Let’s start with the basics for people who may not know who Taylor Davis is. Taylor is a violinist/arranger/composer who has gained fame on YouTube for her various arrangements of songs from Videogames, Animes and Movies. Since her first video on YouTube in 2010, she has gained a following of close to 500,000 subscribers and has released 4 albums as well as many singles through digital music providers such as iTunes and Amazon.
Gaming Fantasy was her first album. Released back in 2012, it features quite a lot of music from RPGs, which is the reason we’re reviewing it.
Let me get straight to the point here and simply say that I think this is a superb album. The song choice is great, the arrangements are good and Taylor Davis’ performance on the violin is flawless.
Obviously, this is all subjective and depends greatly on what you’re looking for in an arrangement. Taylor Davis tends to stick really close to the original material with her arrangements. Some arrangers like to be bold and explore new styles with a song, but this album doesn’t do that. What it does is take great songs from the world of gaming and arranges them for the violin with backing music that very much stays true to the original. This is a perfect mix for me, since I love both the original material and the violin.
Many people familiar with YouTube violin sensation Lindsey Stirling will try to draw similarities between the two, but I personally feel that their styles on the violin feel completely different — I can listen to any song from the two and instantly recognize who’s playing. Lindsey’s style is faster, more upbeat, playful and energetic, while Taylor is slower, more emotional, more melodic. Personally, I much prefer Taylor’s more subdued style, as it also fits more with my own personality and personal preferences.
The album starts out with a rendition of the Skyrim main theme. I love the way the song starts with a slower version of the theme with just the violin and a barely there backing track. Then, as the song progresses, it starts sounding more and more like the Skyrim theme we know and becomes more powerful with a fuller orchestra sound while still retaining that more melodic sound with some slower segments here and there. This is a great opening to the album.
After some good non-RPG songs from Fullmetal Alchemist and Metal Gear, we are treated to the classic Dearly Beloved from Kingdom Hearts. I don’t think it’s possible for any fan of the original song to not like this version. It starts out with the classic piano melody we all know and love, and the violin then joins in to make it an incredibly beautiful and emotional song. Taylor Davis plays both the piano and violin part, as you can see on this YouTube video, so do yourself a favor and go listen to it, then come back to this review for the rest of the songs.
The next song on the album is from Final Fantasy VII. Taylor makes an audacious song choice here, as she went with Cid’s Theme instead of one of the more iconic songs like Aeris’ Theme or Main Theme. It doesn’t really matter, though, as Taylor does a beautiful rendition of Cid’s Theme. The arrangement is identical to the original version, but the better instrumentation makes a big difference.
We are then treated to another classic RPG song with Mitsuda’s Time’s Scar from Chrono Cross. No surprises there either, as Taylor honors the original with a great violin arrangement, although this is one song where the original is almost impossible to surpass.
The following song is To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X. I may be a bit biased here, since Zanarkand is one of my favorite songs, but I thought this was possibly the best song on the album. The mix of piano and violin is really great here, and it’s such a tranquil piece that it’s very soothing to the ear. You can check out her performance on this song on YouTube as well.
The next song is from the anime Naruto. I had never heard this song before, but it is absolutely gorgeous. Taylor’s rendition of this song is really something. This song really expresses the Sadness and Sorrow from its title.
For the next song, we are again treated to a Final Fantasy song. This time, it’s Roses of May from Final Fantasy IX. I feel like I’m being repetitive here, but it’s once again a very beautiful and soothing rendition.
After a great Assassin’s Creed 2 song, the RPG songs come back in force with Frog’s Theme from Chrono Trigger. I’ve never personally been a huge fan of this song, but it is still pretty good and a worthy choice on this soundtrack.
The Zelda medley that follows is really interesting. As far as I could tell, it features 5 different Zelda songs in a timespan of about 4 minutes. I loved how it seamlessly transitioned between each song despite the variety in tempo and style of the 5 songs chosen. Taylor did an amazing job with this medley, and it’s a highlight of this album.
The last two songs on the album are once again classics of the RPG genre: the main themes of Chrono Trigger and Kingdom Hearts (Hikari). I think everybody knows what to expect there. Great songs, great choices for the collection and a nice way to finish a stellar album.
Since 10 of the 14 songs on the album are from RPGs, Gaming Fantasy from Taylor Davis is a great homage to the genre and definitely of interest to RPGFan readers. I’m usually very picky in the songs I like, and I can honestly say that this is one of the very rare instances where I liked every single track from an album. If you like RPGs and you like violin, you really can’t go wrong with this album and I highly recommend it. Check out the samples here, check out her YouTube channel and go buy this album. At only $10, it’s a no-brainer.