Grant Kirkhope – Banjo-Kazooie Original Soundtrack (Fangamer vinyl edition, 4 x LP)

4 out of 5

Label: Fangamer

Produced by: Fangamer

An expanded edition of the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack.

The 4 LP physical edition of Grant Kirkhope’s delightfully bouncy Banjo-Kazooie score makes it pretty clear how difficult it must be to trim down game music releases to 1 or 2 x LP affairs, once we’re getting in to the era in which many levels can encompass many, many variations of similar themes and tracks. Then there’s also the eternal questions with game soundtracks in general: to loop or not to loop, and how much?

All of my sentiment regarding the soundtrack stands as per my review linked above – having more of the music is not a bad thing. However, we get sort of stuck here: hovering between the compressed (in terms of content) iam8bit edition and the complete complete 150+ track digital edition offered by Fangamer alongside this release, this boxset feels either incomplete or slightly repetitive, by comparison. And that’s something that feels supported by the presentation, even though I’m not sure what else I could ask of Fangamer, as the artwork is perhaps even more suited to the game’s tone than iam8bit’s humorously janky one, and all of the LP labels are distinct, and we even get some notes from Kirkhope. The slickness might be what’s working against them: the boxset’s look is so easy-going with its color scheme, beach-y vibe, and friendly character representations, that it tends not to grab the eye. By the same token, note that I’m mentioning that synchronicity – certainly that’s better than art / design which is jarring.

But back to the music, which sounds good on LP, nice and rich, befitting Grant’s favoring of “real” instruments throughout the score; however, despite having a track selection from the composer, it feels like we end up favoring way too much of a particular theme – Gruntilda’s Lair – a version of which appears on almost each side. It seems silly to take the album to task for that, since if you compare to the digital edition, you get umpteen takes on all themes, but that’s just it – you’re somewhat conditioned to expect it with the digital and so it works, whereas here, on a curated list, it seems imperfect. What I admittedly can’t tell, though, is if you removed all track names and I wasn’t cued to view these songs as variations of one another – would I perceive them differently? On the plus side, I do think Fangamer did an excellent job with determining track length, looping things enough so that, intra-track, it’s not repetitive, but goes on long enough to feel like a full song.

Anyhow, if you’re to own one physical version of Grant’s soundtrack, I’d recommend the one with the most music, and this absolutely provides a good chunk of that. It’s all enjoyable, but in terms of an immersive listening experience, it’s not exhaustive enough to zone out to – a la the digital – or exactly compressed enough to feel like it’s cherry-picked to be the best of the best.