Super Mario Super Medley - Single (2017)
Review By Kyle Yampiro
February 23, 2018
David Fowler's Super Mario Super Medley is a celebration of generations of Nintendo music excellence. If BYU Vocal Point's Super Mario Medley of old is the gold standard for an a cappella video game piece, David Fowler's is a hard-luck silver, but still great in its own right. Handling everything from performing to studio work, Fowler delivers an extremely aurally pleasing and creative patchwork of various themes that have accompanied the most famous Japanese-made Italian plumber from the '80s all the way to 2017.
In contrast with many Super Mario covers, Fowler's medley is quite a bit more modern than it is nostalgic. The track is bookended by the standout tune from Nintendo's newest platform release, "Super Mario Odyssey". This is prime new real estate for a cappella covers; not only is it the first cover of it I've heard, but it's the first time I've heard the song in a male voice. The rendition sets an upbeat tone that lasts throughout the entire track. If there's one drawback, it's the head voice option on the high note in the refrain that could use a bit more power. Otherwise, this is a solid choice with not only good solo work by Fowler, but a very nice solo feature by the track's bass, Spencer Williams, at its end.
One of the highlights for this track is very well-voiced background chords on "ooh" during themes from "Super Mario 64" and "Super Mario Bros. 2", showing some musicality in an update over the 64-bit and 8-bit originals. Fowler makes some key instrumental choices, such as a trumpet solo for "Super Mario 64", which is not necessarily a given when covered a cappella and shows a sense of ownership over the many themes. Additionally, instrumental sounds are not put through heavy filters, making it clear that the human voice created everything on the track with only subtle in-studio aid, ideal for the a cappella purist. The percussion work here is clean throughout without becoming overpowering.
With all the praise and the "5" rating, you may be wondering, in what world is this considered a "hard-luck silver?" The only hold-up from top-notch excellence, for me, is the structure of the medley. I find that some segues are handled quite well, such as the ones in and out of the "Odyssey" theme song, but others are a bit jarring or nonexistent. The pace of introducing new themes (of which there are many) also catch me off-guard at times, most notably in the shifts between "Dr. Mario" and "Super Mario Bros. 3". Each theme is enjoyable in its own right but notably short and could use at least a pivot chord to make a smoother connection. In this reviewer's opinion, the handling of segues and concise use of well-developed themes make a stronger medley, but there is still a lot to appreciate about Fowler's choices from a universe in which the options are seemingly endless.
That said, it warms my heart to see these tunes brought to life, and in such a fun, clean, and innovative way. Caps off to David Fowler and Spencer Williams. Check this track out before Bowser takes off with the Princess! (... again.)