REVIEW: Taylor Davis – Melodies of Hyrule: Songs from The Legend of Zelda (Musicalypse Archive)

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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 and the other geeks of hte world, particularly when it promised a great deal of music from the legendary Nintendo 64 game, Ocarina of Time.

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 with folky influences, making it a bit more lively and giving it a very desert culture feel. “Bolero of Fire,” “Serenade of Water,” “Nocturne of Shadow,” and the other ocarina songs from Ocarina of Time were bound to be interesting, because the original songs were a mere handful of seconds long in the games. As such, Davis got to take a great number of liberties making these into full-length songs and did a fabulous job of each one, with the fiery speed of the first down to the eerie gloom of the nocturne.

“The Song of Time & Song of Storms” are technically also included in the list of ocarina songs; however both of these songs transcend Ocarina of time and are iconic in their own ways. Making a medley out of the two of them was a successful move as they flow into one another, combining two epic songs with the peak of emotion from the game. The sheer power in the violin during “Song of Storms” is utterly chilling. “Dragon Roost Island” is arguably the best song from Windwaker and is a later iconic track from Koji Kondo‘s repertoire. Davis takes the waltz timing of the song and adds some oomph and power and the tapping sounds in the background remind me somehow of pirate music or Spanish dancers. 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.

Much like the ocarina tunes, 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 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.

“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 really 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 the “Dark World Theme” 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 and while I have yet to play the game and thus cannot compare it to the original, there is some 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 recognize “Tal Tal Heights” even by name, 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! 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 song that 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 or Donkey Kong game. 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 clock in at a reasonable 47 minutes, after all). Overall, I really like the interpretations of almost all of these songs 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.

Written by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2013
OV: 3721

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

Lineup

Taylor Davis – violin

Label

Independent

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