Today’s review is a little interesting, as we are not only graced with another entry to Shenmue’s shallow pool of available music, but we also have the opportunity to pick up the piano book for this particular album. I’m a sucker for piano books (and piano albums in general), so chances are I might pick one up. However, I’ll do my best to give an impartial review for Shenmue Piano Collections…maybe!
One item of interest before even talking about the album is the credits: seven arrangers are listed, with most acting as their own pianists. That’s a large pool for a small piano collection album. Usually, I worry about too many arrangers on the same project, as it might make the collection as a whole sound uneven. Oddly enough, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, as most of the arrangers deliver interesting arrangements that nicely shape the album.
Take track one, “The Sadness I Carry On My Shoulders,” for example. The piece starts at a slower pace than the original but slightly pulls itself around due to the pianist’s rubato performance. Yulia Nechaeva, arranger-pianist of this track, does a nice job here, gradually using this playing to enhance her arrangement as it pulls and tugs, almost as if the music itself carries a burden of its own.
Ruby Toung’s — PurpleSchala’s — arrangement of “Snowy Scenery” is another notable piece that is especially engaging, particularly around 2:52 where Toung’s creativity takes the original piece on its own winter journey. This section is quite lively and I love the energy. It’s pieces like this and the first track that would convince me to pick up the piano book. In fact, I think my only real complaint with many of these tracks is that I wish they were a little longer and a just a smidge more developed. I would have loved to see where else Toung would have taken us during her arrangement if the track was just a bit longer. Of course, I’m happy with what’s here.
The last arrangement (“Wish…”) is quite the wild card of this album, as we have the pleasure of not only hearing Emi Evans of NieR series fame singing in this piece, but having Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) performing on the piano. Talk about a way to end this gem of an album! They sound fantastic together, of course, and my thanks to Younes Elbayad for enlisting two solid performers. Well done!
Overall, Shenmue Piano Collection is a safe album that I think fans of the series will enjoy. Some of the arrangements take the track on slightly different musical paths but don’t get too complicated. This makes for easy listening for those who prefer something more calm and relaxing. However, if you’re looking for something more intricate, then you might not find that here. Regardless, I do like this piano collection for what it is and hope that Mr. Younes and company strive for a more advanced performance if there were to pursue making a volume two!