A few posts ago I mentioned that the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword would come with a 25th Anniversary orchestral CD. Upon first hearing of the news, I was hopeful, yet skeptical, that the CD would be legitimately good. As I had said, Nintendo would not have needed to try hard to make the arrangements on the album good because members of the Zelda fanbase would eat orchestral versions of their favorite tunes up regardless of how much original material the arranger adds. Plus, I'll admit that the London Phil's half-hearted attempt at making a VGM CD made me less excited about listening to this album.
That being said, the record is awesome, and I highly recommend it to any lovers of both Zelda and VGM in general. The eight tracks on this record span a total of 45:13 and move in and out of a good number of Zelda releases. There are four medley-type tunes ("The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Medley," one for Wind Waker, one for Twilight Princess, and a "Main Theme Medley"), three single-song tracks ("Gerudo Valley" from Ocarina of Time, "Great Fairy Fountain's Theme" from A Link to the Past, "Ballad of the Goddess" from Skyward Sword), and one track that's the combination of two versions of itself from two different games ("Kakariko Village - Twilight Princess Theme," which stems originally from A Link to the Past). There clearly was a lot of thought put into making this something really special for the fans, but also, if you like high quality live VGM orchestral arrangements (or if you like live VGM, orchestral VGM, or arranged VGM), you'll dig this release. I, for one, have, regrettably, never played Wind Waker and thus have not heard the music from it. However, the "Symphonic Movement" track from this CD is one of my favorites and makes me want to seek out the individual tunes and see how they were implemented in the game with the technology of the time. In fact, I've already checked out a couple and highly recommend that you do the same.
Someone was nice enough to post all of the tracks on YouTube for your listening enjoyment, and even included a list of time markers of which song is where in the medleys in the "description" portion. Here's the "Wind Waker Symphonic Movement" track:
Check out the use of the bassoon instead of the tuba on the "Pirate Theme". That's just one example of a great move made by the arranger, who I imagine is Koji Kondo since he's labeled as the "Music Supervisor" in the little pamphlet that came with the CD.
One of the works that I think is easily accessible to casual and hardcore Zelda fans alike is "Karariko Village - Twilight Princess Theme." I was a big Link to the Past guy, so I got my fill of hearing the original theme. The arrangement on this album is such a breath of fresh air, as the listener gets the idea that this is really the fully realized version of the song. Plus, the transition into parts of the darker Twilight Princess version of the theme is simply a great idea and, needless to say, an idea that is masterfully carried out.
By the way, check out the flutes again at :52. Whew! Hello, stealth addition of the main theme! That's what I'm talking about when I say that this CD has great stuff.
"Gerudo Valley" is particularly fun to listen to if you know the original because of how different it is. I, for one, would rather hear an arrangement that incorporates and adds to the original instrumentation because I'm fond of the style that Kondo originally used. However, that isn't to say that I'm not into this version; on the contrary, this is a perfect example of what great arranging can do. The arranger had a particular palette in mind when setting out to make arrangements for this album and used it to its fullest for the track. Every element of the original is filled out by the powerful diversity found in an orchestra, and thus birthed is a whole new vibe for piece.
If you can get your hands on this album, do it. Otherwise, enjoy it while you can on YouTube!