If you think this is a jazz album, you are wrong. If you think this is a brass ensemble album, you have made an appropriate guess, but you are also wrong. For the right answer, you need to know that The Siena Wind Orchestra (which means not just brass, but also woodwinds, percussion, and the occasional harp) plays in the recordings and for the currently touring concert series by the same name. The concert tour is conducted by Kuroda Hirofumi, with beloved composer Nobuo Uematsu present at all performances. Uematsu is executive producer of the project, and his creativity, dedication, and passion can be heard in the album.
“Bra★Bra Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo” favors FFIV and FFVI, with songs from both games appearing in three out of the four medleys. The medleys have themes that I’ve never heard utilized before. It’s a great idea to have a “FF Battle 2 Medley” or a Boss Battle medley, rather than the usual battle (1) medley. Just as “The Airship Medley” adapts airship songs from FFIII, FFIV, FFVI, and FFVIII to jazz renditions, the dungeon medley adapts the dungeon themes of FFIV, FFV, FFVI, and FFVIII to the atmosphere of a mystical forest rather than that of a creepy cave with terrifying monsters. The last medley is simply titled “FF Medley,” and it features random songs from FFI and FFIII.
Aside from the medleys, there are a couple of tracks solely dedicated to a single Final Fantasy game. The tense songs “Never Look Back – Dead End” (FFVIII) are arranged into a Mission: Impossible feel. “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” (FFVI) is absolutely gorgeous, surprisingly so without vocals. Unfortunately, the incredibly beautiful “Zanarkand” (FFX) sounds strange with wind instruments replacing the somber piano. At one point, the tempo even increases to an upbeat waltz. It’s an awkward representation of FFX.
Another awkward representation is the one song dedicated to FFVII, “FFVII Battle Medley.” The arrangement of “J-E-N-O-V-A,” “Let the Battles Begin!,” and “Fight On!” is strong, but it’s disappointing that FFVII is represented with three battle songs. Perhaps the arrangers were tired of (or thought the listeners were tired of) listening to “Aerith’s Theme” and “One Winged Angel,” or maybe they wanted to take FFVII out of the Final Fantasy spotlight for once.
Likewise, I was disappointed in the arrangers’ choice of which Final Fantasy non-human species to include in this album: moogles. “FF Moogles’ Theme” is unnervingly creepy — so much so that I had to skip the track. “FF Moogles’ Theme” also seems to mean the sacrifice of the chocobo theme, which never once makes an appearance on the album. Perhaps the arrangers thought that the listeners were tired of hearing this theme as well. I beg to differ. A Final Fantasy album without any hint of a chocobo theme is bizarre and essentially leaves the album incomplete.
“Bra★Bra Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo” is a relatively short album and a relatively cheap one. It’s worth having, or at least listening to, especially if you’re a fan of FFIV and FFVI or if you want an introduction to the two. The album is pretty new to English-speaking ears as well, judging by online activity, so it should be fun being one of the first English-speakers to give it a listen. I know it was an honor to write one of the first English reviews of it.