Monday, February 23, 2009

Album: First Quest - The Music

1985. D&D was so popular you could buy polyhedron dice at 7-11 at the same time you picked up your daily 2-liter Mountain Dew. The Dragonlance saga was in full swing--no wait, maybe that came a little later. It doesn't matter, because the same people who thought Dragonlance was great fantasy literature probably also thought this was great music. [Click on all graphics for much larger versions.]

I mentioned Dragonlance because the artwork for the album was obviously done by the same person who did the cover art for those books. Oh, here it is: Jeff Easley. Okay, apparently some people got together and had this wonderful idea to make an AD&D adventure and put music to it!!!

Starting in the land of Gorrim, our band of brave adventurers journey through the Fenial Fields into the Gnome Lands...

By the way, is there any PC race more worthless than the Gnome? Once I played a one-off game in which the DM said that somebody needed to play an illusionist (for some reason I've forgotten) so I said, "Okay, I'll do it, but only if I can play a Gnome illusionist/thief." I kept that character sheet along with all the notes I'd collected during the game for years, just so I could prove that someone, somewhere had been stupid enough (myself, in this case) to actually play a Gnome illusionist/thief. But I digress.

And then our brave adventurers travel through the Hobgoblin Kingdom, encountering a minimum of 250 Hobgoblins along the way. Yes, I said two hundred fifty.

Go ahead and click that last graphic and take a look at some of it. Note especially the suggested characters at lower left. A 15th level Paladin?! Ye gads.

And eventually, if our brave adventurers survive that horde of a minimum of 250 Hobgoblins, they come to the dungeon part, where lurks a minimum of 2 red dragons, a lich and his horde of undead, various and sundry assorted demons and daemons, spiders (gigantic) and Charon.

Yes, Charon. That Charon.

And here are the notes for the dungeon part. Go ahead and click. It is inevitable that eventually, some crazed Googler will come across this and want all these details, so I uploaded large versions that you should be able to print and use.

I almost forgot about the music. The music on this album is all instrumental and electronic. I like electronic music, but this is not particularly good electronic music. It's not especially bad, though. At best, I would say it's especially mediocre. It is intended to provide atmosphere for the various parts of the adventure, and here is the full track list.

Record 1, Side 1:
The Quest Begins
The Bloodguard (everyone who has read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant may now feel free to sigh heavily in exasperation)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (you may sigh again now, if it helps)
The Caravan
The Heroes Ride Out

Record 1, Side 2:
The River of Souls
The Gates of Hell

Record 2, Side 1:
The Living Dead (the same music as from the Living Dead movies)
Wandering Monsters
The Hall of Spiders
The Dragon Passages
The Room of Pools

Record 2, Side 2:
The Lost Caves
In the Sorcerer's Cave
The Summoning
The Crystal Chalice
The Return of Light
The Aftermath

The purpose of the game is to find the Crystal Chalice, which must be used somehow to defeat the "old gods," who are apparently the enemy (aren't they always?).

The best thing about the album are the brief bits of narration, which takes place between the musical tracks to move the story along, and was provided by the great Valentine Dyall, who has one of the greatest evil voices of all time. And to me, he will always be the Black Guardian from the Key to Time series during the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. He passed away not long after recording this narration. It must have been one of the last things he ever did.

I bought this new and played it one time, to record it on cassette, so the vinyl is still in at least very good condition. Total running time is about 78 minutes, minus the narration, which probably adds only about 2 or 3 minutes more.

The musicians who made this album are still around, I think. I can't find much of any information on this album as a whole anywhere on the internet, but Googling their names individually turns up some stuff. The musicians are: Phil Thornton, Denis Haines, Dave Miller, Steve Parsons, Barrie Guard and G.P. Hall. The tracks are mostly the work of one of them working solo, although there are a couple of tracks in which Thornton and Miller worked together.

One of the few things that I did find on this album is that it is "quite rare," but I have no idea if it's really worth anything. If you chance across one and you're a D&Der, or you used to be, it might be nice to have as a curiosity, but I wouldn't recommend buying it just for the music.

UPDATE: I am slowly working on uploading some of these tracks to YouTube. You can hear them by going to my YouTube channel and looking through the video list.


  1. "The music on this album is all instrumental and electronic."

    The 1980s was the decade of courageous explorations into electronic music. The rise of bands like Duran Duran testified to that, and even heavy metal bands played around with keyboards and guitar synths. Movie soundtracks were also the realm of electronic experimentation. Sometimes the effort worked well (Terminator, Blade Runner) and sometimes not so well (Ladyhawke). Other times it absolutely sucked, but I'm sure I have blocked those experiences out of my mind.

    I think.

    I do like your characterization of this album as "especially mediocre," though. Nice.

  2. Yes, but in my mind there is a big difference between pop music that uses some electronics and electronic music.

    There was also the music of Tron, which was done by Wendy Carlos.

  3. Ah, Tron. A peek into the inner workings of computers. Classic 1980s cinema.

  4. Passed away soon after, eh? Sounds suspicious...

  5. Pretty cool... did you ever get the full album put online in some form? I see only some of the first record on the youtube link.

  6. I have the first two sides uploaded except for the last track of side 2. I haven't gotten around to uploading any of the second record yet.

    1. Would you provide links to the upload? I would be eager to download this as mp3 and add it to my collection!


  7. Thanks for posting this. I've just been listening to the first record via YouTube. I used to own this album back in the day and now miss it!

  8. I have Subbed your YT channel and playlisted the Entire First Quest Album. This brings back so many memories of Nights spent wandering around in Dank Caves and Dungeons attempting to Find the Elusive Christal Chalice.....

  9. Thank you so much for posting, it's really cool! More people need to get to hear this wonderfully odd music.

  10. Many thanks for posting the First Quest album, I now no longer need to worry about wearing out my tape copy =o)

  11. Is there a way I can obtain an mp3 copy of this music? I have been after it for a long time and would happily download it, and others in the series, if given a link.

    Thanks, my email is

  12. Okay, folks, due to the many requests I have received, here are links to mp3s of this album. There are four zip files (one for each record side). All mp3s are 128kbps.

    side 1
    side 2
    side 4

  13. Thanks so much! I have been trying to locate my old tape for over a decade!

  14. Do you have copies of the album sides with narration? Having the music is great but they have no voice intros by Mr. Dyall.

  15. Okay...

    I dug out my backups and posted them. These are just two files, the first being an mp3 of the first record (sides 1 and 2) together. The second is an mp3 of record 2 (sides 3 and 4). Includes all narration. Links below.

  16. Alan, thank you for doing this! I appreciate you going through that for such a cool rare hard to get record! The album is just not the same without The Black Guardian! Thanks for your response and your time!


  17. You're welcome. And you're right. I never could listen to this without hearing The Black Guardian!

  18. Greetings - my name is David Miller and I was one of the contributors/organizers of/for/to this album. It was a lot of fun getting it together. As anyone who's played D&D knows, you can't really play a loose, free-wheeling game to the constraints of the flow of the tracks but it was a gas, nevertheless. As part of all this I went to Los Angeles and visited E. Gary Gygax to get his blessing and support. He lived (as you might expect) in this weird, large old house that did, in fact, look somewhat spooky. As I knocked on the door I heard the sound of a very large and intimidating dog barking from somewhere inside - that was somewhat unsettling... Eventually Mr Gygax let me in, listened to the album and he was well into it. He also demonstrated for me a variety of manoeuvers by which one could dispatch a varying quantity of orcs, depending on how they approached you, what armaments they were carrying and what mood they were may come in useful one day....

    I worked as a team with Phil Thornton (we were both in the band/group/entity/manifestation known as Expandis which is still a going concern). It was, as I say, a lot of fun doing this and would incorporate such unorthodox techniques as mildly tormenting one of his young infant children so as to achieve some authentically pitiful cries of despair on one of the tracks. That sons therapy is still on-going to this day. I too am amused by the "especially mediocre" description...I shall comfort myself by deciding that that was due to the other contributors efforts or lack thereof. I don't know who did the Bloodguard track but it wasn't us....I am a huge Thomas Covenant fan and wouldn't disrespect them like that...not after all they went through. There were also First Quest T-Shirts (of which I have a couple, still unwrapped) and other stuff, I'm sure. I was responsible for bringing Valentine Dyall on board, more because I've always been a huge Goons fan and he was on those recording from time to time sounding quite menacing even amidst the madness. I'm afraid I wrote his voice-over script, which is, indeed, especially mediocre and I cringe even to this day when I hear it. He deserved much better than that, especially as he passed on soon after...not the most fitting swan song. My belated apologies to him. He hadn't been getting any work for a long time and I hear he was very grateful for this so I'm glad of that, at least. I would have loved to have met him but was out of town when his recording sessions occurred.

    Thanks for posting the tracks - I really enjoyed having them pop up out of the woodwork and listening to them again after all this time, mediocre as they may be... :)

    Bye for now.....

    1. Thank you so much for all that information!

  19. Wow! Thank you David! Thanks again Alan for posting this!


  20. I too grew up with this album recorded to tape! Thank you so much!