Few soundtracks are as unique and memorable as Akira Tsuchiya's Atelier soundtracks, and perhaps none are as beautiful as his first work: Atelier Elie. In 1999, Bandai Music Entertainment published an album that is now nearly extinct: the Vocal Collection "Reiseführer" (German for "Travel Guide"). There is a lot that can be said about this album, but I will try to keep my comments brief.
First and foremost, the real genius behind this vocal collection is not the vocal work but the instrumental work. The opening track, Einladen, is a beautiful opening track for the album. Featuring some beautiful bowed and plucked string work, this song sounds infinitely better than its original counterpart. Other songs that contain some impressive instrumental work include Reiseführer, The Lazy Seagull's Coup, and A Ceremony Just For Me. All of the instrumental work is good on this album, but those are some of my favorites from an instrumental perspective.
The vocals, like most "character" vocal albums, are less than great, with only one exception. That exception is Lazy Seagull's Coup, which is a duet between a male and female vocalist: the harmonies come out nicely, and both singers have a decent tone to their voice. I was also pleased to hear the song performed vocally: I didn't think it could be done, as the melody to this song is so wild.
Otherwise, most of these songs have either over-the-top or else lackluster vocal performances. There a number of male vocal performances, such as Komet Rhapsodie and To the East...I didn't enjoy either of these much from a vocal perspective. Bird of the Weathervane is one of the male vocal performances I could withstand, but again, I mostly enjoyed it for its instrumental qualities, not the vocals.
The female vocal performances fare a little better off. Track 5, "Cheers!!", is probably the most expressive performance on the album that can also be considered enjoyable. The instrumental background to the song is eccentric, and the vocalist does a great job fitting in with the feel of this strange but lovely song.
Despite my love for all things Atelier, the price tag for this album is generally too high to make it worth seeking after. Honestly, I've seen the album sell for $100 on Yahoo! Japan Auctions. Listen to these samples, and ask yourself if it's worth paying that much for this album. Even collectors should be wary. I'd recommend the series vocal collection "Volkslied" or Atelier Elie "Unknown Origin" before this album.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann