Game Music, Reviews

Video Games Live Volume One Doesn’t Include Color a Dinosaur (Review)

August 11, 2008 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Video Games Live Volume One Doesn’t Include Color a Dinosaur (Review)on Twitter

The first US game music concert CD is finally here.  Video Games Live Volume One went on sale last month at the VGL performance in San Diego during Comic Con 2008, and people have had a month to listen to and enjoy a part of the concert in the comfort of their own homes.

So with all the discussion about track lists and sound quality, how does Volume One fare? Eleven tracks comprise over 50 minutes of music, some of which is recorded live, covering a broad range of titles mostly from the US… this time.

Does the album deserve a spot in your collection even though Color a Dinosaur is not represented? Read our full impressions of VGL’s debut album after the jump.

The album starts off with one of the most popular segments of the tour, “Kingdom Hearts,” which is as upbeat and cheery as ever. This one has always been a crowd favorite, so it makes for an effective opener. It is immediately followed by “Warcraft Suite,” another crowd pleaser, and both pieces sound great.

While I would have preferred to have heard Jack Wall’s more recent work from Mass Effect on this album, the “Myst Medley” provides some beautiful choral work. One of my personal favorites of the show comes next, “Medal of Honor (LIVE),” which, as the first live track, is surprisingly well-recorded. I like that they included live segments on the album (especially the encore), as they give the entire album a live edge that puts listeners who attended the show in the experience.

Another favorite of mine is “Civilization IV Medley,” which is a great addition because fans can finally hear the vocals loud and clear with this recording. It’s been a gripe of mine at some shows that the vocalists get lost in the music. Next, coming in at a little over a minute, Martin Leung’s “Tetris Piano Opus No.1” acts as a sweet yet brief intermission.

Moving forward, “God of War Montage (LIVE)” and “Advent Rising Suite” come in. I never realized how short the God of War segment was! While Advent Rising is Tommy’s masterwork in terms of orchestral composition, I’m still waiting to hear Color a Dinosaur live in concert, which he promises on his website!

“Tron Montage” comes next, which I always considered to be an oddity in Video Games Live. During the shows, I’ve always waited for the Tron piece to end so the show could get back to more game music, but on this album, listeners can enjoy the music at their own pace, and I found myself liking it a whole lot. I guess I’m finally starting to understand Tommy’s unhealthy obsession for Tron!

Rounding out the album is the absolutely required “Halo Suite,” which is the longest track on the album, although it does feature a lot of bridging sections that take listeners through the different segments of the arrangement, and don’t make for particularly interesting listening.

What is typically the encore at many VGL stops, “Castlevania Rock (LIVE)” really hits the spot, with Tommy’s voice creeping into the mix. It’s definitely effective. My only complaint would be that the levels on the orchestra could stand to be bumped up a little bit! This is definitely one of the coolest tracks on the album with rock and orchestral elements combined, which should please hardcore Castlevania fans.

On the topic of live recordings, I would say that this album drives home the importance of the synchronized video at the actual performances. I found myself visualizing some of the video clips in my head as I listened to this album, and I noticed that some of the pieces have bridge sections that aren’t so musically interesting, and were normally supported by the video accompaniment. I don’t think this means the album cannot stand on its own, but it definitely makes me yearn for the DVD that Tommy has also promised in the future.

The packaging is also nice. The booklet has profiles for Tommy, Jack, and Martin, and also gives information about each of the pieces on the album. The CD features the pixelated VGL logo on a sleek silver background, which is quite striking.

Overall, I think Video Games Live Volume One is a great debut, featuring some of my favorite segments from the show, and mixing in live segments to give the album an authentic VGL edge. Since this is Volume One, I’m hoping we’ll see company-branded volumes in the future, which will please all of those who whine about “Where’s Nintendo? Where’s Final Fantasy?” I personally want a BlizzCon/World Wide Invitational compilation with some Diablo III music.  Tommy and Jack are great businessmen, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing those performances on CD in the future! If I could put in a request, how about the sleeper hits Beyond Good and Evil and Headhunter, Tommy?

In the meantime, enjoy Volume One. There’s a lot to like here. I see why it’s climbing the “classical crossover” charts on the billboards. I’m just glad it’s finally here! You can pick it up at a Video Games Live stop near you, on their website, or through iTunes.

Do you have a favorite segment from the Video Games Live tour that you’d like to hear on a Volume Two or Three? What do you think about hearing your favorite game music recorded live on CD?

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