G4 got its hands on one of the very first copies of Video Games Live Volume 1, the debut album based on the best-selling concert tour of orchestral performances of videogame music. And let me tell you friends, if you are a fan of game music, this disc is an absolute must-have.
Video Games Live premiered at the Hollywood Bowl in July of 2005. Since then, the concert tour has played to over 250,000 people around the world. Like their live shows, VGL creators Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall have put together an eclectic mix of music spanning the history of gaming.
Many of the songs are presented in unique arrangements which have never been commercially released. The album opens with a series of recordings made at Abbey Road Studios, including the majestic theme of “Kingdom Hearts,” the anthemic “Warcraft Suite” and the chant laden “Myst Medley.” Other highlights include the world beat styled “Civilization IV Medley” and “Tetris Piano Opus No. 1” performed solo by video game pianist Martin Leung.
Three of the songs are live recordings from stops on the VGL tour, including “Medal of Honor” and “God of War Montage” from a sold out performance in Brazil. The album closer, “Castlevania Rock” is from a different concert and features guitar from Tallarico and Dweezil Zappa, in an epic performance of rock band versus orchestra. Tallarico’s ambitious musical vision from “Advent Rising” is spectacular as is the biggest surprise on the album, a five minute plus music montage from “Tron.”
Hands down though, the most stunning thing here is the “Halo Suite.” Halo composer Martin O’Donnell contributed to the new orchestration of this piece. Even if you have all three Halo soundtracks, you don’t have this. Combining movements from all three Halo games, this six and a half minute masterpiece featuring Steve Vai on guitar is reason enough to buy the album. Consider the other 10 songs bonus material if you have to, but this is required listening.
After hearing “Video Games Live Volume 1” you will be craving a Volume 2 immediately. The only negative thing to be said about this disc is some listeners, especially Nintendo fans, may feel their favorite songs got omitted. Just remember there is a lot of game music out there, and this is the first disc in what will hopefully be a long line of listening experiences.
--Rick “Wants Volume 2 Now!” Damigella