Here’s another homage to an album that had a huge impact on me. This is one of the first cassettes I ever owned and I’d play it again and again as kid. I’m extremely poor at picking up on lyrics and often mishear lyrics to this day. The song “Wanna Be Startin’ Something'” is one song where I sang along thinking I was obviously singing nonsense only to find out later that I was 100% accurate with my lyrics.
Click above to listen on YouTube. My apologies that this video has been blocked in the United States. I’ve disputed the copyright claim but my dispute was rejected. Oddly Google allows it to be downloaded on Google Play but not YouTube which is also a subsidiary of Google.
In past 8-bit albums I’ve tried to make it as close as possible to sounds produced by the original NES. Here I’m trying to explore more of the tweaked NES instruments created by @AfroDJMac‘s pack. For the preludes I’m keeping it pretty simple then expanding to more complex patches for the fugues. I’m hardly a Bach scholar but “The Well Tempered Clavier” made an early impression on me as one of my first music teachers made me learn the bass parts on my old Aria Pro II bass, The action on that bass was so bad that I could put my fingers between the strings and the fret board. That bass was a pain in the butt but it worked up such strong fingers that when my teacher brought in an upright bass for me to practice he was a little surprised when I told him how easy it was to play.
As a kid I didn’t know much about Elton John other than that video he released for “Candle in the Wind.” For some reason I lumped it together with other songs I really despised at the time no real reason. I had no idea it was part of an incredible album from 1973, I thought it was just some weird guy who liked to dress like a French aristocrat from the 1700s. I would later gain appreciation for this song, particularly in the greater context of the album as a whole.
Written between 1935 and 1936, Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata based on a book of medieval poetry. This was a hugely important piece of music to me growing up. I’d like to say that it wasn’t Ozzy Osbourne using O Fortuna as his entry music while playing live that got me interested in this piece of work, however, I would be lying if I said that.
Later in life I would see this performed live at the Lincoln Center in New York City which would rekindle my interest in this piece of music and allow me to explore the other two works of this musical trilogy: Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite.
Working with large orchestral works tends to make the sounds of the NES resemble the sound of organs. Layering all the tracks over one another is often reminiscent of a work heavy with synths. I tried to keep these as 8-bit as possible but there’s so much going on with the layering and the dynamics that either I am desensitized to the 8-bit sounds or it loses a little of that NES feel to it.
Ben Folds Five’s 1997 sophomore album, Whatever and Ever Amen, was one of my favorites released that year. This album presented a new challenge: converting a piano-driven album to NES pulse waves. Some of the album is rollicking, some of it is soft and understated, but none of it lends itself to the sounds of the NES quite as well as other genres of music. This album introduced me to Ben Folds Five and made a huge impression on me. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces of You is one of my favorite songs by the group. It’s probably not the track that came out the best of my 8-bit versions from this album but the opening piano still takes me back to the summer of 1997, even if they’re processed by the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Before huge hits like “The Wall” and after “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” there falls the 1977 album “Animals.” This has always been my favorite Pink Floyd album. The 17-minute song “Dogs” is my favorite by the band, a blending of Gilmour and Waters’s contributions, mashing up multiple songs and ideas into one. This was the hardest track to recreate as it contains numerous tempo changes. This is some of David Gilmour’s finest playing and it is impossible to capture that feeling and style with 8-bit synths. I ended up having to play drums along to the song then move the drum hits around manually to lock them directly to the beat, recording each fill individually and manipulating it. At the end of the day I’m happy with the result especially since there were multiple times I was about to give up thinking this entire project was just going to be impossible.
The Planets was written by Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916. There is a piece for each planet (except Earth) that had been discovered at the time. Pluto had not yet been discovered or reclassified as a dwarf planet.
I discovered this work of music when it was explained to me that it was likely a heavy influence for the soundtrack of Star Wars. It doesn’t take too long into “Mars, the Bringer of War” to see the merit in this assessment. It’s a wonderful piece of music and I found myself listening to it quite a bit in my early teens. It’s based more on astrology than astronomy, hence the order of the tracks.
I found that classical pieces lend themselves really well to the 8-bit format. In fact, there are so many instruments playing at once (far more than the NES would be able to handle) that it blends together so much you almost lose the 8-bit quality of the music.
Randy Rhoads made two studio albums with Ozzy Osbourne before his unfortunate death in 1982. The second of these albums was 1981’s Diary of a Madman. In my opinion this album always edged out Ozzy’s first solo album, The Blizzard of Ozz, released earlier the same year. To me the last three tracks of this album were the pinnacle of classic early Ozzy, all made possible by the incredible guitar work of Randy Rhoads. The album ends in epic fashion with a choir singing along to the syncopated 6/8 rhythm of the guitars, reminiscent of Ozzy’s classic opening theme: O Fortuna. Ozzy is a ridiculous, silly man as can be learned from simply looking at almost any of his album covers, but put together with the right musical ensemble he is behind some of my favorite early heavy metal titles.
Unintentionally moving ahead a year chronologically comes 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magic by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is another hugely influential album to me. I found doing an 8-bit version of a metal album fairly easy but trying to fit a funkier feel into the limitations of 8-bit was a little more challenging. This is another of my all time favorite albums. Not every song stands on its own but as an album everything fits together and flows perfectly from start to finish. Some songs were harder than others. “Apache Rose Peacock” is still not perfect and there are a few imperfections in “My Lovely Man.” I am working on cleaning up both for the Google Play release.
Megadeth’s 1990 album was one of the first CDs I ever purchased. I remember seeing a commercial for the upcoming album on “Headbanger’s Ball” where they played the palm-muted interlude toward the end of the song with a strobing image of the fallout shelter symbol. The second I heard it I prepared to purchase the album the day it came out. I had liked previous Megadeth recordings but was primarily a Metallica fan at he time (don’t judge me). This album quickly turned me in a primary Megadeth fan and to this day remains, in my opinion, the greatest metal album of all time. That being said, my knowledge of metal ends pretty abruptly around 1992.