Daytona USA Anniversary Box -Let’s Go Away-
Daytona USA Anniversary Box -Let’s Go Away-
April 9, 2009
But at Play-Asia
To celebrate 15 years of Daaaytooona, Sega decided to release a music box set for the series similar to how they did with OutRun and After Burner previously. This time they chose to squeeze the music for the franchise on to a more humble and affordable four discs. The discs feature the four major scores to the series — Daytona USA, Daytona USA 2, Daytona USA Circuit Edition, and Daytona USA 2001 — each with their own style. The series is definitely best remembered for its eccentric vocal themes by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, however, and it is these tracks that are source to a few bonus arrangements and other commemorations. While the source material is all good and the album concept is great, Wavemaster made several crucial mistakes when presenting the album, particularly with their treatment of later scores in the series.
The box set opens with a special piano arrangement of the series’ main theme “Let’s Go Away”. Those who have seen Mitsuyoshi perform at PLAY! A Video Game Symphony will find his performance similar here. It begins with a soft but jazzy solo piano interpretation of the main theme. Soon enough, however, Mitsuyoshi’s vocals show up and he bellows his classic ‘daaaytoona’ and ‘du du duuuu du’ lines. It’s quite a simple arrangement, but it captures the essence of Daytona and Mitsuyoshi’s quirky style well. It’s goofy, powerful, soothing, charismatic, stupid, and oh so nostalgic all at the same time. A select taste nevertheless. The subsequent appearance of Daytona USA‘s Arcade soundtrack only reaffirms the theme’s classic status. It initially appears in a shortened ‘advertise’ version and receives a fleshed-out stage theme version mid-way through the soundtrack. Mitsuyoshi had to use quite a few novel techniques in order to integrate vocals on to primitive Arcade sound boards, opting to loop several short but memorable vocal samples. He still succeeded in producing a really rich, cutting-edge, if ridiculous track for its time. The mixture of rock and funk instrumentals ensure a very peppy and varied accompaniment too.
The rest of the Daytona USA stage themes continue to focus on vocal use. “The King of Speed” will be either something you love or hate with its bellows of ‘rolling start’ (or, in Mitsuyoshi’s semi-intentional Engrish, ‘roorying staaaar’). However, it certainly adds to the racing feel of the game with its punchy chord progressions and rapid percussion. The instrumentals are as central as the vocals in “Sky High” with a sassy trumpet often taking the lead. An interesting artefact of the loop method, the artifical vibrato sound of the vocals is even more obvious than before. A secret track in the game, “Pounding Pavement” is easily accessible on this album. This track definitely has harder rock backing than the rest and the vocals take the eccentricity up another notch. The rest of the soundtrack is mainly composed of short menu themes and jingles, though attention was still paid to maintaining the quirky funk flavour and there are some especially impressive tracks such as the hip-hop-flavoured “Start Your Engines”, bouncy “Rolling Start”, or serene “David Goes to Victory Lane”. Many will be thankful that the name entry jingles, as well done as they are, are compiled into a single easily skippable track. All in all, Daytona USA‘s soundtrack starts the box set on an incredibly distinctive and endearing note, even though not all will like it.
While the Daytona USA soundtrack fits comfortably on the second disc, the Daytona USA 2 soundtrack is much more of a squeeze and deserved the actually superfluous second disc to itself. Most significantly, Wavemaster had to cut the track times of the vocal tracks significantly, from around four to two minutes each, even though they headline the score. The introduction “Battle on the Edge” sounds completely different from the Daytona USA themes with its elaborate vocal work and hard rock backing. The vocals really benefit from the improved sound quality and pronunciation. However, it’s with the stage theme “Sling Shot” that the series’ charisma is back in full. It’s as catchy as any of Daytona USA‘s vocal themes and features awesome lyrics. However, the track seems much more comfortable in its retro rock style and the well-synthesized instrumentals really complement the vocals. Mitsuyoshi’s sole original composition, “I Can Do It”, establishes a funk feeling with an intro and solos from a wah-wah electric guitar. The vocals have a more moody attitude in this one, but are as exuberant as ever. Finally, “Skyscraper Sequence” is a much more romantic rock anthem to really get the emotions running in the game. Ito’s composition is spot on and Winger really makes the track his own.
The original score to Daytona USA 2 was fortunately brief in the first place, so the instrumental tracks just about manage to be incorporated. However, they are mainly subsidiary just like its predecessors. “Tips to Win” is a good display of funk guitar work both from the perspective of composition and technological standpoint. Other jingles such as “Selector”, “Name Entry”, and “Extra Ending” work flawlessly in context too, but are little more than 30 seconds each here. As for the ending themes, the beginner version seems modestly triumphant, the advanced version utterly ecstatic, and the expert version more soothing. Unfortunately, the unused instrumental stage themes that were featured in the Daytona USA 2 Soundtracks aren’t included here even though they were sublimely written. In their place is a collection of mostly exclusive unused pieces and jingles, though none of them are as special. At least Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s personal performances of the four vocal themes made it from disc two of the Daytona USA 2 Soundtracks. They’re ideal for those who are more interested in ridiculous yet endearing Engrish performances rather than the more mature vocals of Winger. They’re again shortened, though, leading us to once more question why the first disc was packed so tightly in the first place.
After the Daytona USA 2 soundtrack, the box set goes to weird places. There are a few bonuses on the already packed first disc. There is the promotional jazzy jingle “Coming Soon -1993 Demo-” that perhaps some Japanese old-timers will recognise. There is also a hip-hop remix of “Let’s Go Away” created for Crackin’ DJ Part2; it’s actually pretty lame with its endless electronic breaks and cheesy rapper. At “Pounding Pavement -Unplugged Ver.-” is a lovely arrangement recorded specially in the Philippines for this set. The stated influence of The Eagles’ “Hotel California” is obvious with its soft rock vocals and acoustic guitar backing. The sections featured improvisations from the solo acoustic guitar are especially enjoyable and female backing singers are also a welcome edition. Disc Two of the album features the ports of the original Daytona USA score for both Saturn and Dreamcast. Some may prefer these versions to the original since they’ve been mildly resynthed. There are also few exclusives in the form of the instrumental versions of the vocal themes and endless name entry jingle compilation, but not enough to justify a listen. While including one console port was probably a good idea, the two are entirely redundant with respect to each other and make the second disc a waste of time, at the expense of the poor Daytona USA 2 soundtrack. Favouritism much?
At least the Daytona USA Circuit Edition Original Soundtrack survives the Wavemaster treatment and is reproduced pretty much in full on the third disc. There is one drawback, however, and that’s the absence of the fantastic two rock vocal themes for the series, presumably due to vocalist Eric Martin’s objection. The remaining major highlights of the score are the remixes of Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s Daytona USA themes. Each piece receives a full length remix for the main racing scenes, a short intense variation, and a race complete fanfare. Jun Senoue really declares ‘this is my score now’ with his aggressive rock jam on “Let’s Go Away” and the effect is controversial yet spectacular. Meanwhile Richard Jacques gives an eccentric eurobeat flavour to “The Kings of Speed” with vocoders replacing Mitsuyoshi’s vocals, rapid electronic beats replacing the funk instrumentals. Again, the quality is top-notch and it should appeal to Western audiences. Tomonori Sawada gives a similarly styled interpretation of “Sky High” and emphasises the passionate melody. “Pounding Pavement” returns too and blends the pounding Senoue rock treatment with a more retro organ melody. A final treat is Senoue’s “Daytona USA Medley”, which assembles Mitsuyoshi’s various voice samples and chord progressions into one clever, varied, and fluid six minute rock remix.
The various contributors to Daytona USA Circuit Edition offered a number of original instrumental compositions too and they’re faithfully restored here. Kenichi Tokoi certainly doesn’t hold back in “The Noisy Roars of Wilderness”. It’s a very dynamic and punchy blend of jazz and rock features that, in my opinion, is far more interesting than the retro sound of Sega’s previous jazz fusion works. Richard Jacques also makes fine contributions in the form of “Funk Fair” and “Race to the Bass”. The former takes a electro-funk approach and, by blending upbeat trumpet leads and serene synth backing, gets the atmosphere just right for driving. “Race to the Bass” is a drum ‘n bass track in the meantime, but a rather interesting one with its varied rhythms and moody layering. The last main contribution is “Crash & Burn”, which basically blends cookie-cutter hard rock work with sound effects and voice effects from the game. In addition, there are a couple of rock jingles flanking the body of the album. All in all, the score is premiere example of a mainstream-targeted racing score done well; whether rock, electro, or somewhere inbetween, the team create stylistically accomplished and technologically commanded music that maintains the Daytona spirit.
The Dreamcast’s Daytona USA 2001 soundtrack is featured across the second half of the third disc and all the fourth disc. It introduces more redundancy to the box set since most tracks are rehashes of the Daytona USA score. However, there are a fair number of exclusive arrangements and compositions from Jet Set Radio’s Hideki Naganuma and Rez’s Keiichi Sugiyama to make it worth a few listens at least. The various classic Daytona USA tracks are reprised in their regular renditions with refined yet faithful arrangements. On some of the mirror tracks, the arrangers take more chances; some are truly out there such as the raving “The King of Speed” and nu jazzy “Sky High” whereas others gradually more elaborate such as the faithful “Let’s Go Away” or relaxing closer “Don’t Look Back”. There are also some original instrumental stage themes, ranging from the soothing saxophone-led “Greatfall in the Sky” to the flashy guitar-based “Holiday in the Park” to the edgy rock theme “Desert Grit”. Great effort has also been put into the jingles too, some of them featuring Naganuma’s characteristic hip-hop sampling, although most probably aren’t good for stand-alone listening. While not the highlight of the set, the soundtrack is certainly an alternative perspective on Daytona USA 2001 and an interesting production to listen to.
This box set is a little deceptive. The album is a good tribute to Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s iconic Daytona USA score with its faithful original version, additional sound versions, and bonus arrangements. However, the Daytona USA Circuit Edition and Daytona USA 2 scores are produced in essentially inferior forms to their full soundtrack releases. The squeezed presentation of Daytona USA 2 makes little sense given how redundant the material on the second disc of the box set is. The exclusive arrangements and Daytona USA 2001 scores are a big plus, although the box set would have benefited from the inclusion of Daytona USA Circuit Edition‘s vocal tracks and H.’s Extra: Hyper Game Music Event 2008 performances. Overall, those looking for a commemoration to the original game should find this box set worthwhile and good value for money. Those interested in the other soundtracks in the series — and trust me, they’re worth being interested in — will find their presentation in the Daytona USA 2 Soundtracks and Daytona USA Circuit Edition Original Soundtrack more appealing. The original Daytona USA album is also a fine second-hand buy instead of this box set with some sublime B-Univ remixes to compensate for missing out on the box set exclusives. Overall, this box set is a surprisingly disappointing commemoration to a musically supreme franchise.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.