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Final Fantasy Concert 2002.02.20
This CD is mana from heaven for any fan of Nobou Uematsu and the music of Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy Concert 2002.02.20
By Ridwan Khan
Some of you may have heard about the recent concert featuring the music of Final Fantasy, performed live in Tokyo. For those of us, unable to attend due to a little barrier called the Pacific Ocean, Square has released Final Fantasy Concert 2002.02.20. The CD contains all the tracks performed at the concert. The CDs is also in CD-Extra format so it displays extras when played on a PC, including interviews and other video. As for the songs themselves, they originally composed by Nobou Uematsu, have been arranged and are conducted by Shiro Hamaguchi.
1 - Turning: This one minute track is simply the orchestra getting warmed up for the performance. Nothing much to speak of.
2 - Liberi Fatali: From Final Fantasy VIII, this high energy track starts the disc off quickly and energetically. One of the main themes of FFVIII, the track features Latin singing (in the vein of Final Fantasy VII's "One Winged Angel").
3- Theme of Love: Featured in Final Fantasy IV, the Theme of Love has never sounded better. Indeed, it provides a slow, contemplative mood, compared to Liberi Fatali. Many of the earlier Final Fantasy games weren't orchestrated as such; many of the albums, including IV's, had some gimmicks - IV's was a Celtic theme. Not to say, the Celtic Moon CD was bad, but the orchestral version of Theme of Love on this particular CD is incredible. Hamaguchi did an amazing job adding new harmony to Uematsu's music. For this track and, and the other tracks on the CD, Hamaguchi's arranging keeps the tracks from sounding one dimensional or boring. He brings the song to a stunning and beautiful climax around the third minute, before fading down to a whisper of an ending.
4- MC: The "MC" hosts of the concert series explaining on the music of Final Fantasy and about the songs themselves. For those of us who don't speak Japanese very well, there's little of interest n these particular tracks. If the CD ever gets released, I wonder if the MC tracks will be changed or redone in English?
5 - Final Fantasy I - III Medley: For old school Final Fantasy fans, this track will be of keen interest, as it combines many of the old themes of Final Fantasy, including the openings, "Mayatoa's Cave," and the "Chocobo Theme." The older Final Fantasy games haven't received treatment like this since "Eternal Legend of the Wing" and to hear the familiar themes done so well is truly a stirring thing.
6 - MC2: Another MC track, in Japanese!
7 - Aeris' Theme: One of the most beautiful themes from Final Fantasy VII, this particular rendition of "Aeris' Theme" sounds nearly the same as the orchestra version of the song put on the Final Fantasy VII orchestra CD, except for a more climatic ending. This is a problem shared by many of the tracks from later Final Fantasy games - especially VII through X; they sound similar to previously recorded orchestrated versions.
8 - Don't Be Afraid!: This track is as fast and powerful as one would expect from a battle theme. This song is remarkably similar to its Final Fantasy VIII counterpart, though the in-game song was done without instruments. The only major difference is a whirring sound during the song's refrain.
9 - Tina's Theme: Also known as the Overworld theme of Final Fantasy VI, among many diehard Final Fantasy fans, this track is one of the best of all of the games. It is, even on this excellent CD, one of the best songs. Sincere and soulful, Hamaguchi's tinkering, for the most part, does not detract from the power of this song. Many of his additions add positively to the texture of the song. The trumpets towards the end of the song blare with a wonderful radiance and strength.
10 - MC3: Yet another spoken track.
11 - Dear Friends: One of the major themes of Final Fantasy V, "Dear Friends" suffers the same as the Theme of Love from Final Fantasy IV. Though many good versions have been made (including the track on electronic album of the same name and on the Final Fantasy vocal CD, Love Will Grow) this is, to my knowledge, the only full orchestra version. Quiet and melodious, the song has a subtle and beautiful charm, though the choice of a stringed instrument for the song seems an odd one.
12 - Vama'alla Flamenco: The song for Final Fantasy IX's "Treno" starts with a flourish and slowly becomes a different track completely. This song is one of the most changed from its original version, as the song explores all sorts of Spanish styles, with the guitar from Dear Friends. However, as one dimensional as the song is (it was the theme for the city Treno) Hamaguchi's changes aren't terrible. From its lively beginning, and it's mellower middle, the song ends with a bang.
This CD ends the performance as such. CD 2 is the "encore" CD.
2- At Zanarkand: From Final Fantasy X, "At Zanarkand," is done simply with a piano. It sounds luscious, at times booming to enormous sizes or moving down to a whisper. The song's beautiful melody has a tendency to sound hauntingly familiar.
3 - Yuna's Decision: Another track from Final Fantasy X and again done on the piano, this track tends to pick up where "Zanarkand" left off. However, it avoids the
'largeness' of track two. Because of its pacing, it sounds like a lounge track, with the recognizable Final Fantasy melodies interspersed.
4 - MC 2: Another spoken track
5 - Love Grows: The Love theme from Final Fantasy VIII, it too sounds exactly like the orchestrated version on the Final Fantasy VIII orchestra CD, Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec. For those who haven't heard the previous orchestra version, Love Grows features horns and a piano.
6 - Suteki Da Ne?: The vocal song of Final Fantasy X, "Suteki Da Ne" sounds wonderful. The vocalist's voice is wonderful and the orchesta only adds to the beauty of the song.
7 - MC 3: Another spoken language track.
8 - Melodies of Life: The vocal track for Final Fantasy IX. "Melodies of Life" starts out with the "Castles and Swords" melody of Alexandria. I really like this part and I wish a full track could have given to that particular song. From there, the vocals begin; for those of us only familiar with the English version of the song from Final Fantasy IX, the Japanese version is stunning. It's like listening to a familiar song, but better. Like "Suteki Da Ne", the vocals and instruments work perfectly together.
9 - MC 4: Another Japanese language spoken track.
10 - One Winged Angel: Unlike the other, previously orchestrated songs on the album, One Winged Angel sounds different from its Reunion version. This is simply the best version of this powerful theme. The track, while featuring Latin vocals like "Liberi Fatali," is much better than Final Fantasy VIII's song. The track is simply gorgeous and is probably the best on the CD.
11 - MC 5: The final spoken language track on the CD.
12 - The Man with the Machine Gun: Laguna's battle theme from Final Fantasy VIII, in its original incarnation this song was probably one of the catchiest and boldest themes in the game. However, this is one theme that was meant to be an electronic song. The song sounds very different orchestrated. It seems to lose much of the dance/techno stylings that it had as an electronic track. Of course, this is not to say that the orchestra version is bad. Previously featured on "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec," this sounds similar, except for being a little more well played.
13 - Final Fantasy: The final track on the CD features the "theme" of Final Fantasy, featured in some or fashion in every Final Fantasy game. The nostalgia this songs brings forth for an old Final Fantasy nut like myself is enormous, and this is probably only behind One Winged Angel as the best track on the disc. My only complaint is that, for a finale, it's horribly short, clocking in at 3:34.
I've highly praised this CD, which it deserves, but there are a few things that could have been added or changed to this disc to make it perfect. Obviously, for someone who's Japanese is poor as mine is, the MC tracks add very little. I'm sure even those who understand the tracks would prefer less talk and more music. The canon of Final Fantasy music is enormous and more tracks would have been incredible (though perhaps not feasible, considering this was a live performance). As far as track selection is concerned, the Final Fantasy I - III medley should have been broken into several songs - "Mayatoa's Cave" and the "Chocobo Theme" should have been given their own tracks (the latter could have been combined with the glaringly absent Moogle theme from Final Fantasy VI). With a stock this big, it is natural for fan favorites to be left out. Another track notable for its absence is Faye Wong's vocal theme for Final Fantasy VIII, "Eyes on Me." Any number of (forgivable) problems could have kept the track from being performed, but with the vocal tracks for Final Fantasy IX and X, "Eyes on Me" would have been icing on the cake.
For a live performance the orchestra was well polished and nary a mistake can be heard during the disc. The audience seemed very polite, too, however they do clap quite loudly during a few tracks, most notably Final Fantasy.
If you've enjoyed the Final Fantasy orchestra albums, especially Final Fantasy VI's "Grand Finale," Final Fantasy VII's "Reunion," or Final Fantasy VII's "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec" or even the earlier "Eternal Legend of the Wind," this CD will appeal to you. For any fan of Uematsu's work, this two-disc set is heaven.
1 - MC 1: The second CD begins with another spoken track.