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Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow] :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow] Album Title: Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow]
Record Label: NTT Publishing
Catalog No.: PSCN-5041 (1st Edition); NTCP-5041 (Reprint)
Release Date: November 25, 1995; October 1, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Dave

Vocal albums have become somewhat of a trademark for the Final Fantasy series, and Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow] is a classic early example. The vim and vigour that Lisa Ooki and Ikuko Nogushi's voices yield is quite captivating, resulting in a canorous set of tracks filled with harmonic satisfaction. As with Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-, Nobuo Uematsu arranges just one track on this album whilst Ririko Yamabuki takes care of the rest, solely relying upon the singers' versatilities. So, was the transformation of the original themes successful? And, more importantly, how does this album compare to the first in the series, Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-? Read on in SquareSound's last ever group review to be written in 2005.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Long Distance (Written by Duke Lionheart)

A fantastic opener. It is very rich in emotions, displaying dreams and longing as well as hope and determination. Musically, the adaptation of the Final Fantasy IV main theme for a vocal tune is impressive, but the dynamic between strings and vocals here is nothing short of awesome. The strings change from a lyrical intro to a marching figure, from playful arpeggios that leave the vocals to carry the track forward to a smooth accompaniment that nestles to the melody. Then again, they take into a powerful, most expressive solo part. Near the end, they pick up the introductive motif and change into a half-flowing, half-marching figure before ending on a almost 'bluesy' chord. Lisa Ooki is again nothing short of wonderful. She is both flawless and powerful without being the slightest bit obtrusive. This track is just brilliant. (10/10)

2) Eternal Wind (Written by Dave)

The laid back style of this track makes it really easy to listen to. Lisa Ooki's voice is fresher than ever, and with a guitar accompaniment, too, the track just seems to flow. The first part of the track is made up from her swaying melody and a guitar rhythm that is in the style of a shuffle. Throughout the latter parts of the track, the guitar has its odd solos which add a sense of wholesomeness, complimenting the vocalist. There isn't a lot of development, so it stays with the same warm atmosphere all the way through. Some fans will see this as a flaw in the track as the melody holds quite a bit of unreleased potential, but I, for one, prefer its straight style, and see it as an asset. It is very easy on the ears, and I am grateful for this, but the minimalist approach that Ririko Yamabuki offers is dwarfed by others on the album. (8/10)

3) Have You Ever Seen Me? (Written by Totz)

This track is pure fun, and really, really, really, addictive. Uematsu's only arrangement in the album sure is a great one, and quite different from all the others, because of its rather comical nature. Violins are used to accompany Lisa Ooki as she yet again shows us how diverse her singing can be, because it's not everyone that can sing a song as fast-paced as "Have You Even Seen Me?". As I said before, this track is pure fun. You might enjoy listening to the other arrangements, but none are like this one, at all. (10/10)

4) Valse des Amoureux (Written by Nkwp)

In this new recording composed by Ririko Yamabuki, vocalist Ikuko Nogushi takes the centre stage, and delivers an outstanding performance that rivals Lisa Ooki's. From the beginning of the track the only thing that springs into my mind is the sight of a French street with people lounging around outside a café. The reason for this is the lovely French feeling maintained throughout the track. It is a simply beautiful theme that cleverly blends the French vocals with the instruments to create another bouncy and happy atmosphere. (9/10)

5) GAIA (Written by Dave)

Ikuko Nogushi stars once more in this arrangement by Ririko Yamabuki. There just seems to be something majestic about this track, and whether it is the perfect pitches hit by the vocalist or the quaint orchestration, we will never know. This track is somewhat different to the others in that it consists of quite a number of instrumental breaks that are usually ruled by a piano line. I think that it could do with a bit more passion though; as it stands, the melody is interesting, but there seems to be a lack of substance surrounding it. Indeed, the arranger may have had intentions of minimalism, but on an album surrounded by passionate tracks, it just seems to stand out as a red herring. (8/10)

6) Remnants of Distant Days (Written by Nkwp)

Lisa Ooki returns to be the vocalist in this six minute long track. I must say while the song does have remarkable piano work (which works well with Ohki's mellow voice and suits the lonely undertones of this track), I can not say that it really quite hits the spot for me. Do not get me wrong, it is a very worthy piece, but it is not as attractive to me as a few other tracks on this album. Ririko Yamabuki's arrangement is grand and carries on the feeling felt in the original track, "This Day Will Come," but all of these elements still do not quite hit the spot for me. Perhaps it is because this track does not stand out as much as the others on the album. I feel silly for saying that because Ohki's voice and the piano work are simply beautiful. I believe it is slightly underdeveloped but other than that it is a worthy piece! (8/10)

7) My Home, Sweet Home (Written by Calaver)

This isn't a far cry from the original Final Fantasy V version at all, aside from some additional guitar work and vocals. However, the style is very reminiscent of an old Gaelic song, and the addition of Ikuko Nogushi's voice (complete with pseudo-Irish accent) gives it a feel of authenticity. The lyrics also kind of hit home for anyone who's ever been away from their family for a long period of time. Personally, I was in the Army for four years, so this song holds a particular meaning to me. While the guitar is played expertly enough to sound like a travelling folk singer, the sound and quality of the recording somewhat detract from its acoustic feel. It's obvious it was done in a studio, instead of feeling like it was a traveller on a ship or a singer in a pub. The voice, however, has a very distinct flavour of Maire Brennan or Clannad, and could have easily been performed by an authentic Irish or Gaelic folk singer. It isn't a song that one who is a fan of Irish folk music would easily tire of, and adds an extra slice of ethnic feel (along with the next track) to an already diverse album. (9/10)

8) Estrelas (Written by Dave)

"Melody of Lute" from Final Fantasy IV is certainly given a nice touch in this track. Yet, I find the accompaniment unoriginal and the development hardly awe-inspiring. The violin part offers the greatest amount of melodic development in this track, but with Lisa Ooki's voice taking the centre stage throughout, this part is somewhat clouded. Rhythm would have been another great part of the track to play around with, especially since the same pattern is repeated by the guitar throughout. Admittedly, the slow pace of the track gives it a dreary sense, and maybe a bit more raw passion could have been helpful, too. On the whole, this is one of those tracks that you would listen to after a long days work since it is very relaxing, but for enjoyment purposes, the lack of variation and straight timbre will disinterest most. (7/10)

9) God's Cradle

Written by Black Mamba - It may just be my lack of knowledge of the original melody, but this piece moves along too slowly. It gives a wonderful earthly feel with churchy vocals, but never breaks away with anything attention grabbing. Even when a preachy choir joins in it still remains a tad boring. Maybe if things where sped up, and maybe a little more variety added, it wouldn't be so bad. (4/10)

Written by Dave - Tribal, peaceful, and well sung, this track is hardly a bad theme. Idealistically the harmony could have been so much more, but when one considers the atmosphere that the arranger is trying the create, everything seems all the more earthly and wholesome. Indeed, this is one of the most atmospheric themes on the album, as with it telling a journey through its timely passion, the aura is impossible to criticise. Indeed, it doesn't go far, but the truth is that it doesn't need to. Lisa Ooki's voice mingles with the delightful splendours offered by the tribal choir, lying below in a nicely worked trough, to create some subtle magic. "Relm's Theme" from Final Fantasy VI has never sounded so passionate. (8/10)

10) Love Will Grow (Written by Dave)

Who could dislike such a beautiful theme? A wondrous oboe melody and piano accompaniment opens this theme with obvious intent to impress. Lisa Ooki just proves her worth here; her voice is passionate and profound, and in comparison to other Final Fantasy singers, she is definitely one of the best. The beautiful orchestration of this track does it wonders, and it is great to hear how the orchestra's vibes uplift Ohki's performance. In comparison to the other themes on the album, I find this one to be one of the most impressive, but it does have some flaws. The transition into the new theme at the 3:09 mark, for instance, just doesn't work for me. I was expecting this to be a much more powerful section since the accentuated orchestration suggested so. Nonetheless, it moves perfectly into a choral section from this point, and I feel that the heart and soul of this section really puts an emphasis on what the theme is about. You can truly feel the love here, and this imagery pulls up the final grade. (10/10)

11) The Prelude (Written by Dave)

Whenever I play this track, I am almost certain that I'm listening to the wrong album. Its jazzy nature separates it from the rest of the pack in style, and it is, indeed, one of the most unexpected changes on the album. The strummed guitar provides a strange introduction to the theme, and then things seem even more out of the ordinary when Lisa Ooki starts singing in a classic, swaying, jazzy style. A plucked acoustic bass is added for effect and then a trumpet line rasps out a great improvised section. Ultimately, "The Prelude" has the most changed melody, and this is just great for the versatility of Lisa Ooki's voice, which barely falters throughout. Ikuko Nogushi is also involved in this track, and she scats over the top of the bass melodies, and later on, Lisa Ooki's voice. On the whole, this is a perfect track that certainly impressed me when I listened to it, but the fact is that it isn't really suited as an album ending theme. (9/10)


Written by Dave

Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow] is an eloquent, vocal portrayal of the different worlds created throughout the Final Fantasy series. The very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of Lisa Ooki acts as the heart of the album alongside some dazzling appearances from Ikuko Nogushi. Indeed, the pair become hard to match, and naturally, this album begins to seem superior to Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- straight away. However, as the album proceeds, the arrangements get less wholesome each time, and we find ourselves trapped listening to uncreative themes such as the likes of "Estrelas." The album dies where Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- didn't, and although it isn't bad in comparison to other vocal albums of its time, it lacks the consistency that the first collection did. My advice is to buy this album if you want to experience something special, but if you want to hear something even better for the same amount of money, go for Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-. (9/10)

Written by Depolus

I'm not really a fan of vocal albums, but this one really seemed to hit the spot with me. Lisa Ooki sounded great and so did Ikuko Nogushi who took quite a big role in the album's creation. The album isn't exactly a gob smacker but it just offers a great atmosphere overall, though it is more of a contrast of atmospheres. Diversity is the album's stronghold, and there isn't really a reason as to why you shouldn't buy it if you like Japanese vocal music. (8/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 8/10