Posts Tagged ‘Cowboys’

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Sunset Riders – “Mr. Pink Poncho’s Western Rock Band” (Dr. Manhattan)

December 1, 2010

Ok, so I’ve already talked about the original version of “Shoot-out at the Sunset Corral” from Sunset Riders, but I was so impressed with this OCR arrange that I just had to give it its own post before this blog rides out into the setting sun. I’ve already posted work by Dr. Manhattan before (“Sudden Kiss” from Dracula X) and I’m definitely a fan of his rock style. Plus, the track contains “Fight Bravely”, the second level theme.

Sunset Riders – “Mr. Pink Poncho’s Western Rock Band” (Dr. Manhattan)

The instruments are quite close to the original, with guitars, drums, and trumpets played to perfection, emphasized and cued just where they need to be. I’d almost say this is just a straight-up cover for the first half, but when they’re this good, why would you really care? There’s a nice guitar wail at 1:55 that is just what you’d expect from a spaghetti western, and this opens into a blazing guitar solo where Dr. Manhattan really shows his stuff – YEE-HAW! And what’s this? The “Mexican Hat Dance” song! (called “Jarabe Tapatio”). Of course you have to have that with the rifle-wielding Cormano! (And yes, he does wear a pink poncho!). This is a nice bridge to the Spanish-themed “Fight Bravely”, which ends the mix beginning at 2:47.

OCRemix lists the composer as Naohisa Morota (Batman: The Video Game, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness), but I think he’s just credited with the SNES version (Motoaki Furukawa did the arcade version).

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Red Dead Redemption – “The Shootist” (Bill Elm, Woody Jackson)

June 28, 2010

About a month after its release, Red Dead Redemption (2010) is still one of the top-selling games (and still takes first spot for most frequently-accessed titles on GameFAQs). The soundtrack is spaghetti western, with plenty of guitars and chanting, but it also has a selection of period-style pieces (fiddle, whistling, harmonica, guitar) as well as some decent lyrical pieces (including a rendition of “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” with mostly original lyrics). However, I’m a sucker for allusions to Ennio Morricone, and so “The Shootist” is my pick. The soundtrack was composed by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson (and I can’t find any information on either of them).

Red Dead Redemption – “The Shootist” (Bill Elm, Woody Jackson)

“The Shootist” is a good example of a modern take on the spaghetti western, using traditional instruments, but  modern mixing and composition (“El Club de los Cuerpos” is another good example, with a modern drum line, latin trumpets, and distorted whoopings. It’s sort of like an art house spaghetti western. The melody contains elements of the main theme, which is also worth checking out (though a bit repetitive…). There is a wonderful echo on the guitar, taken straight out of Ennio Morricone’s collection. The song also has great wonderful percussion, with a collection of drums, bongoes, wood blocks, castanets, triangle, and cow bells. Exotic instruments such as the bean stick and  Jew’s harp add to the atmosphere. However, the mix of bongoes and guitar feels retro-70s to me (particularly where James Bond is concerned), but it all works together wonderfully. The end of the song includes sound effects from the game as well at the end to help add to the atmosphere and aural narrative. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – “Gerudo Valley” (Koji Kondo)

February 28, 2010

The final piece in the ‘cowboy’ set, while not being the end of all cowboy music that’s out there in games, is a real classic that might have been overlooked as fitting in this genre – “Gerudo Valley” from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time(1998). This is a fantastic tune depicting dusty Gerudo Valley, guarded by the Amazonian Gerudo warriors, who don’t take kindly to men (even if that ‘man’ happens to be a 7-year-old boy). Once again, Kondo demonstrates his ability to compose a piece that fits the atmosphere of trudging through a dusty canyon with a mud-and-brick city built into the cliff faces and inhabited by fearsome warriors, with a catchy tune to match.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – “Gerudo Valley” (Koji Kondo)

“Gerudo Valley” has a wonderful driving beat perfect for dancing, almost as if Kondo is channeling Ricardo Montelban to dance in those boots of his (it’s more likely wood blocks or sticks clapped together). This sound is persistent throughout the piece and gives it a great ethnic feel, which when coupled with the guitar and trumpet, has a distinctly Spanish taste to it. So when you think ‘western’, this is probably more a Mexican western or one set in Spain. The piece is but built around a few central notes and progresses through multiple variations on this theme to create a rondo effect.

“Gerudo Valley” is also one of the most popular tracks from Ocarina of Timeand has been remixed dozens of times, garnering eight mixes on Overclocked ReMix alone, of which Scott Peeples’ is probably the best. There was anorcehstrated remix on Hyrule Symphony (1999), which is a lovely violin and cello rendition, complete with string-plucking. Both Ocarina albums should still be available for purchase through CD Japan, Play Asia, and other stores.

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Mega Man 6 – Intercontinental Contenders – “Silver Setting Sun” (Vurez)

February 27, 2010

What’s this? Two tracks by Vurez in two days? No, scratch that – two WESTERN tracks in two days!? Yes, Vurez composed not one, but two western-themed tracks (actually three if you remember “New Mexican Thunderbird“). Vurez seems at his best when he’s using the acoustic guitar – “Silver Setting Sun” simply oozes the American Southwest and the glory of the spaghetti western soundtrack. It is the most western-ish of Vurez’s pieces, and the fine use of western soundtrack staples – acoustic guitar, flute, trumpet, drums, and choral – all converge to create a tour de force of cowboy glory based off the original theme of “Tomahawk Man”, the cowboy-themed robot master from Mega Man 6 (1993).

Mega Man 6 – Intercontinental Contenders – “Silver Setting Sun” (Vurez)

The main loop of “Silver Setting Sun” is 1:19 in length, and there are several imaginative variations on the theme used throughout the track along with plenty of original material. The foundation of the song is a fantastic, deep drum with a steady beat that, again, gives the driving sense of cowboys on horseback. The flute and choral chanting provide a sense of exoticism, while Vurez’s trumpet adds nobility, heroism, and the rugged American male (idealized of course), particularly in the solo beginning at 2:05. Later on in the piece at 3:24, there is a choral solo, which is actually a recording of Vurez singing into the mic. He has a wonderful voice which integrates excellently into the rest of the piece. Finally, at 4:10, there are choral ‘bum bum bum’s (a kind which was later used in “Ride to Demonhead”) which fade the song out into the sunset. (Incidentally, the theme is kind of ironic because Tomahawk Man is modeled after an Indian warrior.)

Mega Man 6 was blessed with being released towards the end of the NES’s lifespan, which means that by this time Capcom’s composers, such as the game’s composer, Yuko Takehara (Mega Man 10, Mega Man X) Read the rest of this entry ?

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Clash at Demonhead – “Ride to Demonhead” (arr. Vurez)

February 26, 2010
Vurez’s rendition of “Ride to Demonhead” from the NES oldie Clash at Demonhead (1990) is a dark, awesome cowboy piece. Vurez packs so much atmosphere and emotion into his pieces that it’s always great to hear new works from him.

Clash at Demonhead – “Ride to Demonhead” (arr. Vurez)
The overall tone of “Ride to Demonhead” is sorrowful, morose, and gruelingly serious. There’s fantastic whistling, Vurez’s trademark acoustic guitars, and a chorus of ‘bum bum bum’s to get you on the trail. You can almost hear the wind howling and picture dagger-like wind blowing gray dust up the treacherous haunted path as a posse rides hot on the tail of the outlaw (or more likely as Billy “Big Bang” Blitz, the intrepid hero of the game, slogs his way to the crest – actually, I was a little surprised at how much detail was put into the plot of what is essentially just an average adventure game).
The song takes a detour at about 1:35 with some original and inspired material before returning to the main theme again at around 3:00. There’s some nice dark material here as well as a wonderful spaghetti western trumpet solo at 1:50 followed by a combination whistling and acoustic guitar playing a variation on the theme at 2:09 and some nice baritone choral support at 2:25. The church bells emphasize the gothic nature of the track. When the main theme kicks back in, it is highly stylized, with more acoustic guitars spinning like tumbleweeds. Throughout the entire piece is a nice, driving beat that characterizes much cowboy music – the sense of riding onward on a mission. Definitely made of cool.
Clash at Demonhead is a pretty bizarre game by Vic Tokai. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any credits anywhere, so I don’t know who the original composer was. The original version of the song is fairly catchy, which is probably why Vurez decided to mix it. However, I don’t think it’s got the kind of atmosphere he put into this piece. Talk about love. Anyway, you can check the original music in context here, starting about 3:00.
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Sunset Riders – “Shoot-out at the Sunset Corral”

February 25, 2010

Last week’s Outlaws piece put me in the mood for some more Western music, so I decided to upload a few over the next few days, starting with the Level 1 theme from Sunset Riders (Arcade, 1991). Sunset Riders was part of a small genre of Western-themed games that has appeared from time to time, the latest of which include Red Dead Revolver 2, Red Steel 2, and Call of Juarez. There is definitely a desire for cowboy-themed games out there, and Sunset Riders filled this niche back in the 90s with an awesome title screen of cowboys riding into a flaming sunset and a stampede of cattle you could run on. I remember playing this at the arcades with my friend and pumping tons of quarters into the machine – it was loads of fun, though today it plays more like a simpler version of Contra. The soundtrack was released on Konami Game Music Collection 5 (1992), which has a pretty awesome cover that oddly enough looks like it depicts a Japanese cowboy! (Actually, reminds me a bit of Curse of the Black Tiger.)

Sunset Riders – “Shoot-out at the Sunset Ranch” (Motoaki Furukawa)

“Shoot-out at the Sunset Ranch” is once again a fast-paced shoot ’em up tune perfect for stage 1. It has the cheesy trumpets and a driving metallic drums that keep the pulse going and sound like a posse on horseback. The high-pitched strings that seem ripped straight out of Super Contra are great punctuation to this rockin’ cowboy tune. The theme is supported by rock guitars too in the second half of the song. Really makes you want to strap on some irons and leap on a horse to go chase down the bad guys! Things seemed so much simpler back then…

Sunset Riders saw releases on the Super Nintendo and the Genesis. Despite censoring some of the ‘naughtier bits’ (the cowboys no longer kiss the ladies – lame!), the SNES version had superior graphics and audio. This version of the main theme is from the Arcade version. The SNES audio is much closer to the Arcade version, retaining that Super Contra sound. The drum samples also sound a little better in the second half of the song, particularly the high hat. The Genesis version has a dirtier, more metallic instruments, dropping the dramatic riffs of the Arcade for the Genesis’s graty sound. I was never a big fan of the Genesis sound system, and here’s a good example of why. You can compare the SNES version with the Genesis version here.

Motoaki Furukawa has been in the games industry since 1986 working on Konami’s arcade games. You can thank him for Super Contra and Ajax as well as later titles such as Snatcher and Castlevania 64. His music has been published in plenty of albums. He’s got a musical style distinct from Hidenori Maezawa (who actually served as sound advisor on Sunset Riders). He has since gone independent.

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Blood on the Asphalt – “New Mexican Thunderbird” (Vurez)

January 23, 2010

Vurez has done some pretty great remixes of vgm, especially his Mega Man 6 remix series. However, one of my favorites of his is “New Mexican Thunderbird” from Blood on the Asphalt (2006) which remixed music from Super Street Fighter II and was later used in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD. (Yes, Capcom’s titles for this series go beyond the point of absurdity.)

Blood on the Asphalt – “New Mexican Thunderbird” (Vurez)

Vurez is good at picking instruments that match the ethnic and local quality of a theme. “New Mexican Thunderbird” is the theme of Thunder Hawk, a member of the fictional Thunderfoot clan from the Southwest. Vurez is able to capture the feel of a dusty marketplace in the Southwest where local fighters gather to spar and train and where one’s reputation is based on ability gained through hard work. Thunder Hawk emerges as a local hero who can be counted on and praised and the over-the-top music gives a sense of that kind of fortitude and masculine hero-worship and a sense of nostalgia for a lost warrior past. The wonderfully cheesy trumpet and chanting warriors gives a sense of color and breath of life to Yoko Shimomura’s original tune that is simply lost for me with most of the other characters’ themes. Not that the others didn’t try, as Shael Riley, the album’s lead arranger, states:

The arrangements contained herein have been designed to be evocative of dark, pseudo-romanticized urban imagery: abandoned playgrounds and crowded street markets; back-alley block parties and hole-in-the-wall bar dives, scenes that are, I hope, befitting of a tribute to one of the most iconic games in arcade history.

For me, Vurez is the clear winner. You can expect nothing less from the guy who singlehandedly remixed all the robot master themes from Mega Man 6.

Note that for the Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD soundtrack, there is a deathmatch version of each song that plays when the character is low on HP and becomes tougher. While most of the other artists simply created shorter and simpler versions of their tracks, Vurez gave his quite a bit more variation, making it a unique piece in the soundtrack.