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Gran Turismo 2 Extended Score Groove :: Review by Dave

Gran Turismo 2 Extended Score Groove Album Title: Gran Turismo 2 Extended Score Groove
Record Label: Lantis
Catalog No.: LACA-5003
Release Date: June 21, 2001
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


The second arranged album in the Gran Turismo series, following Gran Turismo Rock Arrange, Gran Turismo 2 Extended Score ~Groove~ features a blend of musical styles from drum and bass to electronica and jazz. Much like with the Gran Turismo Rock Arrange album, there is the fear that arranging the music from the Gran Turismo 2 Original Game Soundtrack would be a detriment to the themes, just like with any arranged album. But, rest assured that the six arrangers who worked on the album and their combined expertise do the original tracks great justice. Furthermore, the majority of these arrangers have since become well-known names in the game music industry with the majority featuring on a wide selection of game soundtracks subsequent to this album's release, perhaps further reflecting on the album's success.


The first arrangement on the album of Andoh's infamous theme, "Moon Over the Castle (Prologue)" has been mixed into a very delicate and smooth penny whistle and brass theme with subtle strings lining the background. Shunji Inoue, who has since gone on to compose for the Super Robot Taisen series (much like the rest of the arrangers) has created a majestic atmosphere here which previous arrangements of the theme had failed to touch upon. The only criticism I have of this piece is its short length, though as a 'prologue', I guess the track does serve its musical purpose. In fact, it is more used as a tool to lead into the first of Fukasawa's two arrangements, which is also a rendition of "Moon Over the Castle." The track begins with manic laughter, and unexpectedly we are slammed straight into a drum and bass rendition of the theme. The Street Fighter IV composer produces one of the most creative and interesting arrangements of Andoh's main theme by hitting us with pulsating beats, rhythmic diversity, and some fascinating synth. Incidentally, Fukasawa's second arrangement, which appears later in the album takes upon a similar style as a drum and bass/trance version of Isamu Ohira's "Welcome Back, G.T." This arrangement features a weaker melody, and mostly it seems to focus on a repeated bass and almost ominous synth riff. It isn't until two minutes into the track that we really begin to see some major development during which it becomes much more listenable. Most fans will fall in love with the saxophone line which comes in around the 2:40 mark and begins to scream a reverberant, breath-catching melody.

The next arrangement on the album is from Kiyoshi Murakami, most likely best known for his work on the Mobile Suit Gundam: Lost War Chronicles. His arrangement of Masahiro Andoh's "Never Let Me Down" once more takes upon a drum and bass/electronic style, much like Fukasawa's arrangements. The piece opens up with a smooth solo piano line which then transitions perfectly into an electronica section. The melody is simple at first, with most development being driven towards some erratic drum rhythms. The main asset of this track is how relaxing it is, despite having strong instruments; Murakami has selected a soft blend of lead instruments, namely the fire-wire lead synth to do this. Murakami's second arrangement on the album of Ohira's "Blade," takes on a different style. The track features a strong jazz rhythm and raunchy saxophone line, and the hardcore drums we heard earlier have been replaced with a lighter hi-hat and high/medium toms. The track comes at a good point in the album too, roughly around the middle, so its light atmosphere almost offers some sort of intermission to the listener. I'm sad to say that Murakami does have one bad arrangement on this album though; "Get Ready" is a poor track with an awful riff and very little development — the only thing which could make it worse is rap over the top (which, sadly, could easily be done).

The next arranger to feature on the album is Kenichi Sudo, who much like Inoue, is best known for his works on the Super Robot Taisen series. "From the East (Vocal Version)" is an interesting take on a track which was previously not written to be a vocal theme. It features Ohira's strong original melody, but alongside this, it includes some interstellar developments, relying on some heavy synth instruments and a lively drum beat to keep the track going. The vocals in this theme aren't nearly as bad as on the game soundtracks, which comes as an absolute blessing to the listener. Perhaps Sudo should be scripted to write the vocal themes for the series in the future. Funnily enough, his other arrangement on the album goes in the opposite direction, since "Blue Line (Piano Version)" is an arrangement of a vocal theme from the Gran Turismo 2 Original Game Soundtrack. In all, this rendition is better than both the instrumental and vocal versions heard on the game soundtrack, and this is down to the reason that it has a pure melody which isn't betrayed by an awful performance or clouded by inappropriate accompaniments. It takes quite a beautiful turn towards the end of the arrangement when strings are added to elevate the power of the piano line. Both of these arrangements are great accomplishments, and are tracks not to be missed on the album.

Sudo's Angelique and Super Robot Taisen counterpart, Masaaki Iizuka, also has two arrangements which feature on this album. The first arrangement, "Call of the Wild", is one of the craziest arrangements on the soundtrack. It is very chaotic, catastrophic even, in the way that it is set up. A heavy drum, loud synth sounds, and a seemingly miscellaneous melody all add up to create a musical cocktail undoubtedly stirred by a demonic Japanese game music composer! The funny thing, is that this track is actually my favourite on the album; once you begin to respect how the track comes about its motifs (especially around 2:49), and the development that these sections receive, you really begin to see what an intelligent arrangement it actually is. There's only one track on this album which surpasses the craziness of "Call of the Wild," and as you might have guessed, Iizuka was behind this one too. "You Made It!" features a pulsing, screeching, alarm noise with a strong bass drum beat, before moving into a sporadic drum and bass segment. In terms of musical accomplishment, it doesn't seem as structurally sound as "Call of the Wild," but it certainly keeps the listener entertained. For some, "You Made It!" may be a little too much, but it's definitely a track that will grow on you, especially when you consider that it features some great melodic development (you just need to wait for it).

The last arranger to be showcased on this album is Yoshichika Kuriyama who also featured in the Super Robot Taisen series, much like his counterparts. "Blowing Away" and "Get Into It" are two very similar tracks, but the sad thing is that neither of them are particularly strong arrangements (at least compared to what else can be heard on the album). "Get Into It" seems to struggle to get past the four minute mark, and "Blowing Away" barely goes anywhere within its playing time either (mustn't have been a very strong wind). The assets of the two tracks are the inventiveness of the synth instruments which Kuriyama chooses; "Blowing Away" has some interesting operatic vocals, and "Get Into It" has some manly grunting sounds. Creativity aside, Kuriyama's tracks aren't the best arrangements on the album, but serve as nice additions nonetheless.


As for as arranged albums go, Gran Turismo 2 Extended Score ~Groove~ is a nice surprise. It is good to see a team of successful arrangers unite to create a thrilling album with unique takes on original pieces, and moreover, it's great to see them do it well. Out of all of the themes on the album, I'm especially fond of Iizuka and Sudo's contributions, and you should certainly turn your ears to their tracks first. This arranged album is one of the best in the series, with Gran Tursimo 4 Kicks fighting it for first place!

Overall score: 9/10