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Daytona USA :: Review by Chris

Daytona USA Album Title: Daytona USA
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.: TYCY-5392
Release Date: May 25, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


In 1994, the racing game supremos at Sega decided to create an Arcade game that was superior in every way to Namco's 1993 hit Ridge Racer. Led by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, score aimed to be especially novel with its blend of quirky vocals with funk and rock instrumentals. While Mitsuyoshi had produced functional scores to games like Strike Fighter, G-LOC, and Virtua Racing, this was the first time he was really able to flex his creative muscles and make a global impact. The successful game and score was commemorated with an album release featuring both the original tunes and arrangements by B-Univ and Yoshiyuki Ito.


The album opens with a special arrangement of the series' main theme "Let's Go Away". It gets straight to the essence of the theme with Takenobu Mitsuyoshi's characteristic bellows of the 'du du duuuu du' and 'daaaytoona' lines. However, the vocalist soon demonstrates his liberation from the technical limitations of the Arcade version a little later in the theme. The lyrics at the 0:28 and 0:53 mark are really enjoyable and amusing, pronounced in true English and capturing Mitsuyoshi's rock spirit. The instrumental elaborations really flesh out the theme with particularly highlights being Mitsuyoshi's bouncy piano work and Koichi Namiki's guitar solo. The appearance of Daytona USA's Arcade soundtrack in the second half of the soundtrack only reaffirms the theme's classic status. It initially appears in a shortened 'advertise' version and receives a fleshed-out stage theme version mid-way through the soundtrack. Mitsuyoshi had to use quite a few novel techniques in order to integrate vocals on to primitive Arcade sound boards, opting to loop several short but memorable vocal samples. He still succeeded in producing a really rich, cutting-edge, if ridiculous track for its time. The mixture of rock and funk instrumentals ensure a very peppy and varied accompaniment too.

The rest of the Daytona USA stage themes continue to focus on vocal use. "The King of Speed" will be either something you love or hate with its bellows of 'rolling start' (or, in Mitsuyoshi's semi-intentional Engrish, 'roorying staaaar'). However, it certainly adds to the racing feel of the game with its punchy chord progressions and rapid percussion. The instrumentals are as central as the vocals in "Sky High" with a sassy trumpet often taking the lead. An interesting artefact of the loop method, the artifical vibrato sound of the vocals is even more obvious than before. A secret track in the game, "Pounding Pavement" is easily accessible on this album. This track definitely has harder rock backing than the rest and the vocals take the eccentricity up another notch. The rest of the soundtrack is mainly composed of short menu themes and jingles, though attention was still paid to maintaining the quirky funk flavour and there are some especially impressive tracks such as the hip-hop-flavoured "Start Your Engines", bouncy "Rolling Start", or serene "David Goes to Victory Lane". The original version ends with a jingle collection featuring various composers and classic references as well as a sound effects collection.

B-Univ are responsible for several other arrangements at the start of the disc. "Pounding Pavement" is much more charismatic than before with the extended lyrics and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi's more refined vocals. The arrangement feels more funk-influenced than the original and, while the instrumental backing is usually straightforward, Namiki's guitar work spruces it up. "Sky High" is a strange hybrid of moods. The jazz instrumentals are quite sassy, but the vocals are even more ridiculous than the original. It's not quite the romantic arrangement one would expect and easily the least controversial of the arranged version. "Tornado" is a refreshing contrast from the other arranged tracks since there aren't any vocals to be found; it's more of a free instrumental jam between Mitsuyoshi and Namiki with lots of jazz fusion and funk influences. It goes to amazing places most wouldn't expect. Yoshiyuki Ito's two arrangements are quite different style. "Daytona in the Night" is a chillout version of the main theme with soft vocals, piano, and synth work. However, it suffers from a misfitting electronic backing track and a mere two minute playtime. "The Queen of Speed" also has quite a reflective feel and could probably be classified as 'new age' music. Fortunately it is much more fleshed out and features a couple of magical moments.


All in all, Daytona USA's soundtrack is an incredibly distinctive and endearing one, although not all will like it. The deciding factor is whether one can tolerate Takenobu Mitsuyoshi's intentionally cheesy vocals, although they're a big hit with a lot of people. While the original version suffers a bit from the limitations of the sound board, Mitsuyoshi did an impressive job integrating vocals nonetheless. However, the arranged tracks are more inspiring since he is able to liberate himself with passionate performances and elaborate lyrics. The original version contains a lot of short tracks and jingles, although they're well done and the stage themes should make them worthwhile listening through. The arranged version is consistently enjoyable, even if Yoshiyuki Ito's work isn't as creative as B-Univ's. Conditions fulfilled, this is a great album to pick up.

Overall Score: 9/10