Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: C64 Orchestra audio CD

Credits for supplying the info quoted in this review:
Wilfred Bos, Mano Scherpbier and Jeroen Tel.

For ordering info and table of contents check my previous post here.

First let's start with the history of the CD. According to Mano, the producer of the double CD:

"the C64 orchestra started with Jeroen Tel. Jeroen Tel had chosen Rob Hubbard as arranger for this project.
Rob Hubbard wanted to arrange the music of Jeroen Tel but he only wanted
to this when his own music also were performed by the orchestra."

Which was a good choice, I think! Rob Hubard and Jeroen Tel are both sound masters. Maybe somwhen they are doing a second round also including Chris Huelsbeck and Richard Joseph (Couldron II anyone? =) ).

The first CD starts off with one of my all-time-faves: Cybernoid II! It's wonderful and after a while they speed it up! The Ricciotti Ensemble is really amazing and Rob Hubbard did the sheet music just perfect!

One Man And His Droid is of course a classic on the C64 which can be seen at the many remixes available of this tune in the C64 remix scene!

Supremecy is just perfect aswell, but the fact that at the beginning you hear the flut player breathing, I find confusing. I am not an expert regarding classical musisc, so maybe it should be this way.

For some reason I always remember the Delta music as something fast and fancy, however this version from the orchestra is slow but nice. But it's something you might have to listen to a couple of times till you start to dig it (at least this was the case for me).

Let's go to Myth (I have nothing special to say regarding Hawkeye), the C64 original is known for being silent and slow and somewhat muystical at the beginning but then it becomes loud, melodic and very agressive! How to play something agressive with an orcheastra? Use loud trumpets and a stomach shaking bass!

International Karate is one of Rob Hubbard's masterpieces again! I like the original but somehow I find the middle part not very exciting. It misses the flair of the original. It should sound more asian and less chaotic in my opinion.

Let's skip Master of Magic since I know it too litte to be able to really judge it.

Now you have got the commando! Right! Commando ahead! My all-time-fave of Rob Hubbard! It's very fast for a classical interpretation and it's sounding indeed pretty military like, exacly like intended for a "war game". It also has the silent part in it till it continues being pretty fast and agressive again!

And Monty On the Run is just great, too! :)

All in all, a very good CD, just wished International Karate was a bit more like it should be in my eyes.

Up to the 2nd CD: the one with the originals, and here interesting is, that the recordings sound 100% original like on a C64 but without noise. A point in which some C64 audio CDs failed, many used emulation instead of a real SID, the wrong SID model or one with bad filters.

So, how did they assure that it sounds the way it should?

Here is what they say:

"everything is recorded at the 6581 sid chip. - Jeroen Tel"

"Wilfred Bos and Jason
Mackenzie did the recordings. - Mano Scherpbier"

the recordings of the tunes of Rob Hubbard are done by Jason on a real C64.
As far as I remember Jason made some hardware modification on his C64 to
reduce noise on the output of the SID.

I made all the recordings on a HardSID card. I did several recordings on a
6581R3 and a 6581R4 chip so Jeroen could compare which SID chip he used to
make music on. Jeroen used all the recordings of the 6581R3 chip. He wrote
to me that he probably had a 6581R3 since the recordings of the 6581R3
sounds exactly like when he composed the music.

The recordings I've made are not mastered. Jeroen wanted to put the music on
the CD exactly as it sounds on a 6581. - Wilfred Bos"

Interesting I find that there is no noise on the Jeroen Tel's recordings despite not mastered. The reason is the HardSID doing the job. I experienced the same when using mine.

I find it great that so much effort has been put into the recording of the originals aswell! Of course some may say they miss the white noise of the SID but this is an audio CD and I am sure Mano also wanted that it sounds perfectly "CD like" so perfectly compareable to any other audio CD around.

You get a lot for 35€! Well done!

Now my final words about the extras: You can find those videos, etc also on the internet, but the coolest thing is the casing, however it didn't fit that well as you can see on the photo. And also the booklet had marks right from the start. This is a common problem of certain DVD/CD jewel cases, too and most known from Electronic Arts game packages.

However the idea is sweet and lovely and very very cool I would even buy the whole product for more if neccessary. It's supposed to imitate a C64 keyboard which it does it in a very unique way, well done!

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