Jun Senoue – The Works
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… 
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? 
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
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! 
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
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. 
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!