Blue Dragon Original Soundtrack
Blue Dragon Original Soundtrack
December 13, 2006
Buy at CDJapan
After several years without any high-quality Uematsu, fans were wondering if he had worn thin and lost inspiration. Though he still put out a few exceptional works, the majority was sub par. However, with Blue Dragon, Uematsu creates a wonderful score, one that oozes with nostalgia but also serves as a great step forward for Uematsu.
It is worth noting that, in addition to Uematsu’s superb compositions, the sound quality of the samples used is greater than most of his previous works. They suit his style nicely and add a realistic flair to the soundtrack. The sound programmer does a wonderful job of turning the tracks into believable and enjoyable pieces, heightening Uematsu’s creative brilliance.
Things get started with a simple treat, the beautiful “Waterside,” a piano solo. It is more complex than “At Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X, yet still remains relatively simple in its delivery. The melody is serene and accompanied well by the arpeggios and delicate harmonies. Though not exactly a novel work, it is a great way to start a game and album, and is a very enjoyable listen.
There are a fair number of active and dangerous pieces on the album, and they are most certainly an improvement upon Uematsu’s typical ‘hurry’ music of past Final Fantasy games. “The Land Shark Is Coming” opens with a wonderful orchestra glissando, then develops into a lively and energetic background piece. “Crisis” plays out similarly to “The Land Shark…” and is just as enjoyable and effective. Uematsu uses an extremely effective rock style for “State of Emergency,” one of the album’s highlights. The track pulses with energy, and never loses that energy as it undergoes developments to hold the listener’s interest. The same can be said for “Dragon Fight”. A rock/synth band instrumentation was a perfect choice for these battle themes, because it maintains the kinetic battles need, while not sacrificing the danger, suspense, and development to maintain an interesting pace. Both of these themes succeed as a step beyond Uematsu’s typical fight themes.
Speaking of battle themes, Uematsu shines once again with “The Seal Is Broken.” While hard to compare with Uematsu’s previous final battle themes, this one can certainly stand among the best of them. It has a wonderful epic feel to it, mostly in part to the utilization of human voices. The choral melodies lay nicely above the rock backing, creating one of the more unique battle themes he has yet created. Throughout its entire duration it remains captivating and energetic, while retaining that essential “this is it!” mood that final battle themes are famous for.
The game features a few vocal themes, each of which is a departure from the typical Uematsu pop ballad. The first and best of these is the sublime “Watashi no Mizu to Sora”. The instrumentation is very simple, but perfect to enhance the mood. Instead of selecting a powerful vocalist, Uematsu opts for a weaker and younger sound. Despite this, the vocals actually work excllently within the song, creating a wonderful mood of nostalgia and longing. The piece also contains harmonica and guitar bridge sections, each of which manages to be more emotionally evocative than the vocalist. This isn’t speaking bad of the vocalist, but praising the musicians.
The next of these is “BAD BUT BAT,” which doesn’t even compare to “Watashi…” This one is extremely obnoxious and annoying, featuring what seems to be an intonationally-challeged Japanese children’s choir. Certainly not enjoyable to the ears, at any rate. The background is effective enough to fit its purpose, but it’s hardly what anyone would call inspired. “Happy Birthday” is similar, but much less grating. The voice used here seems slightly more mature, though the background is just as typical and uninspired. I’m not entirely sure what was going through Uematsu’s head as he wrote these, but they seem to be a product of a crazy night.
“Eternity” is sort of a mixed bag. It certainly isn’t bad, but it isn’t terribly impressive either. The male vocalist, at times, is irritating to listen to. The accompaniment isn’t quite as typical as “BAD BUT BAT” and “Happy Birthday,” but it doesn’t manage to be terribly interesting either. “Eternity” is a decent listen, but definitely not an exceptional song. The vocal themes are quite a step in a different direction for Uematsu, and on some levels he succeeds, though on others fails. Hopefully in the future we will see more mature songwriting from him. “Watashi…” is a great testimony to his potential, but “BAD BUT BAT” completely ruins it.
Location themes are generally good, though occasionally a little dull. “Cave” is a mysteriously and brilliantly orchestrated theme that matches its name with its mood. I could definitely see this working wonders in game, because it manages to stand by itself beautifully. “The Ruined Village” also matches its title well. Consisting of some mysterious piano and string parts, it definitely strikes the image of a devastated village in my mind. “Ruin” also easily achieves this feeling. The choral sound helps add a feeling of sanctity to it, and the use of staccato makes it feel very empty and barren. As more instruments add into the mix, it gets more and more interesting without ever losing its mood and feel. However, “The City Lights” and “The Frozen Village” aren’t quite as effective. They are largely boring and uninspired writing, and don’t evoke the titular images in my mind. The instrumentation isn’t nearly as effective as those utilized in other location themes on the album.
“High-Speed Flight” and “Exceed the Land” are both wonderful orchestrations. Live performances would have suited the both of these perfectly. “Flight” is an improvement upon Uematsu’s previous flying themes by having more variety and less cheesy melodies. It also utilizes a full symphonic sound well to illustrate musically a riveting sky flight. “Exceed the Land” pays homage to “F.F.VII Main Theme” in its execution. The orchestral sound, with its sweet melodies and moving accompaniment, make the perfect backing for trekking across the vast world.
Throughout this album, Uematsu utilizes a few different styles to convey and illustrate his musical images. While he has used rock before, it is much more successful and prominent in this soundtrack than most of his previous efforts. “Dragon Fight” and “State of Emergency” prosper with using an upbeat rock style, while “An Ancient Fortress” uses a much more heavy sound. His orchestral works also largely succeed. “Army of the Holy Sword” and “The Land Shark is Coming!” are particularly effective uses of the ensemble. “The Ancients” utilizes a similar ensemble, and effectively switches between the different sections of an orchestra to variate and retain interest in the quirky piece. “A Little Fight” is perhaps the most interesting and unique track on the entire album. A synthy-organ sound is used to create a very different loungy feel, akin to the various simple themes present in “Mario Paint”.
The last two tracks on the album are two of the most enjoyable. “Blue Dragon Main Theme” is an inspired orchestration, with a plethora of variations. These include a gorgeous trumpet solo, which can never go wrong. This one is quite fun to listen to and doesn’t get boring from start to finish. “Waterside ~for Piano and Orchestra~” is a gorgeous arrangement of the solo piano piece featured at the beginning of the album. It expands on the material, and closes the album nicely. It, perhaps more than any other track, manages to utilize the human emotion of nostalgia to turn the piece into a somber yet hopeful melody that lays nicely on the heart.
Overall, the Blue Dragon soundtrack is an impressive musical achievement for Uematsu. It is inspired, full of character, and nostalgic while still pioneering ground he’s never trudged before. “The Ancients” is a good representation of this; the material feels very fresh, very inspired, and extremely easy to listen to. It is tracks like these that make him such a loved composer. He manages to stick to his style of simple, heartfelt melodies while attempting new things. Some are successes, others are failures, but generally Uematsu succeeds in crafting a wonderful soundtrack full of entertaining and moving musical moments. Not his best, but a very good sign for the future.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jared Miller. Last modified on January 23, 2016.