I don't know why I always approach American game soundtrack CD releases with such skepticism. I suppose it's just that American composers as a group have yet to really prove themselves in the game music field as the Japanese have done. Fortunately my experience with Tommy Tallarico Games Greatest Hits Volume 2 has exceeded my expectations.
Tommy seems to be best known for his rock music, and such music is well represented on the CD. Tommy's rock has a clear American flavor, with the pulsing composition and gritty sound quality characteristic of U.S. hard rock. Many of these selections have a bit of the synthy sound quality and more prominent melody of Japanese power rock also. "Mission X" and "Launch" are mostly hard rock in style, but "Wasteland" and "Road King" throw in more melody and synth. "Buzz" stays with the rock theme, but also features the grinding electronic sound that's become increasingly popular. Personally I prefer the extreme hard edge in rock, as in Konami's Battle CDs, but these tunes are a good compromise and should appeal to many game music fans.
Also on the CD is Earthworm Jim music, which is almost a genre in itself. Tracks like "Tangerine", "Subterranean", and "Junkit" have a prominent beat ala techno-dance, a sound quality that lies in this unique little area between that of popular techno and the brighter sound of most game music, and melodies that are as varied as the scenarios in the games. "Falling" features a simple but marvelous progression of electronica melody and instrumentation. "Banjo Race" is simply a classic. It's amazing that such a hillbilly and humorous-sounding piece - complete with banjo, fiddle, harmonica, and animal samples - can rock so much.
The rest of the CD is filled with a wide assortment of musical styles. The "Spot Goes to Hollywood" tracks are clearly meant to have a cinematic quality, whether it be adventuresome ("Rafting" and "Tale of the Seafarer") or ethereal ("Aquarian"). They're a bit derivative but enjoyable. Hyper 3-D Pinball includes music in blues and medieval style. Finally comes the Skeleton Warriors music, which for the most part is perfectly suited to the fantasy-adventure theme. "The Chosen" in particular stands out - synthetic orchestra and chorus combine in a cinematic work that comes ever so close to reaching epic proportions. The only thing holding it back for me is that the synthetic-symphony sound quality falls a little short.
Unfortunately many of these songs end too quickly. These tracks are OSV, and many were possibly of limited length in their games because of storage restrictions. "The Chosen" reaches such dramatic heights that it's disappointing when the end comes so soon. Nevertheless, Games Greatest Hits Vol. 2 is a well done CD. I won't say it's the best of my game music CDs, but it is easily the best buy. Sixty-eight minutes of good OSV music with several classics - at a refreshingly low price - is too good an offer to refuse. Give Tommy's music a listen and you just might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.