Excuse my excitement, but I just couldn't contain myself when I arrived from my one week vacation from Hungary and found Nexus 6581 amongst my bills and junk mail that I received the past week. In fact, I was so excited that it took my shaking hands 5 minutes just to tear the wrapping off the CD...
All the superlatives that the English language has (awesome, superb, fantastic, etc.) are just not good enough to describe this album. Reyn didn't just raise the bar for future SID covers - he made _THE_ best of them so far! This CD is oozing of creativity. The great talent that Reyn has is shining through whatever he does: whether it's composing SIDs, playing the piano on E'velyn's hit "I Would", or, in our case, creating covers of C64 tunes.
The reason I was so excited opening the package is not just due to the fact that I really like SID remixes. It's because it was in September '99 when I've heard the first rough, but full length versions of 6 of the tracks from the CD, so I knew what I was buying. And, of course, we've probably all heard Reyn's preview mix MP3 of some of the tracks, which sounded very promising, to say the least.
So, I took the CD in my hands, and I got a little disappointed when I saw the cover art. Consisting of basically two colors (white and blue) it was less than I expected. However, upon closer inspection I found out that it's a pretty good cover, because everything on it references the good old C64: the usage of the original C64 font, the hex monitor screen capture as the subtle background, the big 3D Commodore logo as the backdrop, etc. Top it off with a very well written 2 and a half page (!) liner note by Warren Pilkington, and you are starting to realize that you are in for a treat.
And what a treat it is! The album starts off with Reyn's own Last Ninja 3 intro, a classic tune accompanying an awesome animated sequence in the original game. Doing justice to the tune, it is reworked into this majestic, soundtrack- like composition featuring a choir, a grand piano, and later on what sounds like the original sounds of the SID chip.
Following it is one of my favorite tunes from one of my favorite composers: Shape by Johannes Bjerregaard. This cover is just perfect: funky, groovy, with a real saxophone lead played by Tom Beek. It's a mixture of melodic jazz with some touch of blues - which is precisely why I always loved Bjerregaard's style. And Reyn has managed to capture it perfectly in this track. Listening to the guitars of this tune somehow I have the images of "Charlie's Angels" and "Starsky and Hutch" come up in my mind, which - needless to say - has never happened with the original C64 tune.
Next up is DMC IV Part 2 by Bjerregaard. Similar to the previous one, this also captures Bjerregaard's style perfectly, this time showing his heavier style with the additional electric guitar. Oh, and I just adore those subtle saxophone riffs during the breaks of the lead!
And so we arrive to Enlightenment: Druid II. The melody is so simple, but the many different covers of this tune available on the Net prove that we all listened to this classic in our own ways. So did Reyn: he made it into this ambient fairy tale that touches my heart. Unfortunately, I find the noise in the bell-like instrument too disturbing for my comfort level, and the gunshot- like drum toward the end too distorted.
The fifth track is Flimbo's Quest, and I was all smiles when I listened to it. This happy, upbeat tune never failed to lift my spirits, and this cover - which reminds me a lot of the American "The Beverly Hillbillies" sitcom mostly because of the banjo in the left channel - does the same to me. I've always thought that the lead line of this tune would need a lot of instrument changes to keep it upbeat, and I was glad to hear that Reyn was thinking the same way. The piano ending makes this cover even more special.
Following it is another Ouwehand track, Flip the Flop from the Dutch Breeze demo. Repeating the same short melody over and over would've made this 4 minute long cover pretty boring, so Reyn added all kinds of filtering to the different parts of this track to float it in and out, which certainly made it more interesting to listen to.
Since I've heard a "bare bones" version of Daglish's Deflektor before, I wasn't totally blown off by it on this album, but I'm sure others will be. However, the addition of the piano and the vocals to the '70s style groovy guitars was surprising - and the result surprisingly good! If you are not playing "air guitar" during the serene bridge section of this tune, you must be deaf.
Special Agent marks the last return to Bjerregaard's funky-groovy style on this album. Somehow I have the feeling that this track would've been a perfect title tune for a '70s detective TV series...
Blue Meanies part 1 by Steve Barrett is a nice, relaxing track with some great guitar parts in it, but it's very short.
To contrast its shortness comes Asian Legends, an almost 8 minute long mix of many tunes from C64 games that were somehow oriental due to their connection to kung fu, karate, ninjas and the like. While all the other tracks on this album will be very enjoyable even by those people who have never heard a SID tune before, this track was definitely made for the hardcore SID fans. The whole mix sounds like a game of "name that tune". I was playing along trying to find out which part was from which game. Can _YOU_ get it right? What an awesome remix it is! Each part seems to float into the next one with perfection, and the individual parts are also fantastic by themselves. What can I say - I love it!
Too bad the album doesn't end with it, because the last track, Aztec Challenge (originally by Paul Norman) leaves the listener with a fearful feeling (the happy Flimbo's Quest would've made a perfect last track). Having heard the orchestral version on Back In Time 2 - which I consider the absolutely best cover of this tune - it was interesting to hear a completely different interpretation of it. It starts out with the original SID tune, but then the distorted guitars come in and create this hostile feeling that is heightened to even more disturbingly hostile levels by the addition of even more distorted guitars, all of which culminates in this totally chaotic feeling of being in the middle of a heavy metal concert - then it suddenly ends with the beat of the original SID again. The orchestral version on BIT2 made this tune into a soundtrack. This cover made this tune into something that would've scared the hell out of me when playing the game...
The covers on Reyn's album don't change the arrangements of the original tunes, which for me was definitely a plus. What makes "Nexus" even better is the attention to detail, the great selection of instruments - and, of course, Reyn's awesome talent as a composer and musician. I can't listen to this album without turning up the volume on my hi-fi to the max, and I can't listen to this album without moving my body to the rhythms of the covers. The CD is only 44:19 long, but trust me - you will never get this much bang for your buck.
URL: Nexus 6581 webpage