such as Orbital, 808 State and Shamen.

 

Reconstructions (1992)

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An EP with four (mostly bad) remixes that are also on Hi-Tech/No-Crime.

 

Techno Bible (1992)

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A five CD set, this is without a doubt the most expansive and comprehensive of YMO compilations. The first three discs present YMO highlights in chronological order, while the fourth is a selection of live cuts and the fifth highlighting rare and hard-to-find material.

The first four discs are great, but nearly everything on them can be found elsewhere, and the same goes for the live disc. I suppose the draw here would be that fifth disc, but honestly it’s not all that great. Most of the remixes on here are also on Hi-Tech/No-Crime, and they’re still really bad. Additionally, the live versions that close out the disc have since been released on Complete Service, an album that, if you recall, I named as a must own. The only real honest-to-goodness hard-to-find stuff on that disc that’s really interesting are the promo mixes of the early tracks “Firecracker,” “Tong Poo” and “Technopolis.” Not horrible, but redundant.

 

Cubic YMO Single Box (1993)

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A ridiculous box set collecting 10 of the bands singles and B-sides, spread across 10 CDs that are meant to re-create the original 7″ singles. The box itself looks nice, but the individual CD packaging is cheap as hell and feel horrible. Some of the edits here are on the rare side, but aren’t all that different and even then most of them can be found on other, better, releases. Entirely forgettable. Of all the YMO releases I have, this is the only one I might sell, so that tells you something.

 

Analog Single Box (1993)

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I’ve never seen this in the wild, but from what I can tell this appears to be a vinyl repackage of Cubic, minus the 10th disc that featured a remix of “See-Through” by Brian Eno. While the packaging does appear to be of a highly quality than that of the Cubic box set, which wouldn’t be hard, there’s nothing rare here.

 

Yellow Magic Orchestra vs. The Human League (1993)

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A covers EP by The Human League featuring “Behind The Mask,” a “Firecracker/Tong Poo” medley and two versions of “Kimi No Mune Kyun.” Technically not a YMO release but worth mentioning because it’s much better than it has any right to be. The Human League really nail their covers, delivering a perfect balance of being faithful to the originals while striking out and doing something to make them their own. Not an easy one to find, but grab it if you can.

 

YMO vs. The Orb: Tong Poo Remixes (1993)

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A special EP that singles out the Orb remix of “Tong Poo” and gives it two additional remixes. Did I mention The Orb remix of “Tong Poo” is bad? It’s bad. It’s very bad. It’s very very bad. This EP does not improve upon it. You should not buy this.

 

Technodon Remixes I/II (1993)

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Two EPs that remix several tracks from the worst YMO record. The remixes of “Nostalgia” and “Waterford” are shockingly good, but not good enough to excuse the rest, which are quite bad.

 

YMO LP Box (1993)

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A ginormous 13LP box set that includes all of the studio albums (including both the US and Japanese editions of the self-titled debut and ×∞Multiplies). Also included are the live albums Public Pressure and After Service, and the Naughty Boys Instrumental LP. Finally, there’s a bonus EP that features a “special message” by Haruomi Hosono and a live version of “Rydeen” that is only available on this box set.

Hell of a set, and hella expensive. That being said, if I ever do find one for a somewhat reasonable price I’ll probably buy it in a heartbeat.

 

YMO I/YMO II (1993)

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A pair of greatest hits releases. Slightly more interesting than first appearances would lead you to believe, as some of the tracks are unique edits or single remixes. But there’s not enough here to warrant a purchase.

 

Over Seas Collection (1995)

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Do you want to know how the Portuguese single version of “Multiples” is different than the album version. Would you like to compare US and UK single edits of “Tong Poo?” Wondering what changes were made to “Behind The Mask” when it was prepared for release as a single in Italy? If so, this compilation of single edits is for you! If you’re a sane person, then steer clear. Because, yes while this collection of slightly altered versions of classic YMO songs is intriguing, the differences between the versions is so minute that it really will only appeal to the hardest of die-hards.

I, of course, own this, but you really don’t have to. Trust me.

 

Super Best YMO (1996)

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Yet another 2CD compilation, and better than most. Includes a few rare mixes and edits. UCYMO is a better collection, but I usually see this one for less money, so it might be a good option for those looking to test out the group on the cheap.

 

YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-01 (1999)/YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-00 (2000)

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Two separate remix compilations that combine for 24 remixes – most of which are bad.

Now, I know I keep harping on YMO remixes for being atrocious, and please trust my judgement here. I literally own thousands of 12″ singles, I probably have close to 10,000 remixes in my iTunes library. I am a remix connoisseur. I started my own blog mostly as an effort to highlight what I thought were good remixes. So I like to think that I know a thing or two about what makes a remix good.

Most YMO remixes are horrible because they far too often bury what makes the original songs great. Those Orb remixes of “Tong Poo” that I keep ripping on completely strip out the song’s melody and turn it into a generic dub tune. Orbital’s remix of “Behind The Mask” tries to turn it into an acid house song, which completely betrays the beautiful simplicity of the original. LFO try to turn “Firecracker” into a house track and it doesn’t work.

YMO’s music simply does not lend itself well to remixes. And the remixes on these albums are no exception. Too many are twisted too far so that they bare little resemblance to the source material, and far too many on these compilations feature new vocals by the remix artists that are just beyond atrocious.

Avoid. Please.

 

¥En Years (1996)

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Despite THE TYPO OF THE BAND’S NAME ON THE COVER (holy shit) this is a pretty cool release that mostly collects instrumentals and karaoke versions of the group’s poppier material. Some live cuts that were included on Complete Service are thrown in for some reason as well. This was previously only available in the Yen Records Box Set, which goes for a fucking fortune these days, so it getting an individual release is nice. Of course, now it’s out-of-print too, so it’s probably not cheap, but it’s a quality purchase for the more devoted.

 

YMO Go Home! (1999)

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And yet another 2CD greatest hits collection. Includes the same “rare” remixes of “Tong Poo” and “Tighten Up” that were on Techno Bible. It does include two tracks I’ve never seen listen elsewhere before though; acoustic versions of “La Femme Chinoise” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” so that’s something. Otherwise though, it’s just another greatest hits collection, take it or leave it.

 

One More YMO (2000)

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As you hopefully became aware of thanks to my previous chapter in this series, YMO have released a ton of live albums. So much so that it apparently made this greatest live hits compilation a possibility. Culling from every YMO live record worth owning (as well as several not), it certainly does its best to create a dream playlist, with just about every hit acconted for as well as a some cuts heard live less often, such as “Wild Ambitions” and “Mass.” It also features a sole exclusive cut, a cover of Hoyt Axton’s folk standard “Greenback Dollar” (you know it, trust me). It is, without a doubt, one of the weirdest takes on an American folk song I’ve ever heard, but it doesn’t make the album a must buy, especially when there are so many great proper YMO live records out there.

 

UC YMO (2003)

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The end-all be-all of YMO compilations. And one of the only ones I can think of that is absolutely a must buy for both die-hard fans and casual listeners new to the group. Not only does it give you a comprehensive catalog of the band’s hits, it also throws in a good selection of rarities and hard-to-find tunes as well. Packed in among “Behind The Music,” “Rydeen” and “Cue” are real treasures like the beautiful “M-16,” which was previously only available on a single; a version “Chaos Panic” with vocals; and a live version of “Radio Junk” that may be exclusive to this release. It also closes with a real treat, the original version of “Behind The Mask,” which was an instrumental take used for a Seiko watch commercial. Essential and thankfully not that expensive considering it routinely seems to fall out of print.

 

YMO Remixes 99-00 The Best (2005)

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A single-disc collection taking the best of the remixes from the 2000-01 and 2000-00 CDs. The best remixes of those albums are still bad.

 

YMO Remixes Technopolis 99-00 Complete Edition (2009)

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A double-disc set featuring YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-01 and YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-00. Those albums were bad on their own. They’re not any better as a bundle pack.

YMO (2011)

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This is probably the best one disc greatest hits by the group that’s been released to date, and is the only one I’ve seen that includes both studio material and a good selection of live stuff. But, as it features absolutely zero in the way of hard-to-find or rare material, I think it’s only really suitable for newcomers looking to buy their first YMO release.

But wait, there’s more! While I’ve covered pretty much every YMO release worth mentioning, all three members of YMO have expansive solo careers as well. Stay tuned for that guide coming soon.

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