Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 (CD Edition)
Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 (CD Edition)
Retro Remix Revue
January 1, 2009
Buy at Retro Remix Revue
Retro Remix Revue is a project spearheaded by Blaine McGurty and Davis Jones. Blaine McGurty, who has a degree in Jazz Studies, is behind all the arrangements and also lends his hand at the keyboard. Davis Jones is behind the mixing, mastering, and recording of all the arrangements. Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 is an ambitious project that arranges many classic game music pieces in a variety of styles. Just recently, Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 received a physical release that can be purchased at their online shop, containing a bonus arrangement. How well do these arrangements compare to those in the industry? You’ll just have to read on to find out! You might just be surprised.
Once upon a time, there was a period in gaming where most people fell in love with video game music. This era was known to many as the Genesis / SNES era. It is obvious that Blaine and Davis also fell in love with video game music at this time, or at least, the music made a lasting impression on them. Most of the arrangements on this album come from a plethora of titles for the Super Nintendo and to a lesser extent, the Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64. With such a diverse amount of titles, one might also expect a diverse arranged album. Fortunately, there are a variety of styles to be found on the album as well. Opening the album, “Overworld BGM ~ Ending,” is a fun, jazzy take on two of the most popular themes from Super Mario World. The key factor in this arrangement is definitely the piano and it helps to recreate that playful Mario sound, while at the same time offering a bit of deviation from the melodies. Mario seems to get the most play time on this album, with additions from Super Mario Kart and Mario Paint, both of which offer some excellent arrangements on the source material, but the true star of the Mario universe on this album, at least to me, is the arrangement of “Dire, Dire Docks” from Super Mario 64. Starting off with some nice natural sounds, the tranquility of this arrangement soon becomes apparent. As with the other Mario piece I mentioned, the piano is the star of the show and helps to craft a very ethereal soundscape. The piece eventually picks up in pace and the piano is replaced with some synthesizer, but it still makes for a beautiful piece and it is one of my favorites on the album.
Another gaming icon that has is featured on the album is Sonic the Hedgehog. Both of the arrangements, “Green Hill Zone” and “Chemical Plant Zone,” recreate the Genesis sound quite nicely. More straightforward than some of the other arrangements, they both instill that sense of nostalgia within the listener. “Green Hill Zone” features a nice synth solo that adds to the bubbly nature of the entire arrangement. There is also a synth solo in “Chemical Plant Zone” that definitely gives a sense of urgency, while at the same time, adds a nice little jazz element to the entire arrangement. In addition, there is a nice drum solo to bridge between the synth solo and the melody. It’s a bit drawn out, but does add something you don’t hear in many arrangements these days. These two arrangements are quite fun, even if they don’t stray too far from the source material.
Two other Nintendo icons also get their spot in the sun. Unfortunately, there is only one piece from each series. Perhaps one of the most famous of the Donkey Kong Country pieces is arranged for this one. Having heard an arrangement of this piece already this year in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I was interested in hearing how Blaine decided to arrange “Stickerbrush Symphony.” Unlike the other arrangement, which focused a lot on strings, this arrangement keeps with the ethereal soundscape offered by the original. In addition, the combination of piano, trance-like effects in the bass line, and futuristic synth make for a nice little homage to the original. It’s definitely a keeper in my book! The other iconic series, The Legend of Zelda, has a nice little two piece medley from Ocarina of Time. The first piece takes one of the ocarina melodies, “Zelda’s Lullaby”, and translates it to a nice tranquil piano piece. Its simplicity reflects the inherent beauty found within the piece. As the track progresses, it moves into a tropical arrangement of “Zora’s Domain,” that adds some nice textural contrasts, through steel drum usage and acoustic guitar, while, at the same time, emphasizing the importance of the melody once more. It’s a beautiful arrangement and a fitting way to end the album.
Now, you might be thinking, “I’ve heard a lot of piano mentioned in this review, but is there anything else on there besides that?” Well, the answer to that is, “Yes”. Some of my favorite arrangements are rock based. F-Zero‘s most iconic piece, in my opinion, “Big Blue,” is probably my second favorite of the entire album for me. Fast-paced synth and rock bring the sound from the SNES to life, and while at first, it doesn’t sound particularly different from the original, it decides to throw a curveball at you and give you an extremely long guitar solo that amps up the energy even further. I’m really impressed with the solo, too, because it manages to contain all you’d expect in a solo, i.e. fast guitar noodling, while at the same time throwing tidbits of the melody in there as well. Now if they can do something like this for the Megaman series next time, I’d be truly impressed! The other arrangement belongs to “Ken’s Theme” from Street Fighter II. I’m surprised they chose this one, rather than “Ryu’s Theme” or “Guile’s Theme”, but I’m glad they did. The percussion and the bass riffs are what make this arrangement stand out in my eyes. They have so much power behind them and really accentuate the melody, which has a power all its own. As you’d suspect, there is another kickass guitar solo in this one as well and it’s even more impressive than the one in “Big Blue”. Out of all the pieces on the soundtrack, this has to be the highlight for me.
The physical release of the album contains a bonus arrangement. Coming from what many regard as the epitome of Mega Man music, the arrangement is a medley of the intro theme, title screen music, and the Airman stage theme from Mega Man 2. From the moment it starts, if you’re a fan of Mega Man music, this will definitely bring back a nice wave of nostalgia. The intro theme is nicely arranged for piano, and as it develops, it adds some drum elements before switching into a synth rock arrangement of the title screen. This is a nice contrast to the emotional and warm intro theme and adds some energy to the arrangement. The Airman stage section is easily my favorite part. It’s a nice synth rendition of the classic chip tune piece and features nice guitar and keyboard sections. The best part about the entire arrangement is easily the synth solo that follows the Airman section. It has an awesome sound and really meshes well with the whole Megaman universe. In addition, the keyboard work that accompanies it helps add a nice atmosphere by including the Airman theme behind it. It even ends with the Megaman death sound effect, which I find a particularly nice touch.
In this day and age, arranged albums are far and few between, unless of course, you are Motoi Sakuraba. Even then, most arranged albums by professional game music artists tend to focus more on the current line-up of games rather than taking something from the past and giving them a facelift. Fortunately, there’s Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 to fall back upon if you are looking for an arranged album that not only pays tribute to the classic tunes we grew up loving from games we loved equally, if not more, such as the Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Bros. series, and one that is full of diverse musical styles. For Blaine McGurty and Davis Jones, who originally arranged and mixed video game music for the fun of it, their first official release is a wonderful thing to pick up if you are looking for arrangements that are entertaining. More importantly, you won’t find any arrange albums that cover such a diverse selection of classic video game music either. If you still haven’t picked this album up, it’s worth purchasing the physical copy up for the bonus arrangement. If you have already purchased the digital version of the album, fret not! You can buy the new arrangement on Amazon’s MP3 store or on iTunes.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.