Legacy Sessions -GAME Generation 5-
Legacy Sessions -GAME Generation 5-
January 16, 2015
Buy at Loudr
Legacy Sessions: GAME Generation 5 is a tribute album to the fifth generation of gaming, spanning a number of games and systems while uniting them with intimate ensemble arrangements. Headed by Casey Ormond (who did most of the arrangements, and also helmed the recent Final Fantasy XII Piano Collections) and Demetri Potiris (who has previously worked extensively with Basiscape), the album assembles many talented musicians who bring passionate performances to the tight arrangements, which all have fresh takes on their source material with plenty of intricacies. No arrangement is simple or straightforward; each tells a story and has a number of surprises in store. The small chamber ensemble with band elements is a large departure from the typical full orchestral or rock treatment that these games and themes get, but they work very well with the arrangements. This all makes for one of the more unique tribute albums out there, and merits a closer look from any game music enthusiast.
The album begins with “Final Fantasy VII”, an arrangement that underscores everything with “Bombing Mission”. It opens at first rather typically, but it becomes quickly clear that the reduced ensemble size will have a profound impact on the way the arrangement sounds. Far from the grand orchestral arrangements that we’re used to, Ormond works in a Western feel to the track, accented by the string quartet and the acoustic guitar. These influences fully reveal themselves at the halfway mark when the “Cosmo Canyon” theme comes out plainly, sounding especially epic on the trumpet. Elements of “Bombing Mission” persist through the rest of the track keeping the energy high and the atmosphere epic. The “Main Theme” is woven in near the end as icing on the cake to the brilliant arrangement. Although any of these three pieces might have sounded tired on their own (having plenty of appearances elsewhere), their perfect fusion here and the small band sound easily makes these tracks appealing again.
Things immediately calm down for the next few tracks, starting with “The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango”, which pits the former game’s main theme with the latter’s “Ninth Heaven”. The back-and-forth arrangement has an undeniable groove provided by the wonderful percussion and guitar, accented by the marimba. “Super Mario 64 and the Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time” makes use of the games’ file select themes in an easy-listening arrangement with a warm electric piano and emotive violin solo. The track is gorgeous, soothing. “Super Mario 64” gets another showing with an initially bright and bouncy folkish arrangement. In its second half, things ease down into a lullaby with a flute solo that watered my eyes with its rare tenderness. “Another Guldove” from “Chrono Cross” follows as the first of two piano solos on the album, performed by the skilled Amy Putt. The arrangement is a successful tribute to Shiro Hamaguchi’s arranging style, which means that the track doesn’t deviate too far from its source but it finds more than enough to do to captivate the listener, with help from Putt’s nuanced performance. These lighter tracks make the strongest argument for the small ensemble, feeling very intimate and drawing the listener into the midst of the music.
The first generation “Pokemon” arrangement is a standout among these initial tracks, revolving around the simple “Evolution” theme. The arrangement has a hypnotic element to it with its steady tempo, and the simplicity of the theme allows for the other instruments to play around and over top of it with hints and glances at the “Opening Theme” before finally unleashing it. Once out, it’s a fairly standard arrangement, but it’s still feels fresh under the small ensemble sound, and the buildup leading to it is a true work of art.
Following this section is a segment of moodier tracks. Tristan Coelho arranges “Dance of Pales” and “Marble Gallery” into “Castlevania – Symphony of the Night”, a wonderfully mysterious and playful waltz with intrigue, which is supported with a strong performance from the small band led passionately by Rebecca Gill on violin. Nicole Brady builds off of the original “Not Tomorrow” in “Silent Hill”. Keeping the guitar and alto flute lines in tact, Brady subtly adds on other elements like a cello and some light percussion to give the track more build and variety. It isn’t much more than an update on the original track, but it’s the definitive version of the great theme. Amy Putt returns to play for another piano solo arrangement, this time “Battle on the Bridge” in “Final Fantasy Tactics”. Ormond’s arrangement is well-balanced with plenty of dynamics, a heavy atmosphere, and some virtuosity as well. Putt proves capable with an strong and clear performance that properly balances Ormond’s contrasting segments.
The final stretch of the album brings back a more epic feel to the overall mood. The “Final Fantasy IX” medley sets up by opening dramatically with “I Want To Be Your Canary” then telling the story between Zidane and Garnet by representing them with “Feel My Blade” and “Melodies of Life” respectively, weaving the themes together along with short cameos from other themes in the game. Ormond injects a fun theatricality into it to make it a sure pleaser that will hit all of the right notes for any fan of the game. “Metal Gear Solid” fits in flashes of other themes and emotions with the epic main theme, and brings in a larger sound to match it all. The strings do a good job at roughing up the song with edginess, and the electric guitar and synthesizer later are great additions. Simon Leong’s arrangement of the “Grandia” main and battle themes closes out the album and lowers the sound to a mere two acoustic guitars from With Ether. The track captures the larger-than-life feeling of a journey while telling the story intimately through the guitars, and works great as the close to an album that has been telling various aspects of different stories throughout.
Legacy Sessions: GAME Generation 5 is a very promising first effort from Ormond and Potiris, featuring unique, creative arrangements with strong performances from the musicians both as an ensemble and as soloists. The album’s songs are from recognizable series, carrying with it a good range of moods and settings that don’t feel worn thanks to the fresh arrangements. As with most albums of this nature there is at times a disconnect from track to track, but each track on its own is quite strong and makes the album much more than a simple “greatest hits of gaming music”. The artistry shown on the album is impressive, and hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to see more of it.
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Posted on February 12, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 2, 2015.