(2013) Taylor Davis: Melodies of Hyrule – Songs from the Legend of Zelda

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Artist: Taylor Davis
Album: Melodies of Hyrule – Songs from the Legend of Zelda
Released: 2013
Label: self-published

 

If you’re going to make a beloved album collection of epic and iconic game songs, look no further than The Legend of Zelda for inspiration. Taylor Davis clearly knew this when she started work on Melodies of Hyrule: Songs from the Legend of Zelda. As a huge fan of the Zelda series, this was guaranteed to impress me, particularly when it promised a great deal of music from Ocarina of Time, which is one of my all-time favorite games.

Listen along on Spotify, or check out some of her music videos below:

The album starts out with a popular fan-favorite, the theme from “Gerudo Valley.” It has a very sudden, almost startling start, but the hint of acoustic… mandolin, or whatever it is, is very nice. Davis embellishes the main tune just a bit, making it a bit more lively, and it works nicely. The “Bolero of Fire” was bound to be interesting, because that song on the soundtrack is only a few seconds long. Davis got to take a great number of liberties making this into a full track and I think she did a great job of it.

The “Song of Time and Song of Storms” is one of my favorites on the album. Davis takes the simple “Song of Time” and makes it far deeper and more haunting by adding bits and pieces, while creating more atmosphere in the background. It’s an odd choice to combine with the “Song of Storms” (a personal favorite), but she blends them very well together, and manages to make two really incredible versions into one here – I wouldn’t have thought that I’d like this mix, but I adore this track!

“Dragon Roost Island” is one of the few tracks on this album that I didn’t recognize, as I haven’t yet played Windwaker, but I really enjoy this music – the tapping sounds in the background remind me somehow of pirate music or Spanish dancers, both of which seem appropriate in the context of a ship-themed game. I also enjoy the light and airy percussion in the background of “Kokiri Forest”, which add some playful youthful fairy-like magic to an already magical song.

The “Great Fairy Fountain” is a pretty simple song in its original form, which means there was a lot that Davis could do with it, and she did. First of all, the pianos near the beginning are lovely, and it’s good that she keeps the violin softer until she starts up the main part so as not to distract from the original tune. “Zelda’s Lullaby” is a good tune to follow – I don’t know why, but I like the sound of these two together. Again, the hint of symphonics in the background does wonders to add build-up dynamics, while the tip-toeing parts keep the nice, original OoT feel alive.

“Midna’s Lament” is actually one of the very few songs I know from Twilight Princess, having never quite finished that game. The original is one of the creepiest songs off any Zelda soundtrack, and one that is especially well-suited to being translated to the violin. However, there are two piano lines in the original version of this song – the rising part that starts first, and the main line that joins in shortly after. I think a lot of the haunting effect comes from that rising piano line, which this version unfortunately left out. The backing ambience in this is quite fantastic, but without that one piano part, the song loses a fair bit of the eerie element that made the original so good – it’s only present very briefly around the 02:00 mark, and at that point the song has been missing it too long already. A good version, but this one could have been better.

Much like the “Bolero of Fire”, the “Nocturne of Shadow” was a very short ocarina song from the OoT soundtrack, and works well coming after “Midna’s Lament.” Again, Davis did very well elaborating on the music and adding to it. The strong drum element works with the shadow theme and when the backing music kicks in, it sounds very tentative and has that sort of anxious feel that gets your heart rate up because something is coming. The third of the temple ocarina songs on the album is the “Serenade of Water”, which starts out with an almost Howard Shore Rohan-style violin bit, and the music from this one actually feels like it might’ve come off of the Skyrim soundtrack, which is either really cool or kind of inappropriate, depending on your point of view. I lean towards the former, myself. The hint of piano and brass toward the end is a nice addition.

“Sheik’s Theme” is one of those dramatic songs that plays whenever a certain mysterious character appears, originally done by a harp. As the violin sound isn’t as light (as it’s not plucked), it gives the song a bit of a different tune, but doesn’t ruin it, because the piano in the background manages to be staccato enough to make up for it. The breakdown about 01:20 into the song, bringing drums and bass guitar, among others, was a risky choice, but I think it works… though that part of the song could be considered perhaps a bit too brief to have been worth including.

If the “Lon Lon Ranch” theme had had anything else other than an acoustic guitar in the intro, the song might have been ruined. Fortunately, Davis understood the feel this song requires – not quite wild west, but at least a hint of old-timey western saloon – this song is about a ranch and needs to feel like a ranch. I like the gentle clopping sounds in the background when the violin stops; they’re a small thing, but a nice touch. I’m also glad she didn’t speed this up either – the Lon Lon Ranch never starts out as an extremely happy or prosperous place, so it needs that ever so subtle hint of melancholy.

I don’t think I ever made it as far as the Dark World in A Link to the Past, but I still recognize this song nevertheless. The brass and symphonics in the background are exactly what this song needs to be kind of epic. The almost-but-not-quite chamber music -like breakdown midway through is kind of cool too, before it reaches its musical climax. Davis experimented very nicely with this song and I’m quite pleased with the end result. The “Ballad of the Goddess” is up next – I haven’t played Skyward Sword because I told myself I wasn’t allowed before I finished Twilight Princess. So… I don’t know this song, but it is really cool, and hearing it makes me annoyed with myself for not having played it yet. I can’t compare it to the original, but this version is nice and powerful, so I’m going to assume she did a good job of it. Also, brilliant work with the high parts towards the end – that is not easy to do cleanly, so I appreciate how great it sounds.

I didn’t know what “Tal Tal Heights” was, but Google suggested that it’s from Link’s Awakening. This is mixed in very nicely with the iconic LoZ theme song and some just straight-up cool stuff in the background music that feels like a stony mountain adventure in a video game, which is oh so very excellent! I wish I had played the former and knew what this song was like in context. This is actually a bit of a funny thing, but I’ve been noticing now that Davis has been ending her albums in a bit of an odd way – this would be the iconic finale track that the album would go out on with a bang, because it’s ending with the main theme from the series, but instead she chooses to add another song, which is the “Lost Woods Theme” – if it would only be labeled a bonus track, I wouldn’t question it. The “Lost Woods Theme” is the one Davis perhaps took the most liberties with in adding backing music. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it – the music feels very much like a tropical beach/jungle, like from a Mario game, or something like that. I really love the music, but the Lost Woods are not a jungle, nor are they tropical, so I’m not sure that this backing music really technically suits the original song or vibe. I kind of like it out of context, but I also feel like it doesn’t really work for me in context. I’m conflicted. I do have to say that I really like the expanded main line as done by the violin though. Ultimately though, the album would have ended much more tightly if “Tal Tal Heights & the Legend of Zelda Main Theme” had been the closing song.

 

And at a delightful 16 tracks, the album ends! Yet, the longest song is a mere 03:39, so in spite of having so many songs, it still feels quite short (it does only clock in at 47 minutes, after all). Overall, I really like the interpretations of almost all of these songs (14/16 isn’t half bad!) and the addition of the backing music is used very well to add great dynamics and expand on the original music. And of course, the violin parts are phenomenal.

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Gerudo Valley
2. Bolero of Fire
3. Song of Time & Song of Storms
4. Dragon Roost Island
5. Kokiri Forest
6. Great Fairy Fountain
7. Zelda’s Lullaby
8. Midna’s Lament
9. Nocturne of Shadow
10. Serenade of Water
11. Sheik’s Theme
12. Lon Lon Ranch
13. Dark World Theme
14. Ballad of the Goddess
15. Tal Tal Heights & the Legend of Zelda Main Theme
16. Lost Woods

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