Ys Healing :: Review by Chris
|Album Title:||Ys Healing|
|Record Label:||Nihon Falcom|
|Release Date:||December 21, 2001|
|Purchase:||Buy at VGM World|
Ys Healing presents the music of Ys I & II in a series of relaxing acoustic arrangements for piano, strings, and chorus by a member of the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K. Though the album revisits some of the series' most overarranged pieces, it manages to be outstanding creative and well-produced nevertheless. In fact, the actual melodies arranged aren't the most important aspect of the experience and it serves as an artistic musical work as a whole. Let's find out why...
Right from the opening arrangement of "Feena", it's clear that the sound team's work on Ys Healing is exceptional. What's so incredible about this piece is that it manages to incorporate all the original melodies faithfully, yet not labour them as so many arrangements have in the past. This is achieved partly through a harmonic approach, meaning that the original melodies are not always the focus and sometimes part of four interweaving performances. For instance, the descending piano introduction is transformed into an accompaniment for some an gliding violin solo outstandingly written just for this piece. The subsequent piano interpretation melody is initially soft and supported by some deep cello countermelodies, yet becomes more passionate as lavish ornamentation and romantic chords are introduced. The whole piece radiates with some much colour and warmth thanks to the excellent arrangement and performances alike. It manages to be successful as both an arrangement of "Feena" and a musical work in its own right.
Above all, this album was created to sooth the minds of its listeners. The arranger often achieves this through offering relatively unobtrusive arrangements. For instance, "A Still Time" is classic relaxation music with its spiritual chorus chants and tuned percussion backing, sounding like something that deserves to be a hymn album. Meanwhile "The Ice Waltz" takes listeners on a light and frivolous journey with its Tchaikovsky-esque string quintet writing. However, others dare to explore the deeper emotions of the listener and intend to take them on a journey. A particularly good example is "Palace". The longest item on the disc, it is full of numerous contrasts and striking passages intended to evoke feelings in the listener. It achieves its climax from the 3:35 with a series of breathtaking ad lib performances. This arrangement might just make certain listeners cry and this is potentially an important part of the healing process.
Moving to the conclusion of the album, "The Black Pearl" takes listeners on one further emotional rollercoaster. A liberal arrangement of both "Last Moment in the Dark" and "Final Battle", it's full of the romantic piano work and heartrending string passages most would associate with Rachmaninoff's piano concertos. I would love to hear this arrangement fully orchestrated, but the chamber music approach certainly enhances the intimacy of the experience and makes it more suitable for healing. "Feena" makes a surprising reprise at the end of the soundtrack and, after the rich polyphonic opening, this performance is much more minimalistic and focuses mainly on harp. After this fragile experience, "Open Your Heart" provides one last highlight featuring soprano vocals and heavenly ambient soundscaping. Having listened to the rest of the album, the listener might just achieve enlightenment at this point.
Ys Healing is an excellent accomplishment. It presents the music from Ys I & II in very fresh arrangements that stay faithful to the original melodies, yet don't rely on them too much. What's more impressive is the emotional richness of the album created by the elaborate arrangements and beautiful performances. It's a very emotional and soothing listen from start to finish and is a wonderful album to listen to at the end of a long hard day. Highly recommended.