(2012) Taylor Davis: Gaming Fantasy

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Artist: Taylor Davis
Album: Gaming Fantasy
Released: 2012
Label: self-published

 

I have a massive amount of appreciation for Taylor Davis and what she does. Not only does she seem to have the same taste in everything as I do, but she’s a violinist, like I once was, and a damn fine one at that. Since we don’t have nearly enough reviews here that are outside the metal genre, I thought that it was high time I start reviewing her albums so that you might find some trinkets of music you love as well.

Feel free to listen along on Spotify here, or watch some of the music videos below:

This album starts out strong with the theme from Skyrim, which is one of my all-time favorite games. I will say that even though the backing music and arrangement in this version is superior, the version of this track that she had originally on YouTube is actually more dear to my heart. It might just be because I heard it first, but I do really enjoy the way Davis and Lara de Wit (piano) blend their music together; to me, it didn’t need more than that.

“Brothers” from Full Metal Alchemist is another song that I adore with all my heart. Though this song out of context isn’t exactly a hard-hitter; however, if you’ve watched the new Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, you’d know why this hits hard within the context of the show. FMA was a beautiful tale that I had watched get ruined by the original anime years ago, only to be blown away by how incredible the real story was when Brotherhood came out. It had everything, including a perfect ending. This song takes me back to that series and how touching it was, and I consider this a great success as a cover.

I’ve never played any of the Metal Gear Solid games, but I’ve always appreciated their themes, and Davis adds a nice bit of army-style drumming into her arrangement that make it very appropriate and ultimately a song that I enjoy listening to quite a lot. The Kingdom Hearts series happens to be another personal favorite. While I prefer songs like “Hikari” and “Passion” if you want to get me welling up with nostalgia, “Dearly Beloved” is a beautiful, slow song and it holds some of its own, if less strong, nostalgia – this track is most obvious from the opening menu before you start the game, and reminds me of that feeling I get when I’m excited to open up a game and start playing it. I appreciate the way this song was arranged – the piano plays the original tune, while the violin is a very acceptable addition.

The army drums return for “Cid’s Theme” – I do like Final Fantasy VII but I am one of those shameful people who doesn’t think it was the greatest game of all time, preferring FFIX if I’m being totally honest. So this song doesn’t really hold a special place in my heart the way others do, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this makes me, just a little, want to replay FFVII so I could hear it in context.

Though I confess that I haven’t yet gotten around to playing Chrono Trigger, I’ve heard so many mixed reviews on its sequel, Chrono Cross, that I’m not sure that I really want to play it eventually. There was a song from that album that I’ve always adored, called “Dreams of the Shore Near Another World”, so between that song and this version of “Time’s Scar”, perhaps I should, if nothing else, give the soundtrack to this game a chance, because it’s already quite promising.

I’m also one of those shameful people who loved Final Fantasy X. This song has the dual power of being both the intro song and a song that plays during some of the most heartfelt parts of FFX. Keeping it simple with just the violin and piano was wise with this track, as adding too much might have overwhelmed it. There is what sounds like a light build-up of percussion in the end to add in a bit more power, ultimately making this quite perfect.

The original Naruto series (before Shippuden) had an incredible soundtrack. “Sadness and Sorrow” is actually quite low on the list of songs I might have picked from it to cover, had it been me, but this song really feels just like sadness and sorrow – it’s a beautiful song and this cover manages to keep all of the power and dynamics at the right level to keep it sounding exactly like it’s full of grief. This album keeps the beautiful slow songs going by continuing into one of my all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy IX with one of the most beautiful songs of all time: “Roses of May.” This song plays every time one of my favorite characters appears and has a moral dilemma between doing her duty and doing what is right. This was from a time before that trope got pretty played-out, so whenever I hear this song it breaks my heart a bit. I must give a big round of applause for managing to pick this song out of all of the incredible music from FFIX; according to Nobuo Uematsu, FFIX was his favorite FF soundtrack as well, so you know there was a lot of great music there. Again, the mix of piano and violin alone make this song incredible in its simplicity.

While I’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game myself, I’ve watched my fair share of others playing it, and I do know that the series has had some pretty incredible music. Unfortunately, this album came out long before the fourth game (and it’s delightful soundtrack) was released, so I can’t blame Davis for picking an Ezio-related song from AC2, as he is perhaps the most popular hero from that series, even several games later.

The album picks up a bit again with “Frog’s Theme” from Chrono Trigger. I’m ashamed to admit this, but Chrono Trigger has been sitting in a pile of games that I’ve been meaning to play for about 10 years, and I just haven’t gotten around to starting it up yet – the Castlevania and Zelda series were keeping me too busy on my handheld systems for a while and I’d rather play the updated version than go out and find an original PlayStation. However, this song is light and fun and makes me want to stop what I’m doing and go plug that game into my DS right away.

It’s impossible to go wrong with music from The Legend of Zelda. There has never been a bad soundtrack in this series, to my knowledge, and the music is iconic. This particular medley takes some of the best tracks, including the theme, the Kokiri Forest music, Zelda’s song, the delightfully odd Song of Storms played by the insane man in the windmill, and the Gerudo Vallery theme before the great conclusion – all from Ocarina of Time, if I’m not mistaken. Davis certainly proves that she knows her way around a melody with this arrangement, and it just so happens that she picked a few of my favorites. I might’ve ended the album on the “Zelda Medley” personally; as much as I enjoy the “Chrono Trigger Theme”, it pales in comparison to the collection of iconic LoZ songs. I really enjoy the song, but I’d have switched their places in the track list.

All is forgiven though, because she ends the album with the aforementioned “Hikari”, which fills me with all sorts of feelings and makes me want to go and let myself get swallowed by Kingdom Hearts I once again. The only thing better than that game was its sequel, no matter how complicated or odd the story was. Hundreds of hours of my life were spent loving that series, and this is a nice reminder of that time, and a very well-done cover that lives up to my extremely high standards for this song!

 

So, quite frankly, if this was the first album Davis put out, she set the bar pretty high, as it hits me on a largely personal level. While the album does arguably have a few too many slow songs, it makes incredible use of marching drums and the addition of the piano alongside her violin arrangements is excellent throughout.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Skyrim Theme
2. Brothers
3. Metal Gear Saga
4. Dearly Beloved
5. Cid’s Theme
6. Time’s Scar
7. To Zanarkand
8. Sadness and Sorrow
9. Roses of May
10. Ezio’s Family
11. Frog’s Theme
12. Zelda Medley
13. Chrono Trigger Theme
14. Hikari

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