I've always admired Sound Team JDK's vocals because they have always been uniquely different and catchy. Compared to other game vocals, Sound Team JDK has no rivals and they take no prisoners when they make their vocal tracks. Their vocals are produced with such a level of quality that they put other game vocals to shame; and with featured vocalists like Akino Arai and Shoko Minami (she did the Ys Feena vocal album), they can't possibly go wrong. With Falcom Vocal Collection III, Sound Team JDK created a great vocal collection. This album deserves a track by track review, so here we go:
1) Precious Love - I'll admit, this isn't the best opener in the world. I was actually turned off when I heard it because there isn't much here. This song gives you the idea that something's going to happen in the middle, but it never does. The soft vocals and instrumentation are pretty nice, though.
2) Welcome Home - A lot better than the previous song. This song is a hip, poppy vocal with an average vocalist, and reminiscent of the 80s, when synths and crazy SFX were the norm in music. This is a good song, but I think it would have been better suited toward the end of the album.
3) Wink in My Soul - This is where the album starts to pick up, in my opinion. It starts off with a classic 80s flare, full of electronic drums and crazy synth riffs. But it sounds like it's missing something. It's a little too top-heavy. A deeper bass would have filled the hole. It's still a good song, though. Forgive me for being nitpicky.
4) Dream Forever - This is one of the better songs on the album, and it's definitely unique. It's got some great chords, and the vocalist gives the song a slight feeling of mystery. The guitar solo in the middle really works, too. This song is the perfect example of the high production standards of Falcom.
5) Fossil Road - Don't let the beginning of this song scare you away. This is the darkest song on the album. Everything about this song is haunting...the chords, the vocalists, and the progression. For a song that has been arranged millions of times (known as "Destroyed Village" to Sorcerian fans), it gets great vocal treatment.
6) Endless Love Song - The chords at the beginning of this song remind me of eternity. This song, as its name implies, is a true love song. Sure, I can't speak a word of Japanese, but there are certain things you can imply from a foreign vocal just by the way it is executed. There's an orchestra interlude around the 2:30 mark that will melt you, guaranteed.
7) White Magic X-Mas - Now wait, a Christmas song? Rest assured, this is a better vocal than one would guess. It reminds me of snow (hence the name), and the instrumentation is perfect, from the orchestra in the background to the backup vocalists. I didn't enjoy this one as much as, "Dream Forever" or "Moonlight Mystery," but it's still good. Again, Falcom's high production skills show.
8) Take Me To Another World - This song starts off a little too poppy for me, but the chorus is brilliant. It's got great chords, and the right amount of suspense to keep you wanting more. If you're anything like me, this song actually might take you to another world with its fantastic chords.
9) Moonlight Mystery - This is hands-down, the best song on the album. Once again, great chords, a smooth saxophone solo, and perfect flow make this song a winner. Everything about this song screams "moonlight." Sound Team JDK has always been great with matching their track names with the emotions in their songs, and this is a great example. Even if you don't like this one at first listen, it will most definitely catch your ear.
10) Voyage de Roi - This is an abstract, French vocal. I'm not really a big fan of this one, but it will pull you in if you like abstract songs. There's not much to be said for this one (except for the really questionable female moaning), so why don't you give it a listen?
11) A World Full of Love - I really don't like this song, either. It's too happy and bright, and it doesn't really go anywhere. I know I've said that a lot, but the vocals are so happy and kiddy that it actually made me sick.
12) Termination - It's hard to categorize this one, and it's even harder to figure out how they took a simple theme from Ys II and turned it into this. It's mind-boggling, and really makes you appreciate the creative minds of Sound Team JDK. This song could best be described as an 80s funk and pop hybrid. It's got a funky rhythm section and a slinky bass, but it's topped off with some obnoxious synths (in a good way), and your obligatory tenor saxophone solo near the end. This is a great song.
13) When We Meet - This is a vocal of the ever popular "A Still Time" from Ys II. This is a beautifully written love song with some really great vocal work, both in lead and backup. Honestly, this is where the album should have ended, because everything else from here on out is crap-tastic.
14) Who Do You Love - All the praise the album gets ends here. I didn't like this song, and it made me think "who do you hate" instead. It's a bright vocal that comes off as uninspiring, and the melody really isn't that great. I'll stop talking about this one, or I may end up yelling.
15) Birth and Change - I love the style that they are trying to interpret (a slow, soulful groove with those R&B drums), but it falls short. They got the style right, but the mechanics of the song just don't work. First off, the singer's voice is too soft---it stays soft while the song tries to go somewhere, but it can't because her voice won't let it. The uninspired guitar solo at the end comes off more "ambient" than "artistic," and the guitarist could use a few improvisation lessons. After hearing such great solos earlier in the album, this is not acceptable. But this is one of the few songs on this album that I dislike, so I can't complain too much.
All in all, this is a great album, and the majority of the tracks are excellent. There are only a small number of songs that ruin the mood. This is easily one of my favorite Falcom vocal collection albums. It's pretty rare, but if you can find it, pick it up.
Reviewed by: Mike Wilson