Tag Archives: Live

Review: Motoi Sakuraba Band Arrangement Album / STAR OCEAN & VALKYRIE PROFILE

While Motoi Sakuraba’s name isn’t as well known as many JRPG composers out there, he’s probably written more music than any of them. He’s composed all or at least the majority of the Tales series, Star Ocean series, Valkyrie Profile series, Baten Kaitos series, and numerous others. There were two separate years in the 2000s where he produced three separate 4-disc soundtrack releases. He’s a beast, and in recent years, he’s worked on the Dark Souls soundtracks too.

He’s mainly known for his progressive rock music, and has performed and recorded several shows over the years. This album is special, however, as it was his intent to focus on battle music from older titles to bring them to life with a live rock performance mainly performed by himself. He performed all the drums, piano, rock organ, and synths himself, and had a professional guitarist and bass player help out. This album should be intriguing enough just for that, but the music is some of the best from Star Ocean, Star Ocean 2, Valkyrie Profile, and Valkyrie Profile 2, so you’d want to check it out anyway.

Most of the tracks have never been arranged before (a few have been performed during previous shows, but not with Sakuraba on so many instruments). The twelve tracks tread on a lot of different territory, from the gritty “The incarnation of the devil,” to the unpredictable and unsettling “Dynamite.” One of my favorites, “The true nature of all” brings in harpsichord and a high-pitched synth with a strong fantasy vibe, while “Mighty blow+Shiver” gets a siren-like synth lead that hints at danger, “Never Surrender” is slow and melancholy with some heartbreaking piano, “For Achieve” sports lightning-fast percussion and guitar, and “Tangency” is classic crazy Sakuraba with explosive percussion and rock organ with a sweet breakdown about halfway through. The oft-arranged and performed “Unconfirmed God Fighting Syndrome” is uplifting and awesome as always, “KA.MI.KA.ZE” is a decisive and measured adventure, and “Confidence in the domination” gallops in with guitar shredding and non-stop aggression.

In all, the album is a real treat for Sakuraba fans and a nice introduction to some of his earlier work heard with a live band for those who don’t know his work as well. Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: The Orchestral SaGa -Legend of Music-

The SaGa series has been around since 1989 and is much beloved, particularly in Japan. Given that several of the games in the series didn’t make it outside of Japan, it’s not as well known as say Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but it has a strong musical heritage featuring some of the best composers and music that JRPGs have had to offer. This live orchestral arrangement album is the latest reminder of just how great this music is, and JRPG fans ought to take note if they haven’t already.

The two-disc album opens with a 12-minute-long SaGa series medley that touches on the lovely main theme from the Game Boy SaGa titles as well as the more widely-known Romancing SaGa main theme, and everything in between and after. This is a perfect showcase of the majesty and energy of the SaGa series soundtracks. The album presents various medleys of two or more tracks, visiting numerous sets of battle themes for which the series has come to be known (see our reviews of the SaGa battle arrange albums). There’s a little bit of everything including the subdued final dungeon medley from Romancing SaGa, the sweet and fluttering opening medley from SaGa Frontier 2 that sounds like Christmas morning, and the playful Feldschlacht medley also from SaGa Frontier 2 that elevates the fairly well-known theme to a more serious level with an added drum set and jazzy vibe. There’s exotic and bombastic with the Asellus medley from SaGa Frontier, and finally, epic rock percussion and guitar in a battle medley from Romancing SaGa that ends things with a bang.

If you haven’t given SaGa music a chance yet, here’s your opportunity. It’s not going to get much better than the live orchestral treatment, and true to what series fans would want, the heavy focus on battle themes should get you caught up in no time. The album’s available on CD Japan (standard version), and you can even order the bonus Square Enix shop version that includes an extra disc with a couple piano arrangements on special order.

Review: SEIKEN DENSETSU / LEGEND OF MANA arrangement album Promise

The Mana series is much beloved by fans, and the music of the series has always been celebrated regardless of the composer writing it. A number of composers have graced the series over the years, and say what you will about the PlayStation entry Legend of Mana, the soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura was great.

This album presents several key themes in jazz and cafe styles, with great arrangements and atmospheres throughout. It begins with a traditional jazz ensemble performing a swinging and upbeat take on “Hometown of Domina,” and is followed by a Latin-flavored “To the Sea.” One of my favorite original tracks, “Polpota Harbor,” gets a straightforward solo piano performance, while “Legend of Mana” comes as bossa nova in style with some great jazz flute. Another personal favorite, “Pictureseque Landscape” retains its aggressive edge with a Parisian cafe arrangement featuring accordion, violin, and guitar. “Singing Wind, Journey’s Path,” probably my absolute favorite from the original soundtrack, gets an infectiously upbeat pop-oriented arrangement with live guitar, piano, and woodwinds. Rounding out the collection is aggressive-turned-romantic “Tango Apssionata – As The Heart Wills,” the melancholy flamenco “Such Cruel Fate,” a beautiful bossa nova vocal version of “Seven Shades of Life,” a laid back jazz tune in “Nostalgic Song,” and a slower take on the main vocal theme from the game, “Song of Mana,” which sports beautiful harmonies and a fantastic acoustic arrangement.

It’s great to see an album of arrangements paying homage to the music of Legend of Mana. The album is available on CD Japan if you want to add a lovely live jazz album to your collection.

Review: PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY VII/VIII/IX

We waited a long time to get a piano collections album for Final Fantasy I – III. It then came as a bigger surprise that Square Enix was taking the Piano Opera concept and making it a series, revisiting Final Fantasy titles that had already enjoyed Piano Collections albums in the past. This installment covers the next three games in the series, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX.

Read our impressions below. Continue reading Review: PIANO OPERA FINAL FANTASY VII/VIII/IX

Review: Mario Kart 8 Soundtrack

I always figured that Mario Kart would be the last hold out from Nintendo, doomed to host cheesy synth sounds for its soundtracks for all eternity. We’ve seen Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda get the orchestral treatment, but Mario Kart is a party game, so when Mario Kart 8 was announced, I didn’t expect anything new on the sound front.

I was mistaken, however, as Nintendo has really gone all out once again for this score. Given the time and attention that the large sound team at Nintendo put into the game, including contributions from Shiho Fujii, Atsuko Asahi, Ryo Nagamatsu, Yasuaki Iwata, and direction by Kenta Nagata, I thought we should dig in and take a look at what they’ve accomplished.

Read impressions below. Continue reading Review: Mario Kart 8 Soundtrack

Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

I had the opportunity to review the original Diablo III soundtrack, and I noted that while it was great in its own right, it didn’t feel like it belonged to the Diablo universe. More so, it felt like the world of Diablo told through the musical stylings of World of Warcraft. Diablo III: Repear of Souls takes a different direction, with composer Derek Duke acting as audio lead, allowing for a new soundscape to unfold.

Does this change have a lasting impact on the score? Read our full review below. Continue reading Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)

It’s out! Ten tracks from across the spectrum of gaming, arranged and performed by GENTLE LOVE (Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI) for maximum relaxation and sleep. The album’s official website now contains the full track list (also below), and you can now purchase the album via Loudr.

Also, don’t miss the exclusive interview over on The Escapist where we discuss the potential for a second album. Send your feedback and suggestions to jayson[at]scarletmoonproductions.com!

Finally, check out the beautiful launch trailer at IGN today! Continue reading Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies (SMRC-1006)

Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies Announced

Scarlet Moon Records is extremely proud to be able to reveal Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies, an album of videogame music tracks arranged and performed live for sleep and relaxation. The album features Norihiko Hibino on saxophone and AYAKI on piano, performing together at GENTLE LOVE. There’s a website dedicated to the album, which can be found here.

Each week we’ll be unveiling two track titles leading up to the May 19, 2014 release date on Loudr and other digital retailers. So far Donkey Kong Country’s “Aquatic Ambiance” has been announced (sample below) alongside Secret of Mana’s “A Wish…” (exclusive sample on GameSpot).

Review: Escape Goat 2 Original Soundtrack

I’m a huge fan of MagicalTimeBean. SoulCaster and Escape Goat have been a lot of fun both in gameplay and music. What used to be a one man show with Ian Stocker expanded this time around, but he still handles the majority of the soundtrack, with one appearance by Disasterpeace.

Does the Escape Goat 2 get the nostalgia flowing like past MagicalTimeBean titles have? Find out below. Continue reading Review: Escape Goat 2 Original Soundtrack