One of the most anticipated video game music vinyl releases of 2015 finally arrived this month and now that the holidays are almost over it’s only fitting that this will be the second entry in the “Now Playing” series.
I’m of course talking about the arranged soundtrack to “MOTHER” (known outside Japan as “Earthbound Beginnings” and to some as “Earthbound Zero”) composed by Keiichi Suzuki & Hirokazu Tanaka.
“MOTHER”, the game, was developed by Ape and published by Nintendo and was originally released for the Nintendo Famicom system exclusively in Japan in 1989. It later saw another Japanese launch on the Gameboy in 2003 and it wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that it finished an English localization and saw a worldwide release on the WiiStore for the Wii U.
The vinyl release was a good time underway as it was originally announced via a Kickstarter by the record label Ship To Shore PhonoCo. on March 10, 2015. On April 9, 2015 the Kickstarter ended and it was funded with over $75,000 and more than 1,400 backers. Later reports by the label stated that they’ve been working on the idea for close to two years before the Kickstarter and that negotiating licenses with Sony Music accounted for a lot of that time. They finally agreed on a licensing fee that was higher than Ship To Shore was able to pay by themselves, so they figured Kickstarter would be a good way to raise the money – and it was. A little over 8 months after the Kickstarter succesfully ended it started shipping and most – if not all – backers should have received the album a few weeks back.
Extra copies were pressed for those who missed out on the Kickstarter and the final black copies from that batch can still be ordered via Ship To Shore’s web store.
As a disclaimer I should note here that I haven’t actually played “MOTHER” or “Earthbound Beginnings”. I’m hoping to one day buy a Wii U and try it out.
If you want to read more about the process and early stages of working on this release I can recommend reading this interview Aaron Hamel (of Ship To Shore PhonoCo.) did with NintendoLife.
Part of the Kickstarter stretch goals that were reached was additional improvements to the packaging of the release – and it shows. The cover is simple and uses the original artwork from the CD release, but the text is embossed and glossy.
Around the cover is a Japanese style OBI strip with release information on front and a lyric excerpt on the back.
The cover itself is a sturdy gatefold with credits and lyrics inside as well as character artwork.
One of the most fantastic things about this release is the amount of artwork included. I’ve taken a few pics of some of it to give you an idea. The booklet contains extensive liner notes by Chris Kohler (editor and author of the book “Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave The World An Extra Life” and authoer at WIRED) and Dan Moore (writer at Fangamer) and full of artwork by Kenneth Locke. Finally on the last page inside the booklet is a “thank you” list with the names of everyone who backed the release on Kickstarter – always funny to find your own name inside such a wonderful release.
In addition to the liner notes, there’s also an art print included by Gbeephog (I think that’s what it says anyway – searching for that name doesn’t give any results so I might be misreading it).
And as a final nice touch, Ship To Shore included a nice hand-written note on the receipt that arrived with the album. And don’t worry – I’m just as excited for what you’ll be releasing in 2016 (so far the MOTHER 2 and Axiom Verge soundtracks have been confirmed by Ship To Shore).
My copy of this release was on red translucent vinyl (500 copies), but copies on white vinyl (500 copies) and black vinyl (1000 copies) have also been available. And these came in white paper polylined sleeves, which is always a nice thing. It also came with some extra swag in the shape of some stickers and a MOTHER vinyl badge (that I forgot to take pictures of…).
First off – and most importantly – I’m very pleased to say that this pressing sounds fantastic. No pops or crackles, and even though it looked like the postal services had been playing hockey with the package it arrived in, the records are free of scuffs and scratches. Ship To Shore have done a marvelous and worthy job to bring this soundtrack to vinyl.
Now, it is worth noting that while this is the Original Soundtrack to MOTHER it isn’t actually the music used in the game (well, some of it’s there but I’ll get to that) – it’s the arranged versions with vocals and lyrics. Originally released in 1989 with English lyrics by Linda Hennrick and vocals by Catherine Warwick and boys from the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir all recorded in London. In the abovementioned interview with NintendoLife Aaron Hamel actually mentions that the game was intended for a worldwide release which is why the original soundtrack’s lyrics are in English.
The arranged soundtrack is based on the in-game music, but the instrumentation and added vocals on most tracks give the songs a new level of playfulness and childhood glee which fit the world of the game well (at least my understanding of the world – as mentioned earlier I have yet to play this title). The lyrics by Linda Hennrick only strengthen the theme of friendship and while arguably a bit cheesy in places there’s a distinct charm to them – who cannot admire the quote on the art print above “I believe in skies forever blue, why shouldn’t I believe the same in you?” taken from the opening song Pollyanna (I Believe In You)?
Finally, for those disappointed that this isn’t the music used in the game there’s some comfort to find in the final track on this release, The World Of MOTHER, which is a 16+ minute medley of music used within the game.
To sum up this all up – it’s a magnificent release and Ship To Shore PhonoCo. have given the original soundtrack the vinyl version it deserves. The packaging is wonderful, the extras is carefully selected and curated with love, and the pressing sounds fantastic. The music itself might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s extremely hard to deny it’s charming arrangements and lyrical themes. This is a must-have for any fan of the MOTHER/Earthbound series and fans of video game music in general.
If you don’t have a copy already hurry and grab one from the Ship To Shore PhonoCo. web store. If you have one and is as impressed as I am, I would urge you to consider the MOTHER 2 vinyl soundtrack, which is now up for pre-order and is expected to ship in early January or late February, 2016.