Keiichi Suzuki – “Mother Arranged” Review

keiichisuzukiMother (Earthbound for the English-speaking world) seems to have a cult following – certainly it has a good cult-stone foothold in RPG history. While the original soundtracks have been recommissioned not so long ago it seems fair to delve back and review the arranged album.

The vocals for the several vocal tracks are recorded in English with Catherine Warwick giving her best with what she’s got to play with. “Pollyanna (I Believe in You)” is very typical of Japanese 1990 music – very cheesy guitar, midi pianos and chirpy lyrics. Catherine’s out of tune at times and while the song has its problems its far from offensive. This genre pops up a few times and the sound has dated poorly but if you like the sound, you’re in for a good treat. “Bein’ Friends” is a much better reflection on the whole process with Catherine almost taking on a classical whaling in the bridges. The point where tacky happiness becomes actually rather good is here and you need some of this once in a while. Definitely a highlight if you’re looking for the fun of the series.

Away with the English lady and out with Jeb Million who thinks he’s Bryan Adams stuck in a cowboy bar! Catchy, fun and with hill-billy cross-country madness calls find its way onto “The Best of Line Dancing Vol.1” elsewhere in the world. No harm in that either I think! “Magicant” see’s vocals disappear in favour for some ambiguous synths and abstract instrumentation. It’s quirkiness is its strongest point and it’s not a song I’d obviously have thought could be arranged particularly well but as before (see Brandish Piano Collection for starters) sometimes the least obvious choices make for music gold.

Catherine Warwick makes her next appearance with “Wisdom of the World”, an absolutely beautiful ballad with angelic vocals, sweeping string arrangements and subtle drums. This song is made all the more enchanting by the production in which the vocals seem to be very soft and flowing with the strings – never a separate entity. “Flying Man” brings out the ukulele!  Louis Philippe has a voice not dissimilar to that of an early French George Michael however you’ll never get him singing a song like this. Weird tuned percussion and quirky uke riffs make this song quite a unique experience – even for the gaming community – and it’s not every day you can get that.

“Snow Man” is in a similar vein to “Magicant” in it’s a more traditional arrangement although much more obvious with its tune, riffs, motifs and style. Good fun to listen to.

“All That I Needed (Was You)” is Catherine Warwicks final song which is like the opening duo, another catchy inoffensive and above all fun early 1990’s Japanese pop song. “Fallin’, Love And…” is a very progressive track, which really only sways between two chords but changes over the track how its done. Adding various instruments, little patterns here and there – the song is pretty itself but goes on for too long to be anything worthwhile repeating often.

However “Eight Melodies” is one of the simplest and most sumptuous songs in video game music written. A beautiful children’s choir and a full orchestra put in a storming performance to a very sweet but powerful tune which while some may find repetitive  I find completely overwhelming. I urge everyone to listen to this arrangement and the album is worth buying for this song alone. It deserves to be up there with other well-known classics – so spread the awareness!

Keiichi Suzuki & Hirokazu Tanaka, the original composers for Mother then give us a 24 minute compilation of the entire original soundtrack under the title “The World of Mother” which is a superb indulgence and a real bonus. Each song plays through and fades out while the next starts and there’s no special effects rubbishing their way into the music either! Hurrah! “Smiles And Tears” closes the album as an unreleased track which is simple enough but has not been polished sound wise so it really does sound like a demo left on the cutting floor.

Mother Arranged is an album that intends to be a happy little gem with quirks and surprises and the surprise is that the album is actually rather good. While it hasn’t stood the test of time well in sound production, it certainly has stood the test of time in terms of good music.

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Categories: abstract, arrangements, chip tunes, composer, game music, j-pop, music, review, VGM

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