2008 Lawrence Tuczynski

Title Symphonic Fantasia
CD Label: Toho Music Corporation
CD Number: GX-6
Composed and Arranged by: Akira Ifukube
Number of tracks 4
Running time 56:17
Number of discs 1
Year of release/manufacture January 31, 2008

REVIEW

March 03, 2008

This bonus disc is basically a reissue of the Symphonic Fantasia found on other discs elsewhere on this site.

Review by John M Emmons

Akira Ifukube's Symphonic Fantasia has been released on numerous albums ever since it was first written in 1983. The latest being one of the bonus discs in the Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection Set 5. I first heard Symphonic Fantasia No.1 performed by the Russia Philharmonic Orchestra on NAXOS' "Sinfonia Tapkaara" album, and I'm glad to be able to hear the complete Symphonic Fantasia for the first time.

And what's not to like? Ifukube wrote three lengthy suites interweaving themes and motifs he had composed for Toho's monster movies, including "King Kong VS Godzilla," "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster," "King Kong Escapes," and "War of the Gargantuas," just to name a few.

Symphonic Fantasia No. 1 starts off with Ifukube's most famous theme of all: Godzilla. I believe this suite was the first time Ifukube juxtaposed the "Appearance of Godzilla" motif with the main titles from the original "Godzilla" film. This arrangement of the Godzilla theme would be used throughout all of his later Heisei scores.

If you are at all disappointed that the "Monster Zero" march was left out of the Symphonic Fantasia, then you'll be happy that "Rondo in Burlesque" is included with this album. "Rondo" is basically a ten-minute celebration of this famous march.

Unlike previous releases, the music is arranged into three long tracks, instead of dividing each suite into various tracks, each marking the beginning of a new theme. In the front of the booklet, there is a breakdown of all of the themes used in the suites, but, sadly, this is written in Japanese like the rest of the booklet.

Overall, I'm glad this was included with the Perfect Collection Set. It's not really essential like the Ostinato album, which features music used in a couple Godzilla films, but it's a nice showcase of themes Akira Ifukube wrote not only for the Godzilla series but for the other Toho monster films as well.

April 02, 2009 updated April 18, 2009
Additional Review courtesy of Robert Storch

This bonus CD is a replica of the original 1983 AN EVENING OF SPECIAL EFFECTS FILM MUSIC vinyl LP, rather than its CD counterpart, released 3 years later in 1986. Toho Music has done an excellent job of reproducing the original LP sleeve artwork and obi, down to even the typo of the word "Rond" (which should have been spelled as "Rondo").

With such attention to detail, it is both puzzling and disappointing that Toho has apparently tinkered with the sound quality of this reissue, which is very flat and dull when compared to the original CD version (K32X-7034), and even the vinyl LP (K20G-7169~70). Though we may never know the true reason for this, there is no doubt that the original CD release is sonically superior. It was mastered at a higher volume level and has lots of punch and richness, while the bonus CD is considerably more subdued (possibly an attempt to duplicate the levels of the original LP) and simply sounds lifeless. In addition, it seems that Toho tried to equalize the overall dynamics of the disc, but the results leave a lot to be desired. Whether this problem is the result of a misguided attempt at achieving some sort of imaginary LP sound, or just bad judgment on Toho's part, we can only speculate. But as a digital stereo recording from the 80s, it should sound better.

Despite these obvious shortcomings, I give Toho high marks for reproducing the original LP artwork in such painstaking detail, as they have with previous PERFECT BOX bonus discs. It's a shame I can't read Japanese, as the rather thick booklet seems to contain a lot of information about this 1983 performance of Symphonic Fantasia and its history - it's literally packed with articles and text. Also included is a discography listing the catalog numbers of all or most of the CDs which feature either entire or partial Symphonic Fantasia performances, while near the back of the booklet there is a biography and/or interview with Koichi Kawakita, Toho's director of Special Effects (including a color headshot and one color photo each from GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE and GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA II).

As noted above, fans who are hoping to find a new, state-of-the-art remaster of AN EVENING OF SPECIAL EFFECTS FILM MUSIC will likely be disappointed by this bonus disc, and for this reason the earlier editions are still worth seeking out. However, for those who simply want to own the original recording and are not overly picky about sound quality, then PERFECT BOX 5 is still a great way to acquire this rare release, as the original CDs ('86 and '89 re-release) remain out of print.

SF SYMPHONIC FANTASIA
Composer: Akira Ifukube

  1. Symphonic Fantasia No.1
  2. Symphonic Fantasia No.2
  3. Symphonic Fantasia No.3
  4. Orchestration: Rondo In Burlesque (March Gathering)