The Final Fantasy remix drought we’ve experienced of late has finally come to an end. If you’re anything like me, you’ve asked yourself, “With such a powerful library of music spanning 25 years, why has this series gone so neglected?” All sarcasm aside, the variety and nigh-perfection of this famous series receives yet another tribute album featuring arrangements by artists, composers, and orchestras. With no real guiding theme, this two-disc package seems to sample all genres of music, from ska all the way to Celtic.
Some may find that with such a large swathe of styles that the pieces will be hit or miss. While true, I believe that most people who enjoy Uematsu’s work will embrace tracks featuring genres outside their preferences. Personally, I don’t enjoy ska at all, but the first track of the first disc, Final Fantasy I’s opening theme, makes me appreciate the characteristic horns. The credit here goes not only to the source material, but to the composition of the arrangement as well. They even made upbeat clapping sound good — wonders never cease! After all, we’ve all heard tracks we love warped by the musings of those lacking in talent.
For those with open minds who wish to tread (or fight) further, the next track features battle music from VII, X, and XIII. Drums and speedy piano tapping maintain throughout this almost six minute track. Though two of my favorite instruments, I found this track pretty generic in its ceaseless manipulation of string and percussion. The energy may suit some, but the great irony behind this track is in its lack of variety — all three pieces blend together, encouraging passive listening.
Typically, when an arranger changes the emotion behind a piece, I scowl, grimace, and do other distinctly displeased things with my face, but the upbeat take on Final Fantasy X’s Fleeting Dream helped me realize just how talented some artists truly are. Though I profess tolerance to different styles of music, I have my tastes just like anyone else. Here, I have to applaud DAISHI DANCE for pairing a contagious beat to an otherwise somber and moving tune. Before long, I found myself bobbing along to music I typically stoically bow my head to as I listen.
Ever listen to Final Fantasy I’s Cornelia Castle theme and think, “This needs a little more bagpipe”? Me, too. ALLY BAND supplies just that with bass guitar and drums, because, hey, why the hell not — it sounds good! Perhaps that’s the theme of this album, actually. The elegant piping doesn’t stop there, though — halfway into this track FFIX’s Something to Protect follows suit. Just try not to down a pint after hearing these two awesome renditions.
I could belabor the point further by covering the entire set of tracks from the first disc, but disc two is actually much better, and that’s saying something. Disc 2 opens strongly with FFV’s main theme, replete with boastful horns, subtle piano, and drums to complement. Halfway in, the piano busts into a solo that will immediately make the listener stop writing a soundtrack review as it demands full attention and appreciation. Those happy to oblige will be treated to a respectful yet individual rendition of this game’s powerful theme.
Commenting positively about fast-paced tracks is uncharacteristic of me, especially for source material that demands a slower take. I enjoy the occasional adrenaline-infused battle beat, but give me a female character’s teary theme any day. That said, Thanks offers the opposite, as well — fast-paced compositions redone as quiet dedications. Track 2 takes the famous Gilgamesh battle from FFV and lets what sounds like a reed flute guide the listener through an otherwise hardcore piece. Truly, this soundtrack catalogues some masterful reworking and challenges the listener to accept that which is abnormal, yet potentially just as beautiful or enticing.
This soundtrack has so much aural brilliance to offer anyone willing to approach an album without “Piano” or “Orchestral” in its title. From an awe-inspiring revision of the Coin Song to yet another unique take on a track like Zanarkand, if nothing else, this series of arrangements has revitalized this increasingly jaded listener. While Square has released what feels like its 30th rendition of Uematsu’s work, people can still keep his work fresh. Again, is this an indication of talent from those who took part in this album, or an indication of the mastery behind Uematsu’s work? Do we even need to choose?