Serious Monkey Business Reviews, part 1

These are listed in the order they appear on the tracklist. I’ll stamp each track as an Excellent, OK, Meh, and Skip. We’ll start with the first “disc” of the series.

Sturm und Kong (K. Rool Returns) by djpretzel – This track is a bit of a departure for DJP, bringing in less synthy sounds and more orchestration type of sequences until about :41 seconds in when it becomes a fusion of the first elements with his traditional hard synth. I’ve actually got a bit of JigginJonT vibe out of it. Certainly listenable but you probably won’t come back to it too often. Takes a few liberties with the original melody but for the most part it’s all there.

Verdict: OK. Not offensive to the ears but not really a standout track.

Simina Soiree (Klomp’s Romp) by Joren de Bruin – The first stage music on the Gangplank Galleon. A jazzy track, it starts out with round-string bass and piano. Perfect introduction which leads up into the 1:02 mark, where the horns come in. 1:23 is the culmination, where all of the elements combine to form a beboppin’ powerhouse. Right when you’re about ready for something different, the gears change right about 2:08 with some classical guitar picking. The song then winds down with the piano and bass again. Excellent arrangement work and great sound too. Melodies never get lost and it doesn’t succumb to any noodling.

Verdict: Excellent. Will probably be the first track on my picks list.

Part’s Over Here (Cranky’s Conga) by OA – Being a fan of both OA and Cranky’s theme, I was expecting good things here. The track is overall very good except for the unnecessary girl saying “Hey, it’s the party song! Party’s over here! Come on!” It manages to take the rather short and repetitive Cranky theme and expand it, which is probably a pretty tough feat when trying to keep things interesting. The guitar part could probably be considered noodling, but it is thankfully short and the synth callbacks help put it into a bit of young and old dynamic (Cranky versus Diddy). It ends right about the time you get tired of it, but it ends with a fadeout guitar solo. Boo!

Verdict: Excellent. A great take on Cranky Kong’s theme.

Rare Respite (Jib Jig) by Patrick Burns – Here’s a great example of how to do a slow song. The original was very slow and methodical, and this track keeps the same overall feel, just expanding it in the right places and using the appropriate maritime themed instruments. It extends just a bit before the original’s bridge section by taking that bridge section and making it into a nice guitar segment. This song would have failed hard had the musician not used high quality instrumentation. The flute is so good that I can’t tell if it’s real or synth. This is where most “remixers” that use orchestral or live instrument banks fail because they just have that hollow, fake sound. The arrangement decisions are almost all positive. I can’t really find anything to quibble about. The use of the original game’s ship and sea sounds also adds to the ambiance.

Verdict: Excellent. A great introspection and quiet time song that takes the original to the next level.

How K. Rool Went Insane (Welcome to Crocodile Isle) by Ross Kmet – The overworld music is a bit of an arrangement itself of the game’s main theme. This song seems to fall into a bit of the same trap that djp’s did by tweaking the melody a little too much. It’s an all right song, but I don’t think it really works near the end. I guess I disagree with the general arrangement. The synthesizer quality seems to be pretty good.

Verdict: OK. Probably a skip for me but it’s well produced.

Tetanus (Lockjaw’s Saga) by Hemophiliac – The original Lockjaw’s Saga was a percussive, quiet track, and Tetanus takes that general aesthetic and runs with it. You still get that “water stage” vibe listening to it. The percussion gets bigger drums and cymbals, and the melody gets a string section. The arrangement seems to go around in circles. It’s well done, but it doesn’t really inspire much in me. You might like it more. Rare Respite seems to go in the better direction in my opinion.

Verdict: OK. A good arrangement that could have been better.

Old School (School House Harmony) by Nutritious – I never cared much for Wrinkly Kong’s theme, and this arrangement just goes in a completely different direction. Electronica. Just not my thing. Unless you really like electronica, there isn’t much to see here.

Verdict: Skip.

Monkey Merengue (Bonus Intro) by bustatunez – A very short original extrapolated into a 4:03 long jazzfest. The marimba needs a bit more oomph. Just sounds too synthesized for my taste. Then at around 2:00 it goes in a completely different direction. I wouldn’t say the track is boring, but having the marimba carry the melody throughout the majority of the song felt like a bad decision to me. The person doing this should listen to po’s Crystal Potion for some inspiration, and revisit this track. There’s a lot to like here, but it needs some work.

Verdict: OK.

Token Up (Token Tango) by zykO – Big fan of the bonus room music, which is really a different mix on the original Kongo Jungle track from the first Donkey Kong Country. zykO wisely recognizes this and uses generous parts of that in this arrangement. It helps keep it fresh, although I don’t think it needed to be nearly seven minutes long. Using the boring parts of Kongo Jungle just takes me right out of the bonus room feel, since these really take away from the frantic bonus room feel. It also feels like it should end about a minute before it really does. It comes back around to the frantic bonus music at 4:14 with a xylophone solo until it just devolves into guitar noodling. Right about that time, the song needs to wrap up and it just takes its time. Overall a great listen, but it could have been the best track with a little bit of trimming.

Verdict: Excellent.

It’s a Jungle Out there! (Primal Rave) by Joshua Morse – The Jungle track from DKC2 is a very earthy theme. This arrangement generally plays it close to the original, but whatever tubular instrument is used in the intro just doesn’t sound right. I also miss the “Uhs!” uttered in the background. There’s clearly some jazz influence (not surprising, given Morse is the arranger) but I feel the song loses a bit by not being more earthen and African. This is another one of those tracks with a not so interesting last quarter. It takes a big, booming track and just renders it a little hollow.

Verdict: OK.

The Apes of Wrath (Boss Bossanova) by zykO – A slow building crescendo marks the first part of the song. Once again zykO resorts to some slow noodling about halfway through the track. The real meat is around 3:00, when we finally get a main melody that isn’t obscured and a big, bombastic boss fight. It just doesn’t really go anywhere, even though it’s fairly well produced. The urgency in the boss music is mostly gone.

Verdict: OK.

Welcome to the Funky House (Funky the Main Monkey) by djpretzel – This was one of the tracks holding up the album’s release. It’s trying to be funky, but the melody is kind of disguised. It’s just not interesting enough.

Verdict: Skip.

Beneath the Canopy (Forest Interlude) by Fishy – This track is an absolute home run. When you hear the opening, you’ll swear you’re hearing David Gilmour. The song is Pink Floyd inspired, and the opening sounds like it was right out of Dark Side of the Moon. You don’t get these kind of psychedelic rock tracks on OCRemix, and as a Floyd fan it presses all of the right buttons. It keeps the best parts of the original and throws in some LSD style rock. We need more tracks like this.

Verdict: Excellent. Probably the best track on the first disc.

A New Place (Hot-Head Bop) by Nicole Adams and featuring M.J. Ault, starla, Tepid – The lyrics are so-so. The singing is good, but there’s a certain amount of over-seriousness in them that doesn’t play well. I’ve got nothing against lyrical music if your singing is good and your lyrics are well written. This song isn’t good, just mediocre. The electronica… not doing it for me. Where’s the backing harmonies and rhythms? They’re inaudible or poorly used. I suppose it could be worse than it is, but it falls short. I’m sure the rave scene will like this, but I don’t. Sorry. This ends the first disc and it’s kind of a downer.

Verdict: Meh.

In my opinion the second disc has better tracks than the first, but the highs here are really great. We’ll get to disc 2 soon.

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