Colours of Light - Yasunori Mitsuda Vocal Collection :: Review by Don
Yasunori Mitsuda is probably most known for his emotional melodies and Celtic stylings. Aside from that though, he has created some of VGM's most beautiful vocal themes. The recently released Colours of Light – Yasunori Mitsuda Vocal Collection contains most vocal themes he has written to date, from both game soundtracks, arranged productions, and original albums. Essentially a compilation album, is it worth picking up for those who may not be familiar with his vocal stylings?
The album opens with "Sailing to the World" from the album of the same name. Sung by Koko Komine, it is a beautiful theme full of complexity. The instrumentation is very pop-influenced with acoustic guitar, piano, percussion, and violin, but the Celtic nature is retained. As the track climaxes, a beautiful layering of Koko Komine's voice is heard before returning back to the verse section. It's here where the striking violin helps add a whole new dimension of emotion. It's a fantastic vocal theme, in every sense of the world. The other vocal theme from The Seventh Seal, "Reincarnation", is also featured and has a much more mysterious air about it. Koko Komine's layered vocals are a large portion of what makes this track stick out. It's a fantastic melody, accompanied by simple, yet driving, piano and acoustic guitar. The instrumental bridge introduces that Celtic air, through the use of some beautiful flute melodies. Following the bridge, a violin line is added as well that really helps add to the atmosphere of the piece. The electric guitar addition at the end brings in a whole new element to the piece and only further reinforces the melody. Overall, both of the Sailing to the World vocal themes are a strong addition to this album.
Those who know me on the forums and who have read my reviews know that kiRite is my all time favorite Yasunori Mitsuda album. Out of the four themes featured, only two of them are present, and what many consider to be the best, "The Azure," is surprisingly absent. Instead, we are offered "Promise with Winds ~ Petal's Whereabouts". It's a very mellow piece. The acoustic guitar, percussion, and piano mesh quite well together with the singer Eri Kawai. The vocals themselves are quite strong. Sincerity is felt as the words emanate from the singer's mouth and lingers into the listener's ear. The small solo by an electric guitar is not overbearing and seems to find its place in finishing up te piece. The other theme featured is "The Name of Our Hope". While I prefer the instrumental stylings of "The Azure" the most, I do believe that this song is Eri Kawai's strongest performance on the album. Her voice in this song can only be described as 'indescribable'. It's so powerful that this song would be fantastic a cappella. When combined with the effect piano/guitar accompaniment, her vocal strength is only heightened. Overall, the offerings from kiRite, while lacking the fan favorite, do give a nice overview of the album as a whole and make a fantastic addition to this vocal collection.
The two themes from the Xenogears original soundtrack find their way onto this album as well. "Stars of Tears," the first theme, was not used in the game, but its melody was not wasted as it appears as the world map theme "Emotions". The lyrics are poignant and Joanne Hogg really brings the track to life. The instrumentation, a beautiful blend of acoustic guitar, percussion, and woodwinds, helps to create an intoxicating blend of rhythm and melody while adding to Celtic nature of the piece. The addition of some echoing vocals helps to add some contrast and the piece ends with a small Irish jig. However, the true star of the show is "Small Two of Pieces," the ending theme to the game. Once again, Joanne Hogg's lovely voice is featured and she really helps hit a homerun with this piece, bringing this track to life. The lyrics are poignant, describing the relationship between Fei and Elly, while the actual arrangement uniquely created a Celtic flavour for its time. The verse and chorus sections of the piece are extremely simple, consisting only of a subtle percussion, electric guitar, and piano, in order to allow for the vocalist's voice to drive the track. The addition of the Celtic flute and violin later in the track to offer an accentuation of the melody sung by Hogg helps to add some nice development to the piece as well. Following the law of vocal performances, there is a solo in this piece as well, this time from an electric guitar; it offers some nice contrast to the piece and, after the solo, is still featured. Ending very much the way it began, the Celtic flute is featured as Hogg sings the final chorus. The two vocal themes of Xenogears are what many consider to be the crown jewel in Mitsuda's vocal collection, and while there are other vocal themes I prefer to "Stars of Tears," I know that "Small Two of Pieces," will forever stay in my heart at the top. Both are great additions to this vocal collection.
Creid, the arrange album for Xenogears Original Soundtrack, was a blend of vocal themes and instrumental themes. The title theme, "Creid," is an arrangement of "Those Wounded Shall Advance into the Light". Sung by Eimear Quinn, entirely in Gaelic, it ranks as one of the most emotionally gripping vocal performance on the arrange album and, to some degree, this album as well. It's a beautiful blend of mesmeric choir, magical chime accompaniment, and some Celtic-influenced bagpipe infusions. Unfortunately, the album can't be all sunshine and rainbows, as much as I'd like it to be. The arrangement of "The Sky, The Clouds, and You," entitled "Stairs of Light" is probably the weakest vocal performance on the arrange album and easily this album. The lack of fluidity seen in the performance deters from the overall impact of the great arrangement. Some may enjoy the vocal stylings of this piece, as it is playful, but I find myself listening to this track more for the instrumentation personally. The last vocal piece from Creid featured on this album is "Spring Lullaby," an arrangement of two of my favorite themes on the original soundtrack, "Gathering Stars in the Night Sky" and "Flight". In this piece, the instrumentation works so well together with the vocalist, and really adds another dimension to an already stellar composition. The vocal performance, unlike "Stairs of Light," is extremely fluid in its application and the vocalist casts an entrancing spell on the listener. The instrumentation, however, is the true star. It's easily my favorite addition from the Creid repertoire to this album and despite the vocals deterring the strength the of the instrumentation in "Stairs of Light," is a welcome addition to this compilation.
We can't quite leave Xeno universe just yet! Although Mitsuda only scored the first Xenosaga game, his vocal themes remain fan favorites to this day as well. "Pain" is quite an interesting track. The lyrics are meaningful, sad, yet hopeful. The melody that Mitsuda uses to portray these lyrics is extremely relevant. The instrumentation used creates both hope and sadness in the listener's heart. While some may complain that it sounds similar in style to "Small Two of Pieces," and it does, I think it was beneficial for Mitsuda to stick to something that he is known for, considering it takes place in the same universe. Joanne Hogg's voice is spectacular once again and her performance really brings magic to this piece. Towards the end, the vocals disappear and we are treated to a small celtic portion without words. While this part is very nice and one that I truly adore, I don't necessarily think it was needed for this track to succeed. I just think of it as an added bonus. The second vocal theme on the album, "Kokoro" has a more touching experience to offer. A story about lost chances and unspoken love, "Kokoro" clearly captivates the listener. While it may not fit entirely into the scope of the soundtrack, that doesn't mean it isn't a good piece overall. The message this song gives is one of hope and strength. The instrumentation used is very soft and Celtic-influenced, and offers a nice change from the normal action packed, orchestral theme this soundtrack was centered around. The use of the flute is extremely poignant and the overall development of the melody is fantastic. It will also go down in my history books as one of my favorite themes by Mitsuda. Both additions serve as representative vocal themes for this album.
The sole vocal theme from Soma Bringer, "Ring", is also added on this album. It was also the last vocal theme by Eri Kawai to be featured on a Mitsuda soundtrack, due to her sudden passing last year. It was done in an a capella style and the layering of the vocals, which also include Koko Komine and Tami Hirose, creates a magical atmosphere and a haunting performance. The melody is extremely strong and an apt example of Mitsuda's more a capella offerings. Talking of the DS, the main theme for World Destruction "Time's Arm" is the most recent vocal offering composed by Yasunori Mitsuda. Fully orchestrated, it's performed by the Czech Philharmonic Collegium. It's a poignant theme full of emotion. It features a gripping melody, which is beautiful and haunting at the same time. The string work the reason why Mitsuda chose the Czech Philharmonic Collegium adds much to the overall atmosphere to the piece. Surprisingly, the vocalist for this piece is a child whose voice adds a touch of innocence to the piece. I suspect that he had to choose a new vocalist due to Eri Kawai's sickness, but this may have been his original intention all along. Even so, it's a beautiful piece and one of the highlights of this compilation album.
"Silver Leica," a song composed for an album called Ten Plants 2 Children Songs, is a beautiful and lengthy addition to Yasunori Mitsuda's repertoire. With an exquisite melody sung by Noriko Mitose and accompanied by beautifully layered strings, woodwind and piano lines, Mitsuda manages to leave a lasting impression on the listener. Particularly of note are the bagpipe and exotic percussion samples thrown into the mix at times. It remains one of Mitsuda's most hauting beautiful themes to date and serves as an excellent addition to this vocal collection. Coming to the end of the album, Yasunori Mitsuda's second vocal theme was featured in Chrono Cross. Entitled "Radical Dreamers ~ Unstealable Jewel," this track epitomizes simplicity on this soundtrack and compilation album. Acoustic guitar and vocals are all this track contain, and by doing so, really helps to create a captivating melody. While it's not Mitsuda's best vocal piece, it blends together quite nicely and creates an extremely moving experience. The vocalist Noriko Mitose is definitely hit or miss with a lot of people, but I find her voice to be very captivating when combined with the right instrumentation. In this regard, I think that Mitsuda did a marvelous thing. While Chrono Cross only featured one vocal theme, I think it is quite fitting to include it on this vocal theme.
Fans of Yasunori Mitsuda, like me, already own many of these themes as they are featured on his various arrange albums and original soundtracks. However, those who are new to Yasunori Mitsuda or a fan of vocal themes would probably do well to pick this up. It showcases Mitsuda's ability to capture emotion beautifully and many of the themes will remain in my heart for years to come.
Overall Score: 9/10