Rarely, and I mean RARELY do I enjoy a game album enough to place it in my top 5 of a genre without even having played the game or heard the original music. I can count about three other examples of this phenomenon, those being Tokimeki Memorial Piano Album, Heart Session, and Sonic Adventure Remix, all of which take number 1 positions in their respective genres.
Now I can add Arc the Lad Piano Album to that elite listing.
Arc the Lad Piano Album is truly an excellent and well-executed album from start to finish. Most game-inspired piano albums come off sounding overly simplistic and do very little with the original piece. While Arc the Lad Piano Album doesn’t do very much with the original piece in terms of arrangement (I can sense it even without hearing the original tracks), it is anything but simplistic. You can hear the different layers within each track, something that is often lacking in piano albums. What’s more, there is SOUL in these compositions, and that’s another rarity in piano albums. So often the pianist is concerned merely with getting from A-Z and don;t stop to really convey all the letters in between. Arc the Lad Piano Album’s Keiichi Oku does a fantastic job putting emotion into each and every piece.
The CD opens with the title theme, “Theme of Arc the Lad”, which plays with some interesting chord changes and a to-the-point resolution. “Arc” and “Elc” are both relatively fast-paced main character themes which have an underlying melody that you usually only get with synthesized tracks. “Way to the Earth” and “Recollections” are both very sad and hopeful at the same time, and “Battle with the Four Generals” is definitely dark and ominous. The album finishes with “To Tomorrow”, a slow piece which feels as if it could have come right out of an epic fantasy movie.
My only complaint with this album would have to be the pianist’s noble, but at times vain, efforts to keep up with the notes. With a better pianist, this album would be better, technically, but at the same time I wonder if it would retain its soul. AtL Piano Album is probably the best piano album I have ever heard, next to Tokimeki Memorial Piano. Still, AtL Piano Album possesses a style and quality that Tokimemo does not, and that puts it in a category all its own, in my opinion.
If you are a fan of piano music or Arc the Lad music, pick up this album if at all possible. I’d seen it staring me in the face at Kinokuniya Bookstore for years and never picked it up because I wasn’t familiar with the music. What a mistake that was. This is definitely an album worth purchasing, and it should still be in print, meaning you can get it via an online store or a book and music-seller such as Kinokuniya. Don’t wait, make this purchase ASAP.