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Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- :: Forum Review

Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- Album Title: Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-
Record Label: NTT Publishing
Catalog No.: PSCN-5006 (1st Edition); NTCP-5006 (Reprint)
Release Date: November 25, 1995; October 1, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Written by Chris

Vocal music in video game albums has always been quite controversial, least of all in the Final Fantasy series. A lot of the Final Fantasy music fans that exist today noticed the albums due to vocal themes like "Eyes on Me," "Melodies of Life," and the more unusual "One Winged Angel," yet these themes and many others are a source of contempt for many other people. Some people considered their acclaim relative to many more accomplished yet lesser known video game works to be despicable. Others emphasised that the themes were musically weak, the former two works utilising a burdened pop ballad format and having few intricacies beyond a pleasant vocal line. Even so, Final Fantasy vocal music existed long before the PlayStation era soundtracks, with "Aria di Mezzo Carattere" and the two Final Fantasy Vocal Collections being the earliest examples of works led by solo vocalists. These works all successfully render the generalised arguments about Final Fantasy vocal music to be useless, as this review shall emphasise.

The Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- does this specifically by combining rich vocal melodies with instrumentation that is often equally as powerful. Lisa Ooki flawlessly sings all the themes and is able to do in a variety of languages (Japanese, French, Portuguese, and English all included) while producing beautiful and subtle performances throughout. The three arrangers, Toshiro Mitsutomi, Masatsugu Shinozaki, and Yoshiro Nakamura, are all extremely well-versed in the art of orchestration, with Shinozaki being responsible for Ogre ~Grand Repeat~, for example. This results in the arrangements abandoning pop song formats familiar with Uematsu's later works and replacing them with a variety of richly orchestrated works and those that use more abstract ensembles, such as piano, accordion, voice, and acoustic bass. It all adds up to a multifaceted and immensely varied experience, which should win the hearts of both "Eyes on Me" lovers, haters, and, of course, the good ol' moderate folk inbetween.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Prelude (Written by Harry)

Welcome to the mystical journey of Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-. The journey starts off exuberently with an arrangement of Nobuo Uematsu's famous "Prelude" by Toshiro Mitsutomi. The track is extremely magical through its solo vocal performance and harp accompaniment. Lisa Ooki's voice sounds so divine and epic that a clear image of the world Final Fantasy comes to you straight away. The song begins and jumps straight to the main melody with Ohki's wailing vocals doing magic and wonders. Then, as it gets towards the 1:00 mark, the harp comes in gracefully and adds perfectly to Ohki's haunting beauty. I can't think of anything which needs improving, except maybe for the ending; it could have been better than a fade out. One just can't help but love this track — it has too many great qualities and features to ignore and is a top-notch example of a great Uematsu track that is transformed into a masterpiece. (10/10)

2) The Promised Land (Written by Mpesca10)

The second song on Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- keeps up with the already high expectations set. Starting with strings and a very whimsical flute melody, the song is soon taken over by the vocals of Lisa Ooki. Singing in English, the track is all about wanting to find a paradise, to find the promised land. The English is very well sung; nitpickers can find a word slightly mispronounced here or there, but it is easily overshadowed by Ohki's beautiful voice. Backed up in the chorus by an added chime and drum hits, she proves that she is definitely a worthy singer, showing off her unbelievable range. Ending how it started, it simply fades out to nothing. The only problem with this track is the synth instruments; real strings appear in other songs on the album, so why did they not bother using them here? Other than that, the song is perfect, and is a mere preview of what's to come later in the album. (9/10)

3) Mon P'tit Chat (Written by Chris)

The first French theme on the album, "Mon P'tit Chat" is subtle, elegant, and creative. Such a feel is initially created by the French lyrics, which Lisa Ooki executes flawless executes with her poignant and whimsical performance. It is the instrumentals that are truly remarkable, however, which represents a fusion between folk and jazz influences. The accordion parts primarily represent the folk influence, being prominent, distinct, and often decorative, yet not overbearing or brashing either. In contrast, the piano plays intricate jazzy passages throughout and gradually become dominant over the accordion parts as the piece undergoes an extremely secrete metamorphosis towards its satisfying and emotional conclusion. While some may discredit this piece for being less catchy than most or lacking in substance due to its subdued features, it satisfies wholly by creating the style intended and presenting an original perspective on a slightly dubious original theme. (9/10)

4) Toki No Hourousha (Written by Harry)

Masatsugu Shinozaki takes on the challenge and arranges probably Uematsu's most memorable character theme he has ever written, "Tina." Shinozaki's arrangement is absolutely breathtaking, completely surpassing Uematsu's original composition. Lisa Ooki once again returns to sing in this epic tale and she sings with such power, emotion and thought that it makes me want to burst out in tears and confess all my emotions. Shinozaki's chosen instrumentation works wonders with Ohki's emotional singing as he chooses the flute to play out the epic tune and also chooses a harp to support the flute with its magical touches and mysterious nature. As for the string support, it adds greatly to the arrangement as it plays out the bridge in the ending. "Toki No Hourousha" is, for the exception of "N�o Chora Menina," "Au Palais De Verre" and "Pray," one of the best arrangements on the album. Masterful job, Shinozaki. (10/10)

5) Hikari no Nakahe (Written by Dave)

Again, we have a beautiful orchestrated track, which really brings out the best of "Theme of Love" from the Final Fantasy IV Original Sound Version. The vocal line is passionate and awe-inspiring, and, with Lisa Ooki's beautiful and versatile voice, the natural wondrousness of the original line is emphasised even more. Violins are dominant in the harmony, and it is their dashing accompaniment that make the track sound so much grander than its original. A piano plays some fantastic chords in the harmony of the track as well, and, as the track progresses, it becomes even more expressive. Every part comes together beautifully to create a feeling of love and hope, which reflects upon the original "Theme of Love." Another Shinozaki arrangement, although not as epic as "Toki No Hourousha," his skills are still reflected marvelously. (10/10)

6) Esperanca do Amor (Written by Duke Lionheart)

This is another great rendition of a classic Final Fantasy theme. Making a guitar-accompanied love song out of "Dear Friends" seems like a simple task, but the result is amazing. In contrast to the previous track, this one is very light-hearted, easy-going, and a little dreamy. I always immediately find myself sitting round a fire on the beach at sunset as this song starts. It's sung with the Portuguese language and with a certain Latin influence in the music, too. Bass, guitar, and Latin percussion provide a wonderful steady, quick, yet not fast-paced rhythm. But it's the flute and marimba that are best here, always throwing in a short line of countermelody, and doing a fantastic solo part in the middle. Lisa Ooki's performance here is something special; it doesn't seem to fit extraordinarily well, but it's still very appealing. On the whole, this is another demonstration of how to tap the full potential of one of Uematsu's melodies and the musicians do a fantastic job. (9/10)

7) Voyage (Written by Dave)

"The Boundless Ocean" from the Final Fantasy III Original Sound Version has been completely transformed in this track. The track starts off with swaying strings, with the 'cello part cautiously moving, and the upper strings moving in a wave-like motion. This soon turns into a staccato accompaniment as Lisa Ooki's voice arrives to sing a delicate and ghostly melody, and, while the harmony remains strong and boundless, the vocal line simply reflects purity and innocence. If you read the lyrics, you will see how she grows in confidence as the track goes on, which is also entirely reflected by the emotional feel of the track. This continual increase means that the track flows and never seems directionless, even when the vocals stop for an instrumental gap. This is one of the simplest themes on the album and one of my most favourite ones, too. (9/10)

8) Au Palais De Verre (Written by Harry)

Compared to the other arrangements on Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray-, this one is possibly the strongest. Toshiro Mitsutomi steals Uematsu's immensely popular original chip melody from Final Fantasy and completely re-arranges it into something that everybody would enjoy. You see, the problem with the original chip tune was not the composition, but the sound quality that it was composed with. Only hardcore lovers of video game music would have appreciated the original, ignoring the sound quality and respecting the music quality. Mitsutomi completely desolates this problem but still manages to keep the nostalgic synthy feeling that the original had. The beginning is the best example of this, as the synth makes you think of the wonderful chip tune quality but at the same time sounds very modern and stylish. Lisa Ooki's singing is also fantastic. Her portrayal of the melody is very interesting as she combines her French vocal impersonation with a fun and an enticing performance. Only a select few songs from this album can match the greatness of "Au Palais De Verre," but none of them can equal it's enjoyment and replay value, and that's why this is probably the best track on the album. (10/10)

9) Once You Meet Her (Written by Dave)

"Elia, the Maiden of Water" from the Final Fantasy III Original Sound Version is beautifully arranged in this track to create something magical and heartbreaking. An airy flute starts off the track as Lisa Ooki's voice adds to the purity of the surroundings. Despite the heavenly atmosphere, the track seems to have a problem in development, as it is only really the accompaniment that changes. The verses are entirely strophic, so there aren't any specific emotions for each verse, despite the fact that it is about a girl who lights everyone's heart up. However, although the strophic form of the track lets it down in development, it adds a nursery rhyme-like feel, reflecting upon the innocence of Elia. It's another great track, but not as musically creative as others. (8/10)

10) Pray (Written by Chris)

"Pray," an arrangement of the "Final Fantasy" anthem, is probably undeserved of being the album's title track; despite the original being so famous, the arrangement itself is quite disappointing, lacking the intricacy and subtlety synonymous with nearly all the previous tracks. While an epic feel is created by the firm accompaniment, dashing strings, and proud vocals, the rendition remains straightforward and predictable throughout, with only the pleasant guitar solo in the middle and the uplifting end adding significant amounts of variation. Further, the drum beats feel cheesy and neither give the arrangement substance nor a definitive sense of style. Adding an inappropriate drum beat to a series of other hackneyed features was the last straw and something much more transformative would be needed to make this instrumental rendition of the famous original theme noteworthy. (7/10)

11) N�o Chora Menina (Written by Totz)

This is one of the simplest arrangements there is: Risa sings the melody of the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version's "Kids Run Through the City Corner" accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. There are somewhat sad, yet hopeful lyrics, which seem almost like a mother is teaching her young daughter about life. For example: "And the girl who knows what it is to be kind will be a beautiful, beautiful woman." I liked the lyrics, which is a rare thing nowadays, and this along with Ohki's beautiful voice is a winner for me. (9/10)


Written by Harry

Squaresoft hit the big money with the first of its last series attempt, the small budget creation Final Fantasy. The game graced the Nintendo, being groundbreaking at the time through having great graphics, fun gameplay, and last but not least, memorable tunes. If it weren't for the inspiring music created by Nobuo Uematsu all the way back in 1987, great arranged albums from the series like Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I -Pray- would undoubtedly be non-existent. More so, this was the first Final Fantasy arranged album that had vocals in all of the tracks.

The team behind the creation of the album was Toshiro Mitsutomi, Masatsugu Shinozaki, Yoshiro Nakamura, and Lisa Ooki, who all played their part in a major transformation of Uematsu's classic originals into epic delicacies that, even today, are considered to be some of the best arrangements. While Mitsutomi, Shinozaki, and Nakamura were assigned to perform and mould the orchestration, Ohki was responsible for the vocals in the songs, and her performances were nothing short of incredible. It is apparent that she put a considerable amount of time into the Final Fantasy project with "Au Palais De Verre" showing the greatest amount of dedication, commitment, and a large understanding Uematsu's expressions.

The orchestration is expertly sought through, almost capable of rivalling Katsuhisa and Takayuki Hattori's techniques in Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite. With prominent arrangers such as master violinist and Ogre ~Grand Repeat~'s Masatsugu Shinozaki in the team, what could one expect? This album remains my number one favorite from the eternal Final Fantasy arranged album franchise. So, thus, we finally end the magical, mystical, and epic journey of Final Fantasy Vocal Collection I - Pray.

Average of Summary Scores: 9/10