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Square Vocal Collection :: Review by Dave

Square Vocal Collection Album Title: Square Vocal Collection
Record Label: DigiCube
Catalog Number: SSCX-10052
Release Date: June 21, 2001
Content: 1 CD - 12 Tracks
Purchase: Buy at eBay


This album takes no particular style, as it is simply a collection of vocal collections from a number of Square albums. Quite a number of genres are explored throughout the album, with a punk track being the biggest shock. Not only this, but the album features a number of languages, too; not only does it have English and Japanese, but Swedish and Spanish, too. Many may consider this as an attempt from Square to make more money, and to be frank, it was albums like this which caused the downfall of DigiCube. However, although this collection seems pointless in that respect, it is a great gift for vocal fans, who may usually have to purchase each album separately, just to hear the themes.

Square Vocal Collections features the work of eleven game music artists, with the names of Shimomura, Matsueda, Eguchi, Mitsuda, and Uematsu being the most prominent. Not only this, but with twelve tracks, twelve different albums are represented, too, almost as if to give the listener a taster of what is on each one. You'll find that you have probably heard most of the tracks on the album, but collectively, it is a totally different experience.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Forevermore [The Bouncer]

This is a cute track from The Bouncer Original Soundtrack sung by Reiko Noda. It begins with a slow piano melody to which an elegant guitar is added in preparation of a wonderful vocal line. A drum beat soon enters to add a bit more of a sentimental value to the track, as after all, the lyrics tell a story of love that warms the heart. We can certainly hear a lot of passion through the vocal line, but it is really the power of the accompaniment that lets the track live. For instance, the piano that opens the track carries on flawlessly to provide a compassionate harmony for Noda to go against. However, it obviously isn't just a solo effort from the piano, and strings are involved too. They, themselves, act as passionate links to each section, and are the heart of the development around the 1:05 section. This is a perfect track which you shouldn't miss out on. (10/10)

2) Small Two of Pieces [Xenogears]

"Small Two of Pieces" from the Xenogears Original Soundtrack is yet another amazing track, and although slightly on the 'pop-classic' side of the rails, it is highly likeably inspirational and delicate. The lyrics are sung in English in this track, which adds a bit of variation and culture to the album. Each sung verse contains so much philosophy that your mind burst with imagination when you hear Joanne Hogg's voice. As in "Forevermore" though, it isn't really the vocalist that makes the track what it is, as despite her passion, you can't miss the efforts of the flute and electric guitar. The great thing about this track in comparison to "Forevermore" is that it actually lets the instrumentation shine so much more, with a wondrous electric guitar solo being the epitome of this. This is another great track that evidently provides an excellent start to the album. (10+/10)

3) Treasure Chest of the Heart [Chocobo Racing]

Hiromi Ota's cute, yet ear piercing voice takes the melody in this track, and transforms it into something heartfelt and meaningful. Once again, it is a song of love and passion, but the lyrics just seem to be so much more innocent and immature in comparison to the likes of "Small Two of Pieces," so perhaps it is a song about childhood sweethearts. The structure of the track is very similar to the first two, yet once again it features a little bit extra, as it is the only track out of the first few that features a choir as well as a lead vocalist. It is around 4:55 when this innocent choir first features, and they really add a superb part above the blasting piano part. Despite how good this track, I personally couldn't blend with it, and I blame Hiromi Ota's voice for that, as I really can't stand her tone. Still, the musicality of this track is excellent, and proves to be as breathtaking as any vocal track should be. (9/10)

4) 9 Times - Punk This Town [Generation XX]

The album takes an interesting turn here as we reach a punk composition from a band known as SOBUT. The bass line is repetitive, but it is effective too, as it takes the form of a pumping electric guitar which adds a great amount of power to the track. This track is unsurprisingly strophic, as after all, most rock songs are nowadays, unless they come from the more mainstream artists, of course. The lyrics seem to give the impression that the track is an anthem for success, with the vocalists feeding inspirational vibes to one's mind. Despite all of this encouragement, one can't help but feel that the track seems a bit inappropriate when places amongst the likes of "Small Two of Pieces" and "Melodies of Life." It is misplaced on the album as it certainly comes as a shock, so perhaps if it were later in the album, it would have been more respected. (8/10)

5) Lovely Strains [Soukaigi]

Transitioning back to the original, fluid stance that the album once had, "Lovely Strains"' orchestral approach seems well suited. The Soukaigi Original Soundtrack vocal theme begins with a timid string part to which an enhanced brass line is added, and it is after 0:40 that Kotomi Kyouno's voice is first heard. Her voice seems to stay on an even keel with the orchestra as she stays quiet throughout, whispering her emotions throughout. Due to this, there isn't really a part that takes the centre stage, but rather ripples of instrumental parts which come through now and again. Short variations on the melody from such parts give a quaint touch to the track, which is quite an orchestral masterpiece. Effectively, the orchestra does all the work as its passionate crescendo and diminuendo parts are extremely suited to the track. This track is probably the best on the album, as the orchestra is definitely mastered in such a way that no other tracks can touch it. What a great experience. (10+/10)

6) Eyes on Me [Final Fantasy VIII]

"Eyes on Me" marks a revolution in the Final Fantasy series, as it began a trend of featuring at least one vocal theme in every Final Fantasy game that followed, and not only this, but it is the first piece of video game music to be recognized with a popular music award. It becomes hard to criticise this piece with such a good run of history behind it, either way, there isn't a lot to criticise anyway. The lyrics link directly to the relationship of Squall and Rinoa, with Faye Wong's voice gorgeously singing the true fate which is unknown love. Furthermore, as with the first few tracks on the album "Eyes on Me" features not just a vocalist, but a superb orchestra, too. Although the orchestration isn't as good as the likes of "Lovely Strains," it is still exceptional, with every melodic input being a worthy one. This is perhaps the best known track on the album and for a good reason, too. This track alone must have persuaded many a fan to buy the album. (10/10)

7) Somnia Memorias [Parasite Eve]

This enchanting vocal melody from the Parasite Eve Original Soundtrack starts off with ambient jungle-like sound effects. This hopeful introduction is soon added to by some synthesiser chords which rise in volume and pitch, and then even more variety is added when a drum beat enters the track. Soon after though, comes the light of the track, the voice of Shani Rigsbee, which is quite cute, but horribly out of tune in places. The Spanish lyrics suggest an ill-fated passion which will end in grief — Shani Rigsbee plays the part of the partner, who warns her loved one what will happen to them. Her tone is cutting, yet strangely suited to the image meaning to be portrayed. All in all, the track builds itself up well, with the overall effect being a feeling of hope, but dismay too. We return to the jungle sound effects near the end, which is intended to recapitulate the theme, almost as if the lovers will fall into the same trap every time. (9/10)

8) Stars of Tears [Xenogears]

The name "Stars of Tears" reflects upon the splash of a tear on the floor, similar to a snow drop, no star will be the same, thus enhancing the idea that emotions are unique and something to respect. The track doesn't off much, yet still, it proves to be an effective addition to the album, being the only track with a Celtic edge to it. The track is traditional in its sense of instrumentation — namely an acoustic guitar, a tambourine, and a wood flute — so it stays true to the album, too, as there is never anything misplaced in any of the genres explored. Nonetheless, the story of the track is that the force of life goes on, and through Joanne Hogg's pure voice, this is expressed amazingly. (9.5/10)

9) Radical Dreamers [Chrono Cross]

The beloved "Radical Dreamers" theme is expressed in its purest form in this track. The first thing one notices about the track is that the accompaniment is bare, however, this is a cunning effort to place more emphasis upon the melody. The guitar is pure, ambient, and expressive, too. Noriko Mitose's strong voice draws out the true essence of the theme, as although it is sad, she doesn't take it to the unearthly extremes. The track is was created by Mitsuda in an intelligent, minimalist style that increases the purity intended. The best bit about this adopted style, is that at the end of the track we are left with a sense of emptiness, so you can really reminisce upon the preceding events. So, although this track may seem somewhat bland in comparison to others on the album, one can see that it is actually a masterpiece and a simple gem. There isn't any blandness about it either. (10/10)

10) Melodies of Life [Final Fantasy IX]

Beautifully quaint, Emiko Shiratori's voice sings wonderfully against the solid instrumentation. This is, once again, a track filled with passion, and it centres on the theme of love, too, with the main idea being of support and friendship. The track features one of the more inspirational solos on the album, with an electric guitar overtaking an accompanying piano part to let a stream of passion flow right through the track. There is so much more to this piece though, as it proves to be intricate in almost every section, as after all, this is an ending track. As an added bonus, once the lyrical section ends, the familiar Final Fantasy ending theme is played to round out the experience, recapitulating upon the encounters within the game. (10/10)

11) Song of Mana [Legend of Mana]

This track is the first and last Swedish sung vocal piece, with Annika and some marvellous orchestration being in the limelight. It starts off slowly, with its increasing dynamics somewhat eager in comparison to other track introductions. This eagerness is great though, as it prepares us for the shock of a total change in character. Suddenly, this sombre, nostalgic song, turns into a flair of melodies and upbeat harmonies. An enjoyable, endless repeat of the melody rings it to justice, and not once does it bore, simply because the track features so much variation that it is a continual classic. This is a great way to end this album, with "Tiny Wings" being considered a bonus track. This is a personal favourite of mine, and it comes a close second to "Lovely Strains." (10+/10)

12) Tiny Wings [Dice de Chocobo]

Although the Chocobo theme has been endlessly arranged, this track was truly enjoyable. It acts as a reprise to the album, and Mari Izukawa is well suited to this, simply because her voice is extremely cute. The lyrics are just as innocent, with the Chocobo becoming a representation of free spirit with a moral of letting fate guide you. The track sounds slightly French, with the typical impressionist style shining through nicely. And so, the track ends on the note "Let them fly away: they'll take you to the heart of the one that's most precious to you." It is definitely a meaningful addition to the soundtrack within its philosophy, sadly though, there is little development, making it one of the lesser gems on the album. (8/10)


Although each of these tracks have been released on other albums, the experience that you get from just listening to them as a whole is incomparable to when they are within their main albums. It is surprising to see the similarities between the themes, as it seems that most of them either follow a plain structure — being an instrumental introduction, then the lyrics, then an instrumental lead out — or just deviate from this and explore a new style. Simplicity is the key throughout the album, with even the barest of tracks standing out well. I can't say that there is a single red herring amongst the album, it's just the fact that it was a deliberate money making opportunity that put most fans off. Still, this is a respectable album as expected.

Percentage Overall Score: 90%

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