When last we visited Blake Robinson, he was making incredible music. Not much has changed (dude, get some sleep!), though Volume 2 of his Chrono Trigger Symphony album boasts more artistic license than Volume 1. Is there merit in his wide brush strokes, or is he better off painting by numbers?
If he were painting by numbers, Robinson would be using irrational integers, because it’s unreal how good this collection is. The disc opens powerfully with “A Desolate World,” a track I was initially unfamiliar with, unlike any of the tracks in Volume 1. That isn’t to say I disliked it, but I was mystified — what could this be? An odd sensation came over me — a sense of familiarity mixed with puzzlement. And then it hit me: 2030 AD. In a fascinating decision, Robinson swapped the wispy winds of the original with a chorus that drastically alters a piece otherwise only touched up. However, it felt true and authentic once the realization occurred.
“The Last Day of the World” follows a similar theme. Though indistinguishable from its source, the introduction of soft humming adds a layer to this already-somber theme. As I remarked in my review of the first volume, some of the Chrono Trigger themes can seem a little simple at times — not quite base, but not entirely fleshed out. Robinson’s renditions sometimes add that extra kick that was lacking in the 16-bit era.
“Johnny of the Robo Gang” is still terrible, though Robinson really tried with the trumpet. I guess there’s just no hope for this theme.
In a full 180, “Robo’s Theme” is the darling of the album. Admittedly, I was never an incredible fan of Robo’s theme, but what’s been done here is just — astonishing. Not only does it have the dramatic opening at the 0:15 mark, but Robinson also takes some great liberties as he almost seamlessly introduces the fanfare theme in the middle of the piece. While a rather soft departure from the rest of the track, it sounds as if it belongs and communicates the kind of intuitive creativity our dear arranger is capable of.
Volume 2 contains some clunkers that are no fault of Robinson. As beloved as Mitsuda’s masterpiece of a soundtrack is, about a quarter of the pieces just don’t make an impact the way “Wind Scene” or “Brink of Time” do, which, by the way, Robinson executes fantastically with flutes, percussion, and his staple chorus backup. Once again, dedicated to the source, but with more flavor.
Fan-favorite or otherwise, Robinson treats every track with love and admiration. He doesn’t make lackluster tracks something they aren’t, and he’s not afraid to present his personality throughout. While Volume 1 demonstrated some creativity, Volume 2 shows greater liberties in this regard, and this reviewer couldn’t be happier. Clearly, Robinson’s sensibilities and dedication as an arranger will guide a promising career.