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c64audio – “Back in Time II” Review

Martin Galway
Martin Galway

There are a crew of very fine people collectively called c64audio whom many of them in the 1980’s wrote some stunning songs for the now antique but still very fun to play Commodore 64. However through various albums and inventions they have came back to revive their melodies once again. Learning from “Back In Time”, “Back in Time II” see’s many of the original people return with more zooped up synths and more of a controlled outlook on their arrangements.

“Aztec Challenge” opens with fresh appeal with a tension building rendition of the main theme of the game, and while the new outlook may not really set the world of fire, it more than does the job to get things going. “Galway is God 2000” follows using more traditional sounding C64 style synthesizers but this time addressing bass balancing problems and turning the synths almost into electric guitars. Although you do wonder how many remixes of Galway the creator Martin Galway can actually make, the song still holds its own, although if you remember the game originally then it does bring back memories. “Warhawk” is up next for a rehash and while you get once again get the nostalgia feel with the old style synths zooped up and retuned, its only once the tune gets going after a good minute and half you really get into the mood for the song and its hilarious b-movie whining bridges. “Roland’s Rat Race” is next up, sounding like a lost track from Outrun which is no bad thing, and while its nicely done, it takes repeated listens to really sit firmly in the mind.

Then a sound change for “Batman” which brings out some funky guitar samples and 1970’s trumpets for a rendition of the fun cartoon theme song although it doesn’t use the signature riff as often as I’d have liked.
“Terra Cresta” is up next, a game I remember fondly and therefore probably look too unfavourably on this remix which takes far too long to get up and running and is a bit monotonous. Once its up and running it then ends! Not quite sure what happened there… “Scarabaerus” which is a slightly confused mix that jumps between military drums, space odyssey rocket lift off’s, dance beats and circus drum rolls! As a result, it doesn’t really sit comfortably with me yet and the tune wasn’t what was grabbing my attention. However, maybe after a few listens it might come together for me. “Rydeen” see’s a return to form however with a typical dance song C64 style.

I think sometimes you have to have experienced the music from the early game era and then hear the songs again now to appreciate how far things come sometimes as the problem with these albums are that they fall in ruts between where they’re aimed for and who they’ll attract. Listen to these works compared to how they started off as, and you’ll be amazed (“Ghosts N Goblins”, the next track on the album is perfect example of this). However, listen to these tracks compared to say the latest soundtracks out and they pale in comparison at a technological level.

“Ghosts N Goblins”, the piano arpeggios of “Ivory Tower” a new track to me that shines in this album and the eerie almost early Spectrum feel in places of the fabulous “Forbidden Forest” are three superb tracks that because of the rut mentioned above may go unheard – it is a terrible shame.

“Wizball 2000” is another Wizball remix, this time as a heavy synth dance track, a welcome return from Mr Galway again as if the tune is already there, it shows that if you don’t mess with the ingredients – you have a winner everytime. Then after 7 minutes of pure synth heaven, we’re treated to the deliciously dark anthem of “Driller” – possibly the CD highlight for me. “Zzap Thalamusik” is an unknown game to me however the song is pretty darn good! It has a distinct Pet Shop Boys influence going on – all the rage for C64 games I must say! “Comic Bakery” closes the album with a simple dance tune, which is fun but hardly earth breaking.

“Back in Time II” is a good improvement and addition to the original however you have to appreciate where its coming from and why its being done to really enjoy it. If you’re used to giant orchestrations and won’t touch anything VGM wise below 32-bit consoles, stay way clear. If you enjoy your old classic music in the days when programmers were tricking the sound chip to get 3 sounds working at the same time – then here could be something you’ve been waiting for – but try Instant Remedy (same crew) first, as I believe that’s a more accomplished and rounded effort, if lacking in variety compared to this album.

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