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Blue Dragon OST

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SVWC-7428/9 (reprint SE-2032-2)
Released On: December 13, 2006 (reprint March 25, 2008)
Composed By: Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged By: Satoshi Henmi, Hiroyuki Nakayama
Published By: Aniplex (reprint Sumthing Else)
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 2 CDs
Buy this CD from VGM World
Tracklist:

Disc One
01 - Waterside
02 - A Lamenting Bell Toll
03 - The Land Shark is Coming!
04 - Crisis
05 - Mysterious Village
06 - Dragon Fight!
07 - Thumbs Up!
08 - Everyday Tranquility
09 - Mystery of the Ancient Machine
10 - Challenge
11 - Omen
12 - In Search of the Ruins
13 - Ruins
14 - High Speed Flight
15 - Anger and Sorrow
16 - My Tears and the Sky
17 - Cave
18 - City Lights
19 - Desolate Town
20 - Advancing Ground
21 - BAD BUT BAT
22 - Trip!
23 - A Smiling Face
24 - Knock It Down
25 - Army of the Holy Sword
Total Time:
54'57"

Disc Two
01 - Gibral Castle
02 - Zola's Theme
03 - A Little Fight
04 - Frozen Village
05 - Nene's Paradise
06 - Giant Mechat
07 - Advance! Drill Machine
08 - The Dance-Loving Devi Tribe
09 - The Ancients
10 - An Ancient Fortress
11 - Machine Temple
12 - The Road to Gibral
13 - Mecha-Robo Army Charge!
14 - The Land of Happiness
15 - A Village of Murals
16 - Peaceful Waterside
17 - An Uneasy Night
18 - Eternity
19 - Mechat Takes Off!
20 - Take Back the Shadow!
21 - State of Emergency
22 - CAVERN
23 - Revival of the Ancients
24 - The Seal is Broken
25 - Happy Birthday
26 - Blue Dragon Main Theme
27 - Waterside ~for Piano and Orchestra~
Total Time:
70'59"

The digipack and insert manual are contained by a shiny blue slipcase, as depicted here.

Editor's Note: the "reprint" is an alternate U.S. printed version with the same front cover art, from Sumthing Else Music Works.

I was never really the bigget Uematsu fan. Where Square was concerned, I always preferred the higher quality of Mitsuda's work to the comparatively poor quality of the instrumentation used by Uematsu. Nevertheless, Nobuo Uematsu should be heralded as one of the pioneering video game musicians of his time, and it is certainly no bad thing that he is still working today.

Waterside is a good opening track, capturing the spirit of a light and gentle game, and the next few tracks, particularly The Land Shark is Coming! manage to continue this mood while hinting at the start of something darker and more urgent. However, it also adds a comical edge to these tracks that found was increasingly cropping up in his Final Fantasy soundtracks, particularly in the more deserted dungeons in Final Fantasy IX.

This mood is interrupted before it gets old with Dragon Fight!, the first battle track. The rock organ is classic Uematsu, but the guitar and synths sound closer to something I'd hear in an Ys battle track. At this point, it becomes apparent that this album suffers from short track syndrome, which has become an unfortunate trend in order to fit more tracks onto a disk to create cheaper albums. It's unfortunate, as this is one track I wouldn't mind hearing looped, at least once.

Subsequent tracks are a combination of filler and basic dungeon tracks, and neither are that interesting. Tracks like Mystery of the Ancient Machine and In Search of the Ruins sound as if they'd be more at home in a NES game, and completely fail to evoke the sense of fear and trepidation that should be present even in a light-hearted game like Blue Dragon. Another of these tracks, Ruins, is a track I'd love to have on my playlist, however the poor quality vocal element to this track ruins any chance of that. I have a ten year old Yamaha XG that can produce a better choir synth than was used here, and seeing a good track ruined by bad instrumentation is nothing short of irritating. A few tracks later, the first vocal song, Watashi no Mizu to Sora translates to "my tears and the sky," and therefore unsurprisingly this is a melancholy track that feels rather disjointed by being sung by Ayako Kawasumi, who voices very young girls in anime series.

I was far more fond of the subsequent track, Cave, which has convinced me that Uematsu should be composing music that sounds more orchestral. This piece is calm, yet somehow eerie, and the couple of tracks that follow manage to keep this feeling. It is a pleasant surprise to hear tracks like these on a soundtrack I had previously dismissed as shallow. Unfortunately, tracks like this are a rarity in Blue Dragon, and the soundtrack soon slides back into forgettable melodies and the second vocal track, the horribly named BAD BUT BAT (which I confess I fast forwarded through). This track, along with A Little Fight seemed to be in contention for the worst track on the album. With the prevalence of the light hearted tracks, heavier pieces like Nene's Paradise that should be standing out seem awkward and ill-placed.

The second half of the album contains a number of tracks with a heavier beat, and while this is a nice change from the previous section of music, the pieces are still fairly unimaginative. I feel as if at this stage in his career Uematsu should be prepared to take more risks. Here, it just feels like he composed these tracks in his sleep, without putting any effort into them. Even the occasional likable track, such as Mecha-Robo Corps Charge! would have been considered a weaker track on a Final Fantasy game during Uematsu's golden age.

Several quiet tracks later, I finally heard the track that had captured my interest in this album in the first place, Ian Gillian's Eternity. While this track can't save the album, it would certainly make playing the game an interesting experience. Unfortunately it's completely out of place on the album itself, and sounds like a Black Sabbath song that's been toned down for a performance on Fox Kids. The final battle theme, The Seal is Broken, is also upbeat and heavy, but slightly more in keeping with the style of the rest of the album. Curiously, it reminds me distinctly of the duel themes from Revolutionary Girl Utena (not that many people listening to this album will be familiar with that). There is appears to be a subtle use of modal disharmony in the obligatory chanting over the rock organ and heavy guitar that makes me draw the comparison. Still, Eternity is a better track, and makes me wish the two had been switched round. Ayako Kawasumi returns for the ending song, which sounds rather similar to her track earlier in the album. At the end is the welcome inclusion of two orchestral tracks; the main theme and an orchestral version of Waterside that closes the soundtrack fairly effectively.

Overall, this album is fairly uninspired, and borders on bland in places, but it is an interesting look at a new musical direction for Uematsu, and has sparked off curiosity to see what he will do in his next game. And there are enough tracks that captivated my attention to at least warrant me recommending it to anyone else who wants to see what Nobuo Uematsu is currently working on.

Reviewed by: Vincent T. J. Sier Chorley

After Uematsu's stellar career working with Square, composing the soundtracks to every Final Fantasy (until XII, where Sakimoto took charge), the veteran VGM writer went freelance, creating the "Smile Please" studio, and working with his long-time friend Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series) on music for games developed by Mistwalker. The first of these games to be released was the Xbox 360 RPG, Blue Dragon.

There was, is, and will continue to be speculation as to whether Uematsu can "make a comeback" or if his best days are behind him. To me, this is a false dichotomy. When Uematsu got started, it's not like his early scores were breathtaking (yeah, that's right, Final Fantasy I OST isn't some amazing soundtrack). In the same way, it is my feeling that Uematsu, look other composers who have recently gone freelance, are getting a fresh start. The music that comes out at first may feel unrefined, silly, or at the very least, quite different from what we're used to.

The Blue Dragon OST isn't anything spectacular. The high points, without any sort of doubt, are the guitar-heavy battle tracks (Uematsu must have learned a thing or two with the Black Mages). The vocal tracks are weak, and the lighter songs, while pretty, don't seem to stand out.

Uematsu seemed to branch out more with this release in terms of experimenting with synth. Even in his more "mechanized" songs from, say, Final Fantasy VII, there was a limit to how far he would go. Uematsu breaks out of his mold with songs like "Giant Mechat" and "Mecha-Robo Army Charge!"

I did appreciate some of the "standard" tunes, the type of music expected for an RPG. The last track of the first disc, for example, "Army of the Holy Sword," was a great song, even though it doesn't break any new ground or set any high goals for itself. It's just a lovely song for what it is, and that's something Uematsu has always been good at doing.

If you were hyped about this album because it was Uematsu's latest work after a pretty long break, my suggestion is that you hold out for Lost Odyssey (a game that looks to be much less light-hearted than Blue Dragon). I think this work was really something that Uematsu had to do, if not for himself, than for his audience, to let them know that he can and will write music for something other than "Final Fantasy." Do I hope for better works to come in the future? Yes. But, in the meantime, Blue Dragon will hold me over. It's a decent OST; nothing special, certainly not album of the year, but an enjoyable listen for Uematsu fans old and new.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann



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