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Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Original Soundtrack Album Title: Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Sumthing Else Music Works
Catalog No.: SE-2059-2
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Although the Banjo-Kazooie series remained an intellectual property of Rare following their buyout by Microsoft, it took a whole eight years until a third main game in the series was made. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts took gamers on an Xbox 360 adventure, complete with stunning graphics, vehicle-oriented gameplay, new levels, and a fresh score. An ensemble team of Grant Kirkhope, Robin Beanland, and David Clynick crafted numerous new themes and classic arrangements for the game in various styles. Given the capacity of the console, Rare's sound team was able to incorporate orchestral performances throughout, following the precedent of the Conker and Viva Piñata series. Under the direction of conductor and orchestrator Nic Raine, The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra brought a whole new level of emotion and intricacy to the series' music. The intentions were even more ambitious than the lauded Super Mario Galaxy, but how does the result compare? Sumthing Else Music Works' Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Original Soundtrack has recently allowed stand-alone listeners to check for themselves.


"The Bear and the Bird Begin" opens the album with a narration set to spooky Elfman-styled ambience. Although this could have been problematic, the narration is actually quite charming and amusing, parodying the epic narrations featured in games like God of War. Kirkhope's "Showdown Town Square" is a pleasant theme for the hub of the game, blending new melodies with those from Banjo-Tooie's "Jinjo Village". There is a lot of variety overall, giving a chance for each section of the orchestra to shine and reflecting the various colours of the area. The bright orchestration and classically-oriented phrasing are delightful, though the orchestral performance might be more of a select taste. The emphatic jazz-styled clarinets and roaring muted trumpets would inspire me to run out of most concert performances, though at least they fit the bombastic and silly game quite well. This heavy-handed implementation is an issue throughout the soundtrack, so some might find it hard to accustom, although others will be less picky. It seems to be more of a reflection on the musical direction for the soundtrack than the deficits of the conductor and performers though.

Most of Grant Kirkhope's other contributions to the soundtrack have a familiar feel to them, both because of Kirkhope's characteristic musicality and the incorporation of numerous Banjo reprises. For example, "Out Around Nutty Acres" is written in the spirit of Banjo-Kazooie themes with its lyrical woodwind melodies and laidback percussion accompaniment. It's quite welcome after so many bombastic tracks. It even incorporates dabs of "Treasure Trove Cove" amidst the increasingly tropical sections. Replaced in the game, "Spiral Mountain Shoutin'" is an exciting orchestral rendition of the classic Banjo-Kazooie theme, preserving the lyrical melodies of the original on jazzy clarinet while enhancing the piece with vibrant percussion use and march-like accompaniment. "Discovering Banjoland" takes things one step further by elegantly incorporating six successive classic Kazooie and Tooie themes into one seven minute piece, starting with "Click Clock Woods" and ending with "Rusty Bucket Bay". It's ideal for the setting — a museum made from pieces of earlier Banjo levels — and will inspire so much nostalgia and enthusiasm from classic fans.

Robin Beanland offers most of the most experimental and unconventional tracks on the soundtrack. For example, "Parading the Jiggoseum" depicts a sports-themed world by juxtaposing olympian fanfares and circus jingles with the typical light-hearted jazzy flavour of Banjo's music. The album release somewhat repetitively presents four Jiggoseum themes in succession, though the different variations work well in the game to add interactivity. "Exploring the Terranium" conveys the horror of an overgrown plant-infested world with brooding Elfman-styled ambience. It combines spooky theremin use similar to Mars Attacks! with a vocorded children's choir in the style of A Nightmare Before Christmas. Such imitations seem acceptable in a game as light-hearted as Nuts & Bolts, especially given they're well done and fit the context. The vocorder returns amidst all sorts of chiptunes and electronic overtones in "Inside the LogBox". Once again, the bizarre theme fits within the Banjo world, not least because of the extensive references to Gruntilda's theme and influence of Kazooie's Stop 'n' Swop theme. The chiptune influence is even stronger in "LogBox Larks" with its Pac-Man homage.

Dave Clynick's contributions to the soundtrack tend to be quite short and have a retro feel to them. "Testing Times" is quite enjoyable in the game with its blend of cheery electric guitar melodies and hard rock backing, though the blaring implementation and repetitive chords tend to make me feel nauseous when listening on a stand-alone basis. Much like Kirkhope's "Welcome to Nutty Acres", Clynick's "Banjoland Visitors This Way" shows potential with its blend of striking trumpet solos and disco beats, but the beats are so cheesy and sterile that they become obnoxious repeated listens. Nonetheless, Clynick's trumpet writing is some of the richest on the soundtrack and this is particularly well-demonstrated by "Let the Jiggoseum Games Begin!", where Beanland personally performs the trumpet solo. He is also talented at blending a variety of stylistic influences into one piece, as demonstrated by the short cinematic area introductions "The Terranium Awaits" and "LogBox 720: Access Granted". Clynick's "Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World" level themes and various event themes unfortunately didn't make it to the one disc release, but he does enough to make a mark nonetheless.

There is plenty of action within the Nuts & Bolts soundtrack. For one, the soundtrack features boss theme arrangements of the stage themes. Some such as "Jiggoseum Japes", "Banjoland Buffoonery", and "Nutty Acres Action" are relatively straightforward variations with faster tempos and booming accompaniment. Others have a little novelty to them, such as "Terranium Trickery" and "LogBox Lunacy". Beanland's "Grappling With Gruntilda" presents the main phrase from the witch's theme on successive instruments, opening with mocking marimba parts and culminating in a bellowing trumpet section. It's a great showcase of the whole orchestra and works spectacularly in the game given the brisk pace and increasing intensity. There are also more dynamic versions of some of the stage themes, such as "Jiggoseum Japes", "Banjoland Buffoneery", "LogBox Lunacy", "Nutty Acres Action", and "Terranium Trickery". Although unused in the game, Kirkhope's "The Final Fight" was intended to accompany the final battle with an orchestral arrangement of Gruntilda's theme; though the arrangement is similar to the Banjo-Kazooie version, the orchestra is able to bring much more power and variety to the theme and it would have worked spectacularly in context.


Overall, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts soundtrack is a very accomplished orchestral score. The orchestra brings more emotion, intensity, and humanity to the score than samplers alone could achieve while the additional elements such as theremins, vocorders, beats, and guitars are fittingly incorporated. The orchestral performances are generally contrary to my personal taste, but fit the nature of the game and won't be problematic to most. Returning to the comparison with the similarly light-hearted Super Mario Galaxy, Nuts & Bolts is actually a fully fledged orchestral score and fits more in the series' history, although it is also a little more eccentric and inaccessible. As an album release, the Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Original Soundtrack is a tad disappointing. It is perhaps beneficial that some event and subsidiary themes were rejected, though the omissions of some stage themes, the main theme, and the credits theme are less forgiveable. They could have been easily included in a two disc soundtrack or by removing some of the repetitive stage theme arrangements. This is still a great collector's item and an enjoyable hour of music for those looking for an official release.

Overall Score: 8/10