Here's a glass to Lee Jackson, a real credit to the Video Game Music industry!
Concentrating all my efforts into the gaming world means stripping myself of the comfortable safety-net of preference and diving into the deep end of all gaming’s mediums. Let this review be a testimony to my early ventures into the gaming industries various sectors. Calibrations is an online CD created by the legendary video games Composer, Lee Jackson. It features twelve of his chosen tracks (most notably, all but three of these tracks appeared in the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, episode five ‘Alien World Order’ in 2016.). We’re going to be taking each track and looking at what makes the piece stand out! So without further ado, let’s get hands-on with Lee Jackson’s Calibrations!
Calibrations is Lee’s debut solo album, featuring nine tracks specifically from Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Aniversary World Tour’s (in the order they appear) and a further three tracks that have never been publicly performed before. We’ll look into each of these tracks later, you’re after Beehive, Fish Waltz and Spicewood for the three special tracks. Furthermore, fans of Lee’s will be delighted to hear there’s an exclusive interview between Lee Jackson and VG Almanac’s Jake “The Voice” Parr. During this interview, Jackson goes into detail about each track and gives insights into the music writing process in the games industry!
Beehive is an exclusive, unheard piece by Lee Jackson that is available on the Calibrations CD. First starting as a test track that wasn’t included in its intended product back in 1996. A reworking of the song in 2017 brought out a very different product. This skippy 80‘s sounding track reminds me of some cheesy Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie or an early 90‘s arcade game like Streets of Rage. Very well put together and craving some spotlight, Beehive feels at home in any retro setting!
Bring on the epic boss-battle! Bulletdam was featured in Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour and was found in the 5th Chapter’s level: High Times. High Times is set in Amsterdam, it features one of Amsterdam’s iconic canals and a just-as-iconic Cofee Shop! Part of the 20th Aniversary’s extra 5th Chapter, Alien World Order, this track really fits the theme of Aliens in Amsterdam. Take me to your dealer!
Combining the musical themes of Russia and Aliens, Dukelinka is an inspiring piece that really paints the scene of Aliens in Russia. Following on from the level “High Times”, players find themselves in the level “Red Ruckus”. Within this level, the player finds themselves in the City of Moscow. The soundtrack’s title, Dukelinka, is a play on the name of the famous traditional Russian song “Kalinka”.
Big Ben Bang
Listening to Big Ben Bang is like a vivid fortification of London’s street-lit nights. Painting in our heads visions of black-cab taxis, the Queen, the Houses of Parliament, and… Alien Invasion? Featured in Britain on the streets of London and staring in the level “Bloody Hell”, Big Ben Bang sets the scene as Duke finds himself inside an Elizabethan-style theatre house and the Houses of Parliament.
Appropriately set in Egypt and featuring an exit to the secret Prima Arena, Desert Maze finds itself showcased in the Chapter five-level “Mirage Barrage”. Bringing together a funky-upbeat tune reworked into a classic Egyptian theme, Jackson’s Desert Maze is one of his finest pieces yet! Fun Fact: “Mirage Barrage” is the only level outside of Lunar Apocalypse that takes place (at least partially) in space.
Featuring Napoleonic styled epic-themed vibes and hard-hitting rhythm, Paris Mansion is a credit to some of Lee’s finest works. Featured in the Paris level “Tour de Nukem”, Obviously, the level’s name takes inspiration from the Tour De France bike race. Paris Mansion really brings to life the alien invasion taking place over France.
Fish Waltz (Featuring Vocals By Jake “The Voice” Parr)
Staring our very own Jake “The Voice” Parr, Fish Waltz is actually a throwback to “Fish Polka” from the Apogee game Rise of the Triad. A game that Jackson also made his impression on. There’s a funny story about this track. The game’s designer at the time asked for a French Bistro themed track but didn’t give much in the way of direction for Jackson to run with. This could’ve potentially been the Paris Mansion track but was never used. Fantastic piece with beautiful composition, a true token of Jackson’s marvellous works in the industry!
Picture this, the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, now put Aliens in that image you’ve got in your head and you’re close to the money with this track. Bridge Out was featured in the “Golden Carnage” level of Duke 3D‘s fifth chapter. Symbolising a military-themed track that highlights the extent of the alien invasion in the good old U.S of A.
Pluck You (Part 1 & 2)
Both parts of Jackson’s fantastical Pluck You can be found on the CD as separate tracks! Pluck You showcases itself in the Hollywood themed level “Hollywood Inferno”. It’s clear to see that Part 1 & 2 are THE best tracks on the CD by far, especially when you compare it to Jackson’s other alien-themed pieces, he does something with these two that can be compared to witchcraft. This magical doomsday piece will probably be studied and researched by the upcoming composers of tomorrow, forever, and if not, it should be!
Combining the magnificent prowess of Roman Empire style music with the ever-present threat of post-Apocalyptica knocking on your door, Roman Thunder does exactly what it says on the tin! Delivering a theme fit for an Emporer. You’ll find this track in chapter 5’s hidden level, Prima Arena. One of the most non-linear levels in the entire game, it was designed with Dukematch (deathmatch) in mind.
Our final track on the CD is Spicewood. This humble beginnings track is far different to Lee’s other works in Calibrations. Whether it’s the soft shake of the maraca or the chime of the harp, Spicewood easily fits the theme of any platformer with a verdant green setting. Spicewood is dedicated to Jackson’s late grandfather and grandmother. They both lived in the community of Spicewood, Texas, on the shores of Lake Travis. Rest assured Lee, you’ve done them both proud!
About Lee Jackson (Wikipedia)
Born on November 19th in 1963, Lee Jackson was the Music and Sound Director for the video game developer 3D Realms from 1994 through 2002. Best known for his work on Duke Nukem 3D and Rise of the Triad, specifically for creating Duke Nukem 3D’s main theme titled “Grabbag” (not on the Calibrations CD). Prior to his career with Apogee/3D Realms, Lee attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1981–1983 as a Music Education major and was initiated into the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in the fall of 1982.
He was also a member of the flag section of the University of Texas Longhorn Band and played the bassoon in the UT Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band. He left the University in 1983 and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service‘s Austin Service Center with his wife, Brenda, whom he had married the same year. The two had a son, Nathan, in 1986. Lee and Brenda both worked at the IRS until 1993, when Lee joined Apogee Software’s technical support department. He was promoted to the Music and Sound Director position in 1996. His wife, Brenda, is still employed with the IRS, working at the agency’s office in Dallas.
Follow Lee on social media:
His site: https://dleejackson.lbjackson.com/
His complete works (taken from Wikipedia):
|1993||Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold||JAM Productions||Support|
|1994||Rise of the Triad||Apogee Software||With Bobby Prince|
|1994||Wacky Wheels||Apogee Software||Tech support, Thanks|
|1995||Terminal Velocity||Terminal Reality||Beta tester|
|1996||Duke Nukem 3D||3D Realms||With Bobby Prince|
|1997||Shadow Warrior||3D Realms|
|1997||Duke Nukem 64||3D Realms|
|1997||Balls of Steel||Wildfire Studios Pty. Ltd.|
|1998||Duke Nukem: Time to Kill||n-Space||Original Duke Theme|
|1999||Duke Nukem: Zero Hour||Eurocom, 3D Realms||Speech editing|
|2000||Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes||n-Space||Duke Voice Production|
|2002||Duke Nukem Advance||Torus Games||Original Sound|
|2011||Duke Nukem Forever||3D Realms, Gearbox Software, Triptych Games||Original composer of “Grabbag”|
|2013||Rise of the Triad||Interceptor Entertainment||Special Thanks|
Thanks for taking the time to check out my review on Calibrations, I hope you enjoy the album! Here’s a glass to Lee Jackson, a real credit to the Video Game Music industry!