Crush 40: Super Sonic Songs / The Best of
The Best of Crush 40: Super Sonic Songs
November 18, 2009
Buy at CDJapan
Super Sonic Songs. I have to say, it’s a very appropriate title for Crush 40’s 3rd album release. The first two albums dealt with Crush 40’s involvement way back when they were called “Sons of Angels”, with their contributions to NASCAR Rubbin’ Racing. I never really got around to hearing those songs nor did I ever actually play the game where those songs appeared. If you’re like me, however, you probably recognize Crush 40 much more for their contributions to the Sonic franchise, starting way back with Sonic Adventure. For many, the final boss battles in which you were at the controls of Super Sonic felt much more epic as Crush 40 wailed alongside the battle. Hence, Super Sonic Songs. The result is a C40 album with much more focus for the Sonic fans. Let’s dive in and see how this compilation stacks up.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. This isn’t just a basic compilation album. While the majority of the music may have already been given a listen to by Sonic fans one too many times, many of these tracks underwent a new mix and mastering that’s absolutely worth an entirely new listen. In total, four songs got the new touch up. On top of that, you get three previously unreleased Crush 40 songs, namely two cover performances and one entirely brand new song. So that’s seven new tracks to experience, and nine tracks to enjoy once again.
Let’s start with the three new songs. First up, “Un-gravitify”. Sonic fans will recognize the original version that appeared in Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, performed by Cashell. Cashell’s version was a techno track that had a small emphasis on the guitar. Actually, the guitar performance of that song was pretty simple; scaling down some chords, and getting the job done. It’s actually one of my favorite songs from the Riders series. I’ll admit, when I first heard that Crush 40 was going to cover this song, I thought Jun Senoue was going to simply replicate that guitar performance and call it a day. I was wrong. Crush 40’s version goes one step beyond the original version, as Jun lays down a fantastic new guitar performance that builds up rather than down like the original. In comparison to the original’s guitar section, which because it was a techno song, sounded unclean and messy (in a good way), this one has a much more cleaner and clearer sounding guitar.
Just like the original version, this song begins with a buildup, and I love the way the drums starts things off first. It just feels so classic rock, especially when the guitar comes into the combination. As the songs speeds up, we are treated to an entirely new guitar performance opposite Cashell’s version. I just love that particular sound Jun’s guitar makes every time it hits these low notes through its progression. It’s very deep and wavy, in a sort of unusual funkiness that helps this song define a bit of uniqueness in comparison to almost the entire Crush 40 library. Johnny does a great job with his singing performance, staying close with Cashell’s original performance but still keeping his own style intact. The echo effect that was added to Johnny’s singing was a magnificent touch, as it really did help bring this song together. As I said, this song feels so classic rock, and yet it feels futuristic as well. It’s not techno, but it has that subtle vibe, and players who enjoyed the Sonic Riders soundtrack may fully understand what I’m getting at. It’s a fantastic cover, and “Crushers” (Johnny Gioeli’s name for Crush 40 fans) will love it.
One last thing to note for this song is the guitar solo. I think it’s possibly one of the brilliant guitar solos Jun has ever done while under the Crush 40 title. The original version didn’t have one, so that alone was a surprise to me, and the result was how much heart, how much harmony this solo was whipped up makes me say it’s a touch of genius. Not just the guitar solo, but the rhythm guitars giving it their all, that it almost gives you the choice to rewind the song and listen to THAT part alone. That’s what I’ve done during this section, and it is oh so satisfying.
Next up, is “Fire Woman”. No, this isn’t supposed to be Blaze’s theme song. It’s actually, yet again, a cover song. This time, taking a song from a mainstream band outside the video game world, The Cult (famous for “She Sells Sanctuary”). “Fire Woman” originally appeared on The Cult’s fourth album release entitled Sonic Temple (see the connection?). At first, when I heard that Crush 40 was going to cover The Cult, it was pretty odd for me, especially considering the theme “Fire Woman” has in comparison to the kind of friendly songs Crush 40 usually does, but upon hearing their rendition of this song, I can FEEL how Crush 40’s style largely draws from The Cult and all other kinds of bands that were huge during their era.
As a cover song, it does a fine job in staying close to the original style that The Cult originally laid down. In fact, its so close, it almost feels like this song has much more attention to details in the instruments then your average Sonic the Hedgehog vocal song. It’s much more elaborate, and every single detail, whether it’s the quick guitar licks and solos, the drums, the vocals, it’s there, and almost identical. The only real difference is that it carries that subtle Crush 40 style that come instantly in a snap to C40 fans. It’s really no wonder why Crush 40’s music is sometimes generalized as hard rock of the 1980’s, and to cover a song such as this, it’s no wonder why.
While the original version sounded much like a live performance, with a lot of emphasis on the echo of certain instruments as well as Ian Astbury’s singing, Crush 40’s version sounds more directly from the studio, with less emphasis on that echo. What surprised me the most out of Crush 40’s version is the bass performance. Unlike The Cult’s version, the bass takes more notice here and it’s almost impossible NOT to hear it. It’s very loud, and very “slappy”. It’s got so much Chili Peppers funkiness blended in so well. I can safely say its one of the elements of C40’s take on Fire Woman that helps make it stand out from the original, or at least make a worthy counterpart. It’s not unlike the bass performances you may be more familiar with around the Sonic Adventure soundtrack and the Black Knight soundtrack as well.
As for the rest of the rendition, it’s very stylish and definitely one of those songs you would so strongly categorized as the rebellion rock of the 80’s. The kind of rock that does what it takes to divide itself from the likes of glamour rock as made famous by Motley Crue (and I’m not saying that in a bad way either). A nice blend of hardcore rhythm guitar and trilling guitar fills combine strongly well, especially as it all comes together just before the chorus and then setting it all off as Johnny belts out “Fire!”. I have to say, I got chills hearing what I feel was Johnny’s best delivery on the vocals, especially when he yells out “Lord! Have mercy!”. In no way was he trying to imitate Ian’s vocal, and the results make me believe that was the best decision Johnny went with. I may have said before that Crush 40 never suits my taste when it comes to covers, but in the case of these two covers, I’m surprised even in myself to say I much prefer Crush 40’s take on both “Un-Gravitify” and “Fire Woman”. I can’t say they are better than the original, as most will have their own taste, but for what its worth, it definitely goes well in companionship.
And last on the new tracks, it’s Crush 40’s brand new track, “Is It You”. I’ve heard this song forwards and backwards countless times now, and it really bothers me to say it, but it’s not exactly my most favorite song from the entire album. It’s not a bad song at all, and I completely respect Crush 40’s new approach to yet another ballad, but I can’t help but shake off this feeling that the song could have used just a little bit of more flavor. The song is beautiful, and goes yet again in a softer take like Live Life, but I noticed it feels more repetitive than previous C40 tracks. There’s a few amount of chorus and even few different kinds of sections for the guitar, which Jun decided to give a stylish new sound, and the only saving grace is the guitar solo, which I’ll admit came out of the blue with the song not building up for it. The only sad thing is that solo was very short. Other than that, I really can’t say much for it, as it left me just a bit disappointed, considering it is a new and original song.
Time to listen in on the new mixes. Indeed, four songs got a new touch. Some are highly noticeable, and some will make you question if its any different from the original. “I Am… All of Me” is one song that got the least dynamic changes from its original version. It took me about three listenings to realize the changes was a small tweak to the vocals, and even then, it’s a bit questionable. You’ll strongly notice it passed the bridge of the song, where the vocals go “I am everyone, everywhere, anyhow, any way, any will, any day…”. The more the song progresses here, the more you hear the vocals bend. Along with that, the song ends differently. Instead of a loud “bang”, it just sort of warps away into a strange feedback with the percussion still going until it abruptly stops.
“His World” also went through a vocal change. This one is much more noticeable right from the start. The part where Johnny is singing through what sounds like a megaphone now sounds even more wavy and bendy. Some parts around the chorus also get this same change, but it’s not as easy to note. No changes to the instruments, and no changes to the ending. Just a simple little filter effect that I doubt helped improve the song in any way, so if you enjoyed that song, this won’t really make or break it for you.
Next up on the change is “Knight of the Wind”. Now here’s what I’m talking about. The guitars have been changed completely in order sound much more fierce, more powerful, and best of all, clearer. One of the reasons I didn’t exactly like the original take on “Knight of the Wind” was that the guitar didn’t sound so spot on. It felt like the treble was set to high, and as a result, it made it kind of hard for me to find that perfect focus I usually look for in the guitars. Now that has changed for the better, and I can happily say that the new mix of “Knight of the Wind” is now part of my favorite Crush 40 songs.
Finally, we have “Open Your Heart”. Once again, it’s a vocal effect change, but this one actually does it perfectly. Throughout the whole song, the vocals sound much more elevated. Echoes were added all throughout the performance, alongside the usual filter effect that was experienced on this disc’s “His World”. There was much more attention to detail to this song, and whether or not its because of the theme and presentation of the song that helps the changes go with the flow, I feel like I’m hearing “Open Your Heart” for the first time again. It’s that fantastic, and I’ll take this version over the original. The only downside is that the song ends abruptly short, rather than finishing off with the sounds of rain and thunder fading to black. That was an awesome way to finish the song, and I’m a little confused as to why that got deleted, considering the intro still keeps the sounds of thunderclap intact.
And there you have it. All the new changes. Every other song that’s on this disc is exactly the way you remember it, so I’ve got no reason to cover those that hasn’t already been said. Having said that, there are a few things that I question. For one thing, I’m surprised this CD didn’t include the remastered versions of “Live & Learn” and “What I’m Made Of…” that were originally found on the True Blue album. It seemed like a great idea to go with the whole “new mix” trend, and would’ve easily made the whole album very definitive.
I also don’t understand why, aside from “Knight of the Wind”, the only emphasis the new mixes had were the changes to the vocal sections. The remastered songs from the True Blue album were very dynamic compared to their original counterpart because almost all the instruments were structured with a whole new twist to give the song a brand new feeling, and I didn’t get that feeling, “Open Your Heart” aside. It’s my only gripe with the album, but its very small. I also have to question the relatively small amount of songs that experienced the changes to begin with. It could have been much better if we got all the songs on this disc to go the whole nine yards. Four songs just so sound so little, and only half of the album got the kind of treatment I somewhat expected.
If I told you that Crush 40 fans wouldn’t like this album, I’d be lying. This album has plenty of stuff that Sonic/Crushers will easily fall for. I know I’ve said time and again that Crush 40 isn’t cut out to do covers, but after hearing “Un-Gravitify” and “Fire Woman”, I’m very glad to be wrong. Those two songs are now my most played songs on my mp3 player, and for good reasons too. For Sonic fans who happen to be Crushers, and don’t have that many Crush 40 songs piled up together on their playlist, this is the perfect compilation album for you. While the new mixes leave a lot to be desired, it’s the brand new songs that will have you playing it over and over again. It may just be a few tracks, but the whole album itself definitely shows how far we’ve come in the past ten years and beyond. Super Sonic Songs leaves you hanging on the edge of tomorrow.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Rafael Orantes. Last modified on August 1, 2012.