Nobuo Uematsu ought to have a catalog of tribute albums at this point. The man is a legend, and even if he hasn’t lately eclipsed his older work, he still deserves recognition and attention. It’s a shame then that Symphonic Odysseys, a tribute to the grand master of RPG music, isn’t infused with the same passion and skill Uematsu brings to his work.
Despite a few special moments, most of the tracks feel disorganized and ineptly arranged. Much of the music feels curiously dull and perfunctory as well, as if the arrangers weren’t as enthusiastic about Uematsu’s work as most are. The album begins strongly enough with “Opening Fanfare,” which feels right for an introductory track. Unfortunately, the following three Final Fantasy concertos don’t do the series justice. While nicely varied and covering a wide range of games, they feel like awkward mash-ups of favorite themes tied together without much thought. The disc continues with “King’s Knight BGM,” which provides a momentary tonal shift – an odd little piece with an almost frivolous and silly attitude. “Light of Silence” suffers from bland vocals, although fans of Chrono Trigger will most likely delight in the rendition. The final two tracks are serviceable, although not particularly compelling.
The second disc fares no better, with a string of unimpressive tracks that include “Spreading Your Wings” from The Last Story and “Waterside” from Blue Dragon. The Final Fantasy X ending theme passes as average, but the “Final Fantasy VII: Battle Suite” feels poorly handled, which disappoints tremendously. The “Lost Odyssey Suite” may be the most impressive of the tracks on either disc. This twenty minute soundscape covers a variety of themes: some inspirational, some dark, and some joyful. Although a few segments drag, the beginning and end in particular live up to Uematsu’s name like nothing else on the album.
With a couple of exceptions, Symphonic Odysseys left me feeling unsatisfied and largely bored. Favorite melodies may come and go in full orchestral sound, but the entire album suffers from poor arrangement. The source material may be excellent, but the result here is only as excellent as the arrangers. Nobuo Uematsu deserves a better tribute.