In the past the Super Arrange versions as well as the Perfect collection albums were primarily a way to bring out the original themes with better quality samples. At least this was the general rule of thumb for the earliest Falcom arrange collections. So this album is a bit of an enigma, Ys Origin, like its contemporary Ys: The Oath in Felghana featured a soundtrack that consisted of a large volume of arranged tracks as well as an excellent sound tableau. This album would seem superfluous even before you open up the wrapper.
Unfortunately if this is your line of thinking, then you would be correct and somewhat wrong at the same time. While the changes are subtle, the additions to the tracks do bring out certain qualities of the source material that easily make these tracks much fresher than the original. In this review, I'll be focusing upon the changes made to the original themes which are featured here and discuss briefly whether they are successful changes or not.
The first track merges ideas from the tracks "Believing" and "Prologue -Ys Origin-" from the original soundtrack. The largest change is that the original was a piano piece and in this case it's a violin-led track. In reality the only real changes to the source material is the first 2:26 of the track. The rest is from all appearances a rehash note for note of the original "Prologue". This seems a silly change really, but technically it can be called an arrangement, because the first two and half minutes are an arrangement. And really the change to a violin-led track instead of a piano-led track is quite effective.
Thankfully "Oboro" is much more dramatically altered for the occasion. Once again the change is purely instrument shift with a few subtle rhythmic changes. In this case the violin was swapped out for a piano. I especially like the drawn out piano craziness from 0:55-1:10, which really jazzes up a rather generic theme originally. The piano once again goes off on wild tangent at 2:17, at times working with the core melody, and other times, going in completely different directions. It's just a surprising, but satisfying change to the original track and well worth listening to for people who like a little light jazz.
And here comes the rock that Falcom is well known for with "Scarlet Tempest". It even comes with a bombastic opening which echoes the original. And then suddenly at 0:25, the piece switches gear with a violin-led alteration to the original. This seems to be the standard changes to these tracks, where an acoustic instrument wanders in to take the place of a synthesized instrument in the original. Although at 1:35, the piece decides to go all out as standard rock, stripping away everything else except for the guitars and the drums. Unfortunately this track really doesn't go the same distance in terms of heavy improvisation and altered instrumentation that the previous track. It tries to redeem itself with another stripped down section starting at 3:05, but doesn't quite change things up enough. It's enjoyable, but not really that much of an upgrade from the original.
One just looks at the track times for "Silent Desert" and see the jump from 2:18 to 6:14 and thinks immediately that either this is going to be big or it'll fall flat on its face. And for the first 0:45 it does show promise, keeping the guitar, but changing the underlying rhythmic instruments, even bringing in a synthesized choir. And while I was dismayed that it dissolved into the original theme rather quickly, there were still some subtle alterations to the lead guitar part that keeps it fresh. Unfortunately during the first B section starting at 1:46, it sounds like there are some off-key notes in the harmonic parts. Not sure what went askew, but every time I heard it, it drove me mad. Unfortunately the promising alterations don't really hold up, sure there are small flourishes, but the track doesn't really sustain the need to be six minutes in length.
"Scars of the Divine Wing" suffers from much the same fate as the previous track. The only real alterations come from subtle flourishes at the end of the track starting around 2:30. While the improvisations were nurtured and even encouraged with "Oboro", it seems that the bottom has fallen off of the extreme alterations. And then along comes "Prelude to the Omen" which shows that all you need is to add one small instrument to the mix and suddenly you have a new track. Of course that is a rather cheeky shortcut, but you can't argue about the results. The addition of the Alto Sax just brings out the best to the original mix giving it just a bit more spark and life. I especially recommend listening to the middle section where once again subtle piano work just adds a bit more to an already good sounding piece.
"My Lord our Brave" is best described as being turned up to 11, with my apologies to Spinal Tap. The guitar is brought forward and gives the track needed push, with some really razor sharp solo work. While it won't win any musical awards for solid composition work, you can't fault it for being enthusiastic. Why oh why is "Over drive" being arranged again? Sure it has been altered quite dramatically, but this track is lifted straight from the original Ys PC-88 days. This album really should have focused upon the newly created tracks for Ys Origin.
I'll skip the vocal track, and move onto "Genesis Beyond the Beginning". I love this track as it shows that one can take a heavy power rock anthem and transform it into a thing of beauty with a tempo change and instrumentation change. I'll have to give Jindo credit; I didn't think stripping down the intense original into a piano and violin duet would work, but in it works quite well and is something which really does impress. This track is well worth checking out, as it showcases the best aspects of this album.
In reality, the value of this album relies directly upon you enjoying the original tracks themselves. While there are some tracks which are must-hear arrangements, the beauty of these tracks are dragged down by the unnecessary addition of a track which has had its day in the past and dull arrangements which stick too closely to the source material without changing much at all.
This really means that I hesitate to recommend this album outright. It's not a trashy arranged album, but it's not nearly sterling enough. There are ten tracks on the album; of those, I can say that six are worth listening to and in many ways surpass the original material. Unfortunately the other four are not significant upgrades to the original material.