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Tales of Series Piano Arrange Tracks :: Review by Chris

Tales of Series Piano Arrange Tracks Album Title: Tales of Series Piano Arrange Tracks
Record Label: Team Entertainment
Catalog No.: KDSD-00219
Release Date: September 24, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Since he bought his Bösendorfer 225 a couple of years ago, Motoi Sakuraba has been obsessed with creating piano-based works. Most notably, he created a number of solo piano compositions to complement performances of Chopin's classics on Eternal Sonata in 2007. A year later, he dedicated the solo album Forest of Glass to the instrument and created a series of pieces to accompany abstract imagery. With an influx of Tales albums throughout 2008, it wasn't long before Sakuraba received an opportunity to use the instrument once again. The Tales of Series Piano Arrange Tracks features piano interpretations of 13 themes from across the Tales series composed, arranged, and performed by Sakuraba. While most piano albums are fan services or score reductions that adhere strongly to their original, this album is treated more as a series of improvisations and murmurings loosely based on the melodies and emotions of the Tales series. Let's take a closer look...


The soundtrack opens with an exploration of Vesperia's tranquil opening theme "The Dawn of Departure". The piano use constantly reverberates between portraying serenity and distress — transitioning between very melodic sections with sparse accompaniment to more brutal passages featuring heavy chords. Despite the vast contrasts in mood, Sakuraba's meticulous arrangement and very human performance ensures the arrangement is still musically convincing. Bombastic forces continue to triumph in Destiny 2's "Swordian Team". The core of the arrangement features a heavy-handed interpretation of the original centred on the bass register. However, the development is once again rich with emotional depth and intricate fluorishes, so will be worthwhile for those who can stomach the core sections. By the time listeners arive at Destiny's "Surprise Attack!," it's clear that aggression is a continual component of the album. However, this arrangement will be likely more appealing to listeners with its rhythmically jagged main passages reminiscent of Gikyokuonsou's "Motion". There is also a fascinating spectrum of improvisations from lush romantic decorations to avant-garde chaos.

Although all arrangements feature some sort of heavy section, there are nonetheless arrangements that are largely relaxing. The most significant example is "Happiness in My Hand," which is a breath of fresh air in the middle of an otherwise turbulent album. While the major tonality of the initial section is elevating, the jazzy improvisations during the development are deep and contemplative. The meandering piano use in Destiny 2's opening theme expands upon the bittersweet feelings of the original. The climax from the three minute market is weakened by generic chord choices and arpeggio constructions, but is nonetheless carried by an emotionally rousing performance. Also of note is Eternia's "Eternal Mind", where Sakuraba returns to the minimalistic style heard in some of the piano tracks in Eternal Sonata and Tales of Destiny Director's Cut. The whole arrangement revolves around just a few repeated figures while some transient ideas are gently explored on top. This type of music will be ideal for those who wish to sit back, calm their minds, and maybe reminisce about their experiences on Tales games. However, the game relation is especially abstract here and this type of music could easily fit in one of Sakuraba's solo albums.

The arranged album is rounded off by some especially lyrical items. Tempest's "Desert" feels almost playful due to the way it revolves around several simple motifs; however, it is also mysterious and occasionally revealing too as a result of the ambiguous tonality and surprising interludes. The last action theme arrangements, Abyss' "Sheath of Soul" and Phantasia's "Burning Tower", demonstrate Sakuraba having a lot of fun. The former is presented in an epic manner with a commanding melody line and thick chromatic chords while the latter returns to jagged Gikyokuonsou style except with a more urgent and decisive feel. Moving to the conclusion, Destiny's "Lion - Irony of Fate" has the great rock influence with its anthemic melodies and pounding accompaniments. It is nonetheless multilayered in terms of mood and styles, capturing the feel of an ever-changing final battle. Phantasia's "Good-Bye Friends" is a simple ballad that recapitulates many of the musical ideas explored elsewhere on the album. Though it would have been ideal to conclude the album, it is unfortunately followed by a redundant arrangement from Rebirth. That item, "The Answer", loudly repeats a simple harmonic figure that, while intended to feel meditative, actually sounds disruptive and uninspired.


The piano writing Sakuraba exhibits on the Tales of Series Piano Arrange Tracks is a select taste. Many will feel the heavier sections unpleasant and unpianistic while others will find the calmer sections boring or contrived. However, it is refreshing that Sakuraba was prepared to reject the clichés of other game music piano collections here to produce a truly unique album. The original melodies are major draws here and Sakuraba's feelings about each game clearly influenced the game. However, Sakuraba often distances himself from the relatively straightforward original material available to him in order to experiment with the piano. Each piece is full of tangents, nuances, and flourishes so it is very difficult to know what to expect even after listening to the introductions of each arrangement. This album should be approached as the more dramatic and temperamental counterpart to Sakuraba's superior solo album Forest of Glass, not a formulaic piano by numbers recording for Tales fans.

Overall Score: 7/10