Sonic the Hedgehog Soundtrack CDs: Spotting the Bootlegs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTYolzBt2es

It’s become a real pain in the old Butnik over the past few years with the Sonic the Hedgehog music market becoming flooded with bootleg CDs, and it’s really sad to see so many fans blowing their hard-earned dosh on CDs that aren’t the genuine article. Anyway, I’ve put together a brief youtube video pointing out some handy hints and tips that you can follow to identify the official CD releases and avoid picking up a bootleg!

If you guys have any questions, feel free to throw them out in the comments – we’ll do our best to answer them!

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 Sonic Stadium Soundtrack Squad Review: Crush 40 – True Colors: TBOStH Part 2

True Colors – The Best of Sonic the Hedgehog Part 2
by Extaticus.

There’s absolutely no question that True Colors is a truly mixed bag; not only do the various tracks on the album spread across the different genres of music known to man (ranging from sublime electro licks to romantic jazz), but the quality of the songs also varies greatly throughout. It would seem, then, that True Colors is arguably again another perfect album for any newcomer to the musical side of the Sonic franchise, as it has a hugely diverse tracklist and should be great for anybody who wants to have a taste of what the series’ soundtracks are like. However for every instance of brilliance there is a jarring example of sheer mediocrity, and the undesirably low number of decent pieces of music on this compilation is hugely disappointing.

Right off the bat, the album starts to show its true colours (if you‘ll excuse the predictable pun); Cashell’s disgraceful rendition of Un-Gravitify” is nothing less than the musical equivalent of a start-line burnout. It’s a predictable, messy and downright boring ruination of what could have been a perfectly decent track (as Crush 40‘s far superior version proves). Fortunately, this horrible abomination is followed up by “Dreams of an Absolution” – Bentley Jones’ exceptional vocal aptitude is completely unparalleled by anything else on the album (including Johnny Gioeli‘s mind-blowing performance on the final track; more on that later), and the incredible combination of guitars, synthesisers and harmonies is simply spectacular.

Although the SA1 version of “Believe in Myself” was awesome piece of prime bubblegum rock, this newer edition is riddled with massive flaws and huge imperfections; this does NOT belong on a “best-of” compilation. I’ll also be blunt with Unknown From M.E”; a truly irritating piece of crap rap claptrap, and is by far worst track on the entire album. It provides nothing but blatantly awful tedium for the entirety of its lacklustre duration, and has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It’s messy, monotonous and purely diabolical tripe that should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, let alone put on a commercial release.

Luckily, this disgraceful chain of purely awful songs is smashed to pieces by the utterly fantastic electro masterpiece, Theme of E-102 Gamma”. Mixing upbeat techno and surprisingly calm piano, this track is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces of instrumental synthesised music ever to have been written. Though it’s usurped by DoaA and eclipsed by the “Open Your Heart K-Club Remix”, it remains one of the best pieces of music on the compilation. Look-a-like” is also exceptionally good – its wholesome and hearty pop-like feel only serves to maximise the listening pleasure that surrounds it, and its senseless yet extraordinarily catchy vocals will get lodged in your head. However this version is an edited version, and this is utterly unacceptable as it sacrifices the guitar solo. The Sonic 3 MegaD Mix” is essentially an updated version of the menu screen theme from (yup, you guessed it) Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Its funky tropical beats are simply guaranteed to make even the least agile listeners amongst you jump up and dance, and its catchy synthesised samples from the original tune will have the more aged of the listening demographic grinning like children as fond memories of the decidedly superb game flood back. All in all, it’s a wonderful track, filled to the brim with SEGA’s trademark musical brilliance; a big well-done to the composers!

Two previously unreleased tracks include Lazy Days ~ Livin’ in Paradise demo version”, and a “Hybrid Mix” of All Hail Shadow (C40 backing with Magna-Fi’s vocals). Both are fairly good pieces of music, although the originals would definitely have been far more well-received on the album. From the mesmerising piano intro ofDreams of an Absolution (Starry Night Remix)”, I just knew that it was going to be a true winner. This upbeat, fluent masterwork from Bentley Jones and co. provides nothing but pure, unadulterated bliss, outshining the original version by a long shot. This new mix is a pinpoint-perfect example of how it should be done.

The album’s climactic finish is certainly that; with a mind-blowing remix of revered Crush 40 song, “Open Your Heart”. Mark my words: this track is truly a magnum opus of undeniably epic proportions; a consistent and pure piece of electro-rock excellence, this is the pinnacle of the album, exceeding even the magnificence of the previous track. Jun Senoue and his band of musical misfits have clearly saved the best ‘till last.

Overall, True Colors is filled to the absolute brim with real corkers, but has an equal amount of garbage accommodating the brilliance. It’s such a shame, too, as this could have been really good had it not been for a few idiotic decisions in choosing songs for the tracklist. Oh well; there’s always a third try, right? [6]

Thumbs Up!: Open Your Heart (again? Jeez…).
Thumbs Down: *Hocks and spits* Unknown From M.E.

JEZMM:
“If True Blue was about the quality of the music in the franchise, this compilation is about the wider variety of the music, covering almost every genre that modern Sonic has touched upon to great success. My only disappointment with the album was that there was only one song that was an entirely original, never-before-heard remix, and it was a song that has been remixed several times already –” Dreams Of An Absolution”. Having said that, it’s a beautiful and inspiring remix, and while we have heard a bit of the almost-new Open Your Heart remix before, that’s still an amazing track too. The other bonus tracks however either aren’t huge deviations from the originals, or are simply rarer tracks from Sonic’s history. On the plus side for long-time fans though, this is the first official release of “E-102’s theme” to have a definitive finish, and “Cosmic Eternity” has a slightly extended ending. As a fan of all varieties of Sonic music, I found it to be a fantastic musical celebration of the extended cast, although those who would rather Sonic stick to one genre may have mixed feelings.” [8]

Thumbs Up!: Fantastic variety of tracks. The new stuff ranges from “nice” to “awesome”.
Thumbs Down!: One too many Shadow-related tracks. New content may disappoint some.
Favourite Track: Dreams Of An Absolution (Starry Night Remix)

BLITZCHRIS:
“Both True Blue and its more recent brother True Colours, interest me for one major reason. Remixes. True Blue did well, but has True Colours stepped up to the plate? I dare say it has, bringing home 4 new and 1 previously released but unobtainable remixes. The long awaited Lee Brotherton remix, “Open Your Heart” attempts to modify the more rock-driven song into something suitable for a club, and does so with flare. Crush40 return with Mike Szuter of Magna-Fi fame to produce a mix most fans will appreciate with a combined cover of All Hail Shadow. There is something almost, ‘complementary’ about the grouping of Mike’s voice with Jun’s guitar. Ohtani’s ‘Starry Night’ remix of ‘Dreams of an Absolution’ was the low point of the album for me, destroying one of the songs that saved Sonic06 from complete embarrassment. It sounded like a mash between two songs that just didnt ever belong together. Lastly, the original demo for Lazy Days just wasn’t as cheesy and doesn’t have the same energy as its original. It was interesting however to hear how the song has evolved since its original release. It’s not a bad mix, just something different. A listenable version of the “Sonic3 MegaD Mix” was a cause for celebration, with the track only previously obtainable through the menu background music of another game. I’m a massive fan of “look-a-like” and I would have loved to have seen a more complete version; it was nice to see its inclusion anyway. ” [8]

Thumbs Up: The track selection for the rest of the disc was fairly spot on.
Thumbs Down: Ohtani’s ‘Starry Night” remix did not impress at all.
Killer Track: All Hail Shadow

T-BIRD:
“Again, like I did with my review for the C40 album, I’m going to pitch from the collector’s end of the pitch. While I can’t faulter the selection of tracks here (indeed, nice to see some unexpected stuff like Gamma’s theme), and a double-whammy of Shadow tracks in the form of Julien-K will always go down well. However it’s the same old Sonic tunes re-packaged, and I think there’s only so much of this the fanbase will lap up. Where are all the classic chip-tune tracks? If I was in marketing i’d be putting together a “Best of Classic Sonic” and stuffing it full of Sonic 1,2, 3&K tracks, and surfing the demand of even the non die-hard fans wanting to purchase a little bit of their childhood in CD form. Am I right? The remix and demo tracks are nice little touches to the end of the album, and it’s good to see some of the more obscure pieces like “Look-A-Like” haven’t been forgotten by SEGA as again this is probably a definitive track for a number of people in the fanbase. I think the real destroyer track on this album is the “K-Club mix of Open Your Heart” as it tears up both the melody and tempo of the original and makes something brand new – something the fans want and this album on the whole fails to deliver. If you’re gonna buy one of the new albums from last year kids, go for the C40 compilation, or better yet Jun Senoue’s “The Works”. [6]

Thumbs Up!: A thoughtful selection of non-Sonic character themes from through the ages.
Thumbs Down!: You’ve probably got most the tracks already.
Killer Track: Open Your Heart (K-Club Mix)

A “truly colourful” collection of new and old tracks. Yet, this is another album on which re-released tracks feature predominantly, with the mixed bag of six new songs splitting opinion.

True Colors is still available for purchase from the Jun Senoue Official Store, as well as play-asia, and CD-Japan.

Are we totally off the mark again?  Or… do you agree with us? Let us know in the comments!

Sonic Music Artist Roundtable On True Colours Album

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I think one of my all time top ten fantasies (after the one where I’m trapped in an elevator with Tia Carerre) would be to sit around a table with some of the musical geniuses who have worked on Sonic music past and present. Well, to commemorate the launch of the second best of Sonic the Hedgehog album “True Colours”, The big names in the Sonic music Universe, namely Tomoya Ohtani, Hataya Hisashi, Jun Senoue and Kenichi Tokoi gathered to reflect on some of their masterpieces from the past….

Continue reading Sonic Music Artist Roundtable On True Colours Album