February 24, 2003
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Crush 40 isn’t the studio album from the Sega rock band one might expect. It is actually a compilation of previously released tracks from NASCAR Arcade‘s Thrill of the Feel and Sonic Adventure 2‘s Cuts Unleashed. The album features eleven rocking vocal tracks composed by Jun Senoue and performed mainly by his band members. How does racing Crush compare with Sonic Crush? And how does this album come together as a whole?
Most of the vocal themes are lifted straight from the Thrill of the Feel vocal album. While “Dangerous Ground” no longer headlines the album, it’s a good reflection of the hard rock sound to expect from the band. American Johnny Gioeli’s vocals are filled with his rock spirit and manage to be simultaneously welcoming and compelling; his surprisingly convinced interpretation of lyrics such as “We rock dangerous ground but once we start we can never ever ever ever stop” reflect his years of previous experience. Abrasive, punchy, and guitar-obsessed, the instrumentals are clearly inspired by early 90s metal and the guitar solo is a welcome break from the more chord-focused accompaniment sections. It’s pretty straightforward, but polished and enjoyable regardless.
Those looking for especially motivating tracks will find “Revvin’ Up” more up their street. It’s reminiscent of some of the latest Sonic opening themes, but the racing-oriented lyrics, such as “It’s the thrill of the chase”, and increased rhythmical focus make it more ideal for racing. “Into the Wind” isn’t quite as melodic, but is the type of straight anthemic rock that potentially works well in video games. The catchy guitar intro and warm chorus make it especially worth revisiting. “In the Lead” adopts a similar format right down to the catchy opening guitar hook, though Johnny’s charismatic vocals make up for the formulaic song structure. “Watch Me Fly…” is perhaps Johnny’s best performance of all, however. The composition itself is a soft rock ballad and the passionate vocals really make it stand out against similarly constructed pieces.
The exclusive themes to this album are actually taken from Sonic Adventure 2. The best of the bunch is easily “Live & Learn”, an ecstatic Americana rock anthem featuring Johnny at his best. It’s clear from the instrumentals of this one that Jun Senoue has also evolved as a composer with time, creating more dynamic accompaniment and individualistic solos. Sonic’s theme “It Doesn’t Matter” is a light-hearted rock anthem. The chorus is constructed in an intentional cheesy way in this one, emphasised by the shape of the melody, tone of the vocalist, and, of course, the ridiculous lyrics. While I don’t usually mind cheery ‘feel good’ tracks, this one is just a little too cringe-worthy for me in some places. The final track “Escape from the City” is even more of a select taste in these words and Tony Harnell’s vocals lack quite the same quality as Johnny Gioeli’s.
Those looking for a straight-up vocal experience will prefer Crush 40 to Thrill of the Feel. After all, all the vocal tracks remain and the instrumentals are replaced with some ‘new’ songs. The track order is arguably improved too. However, the album isn’t quite as authentic as it might seem. It’s a little irritating to see the Sonic Adventure 2 tracks dumped here when two of them aren’t even sung by the Crush 40 frontman. In addition, the blend of Crush 40’s racing and Sonic styles is a little uncomfortable in one album, to the point that the conclusion is quite cringe-worthy. Regardless, these vocal tracks are among the best of the genre in game music.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.