Final Fantasy Vocal Collections :: Review by Neo Locke
Final Fantasy arranged albums, such as orchestrated remixes, piano collections, unofficial projects, and other such releases, have always captivated Uematsu fans worldwide. None of this, however, can compare to the sense of awe and nostalgia that came from hearing classical Final Fantasy pieces put to lyrics. The combined talents of Nobuo Uematsu and Lisa Ooki formulate to create what could be the most artistic use of video game music ever with the "Final Fantasy Vocal Collection" two disc series.
Not many people know who Lisa Ooki is, which isn't too surprising. Ohki doesn't have a whole lot of public image, although many people will agree with me when I say she should. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous, and she can sing fluently in countless languages, several of which are present in the Vocal Collections. It almost seems as if she can sing perfectly in any pitch, although she tends to wisely keep her voice in the mezzo soprano category.
Both Vocal Collections, Pray and Love Will Grow, feature music from Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy VI, including vocal variations of such favorites as "Tina's Theme," "Theme of Love," "Promised Land," and of course the "Prelude" and "Final Fantasy." All of these are beautifully remixed and arranged for a live orchestration featuring Lisa Ooki singing the lyrics.
The lyrics themselves are nothing too special, focusing on various abstract concepts and musings, which really play on the whole "fantasy feeling" associated with this music. "Love Will Grow" is one exception to this; it's a rather sentimental love ballad sung in English and with excellent lyrics. This is also an exception to the one major problem with these albums, which is that the lyrics for most of the English songs are confusing and sometimes ridiculous.
For this review, I'll discuss several notable tracks from both albums. Some are good, but others are selected for negative reasons, too.
Selection of Tracks from Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I [Pray]
This track is actually more interesting than either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Unlike every other track on the albums, this variation of the "Prelude" is simply Lisa Ooki humming along as well as a choir. Even though it doesn't have the same effect as the other tracks, it provides a very calming introduction to the music that follows.
4) Wanderer of Time [Music Box (FFVI)]
"Wanderer of Time" is an excellent example of how the music was remixed to fit the lyrics. Although the actual tune is orchestrated in the background for the most part, the lyrics are sung to a similar melody that was stacked on top of the original. Also included, much like in several of the tracks, a completely new section to the original score.
8) Au Palais De Verre [Matoya's Cavern (FF)]
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest tracks off either disc. Not only does Lisa Ooki sing the French lyrics, to the best of my knowledge, fluently, but also the orchestration of this old favorite is excellent. Most of these tracks are to such notable pieces, that hearing them orchestrated is nothing new. But with "Au Palais de Verre," not only is there a sense of nostalgia from hearing it sung, but hearing it orchestrated is just as awe-inspiring.
10) Pray [Final Fantasy]
As the titular piece of the first album and the vocal version of Final Fantasy's main theme, this track can't be overlooked. The orchestration is epic, the Japanese lyrics fit the melody perfectly, and this is truly when the nostalgia really sets in. An 11/10 track if there ever was one.
Selection of Tracks from Final Fantasy Vocal Collection II [Love Will Grow]
3) Have You Ever Seen Me? [Cute Little Tozas (FFIII)]
Here we have a cute song with a cute premise sung to cute lyrics. The amount of cuteness in this song is addictive, catchy, and you'll be listening to this song more than any other with no idea quite why. That's about it for this one.
8) Estrelas [Melody of Lute (FFIV)]
This represents the very reason of why the first album is so much better than the second. "Love Will Grow" just happens to have far too many of these (for lack of a better word) boring tracks. It's hard to tell what original track they're a variation of, the lyrics are uninspired and slow, and the orchestration is very heavy and deep. The kind of pieces that put you to sleep even when you don't want to do so.
10) Love Will Grow [Finale (FFII)]
I pretty much covered this track already, but let me re-emphasize a little. The titular track of the second Vocal Collection is great not only as an arranged Final Fantasy piece, but it's a very believable song as well. The lyrics are down-to-earth, and the instrumentation isn't as much the focus as it is with the other tracks.
11) The Prelude
It's quite unique how the vocal collection opens and closes with two different versions of the "Prelude," not to mention the fact this track is interesting in itself. First off, it's a perfect example of how silly and random some of the English lyrics on these albums are. Also, it's a jazzy version of the famous piece, making the instrumentation as interesting to hear as the song itself. An honorary mention goes to Lisa Ooki for most likely being one of the first Japanese to sing in scat.
I know I sound like a broken record, but "Pray" and "Love Will Grow both" have a sense of nostalgia to them; fans of the music practically NEED to hear these albums. If you must choose between the two, definitely go with "Pray", as "Love Will Grow" is certainly a lot more tedious to listen to. However, by skipping Love Will Grow you're missing out on three really great pieces: "Long Distance," "Have You Ever Seen Me," and "Love Will Grow." The concept here is a lovely addition to the abundant amount of arranged albums that are being released, and I'm glad to see Uematsu doing more of this with the Mahoroba Song Book.
Overall Score: 9/10