Banjo-Kazooie Symphony is the latest endeavor by Blake Robinson, an accomplished musician well-known for his collection of orchestrated video game music on YouTube. Featuring 30 tracks and and 72 minutes of music, Banjo-Kazooie Symphony aggrandizes nearly the entire soundtrack from the beloved Rareware title Banjo-Kazooie — which is already no easy feat — and yet Blake Robinson has succeeded with great aplomb. If the idea alone catches your interest, head on over to Loudr or iTunes to pick up your copy, but if you need further convincing, just keep reading!
Like most fan projects, Banjo-Kazooie Symphony is not intended to be a profound means of storytelling, but rather a fun tribute to a fantastic and lovable soundtrack. For that purpose, it does exceedingly well. Rather than blending together to form an arc, each track is an arranged version of that melody from the original game, in order and largely the same. Similarly, while some projects such as Twilight Symphony and Pokémon Reorchestrated provide fully re-imagined arrangements of the original games’ scores, Banjo-Kazooie Symphony more often than not sticks to beefing up the original arrangements, though those who are more inclined to enjoy music that’s been truly rearranged will still enjoy a few of the album’s goodies.
Banjo-Kazooie Symphony also includes wonderful and fitting additions to the traditional orchestra setup, such as steel drums, a theremin, and, of course, a banjo. Banjo-Kazooie Symphony is created with synthetic sound samples, hence the name “The Synthetic Orchestra,” that possess a surprising realism. The most traditionalistic music aficionados may find themselves alienated by the mere fact that the album is not live-recorded, but even to a well-trained ear, the quality of instruments used in Banjo-Kazooie Symphony is thoroughly enjoyable.
Due to the album’s nature as a collection of covers rather than a completely rearranged masterpiece, some of the tracks can fall into a predictable pattern, but the enjoyability of the album as a whole far outweighs what little staleness may arise every now and then throughout. Also due in no small part to the incredible talent of its mastermind, each of the album’s songs brilliantly recaptures the spirit of its original context. The sad catch to this charm, however, is that most of the tunes are disappointingly short.
The most enchanting songs in the album, I find, are those that really have the creative drive to do something unique. Whether it’s the rapid changes between the drama and fast-paced energy of “The Final Battle,” the groovy beat of “Beneath the Waves,” or the choir’s hilarious interlude during “Spiral Mountain,” Banjo-Kazooie Symphony manages to captivate the listener with quirky decisions in all the right places. My personal favorite in the album is “Freezeezy Peak,” which features glorious brass, cute recorders, and uses a gorgeously colorful string section to tinge the song with a perfectly wintery atmosphere.
The Verdict: Ban-tastic!
Though it does have minor disappointments, Banjo-Kazooie Symphony perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the quirky Nintendo 64 classic. Between its high quality of sound and perfect preservation of melody, it almost makes the original score seem obsolete. Almost. Whether you’re a big fan of the original game or just interested in their charming melodies, Banjo-Kazooie Symphony is well worth the $10 price tag.