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Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind- :: Review by Chris

Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind- Album Title: Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind-
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1415
Release Date: August 23, 2006
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Wild Arms series, Sony put together two arranged albums for the series featuring various popular tracks. Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind- features interpretations of a range of the series' more personal pieces for piano. Yasuo Sako was hired to arrange all the music for the album and his resultant scores were interpreted by two Japanese pianists. While the concept and selections for the album are mostly excellent, the completely underwhelming arrangements strip the original material of their integrity.


The majority of the performances featured on Feeling Wind offer a soft and relaxing interpretation of the original material. This understated approach is completely appropriate since the Wild Arms series is, at heart, a series of coming-of-age dramas and nothing particularly highbrow. However, the nature of the arrangements mean the respectable concept of the album isn't properly implemented. Right from the arrangement of Alter Code F's introduction, its clear that a lot of the emotion of the emotion and character of the melodies in their translation to piano. The beautiful shape of the melody is retained, but their worldly timbral features are lost, while the simple diatonic harmonisation brings little to the experience. An understated approach was the correct one, but basic translations only degrade the original material.

Another problem with translating material to piano is that the results often sound unnatural. "You'll Never Be Alone", for instance, attempts to recreate the character of the original vocal theme by combining slow flowing melodies with vigorous chord patterns. Unfortunately, the melody is too simple, the harmonies are too heavy, and, worst of all, the overall texture is too divergent to make a comfortable listen. It's one of several additions of the album that aren't just uninspiring, but also bizarre. "Totally Busy" meanwhile alternates between sections featuring completely monophonic textures and others featuring overpowering chords. Most scherzos are built upon humorous contrasts, but this one simply sounds amateurish. The arranger should reference "Thunder Plains" for how an arrangement in this mood should be achieved.

"Three Treasure Huntresses" goes some way to recreating the sassy sound of the anime original with its punchy jazz improvisations. Unfortunately, Yasuo Sako took the very silly decision to back the arrangement with conga rhythms. They completely distract from the musical experience and the final timbre is once again bizarre. It's a failed attempt to hide lack of inspiration and musicianship. The conga backing also completely destroys the "The One I Want to See Most". Instead of taking the superficial decision to add the drums, Yasuo Sako should have spent the time to really give the jazz stylings some character and substance. Or, better still, take a backseat and let Masahiro Sayama from the Final Fantasy X-2 Piano Collection do the hard work.

Sadly, the conga isn't the only guest instrument featured on the album. Listeners are also provided with performances by clarinet, cello, and various synthesized forces. The clarinet and piano is a wonderful combination if the former takes the lead, as anyone who has listened to a clarinet sonata by a great romantic would note. Unfortunately, the instrument is relegated to a supplementary force on the ragtime piece "Abbey" to emphasise the feel of the early 1900s. The whole interpretation is completely obnoxious. The equally obvious tackiness of "1st Ignition", on the other hand, is reflected by its backing with new age synthpads; the piano writing is certainly quite filled with immature sentimentality here, but it's the backing that emphasises these features so much that they become unbearable.

The problems of the album go much deeper than just simplistic arrangements and unnecessary additional instruments. It seems that the arranger lacks a fundamental understanding of the great piano writers that preceded him. For example, "Ordinary Scenery" was clearly inspired by Erik Satie's Gymnopédies, featuring slow major seventh chords in triple time and a melody that gently rises and falls. However, the choice to incorporate jazz-inspired stylings and a solo violin completely detract from the overall intention of the dance to present a slow and gentle expression of melancholy and solitude. Yasuo Sako should have expressed individuality and richness without resorting to means with a more subtle metric treatment of the melody alongside considered yet eccentric chord progressions.

The most accomplished arrangements on the album are the more romantic ones. "Ready! Lady Gunner!!", for instance, is one of the few arrangements that sounds natural on the piano. Pianist Haruki Mino beautifully brings out the wistful beauty of the melody with various nuances. However, the arrangement still doesn't come close to rivalling the beauty and artistry of the works of Chopin it aspires too, in large part because the harmony is completely comprised of arpeggiations based on diatonic chords. It says something about the quality of the album that this is a relative highlight. The balladic closing arrangement "To the End of the Wilderness" is probably the most understated on the album and it appears, in this case, this was intended rather than being a consequence of the incompetence of the arrangement. As it fades into nothingness, the final track develops a reflective and minimalistic beauty.


Overall, the Wild Arms Music the Best -feeling wind- is easily the worst piano arranged album I have come across. It's one thing for an arranger to offer basic and unfulfilling translations of original pieces on to piano. It's another thing for the arrangers and performers to pretend they're offering something deep or meaningful in the process. Perhaps most shockingly, it seems that the album's creators underestimated the capacity of the piano — probably the most versatile and expressive instrument ever created — by deciding to add guest instrumental performers and various synth parts. This is somewhat understandable, given Yasuo Sako's treatment of the instrument is consistently bland and immature. However, there are numerous examples from the Final Fantasy series or, better still, classical composers that demonstrate what the instrument is capable of. I'd advise all consumers to avoid this so-called commemoration in favour of almost any other piano album out there.

Overall Score: 3/10