Two years ago I stumbled upon a website of a small US project dedicated to creating a CD of remixed Final Fantasy songs. Immediately I was interested, so much so that I decided to respond to the producers’ call for donations from the fans, because without it the project would ultimately die. Pulling out my checkbook, I wrote out a check and mailed it, feeling good.
Then I waited. And the release date was pushed back. I waited. It was pushed back again. Then I waited some more. Again, it was pushed back. Over and over for two years the project was continually delayed. And then, just when I had given up hope that it would ever be released, my restlessness and impatience came to an end. Receiving an e-mail allowing sponsors to place their orders for the much coveted Gold Edition set, I hurriedly sent my money over and waited once again. And it came.
The moment I opened that package and set my eyes on Project Majestic Mix: A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu – Gold Edition, I got the chills. This was it. I’d purposely refrained from listening to the samples posted on Majestic Mix’s website in anticipation of this moment. And when I placed the first disc into my player, I almost started to cry (you know, cry, like when you’re happy).
Project Majestic Mix is not only for the fans, but made by the fans, and this really shows in the music. A lot of work, passion, and love went into these arrangements, and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. Instead of taking a strictly orchestral, dance, or rock angle on the music, the artists creatively reassemble the pieces in a variety of different styles, many of which I found to be quite original. This two-disc set, limited to 1,500 copies and only available to sponsors, includes all arrangements found on both Silver and Unlimited Editions along with 11 exclusive tracks, all of which span FFI through X, Chrono Trigger and Gun Hazard (Front Mission).
Opening up the album is a funky arrangement of Final Fantasy’s “Prelude.” Honestly, when I first listened to this track I was a little skeptical as to how the rest of the album would pan out. I wasn’t ready for the “jazzy/funky” sound of one of the series’ most recognizable and beautiful themes. But, it began to grow on me after the second and third play through, especially the way the melody morphs through different styles. “Final Fantasy I Main Theme” incorporates a rocking, synthy guitar, which was really fun, and Final Fantasy’s “Town” shines with its calm piano, soothing melody, and emotional guitar accompaniment. All of these are all worthy renditions of the original themes, however, “Battle of Gilgamesh” is where the CD gets really started.
I must confess, other than what’s on the Final Fantasy arranged albums, I’m not completely familiar with the music from Final Fantasy IV through VI, so, I can’t compare these versions of “Battle of Gilgamesh,” “Within the Giant,” and “Cayenne” to their originals, but I can say that what I heard on this disc is exceptional. The first two make use of the “power” orchestral style with just a hint of techno mixed in. I am quite surprised at how well it works here. “Cayenne,” however, starts out with a dramatic piano solo and transforms into a sweeping, heart-wrenching orchestral arrangement, then reverts back to piano for a touching conclusion. Honestly, I cannot believe I never heard the original of these before.
“Coast of the Sun” is one of my favorite tracks on the entire album. It’s recorded live and sounds awesome. The tropical flavor is still present in the music, and the jazzy sax and trumpet improvisations lend themselves well to the original melody. I can just imagine myself walking into a lounge and hearing something like this being played.
Although I was never a fan of Final Fantasy X’s “Seymour’s Theme” or VII’s “Anxious Heart” and “One-Winged Angel,” I can’t help but find these versions to be awesome. “Seymour’s Theme” retains its sinister, supernatural undertone while using a much more appealing instrumental palette than what’s used in the game. “One-Winged Angel” is an excellent effort to recreate the power and emotion of the final battle of the game, and even without the chanting chorus it is still a climatic and awe-inspiring piece. “Anxious Heart” in my eyes benefited the most from its arrangement, though. The initially bland piece gains much character as a techno arrangement. Very nicely done.
Disc two contains some of the more experimental tracks, most notably a scat version of “Cait-Sith’s Theme.” It’s a tad quirky (as is the original) but fun. “Balamb GARDEN” incorporates a male vocal humming the melody, which at first seemed a little out of place, but is actually quite relaxing. “Compression of Time” is another interesting track. The beautiful, soft, mysterious melody is accompanied by a deep, resounding “zum” sample that works surprisingly well. Up until now I’d forgotten how incredible this piece was.
Very cool remixes of “Within the Giant” and “Forever Rachel” pop up on the second disc as well, and as most remixes go, they’re most definitely techno-based, but sound great nonetheless. Other notables include a fast-paced, upbeat version of Final Fantasy III’s “Eternal Wind” and a pretty piano/flute rendition of IV’s “Rydia.” However, of both discs, the most surprising arrangement is one not even from the Final Fantasy series.
“Sealed Door” was one of the few compositions Nobuo Uematsu contributed to the Chrono Trigger original soundtrack, and to many fans his work on the album did not compare to lead composer Yasunori Mitsuda’s. Yet, listening to this arrangement of “Sealed Door,” I would beg to differ. I don’t know if it’s the arranger’s selection of instrumentation, skill at arranging, or simply the inherent brilliance of the original composition that makes this piece stand out among the others on this album, but one cannot deny how great the piece sounds here. The arrangement conveys a feeling of mysteriousness and foreboding while remaining dramatic. The mixture of piano together with techno influences sounds very Parasite Eve-ish, but is expertly executed. “Sealed Door” is definitely one of the highlights of the album.
Of the 28 tracks on both discs, I was only really disappointed with “Elia, Maiden of Water” and “Man with the Machine Gun.” The instrumental version of “Elia” on disc two is spectacular, demonstrating the beauty of the original composition. However, the vocal version is completely the opposite. The dissonant quality of the music and unappealing samples used destroy the piece’s beautiful melody. “Man with the Machine Gun,” on the other hand, isn’t so bad, it’s just that by replacing the base melody with a heavy techno beat made the piece sound emptier rather than more full. But all considering, of an album full of fan-remixes, only two disappointments is pretty incredible.
After four years in production, was the wait for Project Majestic Mix: A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu worth it? As one of the many who have anxiously waited for its completion, I can honestly say YES! With the creative talents of many artists, Project Majestic Mix was a dream that has come true for many fans of one of the greatest game music composers of our time, Nobuo Uematsu. And looking back at it all, I believe Mr. Uematsu would be proud and honored of what was accomplished here.
Unfortunately, the Gold Edition of Project Majestic Mix was only available for pre-order to those sponsors who donated $20 or more to the project. Limited to 1,500 copies, the set is not only rare but may be hard to come by for anyone who did not donate. If you were not able to get in on the action early, your only bet is to keep an eye out on Ebay for copies that will no doubt pop up, although I would expect them to sell for hefty prices.