Note from the writer: This was originally a forum post I made over on the Sonic Stadium, but since that post I’ve learned even more about the surprising history of this soundtrack, and so I’ve decided to update it to celebrate Saturn month; enjoy!
Who loves Sonic R?
Released in late 1997, Sonic R (ソニックR ) was first released for the SEGA Saturn, the under-appreciated 32-Bit powerhouse amongst SEGA’s console lineup. Sonic R had 10 characters to choose from, and presented 5 tracks to race across.
I gave my thoughts on it in my web series This is Saturn, which you can find here:
So, who does love Sonic R?
…not that many people to be honest. Some see it as an average racer, whereas others such as ScrewAttack see it as the absolute worst Sonic the Hedgehog game of all time.
We’re not here to discuss the game though – you probably could have guessed that from the topic title and the huge bloody banner saying “Sonic R – THE SOUNDTRACK.”
Stage 1: IntrOST
Just to get you up to speed on Sonic R’s rather infamous soundtrack-
Sonic R’s OST was composed, arranged and performed by Richard Jacques, a British music composer from Leamington Spa, England.
Jacques has composed music for a wide variety of titles, such as LittleBigPlanet 2, Mass Effect, Jet Set Radio. His most acclaimed work was for the game Headhunter for SEGA Dreamcast. He’s won various awards, and been nominated for BAFTAs!
However, perhaps what he’s most well known for is his work on the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Over the last 10 years, Jacques has contributed a huge amount of music for the Sonic games, with the Sonic Boom games being the most recent Sonic titles he’s worked on.
Sonic 3D was the first Sonic game that he composed for, and he was brought back for Sonic R. The game featured arrangements in the genre of eurodance, powerpop, and jazz, amongst others. Of course, he wasn’t alone in Sonic R’s musical pieces.
Enter Teresa Jane Davis, AKA TJ Davis. Davis provided the vocal work synonymous with Sonic R nowadays, and actually went on to work with SEGA again on the Metropolis Street Racer soundtrack (the same soundtrack that technically featured a remix of… Green Grove from Sonic 3D Saturn! Sneaky, Jacques!)
Outside of a performance at Summer of Sonic in 2008 alongside Bentley Jones, TJ Davis’ last recorded work was back in 2003. That said, she’s not disappeared – in fact, she’s got a Twitter account, which can be found here.
As much flack as the Sonic R soundtrack gets, I think it’s just a case of the vocals being juxtaposed against the game – TJ Davis is honestly a damn good vocalist.
Stage 2: The Soundtrack is Born
In March 1997, Jacques flew out to Japan to meet with Yuji Naka and discuss the musical direction of the game. Upon returning, the first song to be written was Super Sonic Racing, which was later used in Sonic R’s June 1997 E3 reveal.
Naka enjoyed TJ Davis’ vocals so much, that he requested that every track in the game feature vocals performed by her. So there you go folks – Yuji Naka is to blame for Sonic R’s vocalised soundtrack!
The lyrics for the songs were written by Jacques, and according to SEGA Saturn Magazine, Nov. 1997 Issue, Jacques wrote the songs to complement the game, whilst still being accessible for general listening. The tracks were recorded at SEGA’s Digital Studios, and then fine tuned, mixed, and finalized in a week at Metropolis Studios in London. A further week at Metropolis was spent recording the vocals.
Two separate mixes for each track were produced, one with vocals and one without – this was actually selectable in game.
Upon the game’s release, reaction to the soundtrack was mixed – some thought it was great, some found it unbearable. The vocals are what I reckon threw the opinion to the negative side, as the actual music itself is bloody fantastic. Anyway, that was really the end of it – Jacques and TJ’s work was done, they got paid, everyone goes home happy.
…but then the soundtrack picked up quite a bit of popularity, and it’s convoluted backstory really began.
Stage 3: First Release – Sonic R Game Disc
First, the most obvious release of the soundtrack. By putting the Saturn disc (or PC disc, if you have that version) into a CD player, you could actually listen to the game’s soundtrack, complete with correct ID3 tags and everything! Same goes for putting the Saturn disc into a PC nowadays, you can import straight to iTunes. This was different to most Saturn games, and Dreamcast games too, as usually putting them into a CD player would play a warning message stating Track 1 contained game data and that irreparable damage could be done to the disc.
Worthy of note, is that up until the recent re-release in celebration of Sonic’s 23rd Anniversary, this was the only way to get the instrumental versions of the tracks – none of the other releases I’ll be looking at had them!
Stage 3: Second Release – Sonic R (1998 OST)
The most unsurprising entry on this list, Sonic R got an official soundtrack release on CD. It wasn’t much special – it contained every track from the game, minus the instrumentals. There were a few tracks seemingly missing, such as the Chaos Emerald jingle from the game, but that aside, this was what it says on the tin – the music from Sonic R.
However, it also contained two exclusive remixes!
First up – The Work It Out RED RAW Mix. RED RAW refers to the people behind the mix, but I can’t dig much up on them to be honest. It’s an alright remix, and it’s a whopping 7 and a half minutes long!
It can be heard here:
Secondly – The Super Sonic Racing XTRA-Club Mix. Arranged by Tomo Hirata, this remix lasts roughly 6 minutes, and… well, it’s OK I guess. The vocal filter’s a bit odd, and really it’s nothing special. At the least, it hasn’t got anything on the original.
It can be heard here:
So yeah, as far as Sonic R soundtrack releases go, it was pretty standard.
Onwards, into the slightly more obscure!
Stage 4: Third Release – Work it Out (1999 Vinyl Single)
You got your Sonic in my vinyl records!
For this release, the only song included was Work it Out, the theme of Reactive Factory – which trust me, you’ll notice a pattern emerge.
Featuring four remixes of Work it Out, the release had TJ Davis’ vocals mysteriously absent! I’ve read this was due to licensing issues, but I find that strange if so. Anyway, replacing Davis is Dee Dee Brave. Once again, research is limited here. She put out a self titled album and a few singles and EPs but that’s all I can really find on Discogs besides this single.
The vocal change is sort of jarring at first, but it’s made easier due to the fact the entire song has basically been re-arranged. As it says on the cover, the record contains four remixes by Eric Kupper and Hex Hector.
Eric Kupper is an American keyboardist, arranger, songwriter, remix artist, DJ and record producer, of French descent. His work throughout the 90’s was considered to have become the foundation of House Music as it is commonly known, and he collaborated with various artists such as David Morales and the Godfather of House Music, the late, great, Frankie Knuckles. He’s also produced work with the likes of Yoko Ono, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode, and a plethora of others.
Honestly, he’s probably the most well-known artist I’ve discussed in this post, at least outside of the Sonic fanbase. To this day, he still DJs around the world.
Another American remixer, Hex Hector is a DJ active to this day, and also won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Remixer. His remix of Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” was widely hailed in the American dance scene, for completely transforming the original song successfully.
It was also thanks to Hector that Melanie C, better known as “Sporty Spice” went on to achieve her second solo No. 1 in the UK Pop Chart, due to the radio edit of his remix of “I Turn to You.” He’s even been referred to as the “Van Gough of House Music!”
Hilariously, Hector actually remixed one of Dee Dee Brave’s tracks. Aaaand the circle is complete.
The vinyl is pretty rare, but actually all of the ones I’ve found are surprisingly cheap on Discogs! Sadly only one of the tracks actually made it off the vinyl, onto an album I’ll discuss in a minute. The non-exclusive track is the Work it Out – Hex Hector Dub Mix. A radio edit of Kupper’s “Classic Mix” made it off of the album, but the main version as well as the other two tracks are exclusive to the vinyl.
The tracklist is as follows:
- Work it Out (Eric Kupper “Classic Mix”)
- Work it Out (Eric Kuppet “Dub Mix”)
- Work it Out (Hex Hector “Dub Mix”)
- Work it Out (Hex Hector “Ground Control Mix”)
One final note: Despite the record being released several months before Sonic Adventure was even revealed, the cover features Modern Sonic. If this had become well-known at the time, it could have been considered a rather large leak – so it’s probably for the best that to my knowledge it went mostly unknown at the time!
Stage 5: Fourth Release – Club SEGA 2 ~ Beat Grooves
The final physical release on the list (well, that I’ll be looking at in depth), is the sequel to the, well, Club SEGA album that came two years prior. Club SEGA 2 featured various remixes from SEGA Saturn games, including Burning Rangers and NiGHTS into Dreams. The artists gathered for the album were also pretty impressive, including Maurice Joshua, who made – Ahem:
“This is Acid.”
…which is pretty much the most well-known Acid track ever created. To see him remixing Burning Rangers is… surprising.
We’re not here to discuss Burning Rangers though, as much as I enjoy that game.
The album once again included remixes of Work it Out, but it’s nothing really different to the vinyl release above. As I mentioned, this features the Hex Hector Dub Mix, but also features a Radio Edit of Kupper’s Classic Mix. A new addition to the roster of remixes and other stuff is the Dee Dee Brave A capella! That’s right folks – hidden on the album is a vocal only version of Work It Out. As I said though, it’s the Dee Dee Brave version, rather than TJ Davis, which… eh.
Really though, that’s all there is to this Sonic R wise, so… moving on to the last main part of this guide.
Stage 6: Mixtape Time – Club Cheval with a Dash of Sonic
Club Cheval are a French electronic music group, made up of four music producers. They’re currently on Bromance Records, and are still active.
Dazed and Confused Magazine are a culture magazine, well-known by many. They’re also incredibly good at convincing Daft Punk to star on their covers.
Anyway, sometimes Dazed and Confused got artists to produce mixtapes, that they would then distribute online.
As you may have guessed where this was going, Club Cheval and Dazed and Confused produced and distributed the mixtape above together. Now listen closely at the 6:00 mark.
Actually, you don’t even need to listen closely – yes, that’s Back in Time from Sonic R in the mixtape. This is just odd to see, since Dazed and Confused are, as I said, pretty damn popular – seeing them distribute a mixtape including Sonic the Hedgehog music was cool, I guess.
The mix itself is alright, but it is just weird to hear Sonic in there.
BONUS STAGE: Other Releases
The Sonic R soundtrack, or at least bits of it, have seen a couple of other releases over the years.
Sonic Adventure 2: Birthday Pack
I’ll own this someday…
Included with the Sonic Adventure 2 Birthday pack was a CD including quite a lot of Sonic music – and three tracks from Sonic R.
The tracks included were:
- Super Sonic Racing
- Can You Feel the Sunshine
- Number One (Credits Theme)
One thing that confuses me here – if licensing issues were to blame for the other releases not having TJ Davis’ vocals, how come the ones on this CD do? Strange.
Sonic Team PowerPlay
A few tracks from Sonic R also showed up in this Sonic Team music compilation. Said tracks were:
- Super Sonic Racing
- Can you feel the Sunshine
- Number One
Sonic Gems Collection’s Museum
Sonic Gems Collection had a museum mode that let you view images from a wide range of Sonic titles, and also listen to music. Amongst these tracks were the above two remixes of Sonic R tunes. They’re alright I suppose, though the Livin’ in the City one sounds straight out of tune at times.
Also of note, Gems also included a Takenobu Mitsuyoshi vocal version of Aurora Icefield’s theme from Sonic the Fighters. Nice!
23rd Anniversary Re-Release
Sonic R’s OST was recently re-released on digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. It’s the first official OST release to include the instrumental tracks, but omits the extra two remixes from the first OST release.
Still, at least it doesn’t use SEGA’s silly method of splitting albums into volumes so that they can charge more!
SPECIAL STAGE: The other SEGA soundtrack ventures
Did things stop at Sonic R though? No, they did not.
Burning Rangers also got a few tracks released on vinyl! Released on King Street Records, We Are Burning Rangers’ English version by Dennis St. James (who also did Daytona USA 2’s English vocal tracks) and I Just Smile’s English version by Pamela Driggs were featured. In addition was the Maurice Joshua remix of I Just Smile I mentioned earlier, and a remix of We are Burning Rangers called the “Body and Soul Dub” by Matthias Heilbronn.
Another nifty thing was Club Saturn, featuring remixes of tracks from Sonic 3D, Baku Baku, Fighting Vipers, and more. It also came with playable demos of NiGHTS, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei and Baku Baku. It also had a remix by Marshall Jefferson, who produced “Move Your Body,” one of the first house tracks. Not bad!
So yeah, Sonic R’s soundtrack had quite the backstory, and it wasn’t just Sonic R! There’s even more than shown here: Boom Bass appeared on a Mega CD related album, for example!
Seriously, SEGA’s discography is incredibly long winded and confusing, but Sonic R’s past is incredibly interesting to venture through. I’ll probably look into getting the vinyl someday, since it’s Saturn related, and I hey, I love me some Saturn.
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading! Major thanks to my music nerd extraordinare of a brother for actually knowing who the hell most of these remixers and such are, and for basically doing most of the research.Ad: