Banjo-Kazooie Symphony review
I don’t know about you but I’m a real sucker for video game soundtracks, especially Rareware ones. I have loads of them and Grant Kirkhope, David Wise and Robin Beanland are names you would see a lot of should you ever browse through my iPod. It’s hard to estimate just how much of an effect these soundtracks have had on me throughout my life. Suffice to say that the man I am today has been shaped immeasurably by the works of these great musicians. Getting ready to go out on a Friday night? Yup, that’ll be the Perfect Dark soundtrack playing in the background. Yet another boring bus ride into work? The DKC 2 soundtrack will sort that out. Feeling a bit down after a long day at work? That’s the Kinect Sports tunes you can hear blaring from my car while I head for home (the original music composed by Robin Beanland and David Clynick of course, not the licensed stuff!).
So, it was with great pleasure that I came across Blake Robinson (via the guys and gals at NintendoLife who did a really interesting interview with him a month or so ago). After reading that I checked out his website and YouTube channel and was really impressed with his work. What is so interesting about Blake (and why I love his music so much. Seriously, listen to his Super Metroid album and prepare to be stunned) is that he takes the video game music of old and reworks it so that it all sounds like it has been performed by a full orchestra, rather than done via a midi sequencer, or whatever format it might have been in originally. I say ‘sounds like’ because, and this is the really amazing bit, his work is all done on a computer using samples. The technicality of it goes a bit above my head to be honest and the mind boggles at how much effort must go into everything but the end result is nothing short of remarkable.
So, I was already a fan of Blake’s work, but then came the news that made me giddy with excitement; Blake’s next project was to be a re-worked version of the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack by Grant Kirkhope. Having a chance to hear the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack in this new orchestrated format was fantastic news and now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it a few times what’s the verdict?
Let me come right out and say it straight away; all the tunes sound incredible. Blake has made sure that all of the songs haven’t been tweaked too far beyond what we remember. The temptation to try and put your own stamp on everything must be immense but Blake has acted with incredible restraint to put just enough of his personality into it without altering too much. Of course, there are new additions and embellishments here and there but nothing that sounds out of place or fundamentally alters the song from what you remember. There’s some really stirring stuff here too; the opening title sequence expands beyond the banjo, kazoo and violin to create a real bombastic opening. You cannot help but get goose bumps listening to it. Gruntilda’s Lair features some expertly judged “bah da dah” singalong backing vocals (something I’m guilty of doing whenever I hum the tune to myself so it was doubly pleasing to hear it being used here) and Spiral Mountain is given a whole new lease of life thanks to a backing chorus, which might sound weird but trust me it works. I’ll leave the remainder of the tracks for you to listen to with no prior knowledge as part of the enjoyment of this album is listening through it cold in order to hear what Blake has done to update the tunes but rest assured, it’s all good and there isn’t a single song that sounds out of place. All remain instantly ‘hummable’ and as catchy as ever but with a gorgeous orchestrated update.
For me everything is absolutely spot-on. I love this album. So much so that from now on whenever I fancy listening to Banjo-Kazooie it shall be this soundtrack I play rather than Grant Kirkhope’s original, which is probably the highest compliment I could give. Truly astounding stuff; an absolute must-buy and an album that I readily recommend to anyone. Could we have a Banjo-Tooie Symphony album next please?