Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Arrange Album
Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Arrange Album
April 23, 2003
Buy at CDJapan
To the surprise of no one, when the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- soundtracks were announced, an arranged album was also planned soon thereafter. Keeping in mind Motoi Sakuraba’s brilliant arrangements found on Star Ocean -The Second Story- Arrange Album, Valkyrie Profile Arrange Album, and Star Ocean Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax (three of his most recent arranged albums), I preordered the album on a moment’s whim. When it finally came out and made its way to my front door, the first place it went was my CD player. After one play, I decided it was pretty good; not great, but worth another listen. After another, I realized something was lacking. After skimming through my longtime friends, the aforementioned Sakuraba arrangements, I listened a third time. With his previous works in mind, I’m sad to say that Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Arrange Album is one colossal disappointment.
In some ways, this album had a bit of a death mark that had started to grow between the time I had preordered it and when the tracklist was announced. About half of the tracks come from the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 1, which I found to be an absolute disappointment. That was bad enough on its own, but it was the tracks that ended up being selected from both volumes that added up to what seems to be one huge puzzle. Most aren’t that great to begin with and some of the truly memorable ones, like “Around in the Wilderness”, “Expiration,” “The Divine Spirit of Language,” and “Influence of Truth Appear” are confined to their brilliant Original Soundtrack versions. I can get over a shoddy track selection if the arrangements are done well enough. It’s too bad that’s not the case here.
The main thing that raised a stink about this album to me was the presence of three different versions of “So Alone, Be Sorrow”. To say it nicely, the two versions from the first Original Soundtrack are awful. It’s like Sakuraba took a bomb to the musical notation of “Theme of Rena,” then tried to cram the pieces of the puzzle back together… and then had the performers playback the incomplete puzzle. Any emotion the piece manages to generate is completely lost by the overall sloppiness. The Rhythm version on the second soundtrack thankfully sounds very different from the first two versions, but the main draw is an appearance of Star Ocean -The Second Story-‘s “Field of Nede.” The arrangements manage to clean the melodies up somewhat, making for a slightly more coherent listening experience, but it doesn’t change the fact that three of the twelve tracks are the same bland piece. While the Rhythm version is fun enough to keep away from being annoying, I can skip the original version and the piano version without losing any sleep. This time around, the piano version uses the voices (it didn’t have them in the original). I tend to think of this album as having just ten tracks because three versions of the same song is just cheap, given the number of high quality selections that could be made from both soundtracks.
The overall repetitiveness doesn’t end there. I played Valkyrie Profile to death, so when the arrangement for “Reflected Moon” came up, I expected to hear Freya’s line: “It’s been a long time Lenneth.” It sounds exactly the same as “To the Unhallowed Ground” on the Valkyrie Profile Original Soundtrack. Although I had the same reaction to the original version, I don’t think expecting something different on the arranged album is out of the question. We already got an arrangement of “Brass Wings” on the Star Ocean -Till the End of Time- Original Soundtrack Vol. 1 and the only thing that makes this version stand out is an appearance of “Star Ocean Forever” in the middle. It’s not bad, but it’s not great, pretty average overall. Sadly, what may be the highlight of the album is yet another appearance of “Mission to the Deep Space,” although it’s being used along with “Sail Against the Wind” from the first OST. The guitar/sax combo heard in the previous version is retained and the transitions between the two pieces are seamless, but then again, I’ve listened to the Star Ocean -The Second Story- Arrange Album version too much to give this piece any credit for originality. As much as I love it, it’s been done before.
Rounding up the others yields slightly more exciting results. The opening 8-minute medley of “The Dawn of Wisdom ~ The Incarnation of Devil” is mighty impressive, as it jumps around from a soft, epic piece with plenty of synthesized voices to one that sounds much more like the energetic techno pieces Sakuraba is more known for (although this doesn’t sound like “The Incarnation of Devil”). Personally, I find his instrument selection here (which consists of his usual synthesizers he uses for his arrangements) better and more convincing than the actual orchestra used for the first soundtrack. Ditto this for “Till the End of Time,” which is a beautiful, airy ambient piece that I enjoy quite a bit. “Fly Away in the Violet Sky” was one of the highlights of the second Original Soundtrack and it’s beefed up with plenty of keyboard solos that make it fun to listen to. Sakuraba tried his best to make something with “Lakes and Marshes ~ Powerbroker,” but the end result sounds more like he had problems getting his synthesized voices under control. “Frightened Eyes” and “Bird’s Eye View” round things out — I’m pretty emotionless towards these two tracks. They’re just “there”.
Obviously, you can see I’m not thrilled by what’s here. While his previous arrangements seem to get better as time goes on, I’m liking this one less and less the more I listen to it, partially due to the overlap in ideas and partially due to what SHOULD be on there. Compared to what I know Motoi Sakuraba is capable of, this album doesn’t deserve to share the same CD laser with the three arranged albums mentioned in the overview. The track selection is terrible, regarding both what was selected and what wasn’t. The more energetic tracks have a timid feel that isn’t found in the other arrangements — none of these deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as “Stab the Sword of Justice,” “Hopeless Resolution,” or “Distortions in the Void of Despair” — and even the more beautiful tracks don’t have the emotional, gut-wrenching qualities that “Theme of RENA” or “Valhalla” have. The only thing it has going for it is the familiar sound, although this time around, it isn’t being fed the material to make full use of it.
It hurts to not recommend a Sakuraba arranged album, but with just five tracks I really enjoy (and that’s being generous), that’s exactly what I’m doing. This is a tired effort, one that reflects a composer low on both time and ideas. This album feels rushed, which is probably the case, given it only came out two weeks after the second Original Soundtrack (and with a Voice Mix Arrangement coming soon after). Those who aren’t as familiar with Sakuraba’s previous arrangements will probably enjoy this substantially more than I have, but then again, I also advise those people to buy the other three before even considering this one. While some of my comments may sound a bit harsh, I don’t think high expectations are out of the question for a fantastic composer returning to a familiar series. In this case, the end result is just a mess that should remain a curiosity and not a serious effort.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andy Byus. Last modified on August 1, 2012.