Mondo Tees has been releasing quite a few 12-inch vinyl records of soundtracks from some of the greatest Konami games the past couple of years. Being a massive fan of the Contra franchise, there was no question that I would be picking up the soundtrack to the original Contra when Mondo announced they would be selling it. The record jacket contains some fantastic artwork from Eric Powell that completely captures the essence of Contra, something Mondo occasionally misses with their home-grown artwork for their VGM soundtrack releases. The same can be said for the record cover artwork itself as it is equally top notch.
Let’s start backward and talk about Side B of the record which features the arcade version of the Contra soundtrack. If you’re like me, chances are you experienced Contra first on the NES and in the arcade second. In most cases the typical response to your first arcade experience with the game is “Man, the NES version plays better.” Along with “Man, this music just doesn’t have the same feel as the NES version.” For me, these statements follow through with this record as well. I do appreciate the fact that the music from the arcade version is included and the audio recording is engineered wonderfully, but it’s just not my thing with its somewhat plodded instrumentations.
Side A of the record itself contains all the excellent music you remember from the home console game and features tracks straight from the superior Famicom version of the game with all the extra tracks that the Japanese release had on it. James Plotkin, the audio engineer on the project, did an excellent job of mastering the music to vinyl and captured the crispness of Konami’s punchy drums and melodic synths that everyone starts humming as soon as you mention the name “Contra” to them.
Playing this record not only takes me back to playing this classic side-scrolling shooter but reminds me of all the times I took my little boom box and strategically placed it next to my TV, so I could record music from my NES. Music from Contra was featured predominantly on those old video game mix tapes I made as a kid, and now it’s nice to have an official copy of the soundtrack without hearing my mom calling from upstairs to let me know that lunch was ready on those old cassette tape recordings.