The Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Crush 40 – The Works


Jun Senoue – The Works
by T-Bird

Released last November, “The Works” is as much a collection of Senoue’s best pieces , as it is a real celebration of some of the masterful work Jun has produced not only during his long reign working for SEGA, but with his many unique side-projects as well. What really puts this compilation on a pedestal over the similar releases last year (True Colours, Best of C40) was the quantity of material that wa previously unheard of on western shores. I think the first thing that becomes apparent with this album is the incredible range of talent Senoue has worked with over the years. I’m sure many would kill to have worked with the likes of Eric Martin (of Mr. Big) and Ted Poley (Danger Danger), as well as to have produced some memorable power anthems of this calibre in the process.

The album blasts off with three such fine examples including “American Dream”, “Sons of Angels” and “Batter Up!” which ooze that definitive Senoue guitar, thunderously supported in vocals by Martin. Again the frustrating matter for me regarding these these tracks is that  (particularly with the tracks taken from the Japanese Baseball  title Pro Team Yakyu wo Tsukuro! 2) there are more of these tracks out there that have not yet made it to print on any CD. As well as these examples of collaborative work, the album plays host to a selection of acoustic and instrumental pieces. What is most notable here particularly during the absence of guitar-heavy tunes is the sheer diversity of what Senoue can produce – from the gorgeously plinky-plonk piano piece in “Afternoon Tea”, to the ambience of “Dusk of the stadium”.

Although I don’t particularly judge this to be a negative, the album does not contain a large number of Sonic related tracks. Personally, this is refreshing considering the hardened music collector would find this simply a repetition of material they have heard time and again. Even in this case however, those tracks we have come to know and love have been totally revamped and reworked. “After the Adventure”, as the name insinuates is a reworking of material from Sonic Adventure, the emphasis here being the Station Square theme composed a-la 70’s lounge stylee. Not only this, “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” mashes up Space Channel 5’s theme with the likes of “Open Your Heart” and (again as the name suggests) “Skydeck A-Go-Go” from Sonic Adventure to create an incandescent harmony of favourites.  If you were lucky enough to pick up the JXJ album a few years back, you’ll recognise “Where I want to be” , with Junko’s vocals replaced by Sweetnam. I must admit this is the only track I remain polarised on, as I think the English lyrics sound more forced than their Japanese counterparts.

There seems to be no loss of steam as you plough through the track listing, with the up-tempo Daytona USA and SEGA Rally tracks keeping the pace all the way through to the end, before ending on “My Own Destiny”, a beautiful mid-paced , ambling-lead finisher.

In my opinion this collection blows the winter 2009 competition out of the water, speaking purely from the standpoint of someone who has heard a lot of Senoue’s previous work. If you desire something more Sonic-filled, I’d suggest you might be better off going for a Sonic soundtrack, but if you’re half the Senoue fan I am, you’ll find it very hard to fault this near-perfect array of tunes. One can only hope there is more of this to come… [9]

EXTATICUS
From the AC/DC-influenced guitar licks of the stylish rock version of “The Star Spangled Banner” to the serene and sublime solos of “My Own Destiny”, The Works is yet another classy compilation from SEGA’s favourite – hell, everyone’s favourite – axe-wielding guitar god, Jun Senoue. Featuring a massive spectrum of styles and sounds, this awesome album will have even the most ardent and experienced rock fanatic slavering and salivating over its powerful melodies and captivating riffs; it truly is a wonderful display of what real rock should sound like, and is also a prime example of why the guitar (however non-mainstream it may be) remains a force to be reckoned with.

The Works is another work of genius from this guitar prodigy, and should be regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) SEGA-related compilations ever to have been produced. It’s a magnificent mix of styles and emotions and creates a first-rate blend of both calm and adrenaline-fuelled rock, whilst managing to retain all of its freshness and originality throughout the entirety of its highly enjoyable duration. Make no mistake: this is Japanese guitar-based music at its absolute finest; bereft of nigh-on nothing and filled to the absolute brim with truly timeless classics, The Works is an exceptionally excellent compilation that just “works” – it’s work that Jun should be well and truly proud of. Aside from the marginal (and, indeed, ignorable) low-point, The Works is – to be as blunt as possible – perfect. What else is there left to say? [10]

Thumbs Up!: The nigh-on orgasmic guitar solos in Dreams of an Absolution; as Admiral Ackbar would have said it: “Your ears can’t repel guitar-power of THAT magnitude!”
Thumbs Down: Hearing Where I Want to Be, and truly wanting to be somewhere else. God only knows what was going on in Senoue-San’s head when he ousted Junko Noda and replaced her with a sickly-sweet-sounding Miley Cyrus clone…
Killer Track: Open Your Heart

BLITZCHRIS
Jun Senoue. No matter how you pronounce his name, you have to respect all that he has done for Sonic. His latest solo album features some of that Sonic you love, but would be more accurately described as a pallet of his work over the years. From sports games (J League Pro Soccer) to driving simulators (Daytona USA), you’re likely to find a song on the disc from a genre close to your heart. Being a Sonic remix lover, “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” and “After The Adventure” do stand out as two of my favourite tracks. The first is a remix of Space Channel 5 with the “Live & Learn” riff, which strangely grows on you, while “After The Adventure” is a relaxing, more acoustic sounding rendition of “It Doesn’t Matter”. The JS vs LB remix of “Dreams of an Absolution” is there too if you haven’t heard it on any of the other Sonic albums it was released on. Not being very familiar with the rest of the games, I found “Soul on Desert” to be the most exciting track on the album; it really does have a desert racing feel to it that is hard too describe.

I’ll agree it is not the dream album for every sonic fan, and probably not what most fans were expecting. It is however a solid album full of juicy guitar goodness, and any fans of Jun will enjoy it. The tracks do grow on you, so before you criticise, give the album a shot. Lastly – Jun, if you’re listening, we NEED an instrumental of Cheerleaders! [8]

Thumbs Up!: The first time listening to “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” and wondering if I was going mental. Then squealing like a little girl when I realised the riff was intentional!
Thumbs Down:
I would have loved more representation from the Sonic franchise, you can never have enough remixes.
Killer Track: Soul on Desert

JEZMM:
Similar to Crush 40’s recent compilation, I found myself phasing in and out of this because a good deal of the songs are very similar in style. However at the same time, despite this there were still certain songs that really jumped out at me and I loved from start to finish. “Lift You Up!”“Road to Win” really reminded me of some of the stuff he came up with for SA2; really energetic and uplifting (as the name suggests!). also grabbed me with its almost magical and nostalgic quality to it, another fantastic cheerful track with some lovely piano work too. As another bonus to Sonic fans, there are neat lounge remixes of Station Square and It Doesn’t Matter within “After The Adventure”, and the surreal “Cheerleaders A-Go-Go” features a few sneaks of memorable Sonic tunes. I also found myself loving the short acoustic guitar instrumentals of “Afternoon Tea” and “British Rain”, and “My Own Destiny” was a brilliant ending.

Overall this is a fantastic album – there are just a few tracks I found so similar in vibe, a couple could have been cut for a more concise listening experience. Having said that, if you’re not familiar with where the songs came from, reaching track 11 and suddenly realising “hang on… the last 6 tracks were ALL about baseball” is certainly a unique experience to get from an album. [7]

Thumbs Up:
The fantastic selection that really shows off Jun’s versatility – from his classic rock stylings to relaxing acoustic and catchy techno mixes.
Thumbs Down: Track order can be a little uninspiring as an overall album experience, with many similar songs grouped together too.
Favourite Track: Lift You Up!/Road To Win (I can’t choose!)


A fantastic collection of pieces, including some wonderful reworkings of old classics and huge selection of new and unheard material. Don’t be put off by the lack of Sonic tunes if you are a Senoue fan!

The Works is still available for purchase from play-asia, and CD-Japan.

Got your own opinions on the album? Think we’ve got it all wrong? Let us know in the comments!

The Jun Senoue Interview – Part Two

9:00PM on Sunday, 7th of February 2010. Shibuya, Tokyo. Jun Senoue, Jeriaska from Gamasutra and myself have just enjoyed a couple of really good pizzas, and had finished discussing video game music as well as music remix projects (see my other post regarding the Game Music 4 All project!). Jun had answered my questions regarding Crush 40 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, but thanks to you guys, I still had a heap of questions for him…

T-Bird: Ok Jun, I’ve got some questions from the fans here! First off is from ibbod0; how did you meet Johnny and the rest of Crush 40?

Jun: Wow, good question…actually, I was a huge fan of Hardline. Usually when I compose the songs and write the melody, I think about who would make a suitable singer for the song or a good singer for the melody or something like that. With the song “It Doesn’t Matter”, the original version for Sonic Adventure, it has a very high note-melody. When I was writing it I thought Tony Harnell would be the ideal singer, and in the end he performed on that song; this in now my way of composing. Talking about “Open Your Heart”, I had Johnny in mind, but I did not have any direct contact with him. Actually my friend who lives in Los Angeles knows Doug Aldrich [The guitarist for Whitesnake these days! – T] . For a short time Doug played in one of Johnny’s previous bands, Brunette, and I knew they still had a good relationship and that Johnny had appeared on Doug’s first solo release [on a track called “Face Down” on the album Alter Ego – T]. That meant maybe Doug could get in contact with Johnny, and so I asked my friend to get in contact with Doug, then Dough got in contact with Johnny…and that’s how I first got in touch with him.

T-Bird: Ok, so SoA, Admin for the js.com forums asks, if say you had to replace Johnny, and of course that would be an impossible task, who would you ideally want as your dream replacement?

Jun: Replacement?

T-Bird: Yes…if you had to.

Jun: That would mean Crush 40 would be disbanded, seeing as Crush 40 is the teaming of Johnny and myself, in which case you would need to find a replacement for both of us! The lack of me or lack of Johnny would mean…yeah (laughs).

T-Bird: Great answer – I honestly don’t think you could replace him either! Thirdly, Sonic1991 asks how did the collaboration with Emma Gelotte, Tinna Karlsdotter and the legend that is Marty Friedman [Legendary because he was the guitarist on my favourite Megadeth album! – T] come around for the track “With Me”?

Jun: I wrote that song for the final boss in the Sonic and the Black Knight, and I so first I tried to find the female singers for that song. One of my friends in a Japanese record company takes care of dealings with All Ends [Tinna & Emma’s band – T], and so that’s how I got in touch with them. With Marty, although he was now living in Japan, I didn’t know him personally. I didn’t know his manager or any of the other business guys who dealt with him, so I asked him directly. Originally I planned to ask him to play all of the guitar stuff, but when he came into the studio, he said “hey, we should just keep these backing tracks!” We booked the studio here in Tokyo to record the lyrics and Marty’s guitar solo, but then the other guys came into the studio and wanted me to change the key, so I said “please give me one hour!” Since we use Pro-Tools, it was easy enough to raise the track one note, but it did not have very good clarity. We changed the key digitally anyway, then tracked the vocals, then Marty tracked his guitar. I went back later on and tracked all of the backing guitar in the correct key.

Originally my idea was to have that song in a lower key, and in fact we [Crush 40] did the demo in that much lower key, and that was featured on the Sonic and the Black Knight “Face to Faith” album and it is much heavier.

T-Bird: I think a lot of fans liked hearing a heavier version…and thanks for sharing the story! Short question: BlueLightning asks, what was your first guitar?

Jun: He wants to know my first electric guitar? Actually, before I started playing electric guitars, I got an electric bass, since I was into Duran Duran at the time.

T-Bird: Haha! That’s awesome!

Jun: Andy Taylor the guitar player didn’t play any solos with Duran Duran or anything and the bass player was so much more…

T-Bird: …Interesting?

Jun: Yeah! Originally I played the keyboard, but the drummers and the keyboard players were always at the back of the stage, and I always wanted to be one of the guys in front of the stage. I’m not good at singing, and I was not interested in singing, so I picked up the bass. However, after watching some MTV videos by the band called Ratt [Rock history lesson right here kids! – T] and Night Ranger, I got really into those bands, and so my very first guitar was a duplicate of the guitar the Ratt guitarist had…and I still have it.

T-Bird: Do you remember what make it was?

Jun: I think it was Fernandes, but these days I’ve replaced the neck with a performance neck…I will post a picture of it sometime!

T-Bird: Haha! Definitely! So, Sinister Swiss asks after the remixing of the Angel Island Zone track for Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, have you considered going back and reworking any other classic songs from those classic titles?

Jun: Interesting! It  was very fun to do the remix for Angel Island, and also I made another arrangement of Sky Sanctuary from Sonic & Knuckles for the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, and if I get a chance I want to try to do more of those kind of remixes.

T-Bird: Any particular tracks?

Jun: Ummm…talking about Sonic the hedgehog 3 and Knuckles music…*starts humming*

T-Bird: HAHAHA! YEAH! Death Egg Zone from Sonic & Knuckles! I think that would make a lot of the fans would love that!  I know we’ve covered this in the previous half of the interview, but Michelle Palmer asks if you are considering any tour dates?

Jun: As I was saying, I am going to try and organise some Crush 40 dates around August time. [As a side note kiddos, Jun has a new band Bubbilicious Blvd. And is playing shows in Tokyo! Check out the TSS article on them! – T].

T-Bird: Ok, last question…Hawkz asks, what would you say has been the defining moment of your career?

Jun: Hmmm…I’d have to say there are several. The first one is back in ’96, the moment I teamed up with Eric Martin. It was a very special moment for me. From that point I started trying to find direct connection with the artists, and that’s the way I’ve been doing it for years now.

Both Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 are very important games for me and very important titles for me, since Sonic Adventure was the very first time I was the sound director for a Sonic title, and I changed the sound of Sonic music drastically. With Sonic Adventure 2, some of us moved to the States, which changed our lives, and this time around we tried to make the music for the American market. It was very fun, and a very special time for not only me, but for the team too.

Finally, with Super Smash Bros: Brawl We provided several pieces of Sonic music to be used in the game, and lots of new fans – by new fans I mean the players who did not have any experience playing Sonic games – listened to the music for the first time while playing the Smash Brothers game…to me that was a great experience.

T-Bird: Lots of fond memories, and I’m sure a lot of fans hold some of those moments close to their heart too! Thanks loads for taking our questions Jun…hopefully we can talk to you again soon with more burning questions!

And we will have more questions answered very soon! Stay tuned for Part 3…but before you do, a quick message to someone…

Personalised Copies of Jun Senoue’s “The Works” on Sale!

worksJun Senoue is a man who needs little introduction. He’s had his hands in the Sonic pie since way back when, working alongside others such as Howard Drossin on the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 soundtrack. Mr Senoue really stepped into the spotlight with the launch of Sonic Adventure back in 1999, when Jun’s band Crush 40, fronted by Johnny Gioeli, blew most of the community away with its blistering soundtrack of fast-paced rock and epic power anthems. He’s just as awesome in real life too!

Well as most of you know Jun has been busy then, and not just with Sonic stuff. “The Works is a selection of tracks from other games such as the NASCAR and Daytona USA racing titles, along with music from the only-released-in-Japan titles, Managing Baseball Team Game / Managing J-League Football Team Game. Those of you who are fans of Ted Poley and Eric Martin will be pleased to know they both feature heavily on the album providing more awesome-sauce vocals.

Anyway, for a limited time Jun Senoue will be personally autographing copies of the soundtrack, which can be purchased on the official Jun Senoue fansite for the meagre price of $30 plus a small postage charge (works out at about £22 in total for UK peoples). Not bad eh? It also looks like Jun will be doing a similar thing with the Best of Crush 40 album “Super Sonic Songs” that will be released next month. The full track listings for both of the albums are listed on the website should you wish to examine them before purchase.

Head over to the Official Jun Senoue Site and follow the instructions to buy

If you’re feeling a little tight fisted, or you simply haven’t got enough pocket money to blow on a copy, then don’t fret! There will be a chance to win yourself a copy of the album over the SEGASonic:Radio Project 24 livecast on the 15th of November! Keep your eyes peeled for more info!

Props to Martin aka SOA, webmaster of junsenoue.com, for helping sort out this amazing offer for us lucky, lucky fans!