Ladies and gentlemen, it is time yet again to review the latest of Tenpei Sato’s arranged albums. If you’ve read my reviews of Mr. Sato’s first two arranged albums (Disgaea, La Pucelle), then you’re familiar with his arranging abilities. The Disgaea arrange album was the worst arrange album I’ve ever heard in my life, and the La Pucelle arrange album was one of the best arrange albums I’ve ever heard. What is the verdict this time? In terms of baseball, I’d call it a foul; it’s not a strike, but it’s definitely not a home run. To make a long story short, the arrangements don’t sound all that different from the originals, which is the same problem that plagued Disgaea. La Pucelle did this too, but not to such a degree. The point of an arrangement is to test the waters, not to water your own compositions down.
Here’s a track by track review of what went wrong:
1) Angel Breath: This is a great beginning. The original song was pretty short, but Sato and Serena extended the melody and added some interludes that are extremely pleasing to the ear. It’s right on par with the original.
2) Flower Blossom Guide: The instruments are more realistic (though not real), but the song still sounds the same. The song got awesome extension treatment, which is a plus in my book, but for some reason, it’s still not good enough for me to recommend it over the original.
3) Strange Wind: The original song never did anything for me, but this arrangement grabbed me. It’s very well done. No complaints at all. In fact, I recommend it over the original.
4) Earth’s Step: Now, THIS is where everything goes stale. The original track was defined by its heavy use of pan flute, and it was an excellent song. That is not the case here. This is actually a pretty cool arrangement, and I like the direction it goes toward the end, but the experience is completely ruined. This arrangement wouldn’t be so horrible if Sato hadn’t replaced the pan flutes with this dumbass (no better word, sorry) whistle instrument that just tears the song into pieces. The pan flute isn’t completely omitted, though; it chimes in here and there, but it sounds like it’s choking on a piece of chicken. And I’m not a fan of the obnoxious whistle runs in the middle of the song, either.
5) Memories Traced with Sorrow: This is a good arrangement, and slightly better than the original, but there’s just nothing about it that makes me want to listen to it over the original. This is the case with most of the tracks, since they sound too similar to their originals. This song would make great reading music, though.
6) My Little Garden: Sato didn’t step very far out of the box here. The voice synths he uses are atrocious. The original’s voice synths weren’t so hot, either, but this time around, it’s almost unbearable. The voices are nasally, and don’t even try to sound like voices. To put it as nicely as I can: any other instrument would have sounded better. He could have banged on trash cans instead and it would’ve sounded like gold. That’s how bad these voices are. Folks, in an age where voice synthesizers are no longer needed (due to the availability of “actual” singers), samples this bad are a travesty.
7) The End of This Passionate Feeling: I loved the entrance of the original and how aggressive it was for the first two measures. This arrangement seems to have lost that aggressiveness. But hey, it’s just two measures, right? No big deal. But, the instrumentation bugs me because it doesn’t sound very tight; some instruments are too loud, and some aren’t loud enough. This track was a victim of bad mastering, and I felt like it was going to fall apart at any moment.
8) Friend: This arrangement does the original vocal justice. Tenpei Sato may not know what he’s doing when it comes to instrumentals sometimes, but he’s no fool when it comes to vocals, and that’s a fact. This song is so beautiful, and so delicate that it’s hard to not appreciate it. This arrangement is easily one of the highlights of the album.
9) Snowberry: Moreso than the original, this arrangement actually reminds me of snow. For once, I like the instrumentation on this track, but it still doesn’t feel very tight. The instruments themselves sound great, but they just feel loose. The reverb on some of the instruments makes this painfully obvious. Reverb can be your best friend and your worst enemy: it can greatly enhance the sound of a song, but it can also tell you everything that’s wrong with the song if it’s not used correctly.
10) Sand Shower: The fact that this arrangement seems slower than the original *almost* pisses me off. It’s actually the same tempo; it sounds slower because Sato changed the percussion around; it’s not as loud and aggressive, so the song sounds slower. You just might enjoy this song if you don’t figure in the god awful violin synth into the mix. Why is it that the instruments on this track sound WORSE the instruments on the OST? The original track’s violin actually sounded like a violin. This track’s violin sounds like an LSD trip into hell.
11) Angel’s Rest: I can’t really complain here. It’s more mellow than the original track, and I like this one better than the original. This is good reading music, too.
12) R & R Junkiee: Finally, a good arrangement. It sounds exactly like the original, though. The marvel here is that the instruments actually sound better than the original. The harmonica sounds much better, although I wish he would have done more with it. However, the acoustic guitar solo in this song was just what the doctor ordered. Hands down, this is the best arrangement on the album.
13) A Hole in Space-Time: This is crazy. I didn’t care for the original, but I love this arrangement. I think the reason I like it so much is because he gave the percussion a whole new strut, and it makes the song flow better. The crappy violin synth actually works in context here, so it’s not completely useless.
14) You’re So Sad: What’s so upsetting about this arrangement is that it sounds exactly like the original down to every instrument. The piano and violin, which are the trademark instruments in this song, sound exactly as they do in the original. The only exception is that the violin isn’t as exaggerated, which sounds a lot better. It would be pretty hard to tell the difference between the original and this version if this one hadn’t been extended. Once again, this is good music, but the arrangement is piss poor.
15) Heaven’s Garden: A good vocal track, however, I think the chord progressions are a little goofy and Sato goes out of his way to keep the song bright. A darker chord here and there wouldn’t have hurt this song at all. It is an otherwise good ending to an somewhat average arrange album.
So, as you can see, I liked some tracks more than others, but generally, I wouldn’t prefer any of these arrangements over their originals because they don’t do anything out of the ordinary. If you like arrangements that sound exactly like their originals down to every instrument, then this album may be for you. Unfortunately, since the OST is pretty hard to find, this album is easier to find. But if you want my advice, I would do some serious searching for the OST before I picked up this arrange album because you’ll probably appreciate the OST more.