The Legend of Heroes -Trails in the Sky FC & SC- Super Arrange Version
The Legend of Heroes -Trails in the Sky FC & SC- Super Arrange Version
September 15, 2006
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The Legend of Heroes -Trails in the Sky FC & SC- Super Arrange Version is a commercial release that features two discs of instrumental arrangements from the first two games in the Trails in the Sky trilogy. Once again, Yukihiro Jindo steps up to offer diverse interpretations of fan favourites. The arrangements featured on the disc come from several sources, including a promotional arranged album that came with the first game and the instrumental versions of the series’ vocal arranged album, though there are a fair number of new additions too. While the collection has its bumps, it’s a very impressive collection of music overall.
Let’s start with the new arrangements of the music from The Legend of Heroes VI: Trails in the Sky First Chapter. The album opens with an orchestral rendition of Trails in the Sky’s original main theme. Yukihiro Jindo presents the melody in styles ranging from loud triumphant fanfares, ominous percussive interludes, and fantastical dance-like passages. While the orchestration is competent and elegant, I’m not convinced that the melody always fits and the suite would benefit from a more cohesive arc overall. It’s an interesting and diverse arrangement, but considerably weaker than the original version. More interesting are the arrangements of “Tour of Liberl” and “Ruan, the Seaport City”. Unsurprisingly, the former features a gallant orchestration that impressively demonstrates Jindo’s classical training. The latter, however, takes a jazzy approach with a warm soprano saxophone lead and bizarre electronic backing. It’s quite smooth, yet sufficiently unusual not to be horribly derivative either.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the first disc recounts the material from the earlier Super Arrange Version and not all of it is effective. Take the interpretation of the ‘violin meets techno’ action theme “Silver Will”. In contrast to the original, Akiko Nagano actually performs the violin line and offers a much more radiant and elaborate performance. Unfortunately, the arrangement doesn’t sound quite as natural as the original, perhaps because the lead violin is so pronounced that it no longer integrates well with the synthetic techno harmony. Several other accomplished arrangements suffer due to implementation problems. While Yukihiro Jindo did an excellent job expanding the ancient sound of “Rock on the Road”, the violin focus once again sounds quite contrived. Though “Sophisticated Fight” offers a sublime saxophone performance and some excellent new improvisations, the synthetic aspects are poorly integrated and the brass work sounds particularly heavy-handed. This is a pretty crucial flaw, since the interpretation loses the carefree and dynamic sound of the original.
One of the genuine highlights of the arranged album is the interpretation of “The White Flower Madrigal” suite from the original score. Yukihiro Jindo carefully integrated the eight pieces from the original score into a three movement orchestral suite. The second movement is the major highlight. Following an ornate Baroque-influenced interpretation of the “Castle” theme, the movement takes a dramatic twist with the entrance of the grandiose and funereal chords from the “Colosseum”. The subsequent “Duel” performance sounds even better with its dashing chord changes and bombastic accompaniment, creating the atmosphere of an authentic Medieval duel. I have niggles about the suite, such as unnecessary tuning featured at the opening of the first mvoement or the comparatively anticlimactic feel of the third movement, but it’s still quite a highlight overall. Another welcome addition from the original album is “Those Who Protect the Treasure”, a climactic battle theme featuring orchestra and chorus. It’s half gothic, half Hollywood, yet still definitively Falcom.
Unfortunately, the music of the Second Chapter is largely ignored on the collection. On the second disc, there is nevertheless another orchestra and chorus epic based around the game’s “Enormous Fright”. In my opinion, the orchestration is even more mature in this one, showing how Yukihiro Jindo has evolved over the years. The increased rock influence of the game is also testified with “The Enforcers” and it’s one of Falcom’s most incredible arrangements. Blending virtuosic guitar work, operatic soprano voices, gothic organ work, and electronic beats, it’s such a bizarre yet fulfilling fusion. Listeners can also enjoy the music of the First Chapter and Second Chapter unite in the fantasy-styled orchestration of “Place of a Promise”, based around “Tracks in the Sky”. Finally, there is a preview of the music featured in the Second Chapter at the end of each disc. The first disc features a striking orchestral theme used during the trailer for the game, while the second disc is a violin-based interpretation of “Silver Will, Golden Wings” that went on to become a vocal theme.
The rest of the second disc is dominated by instrumental versions of the series’ vocal arrangements. These are potential highlight, since the original vocal themes were very well-stylised and treated the original themes in interesting ways. Take note that these instrumental versions replace the vocalist with instruments in contrast to karaoke (or off vocal) versions that simply omit the vocalist and leave the song quite empty. In other words, these arrangements are distinct from those that dominated the second disc of the series’ vocal collection, despite being based on the same source material. There are quite a few highlights among the collection, such as the radiant violin-led interpretations of “Dive into Your Fate” and “I Swear…” or the rip-roaring guitar solos of “Maybe it Was Fated”. The jazzy “Lumière dans Dédale” also works very well, but less successful in my opinion is the overly smooth soprano saxophone renditions of “Missin'”. Though they’re mostly accomplished, it’ll depend from piece-to-piece whether listeners prefer the vocal or instrumental renditions.
Maybe more impressive are the vocal themes that were intentionally arranged for instrumentals. Though also featured in the original Super Arrange Version, the interpretation of the First Chapter’s love theme is nothing short of sublime. The extended piano solo captures all the melancholy and beauty lying behind the original and features even more impressive jazz writing than most arrangements in The Legend of Heroes Piano Collection. It may be derivative source material, but is nevertheless so welcome here. There is also an guitar-based rendition of the First Chapter’s contemplative secondary theme “Where the Stars Are”. It opens with a very touching acoustic guitar solo that will inspire memories of the original game. However, at the 1:20 mark the arrangement takes a curious twist with the introduction of rasgueado accompaniment and castanet backing, leading into a passionate flamenco-influenced interpretation of the theme. Once again, it’s expertly arranged and performed, doing justice to the original.
The Legend of Heroes -Trails in the Sky FC & SC- Super Arrange Version is the ultimate purchase for those looking for arranged music from the trilogy. The majority of the arrangements are well-produced and offer interesting twists on the still recognisable originals. It’s actually incredible just how diverse Yukihiro Jindo’s arrangements are. A lot of the material is recycled on this album, whether from the first arranged version or the slightly adapted vocal version, but this isn’t necessarily a problem except for the most hardcore of collectors. Maybe more disappointing is that the Second Chapter is quite ignored in this collection, contrary to the album title. Regardless of these minor faults, this is an engrossing two discs and captures the character of the series’ music wonderfully.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.