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Genso Suikoden Celtic Collection :: Review by Nathan Black

Genso Suikoden Celtic Collection Album Title: Genso Suikoden Celtic Collection
Record Label: Konami Media Entertainment
Catalog No.: KOLA-022
Release Date: March 5, 2003
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Before I say anything, I want it to be made clear that my knowledge of the Celtic musical tradition is specifically that of someone on the outside looking in. Taking that into consideration, understand that I have wet my feet quite a bit in the proverbial waters of the genre (I still don't like Enya). Of course, they say that music is a universal language. After hearing this album, I am inclined to agree. Regardless of my unfamiliarity with much of the instruments and/or playing styles, this collection of foot-tapping and knee-slapping tracks is bound to bring a smile to anyone's face.

Yoko Ueno and friends let their hair down with elaborate and generally soothing music on this album, and manage to make already memorable and catching tunes even moreso. All three collections mix and match music from the Genso Suikoden series, and I was surprised to hear some of the more esoteric pieces get some attention. It made for an interesting listen I can recommend to anyone.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Ducklings

I'm not quite sure what these ducklings did to deserve the common translation 'Stupid Ducks', as I never played the third Suikoden, but this arrangement leads me to believe they are anything but stupid. The introduction is a bit goofy, leading the first 15 or so seconds with the main theme. However, deep and moving strings soon kick in, followed by a killer flute lead and backup acoustics and violin that keep your attention riveted. This is an action piece, in all senses of the word, and I can definitely imagine myself jigging to this, should enough irish cr�me be consumed in a small period of time. Every last second is a pleasure, making the track's end almost sneak up on you. Nonetheless, when it is over, you are satisfied, a feeling that is hard to find in many other pieces, these days. (9/10)

2) Cold Wind

Warm sweeping pad brings this piece to the ear first, lilting voices ringing in like a vocalized choir of bells. A large change in pacing from the last track, this one takes it slow, a sea of violins weaving in countermelody as the voices support. At the halfway point, when you just think you've got this arrangement pinned, it drops a deep and syncopated bass drum rhythm that somehow changes everything, giving it a feeling of purpose and power that one might not ever attribute as the responsibility of a few booms every measure. Eventually, there is a breakaway in favor of mandolin, but the mood remains very much the same. Extremely smooth until the very last minute, where the drums pick up with fervor and give you a sense of the adventures always to be found with this series, swelling strings and voices accompanying. Sweet. (8/10)

3) Distant Mountain

Now this piece is chock full of nostalgia. "Distant Mountain" is hardly different from its original to be found in the game, the pacing, instrumentation, and rhythm remaining quite faithful. Of course, this is all a good thing, and the pizzicato strings and flute solos slipped in spice things up appropriately. You cannot have a solid celtic piece without some fiddle (not on this album, at least), and there is plenty to be found here. Simple, but well-arranged. (8/10)

4) Main Theme

Oh, this isn't fair. Tugging on the heart strings is Mina Kubota with an arrangement of the main theme from the first Suikoden, and it's every bit as ooey, gooey, and cutie-patootie as one might expect. Once again, the arrangement choice is simple, and preferably so, a piano leading the delightful stroll down memory lane with accompanying flute and strings. If music is food for the soul, "Main Theme" is hot chocolate by the fire on a cold winter evening. (9/10)

5) Shining Grassland

Much more melancholy than any of the previous tracks, "Shining Grassland" is led by what appears to be an accordion and rhythm acoustic guitar. A somewhat reminiscent and desolate picture is painted. I was never one to think of accordion when considering how to convey an emotion, but THE RAIN BOOK has always been one to surprise. Definitely worth a listen when in a contemplative mood. (8/10)

6) Mysterious People

And here we are with the obligatory choir track, full of haunting and smooth vocalizations that never truly speak any words, yet manage to say plenty. The harmony is exquisite, and you can almost see a glowing choir with clasped hands singing its heart out as you listen to this. I almost laughed aloud when I heard vocal percussion (read: beatboxing) slipped in near the halfway point, but it served its purpose with tasteful grace. Good stuff from Yuko Asai. (9/10)

7) An Old Irish Song

Fingerstyle acoustic guitar and flute open this piece, again with a somewhat melancholy melody in feel. Accordion chimes in, and is eventually joined by strings of many shapes and sizes. Nonetheless, the melody never moves very far from the distant and pensive emotion set in place by the main theme. More simplicity, and effectively used, at that. (8/10)

8) To the Sealed Land

To be perfectly honest, the choir vocals that opened this piece grated on my nerves, and the smooth jazz bass and rhythm that entered soon after caught me off guard. However, as I continued to listen, it grew on me, the odd combination creating a decidedly unique atmosphere that increasingly complex choir adds to as the arrangement progresses. Even so, I was hungry for a change, and Asai, as if reading my mind, drops a militaristic marching beat and accompanying accordion on the spot, giving the track the topping off it needed to keep from growing old on the aural soundscape too soon. A bit touch and go for a while, but altogether solid. (7/10)

9) Journey

I was wondering where all the bagpipes went. Well, they were hiding here, apparently. Sadly, they get absolutely no love after the ethnically charged solo introduction. At that point, characteristic flute and a relaxing jazz atmosphere take over. One minute later, everything slides to a halt, and the bagpipes slap you in the face for another ten seconds (love hurts) before disappearing into the aether. They return again later to be pushed out by a violin and guitar solo, keeping this arrangement ever-shifting and wholly entertaining. (8/10)

10) Children Playing in the Fields

This track begins with a "la la" choir singing the theme, ethnic percussion picking up afterwards to support the flute which takes on the burden of carrying the piece. The playful atmosphere captures the vision of this track's title rather appropriately, and the tapping which follows a harp's glissando sounds almost like the pitter patter of children running through the streets, nay, fields. There is a big slowdown just beyond the center of the piece, but nothing out of the ordinary from beginning to end, as far as what you might expect as soon as the piece gets momentum. I might add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. (7/10)

11) Carried on Rippling Waves

Now the action returns with what I can only assume is a sailing theme, or something similar. Deceptively simple guitar chording leads into a swell of flute, warm pad, and galloping percussion. Then, for some reason, the pacing relaxes notably and remains so for the rest of the piece. No matter, as the guitar solos and lilting flute make for appropriate background music. Oddly unable to keep one's attention, "Carried..." is still good at what it does, which is keep your ears full of pretty while you go about your business. (7/10)

12) If You Listen Carefully

For some reason, I had the idea in my head that the last track would be a capstone of sorts. Well, I was dead wrong, but "If You Listen�" proved to be soothing enough to let me down easy. The melody is carried by flute most of the time, and backed up by a gentle choir. It remains on generally the same level for its length, but that warrants no major complaints considering the very low-energy mood of the track. Not bad at all. (7/10)


Not even an hour long, Genso Suikoden's first celtic collection is short but sweet. The album touches upon many of the series' favorite themes, and gives some love to those we might have left behind, given the choice. Even so, there is nothing close to a throwaway track throughout these dozen tracks, making for a decidedly solid batch of easy listening.

Nearly every piece is extremely gentle, with few rattling the aural receptors more than you might expect from a celtic arrangement of Suikoden. This is not music for battle and conquering heroes, but moreso accompaniment for relaxation and contemplation. To that end, this album is vastly successful. To anyone looking for such a collection of works to ease the mind, look no further.

Overall Score: 9/10