Project Majestic Mix -A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu- Gold Edition
Project Majestic Mix -A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu- Gold Edition
June 22, 2002
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KFSS Studios’ Project Majestic Mix: A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu Gold Edition is defined primarily by its sample quality. The below-average quality of its samples is the first attribute of this album’s 28 tracks that the listener will notice, and it is also likely to be the last thing that he or she will remember when the album is over. Oversimplistic and amateur-sounding harmonies further detract from what could have been a great work. From the first note of the "Prelude" to the last phrase of "Forever Rachel," I was filled with the impression that there should be more, as if everything was still a work in progress where additional instruments have yet to be added. While the album is titled A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu, this album is not a fitting tribute for such a world-class composer as Uematsu.
A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu was released in the early part of the last decade. It is noteworthy for being hyped as one of the first fan-produced video game remix albums. Unlike most remix albums, it was released on pressed CDs (not CD-Rs), came in DVD-type jewel cases, and included additional printed content. It was priced accordingly, but enough sold that the price was obviously justified by the lack of competition in the market at the time.
Listening to this music ten years later, one can clearly tell that the video game remix community has advanced by leaps and bounds. Today’s sampled music produced by even the most economically unfortunate composers is technically superior to what was possible to create back then by professionals. However, even for its day, the much-hyped Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu was behind the times, and it has aged even further now, when this review was published in 2010. The sample quality sounds on-par with early PlayStation games, and the original console was already obsolete when this album was released. I’m aware that, as a reviewer, I’m supposed to overlook any one particular flaw in a work and attempt to evaluate the work as a whole, but the issue of sample quality makes the album hard to take seriously. The sample quality is reminiscent of video game music from the ’90s, when music was not something that received much emphasis in games. Often, music existed only because some minimum quality of sound was necessary so as to not distract from the graphics or the gameplay. Unfortunately, this album sounds like it was written for a game where the concern of the publisher was adequate, but not stellar, music.
One of the most annoying samples that frequently appears in this album is the violin. Some music professors and students refer to the instrument of the violin as a technological achievement, capable of producing the most beautiful sound of all the current instruments. As a result, it’s logical to think that the violin would be difficult to emulate in software. Sill, the violin that appears in the "Ending Theme" is so unappealing that the theme might have been better off if the sample had not even been used. Similarly, the "Final Fantasy IV Main Theme" is not done justice by the synthesized violin. This poor violin sample rears its head in several other tracks, detracting from each. However, in the album’s take of "One Winged Angel", the violins sound spectacular, probably because they were recorded live in that track. Whether live recording was used or whether a different program or different sample was being used to produce "One Winged Angel," the inadequacy of the violin samples used throughout many of the other tracks is readily apparent.
Most listeners of this album will likely be bothered by how tracks never quite seem to "get going." In most popular music, a few bars are often played before the main melody picks up and the entire band or orchestra joins in. Most of A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu remains stuck in those first few bars, with the expected instrumentation never appearing. The casual listener would probably refer to this effect simply as the music being "boring." The pitch range in most tracks is limited, and the harmony is frequently played over and over without much variation, and same instruments that appear in the first second are often the same instruments that will be playing two minutes later and even during the last second. These shortcomings would be fine if the melody were inspired, but even here the tracks stick too close to the source material, a few tracks following the source note for note.
While 80% of the tracks on A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu are below-average, a few standouts do exist. In "Sealed Door," the familiar Chrono Trigger tune of the same name is livened up by a pounding beat. The track builds slowly, adding in each instrumental part until the original melody reveals itself. "You’re Not Alone!" is perhaps the only track on the album where the composers took chances, changing up the instrumentation, adding harmonies, varying the melody, and even adding in somewhat of a breakdown for good measure. I also listened to "Cait Sith’s Theme" several times simply because it is so different, both from the original and from the album’s other songs. The concluding track, a remix of the already arranged "Forever Rachel," didn’t impress me as much as did the previous three, but it is better than the album’s first take on the piece. Here, I can forgive the track’s repetition because trance is inherently repetitive. Again, the listener will notice that the common theme between all of the standout tracks is that their sample quality is noticibly higher — in several cases, the sample quality is the sole distinguishing factor that elevates these tracks above the rest.
Another saving grace, I believe, is that the album didn’t turn out as bad as it could have. Even if they didn’t succeed in the end, the authors of this work selected the tracks that would give them the best possible chance of success. The chosen tracks were not orchestral masterpieces where the sample quality would have paled in comparison to what a real orchestra would sound like. For the most part, the group also didn’t choose over-remixed tunes like the Zeromus theme, Dancing Mad, or others where their work would be compared to the Tokyo Philharmonic or Uematsu’s own The Black Mages. Instead, the chosen tracks are mostly lesser covered and trended more towards techno, electronica, and jazz, where the shortcomings in production would be less noticible.
It would not be fair to trash this album, because its creators obviously were working with what they had. As a small group with limited
funds, they produced what they could given what equipment they could afford and given that, at the time, there was no precedent for
fan-produced albums. That said, the fact remains that the Project Majestic Mix albums, including A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu, are not worth purchasing. A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu sounds amateurish at times, mostly due to its poor sample quality. However, even if it were produced with today’s technology, the music would still suffer from a lack of harmonic and developmental complexity that even the best software is unable to solve.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Stephen Sokolowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.