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Perfect Collection Sorcerian Vol. 1 :: Review by Nathan Black

Perfect Collection Sorcerian Vol. 1 Album Title: Perfect Collection Sorcerian Vol. 1
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1033/4
Release Date: July 21, 1991
Purchase: Buy at eBay


This Sorcerian soundtrack comes from the same people famous for most of Falcom's music, Sound Team J.D.K.. For some, this fact is enough reason to grab the album, or cause to cast it aside. Before you make any choices, listen to a couple of important points, the first being that this is not just another J.D.K. Ys album with a different title. Sorcerian, believe it or not, has a very distinct sound that J.D.K. did well to keep quite separate from what I like to call Ysian music. I would attribute this to Ryo Yonemitsu's influence on the compilation being secondary, unlike with most of the Ys soundtracks.

Another point to keep in mind is that the Sound Team J.D.K. is comprised of many people. This means that what you will encounter from them is hard to predict, given the conglomeration of styles that is to be found in the group of composers. I will be covering the album on a track-by-track basis, as each one deserves special attention because of the reason I just outlined. The first disc is comprised of tracks from the game, while the second hold vocal arrangements, "New Age" versions of the in game tracks, and a "Megamix." With that out of the way, let us move on to the meat of this review: the music.

Track-by-Track Reviews

Disc One

1) Opening

Opening starts with some moderately evocative piano and warm strings that try a bit too hard to make a mediocre theme sound touching. The flute that chirps in for the meat of the track is equally pretentious, but it serves its purpose. The theme, overall, is quite sweet, but it is by no means memorable. (7/10)

2) Where We Meet

This screams town theme, or perhaps a cute reunion between friends. The instrumentation is applicable, with soft electric piano and some chromatic percussion backed up by a mellow drum line. A somewhat annoying trumpet comes in to pick up the lead of the piece, but it is quickly replaced by a flute, a much better choice. Bright bells give the piece a dreamy and light-hearted feeling as it edges its way back to the looping point. A solid track with no obvious shortcomings, but, once again, it lacks any real selling point. (7/10)

3) Pentawa I

"Pentawa I" is straight jazzy, my friends. A quick drum fill leads into a pleasant acoustic bass, piano, and brass combination that gives the piece a very relaxed yet high-energy feel. The lead is carried by a flute and xylophone later in the piece and it only adds to the 'kick back' attitude the entire track benefits from. The acoustic bass induces swaying in the listener, and the rest of the instruments and arrangement make for a very nice track. (8/10)

4) Pentawa II

Opening with some vanilla 4/4 rock drums and an arpeggiating synth, this piece says everything it has to say in the first six seconds. The electric guitar fails to surprise anyone with a dosage of shredding the track could not have been more generic without. Thanks, but no thanks, "Pentawa II." (5/10)

5) Dungeon

This track made me think twice, with a melody that is only a few notes short of being a variation on "Feena," a character theme from numerous Ys soundtracks. "Dungeon," despite suffering from the same 2nd- and 4th-beat snare pounding that never neglects to bore, has some entertaining string and brass work that helps me envision an adventurer charging down a dank hallway with his sword drawn and his head bobbing. Quite catchy, and with enough changes to keep it bearable as it loops in a dungeon crawl, "Dungeon" passes the test. (7/10)

6) Hydra

"Hydra" has a definite Megaman X feel to it. Instead of a distortion guitar, this piece leads best with its synths. Unfortunately, it rarely gets any air time against the layers of electric guitars. The percussion gets automatic points for not being so predictable, even if it remains in 4/4. J.D.K.'s energy in this piece is palpable, and it serves as a proper boss theme, staying in a state of almost perpetual climax. However, the lack of any real dynamic does keep the track from being excellent. (6/10)

7) Survivor

This track has a strong sense of victory behind it. The brass sounds ecstatic, and the strings which follow keep the mood of, "We did it!" quite strongly. Same old drum business, aside from a few fills that serve as transitions between loops. The piece works, but quickly becomes tired, as most victory themes do. (6/10)

8) Traveler's Inn

I am not sure what kind of feeling this track was going for. The woodwinds play an excellently arranged back-and-forth style throughout the tune, but hardly give the impression that this is any ordinary inn. The tone is very sad, evoking the idea that there is probably one tragedy or another to be dealt with. The string work is average, mostly taking a backseat to the weaving woodwinds present in the piece, although a harp plays a haunting arpeggio underneath most of the other sound. One of the nicer pieces on the first disc, "Traveler's Inn" leaps onto a pedestal that leaves most of its companions behind. (8/10)

9) Forest

The same stinking drums welcome the listener into an annoyingly upbeat traveling theme. This is no Sakimoto "Lost Forest," folks. The incorrigible bounciness of the track seems unwarranted, as if the piece wants you to feel one way, but only manages to annoy you in the attempt. Oddly enough, this track induces something more akin to a disgusted contempt for all things perky. The happy-go-lucky brass only throws more fuel on the fire. Watch out, "Forest" will give you cavities, and they will not have been worth it. (4/10)

10) Underground Dungeon

Apparently, among the many things that are better underground, dungeon themes is one of them. The bassline is incredibly attractive, layering perfectly under the dynamic rock percussion to be found in this track. Leading the tune are a few oscillator synths that enjoy a great call-and-response section, adding a depth to the piece that is hard to find on the predominant amount of the first disc tracks. A xylophone slips in a couple notes every so often, never getting in the way, and supporting the melody in a wonderful fashion, much like the warm string ensemble. "Underground Dungeon" is a blast to listen to, and proves that synthetic rock has what it takes to make a memorable piece of music. (9/10)

11) Debitel Priest

"Debitel Priest" is another rock track. The rhythm is kept with the same rock drum pattern that infects most of the rock pieces on the album, but they do stray from the norm (to great effect) in what can only be considered the chorus of the piece. The verse sections of "Debitel..." are nothing to get excited about, in general. A few synth hits and some el-guitar chugs to fill the empty space. The synth lead that enters soon after actually sounds bored, which does little to add to the track, you can imagine. However, when the chorus rolls around, an arpeggiating and bright synth couple with a pretty sweet electric guitar solo to make the track suddenly enjoyable. With so many ups and downs, "Debitel..." ends up defeating itself in the end. (6/10)

12) Sand Marimer

This track opens with utterly disgusting woodwind work. Perhaps it is my natural aversion to 16-bit bassoons and clarinets, but this piece starts off rough sounding. Regardless of the texture of the sound, the melody is very haunting, and captures attention quickly. Near the 45-second mark, other strings and brass come in to fill in the soundscape even better, along with a flute. This piece really begins at the 60-second point, with orchestral percussion and a tuba coming in to lay down the law. The entire mood changes from freaky to majestic in the span of 5 seconds. "Sand Marimer" goes from zero to hero with no hitches along the way, making this track a must-listen on this album. (9/10)

13) Underground Dungeon

Yes, this track shares the same name as track 10, but the similarities end right there. When this piece began, my jaw dropped as an absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar strummed a set of sweet chords into my ears. The percussion is slow, accenting the flowing chord work magnificently. A deep bass fills the lower registers, and then a pause. The music quickly resumes with a delayed piano that, unfortunately, does not sound nearly as realistic as the guitar (which is also expertly panned with stereo). A subtle electric guitar plays simple licks in the background, bending a single note to add more meaning to a measure than one note should be able to. The piano starts to take more precedence, which is a grave disappointment, given its quality. As the piece carries on, the drums continue to evolve, placing snare rolls and syncopated hits to accentuate the ambient wondrousness of the track. Chromatic percussion even enters for a short time to add its particular dynamic to the mix. Nearing its end, the piece pours out its soul in a gutwrenchingly fantastic electric guitar that ties everything together. Without question, "Underground Dungeon" is the hit of the entire collection, clocking in at four minutes and 27 seconds, a period of time that seems all too short when the track ends. (9.5/10)

[I could not, in good conscience, give this piece a perfect 10 because of the atrocious piano. Stupid piano.]

14) Kraken

Having to follow "Underground Dungeon" really sucks, so "Kraken" does not even try. The entire piece has a slightly militaristic feel, with rolling snares and a timpani that fails to grant the track any respect. The woeful string and woodwind arrangement that follows helps not. However, there is a point of enjoyment for about 5 or so seconds as pizzicato strings play around with the melody of the tune, but it is soon lost with the return of brass and woodwind. Ouch. (3/10)

15) Bloody River

And now for something completely different! This track starts with salsa percussion and an incredibly poorly-delayed synth. After a rough introduction, a very catchy synth comes in to lead the melody, along with some fun piano work. Then the steel drums drop to makes things interesting. This piece is too much fun to throw away, and I found myself listening just to see what they would do next. Subtle choir joins during a short section, and then we go into what appears to be a loop, but the electric guitar solo that enters begs to disagree. It fits surprisingly well, and the synth/brass hits add to the excitement. When the choir returns for the last guitar solo, it is hard to know what to expect anymore, but it is no less enjoyable for its zany instrumentation. (8/10)

16) Desert

Simple piano chording opens up "Desert," an oboe appearing quickly to give the lead melody. A bell/synth pad add something of a wondrous adventure feel to the entire piece, and then marching drums enter. They seem out of place for a time, but soon fall into line with the unyielding piano rhythm. A group of flutes get the spotlight for a simple solo that leads into brass joining the other previously mentioned instruments for a good sound. The texture of this piece is very solid. It covers many registers, and takes quite a few liberties with its main melody, so that by the time it does end, you are ready for a loop. Overall, "Desert" is gratifying and well-arranged. (8/10)

17) Sand Castle

"Sand Castle" is a quintessential smooth jazz and funk piece. We encounter the villainous 4/4 drums once again, but they are not nearly as grating as before, for some reason or another. Synthesizers are everywhere, panned and reverbed in an excellent manner. After a small taste of some funky jazz guitar, the track dives into a piano and what I believe to be dulcimer melody flow. The guitar comes back to funk things up every now and then, and the requisite electric guitar solo is not far behind. Good rhythm, instrumentation, and arrangement make "Sand Castle" a big winner. (9/10)

18) Luwan and the Gold Dragon

Closing Disc One is an equally smooth rock piece with some Asian instrumentation. The choice of woodwind was very wise (a shakuhachi, if I am not mistaken), as it adds undeniable character to the track. The brass is a bit annoying at times, but the smooth synths and strings make up for what the trumpet blasts take away. Excellent use of hi-hats creates depth in the track's rhythm, which is already a step above most of the drum production on the album due to its variety. A very solid track, and not a bad choice to end the first disc. (8/10)

Disc Two

1) Opening

Initiating the vocal version, the beginning is some short but nice music box cuteness, a rendition of the opening theme. What follows is some barber shop do-whop a capella, complete with snaps and goofy facial expressions. Actually, the singing is all "do" with no "whop." The piece is nice enough, but the lack of a good bass singer (they used an electric bass; bad form) detracts heavily from the overall feel of the piece. In addition, some variation on the words used in the harmonies would have made it much more memorable. As it is, the constant do'ing wears you down. As such, "Opening - Vocal Version" ends up being not bad, but not great, either. (7/10)

2) Born On Battlelines (Where We Meet)

Starting with some classical guitar chording, you would never guess where the piece is heading. Okay, maybe you would, but it is still a very smooth intro, quickly joined by a gentle piano line. Shelly Michelle's vocals are very tender and relaxing, as much as I would like to hate them. The piano supports her subtly, but well, and the guitar keeps the rhythm. The lyrics are in English, which surprised me, and they are not half bad. After the first chorus and verse cycle, quiet strings ooze their way in, as does some whistling. This piece reaches a new level when the jazz percussion and acoustic bass come in, transforming this tune from a sappy ballad into a loungey jazz jam that would make even the Snake Eater himself proud. Vocal themes always put me on guard, as the wrong voice (or application of that voice) can ruin even the most infectious of themes. Luckily, "Born On A Battleline" avoids these fatal flaws and becomes a memorable (and sing-a-longable) piece. (9/10)

3) Welcome Home (Survivor)

The introduction is very questionable, reeking of a cheesy karaoke bar experience or perhaps a backyard concert. Once again, I was taken in by the singer against my will. The instrumentation is rather weak, with a few off-the-wall synths and a tinny guitar performance. The last minute of the piece pulls the piece entirely out of character, chopping up samples of some fellow saying "check," altering the pitch to make very annoying sounds with it. Given the piece's sugar-sweet atmosphere, the LP scratch sound effects were a bit out of place, as well. Confusing, "Welcome Home" is, but still a decent track, if only decent. (7/10)

4) Traveler's Inn

The meaning of "New Age" in this context is lost on me, but that is easily ignored when confronted with this beautiful piece of music. It begins with slow and soothing classical guitar, accenting the mood of the original piece well. Even better, it is joined by a cello for some heartbreaking duet action. The guitar carries most of the basic chord arpeggios while the cello grabs the tears out of your very eyes. That is not enough, of course, because the pizzicato strings jump in on this action, too, along with a second guitar to strum as the other picks. Eventually, the entire texture of the track is simply overwhelming. No matter which instrument or melody you decide to follow, it is all excellent. Near the end, the piece cuts back down to a short guitar and pizzicato string duo before the guitar gets another chance to shine by itself. As if we were not already lying low at the wondrousness of it all, a cello flows in to perform the final rites with the guitar and finish us off. The original is good, but this is simply breathtaking. (10/10)

5) Underworld

Another powerful beginning with a string ensemble marks the start of "Underworld," with a tremolo swell fading into� acoustic guitar and congos? Why, yes, along with some impressive acoustic bass lines and even the return of the previous strings. Simple piano chimes in every so often, but the piece is undoubtedly carried by the acoustic guitar, a rare and welcome change. A flute trills its way onto the stage to enjoy a solo over the ever-plucking guitar, with fast attacking string swells which lead into some more guitar and flute dueting. The jazzy feel of "Underworld" is amazing and unquestionable, a tight and well-contained track that starts strong and ends just as powerfully. (9/10)

6) Aboard Ship

More heavenly string ensemble work brings this piece to bear, but it soon gives way to some more marvelous acoustic guitar! The woodwind that joins the guitar as the strings return is not a flute, but I have a hard time placing it, although my first guess would be a clarinet. Regardless, it is splendid, as well as the piano that quickly joins the ranks. The melodies and counter-melodies then begin to dance and weave around themselves to create yet another mind-boggling and staggering piece of music before drawing to a peaceful — yet equally evocative — close as those before it.

7) Pentawa

Enter: Progressive rock and jazz fusion. This track starts off strong with brass and electric organs everywhere. A driving drum line keeps things moving as the chord hits come a-flying. The introduction of the melody by a subdued jazz guitar grants a little peace before the organ goes into a Sakuraba-esque solo, from which there is no return. At least, not until the piece loops back into the verse. Unfortunately, this is a rather uninspired 'arrangement' of "Pentawa," instead feeling more like a chance for someone to go absolutely crazy on an organ. It succeeds without doubt at this, but the original is a much better version of this track. (7/10)

8) Evil Shaman

Now we face an introduction via a very creepy harpsichord which sets the mood for the dark track. It is difficult to catch, and becomes much more clear as the drums and bass enter, but "Evil Shaman" does something that vaulted it into its own league. The piece actually alternates between a 3/4 and 4/4 time signature. The effect is jarring, keeping the listener off balance, a skilful show of arrangement on the composer's part that captures the tension and foreboding of the piece. A flute plays the main melody as the harpsichord, drums, and bass keep rhythm. The haunting mood is inescapable, and the synthesized solo harkens the mind back to something gothic. Choir and warm strings only increase the atmosphere. Near the closing of the piece, the drums start to have some fun, syncopating the hi-hats, snares, and bass hits. As the track fades, all of the instruments save a low and resonating bell and the harpsichord disappear, letting the piece drift away with maximum effect. In the right setting, this piece could easily send chills down even the sturdiest of adventurer's spines. A masterpiece of gothic proportions. (10/10)

9) Sorcerian Super Megamix Part 1

And now a few words from the lord of video game music synthesizers, Ryo Yonemitsu. Laying down those synthesized beats like only he knows how, Yonemitsu covers a few of the Sorcerian pieces in typical fashion. A little bit of funk, a dash of disco, a sprinkling of rock, and more than a little of freefalling Yonemitsu craziness, "...Megamix" is all over the place. The original melodies are very difficult to hear in the crush of the synthesizers, but a creative ear might be able to pluck one or two from the dogpiled themes. All in all, it is really just a fun track to end an album with. It is not very memorable, but good for a strobe light jam. (7/10)


I said it before, and I will say it again; Sorcerian is not another Ys experience. Far to the contrary, Sorcerian carves a small niche of its own in the world of Falcom, and one that it very well deserves. Much of the arrangement is quite skillful, and given the limits of the time period, to be respected. However, poor music is poor music, and Perfect Collection Sorcerian Vol. 1 is far from immune.

However, on the whole, this soundtrack is very solid, with more than enough strong music to outweigh the weakness of the rest. Katsumi Kyotani is in great form with hits such as "Underground Dungeon" (track 13) and "Sand Castle." The overwhelming success of all the New Age Version tracks all is owed to Hajime Mizoguchi, a man who knows the power of a well-arranged guitar piece. Yonemitsu makes his obligatory apprearance, but has little effect on the album itself.

Altogether wonderful in its own quirky Falcom way, Perfect Collection Sorcerian Vol. 1 will make a great addition to anyone's video game music collection.

Overall Score: 8/10