Following the success of Banjo-Kazooie, Grant Kirkhope remained with the Banjo team at Rare to score Banjo-Tooie. The sequel was much darker in tone and content, opening even with the death of a main character. Kirkhope's score adapted appropriately, taking a more atmospheric and miserable approach. While the frolicsome style of the predecessor died with poor Bottles, Kirkhope maintained his lyrical use of quasi-orchestral instruments. His major efforts from the title were compiled on the one disc Banjo-Tooie CD Soundtrack that was available through the Nintendo Power Magazine.
The overworld theme "Isle of Hags" is quite a bit darker than "Witch's Lair" from Banjo-Kazooie. The melody is slow-building and less prominent while the accompaniment is dominated by melancholic string chords. Kirkhope's orchestral phrasing becomes more intricate and dance-like later on in the piece, but also rather wistful too. It won't be instantly attractive to gamers, but sets the scene wonderfully and is quite memorable too. "Mayahem Temple" could have been an effective final stage theme on Banjo-Kazooie, but actually accompanies the first world in Banjo-Tooie. It effectively portrays a Mayan Temple with ritualistic chanting and tribal percussion. The vocal samples aren't up to scratch with today's standards, but the haunting intention is quite obvious. Like the predecessor, the soundtrack features the original theme for the world, not the various adaptive arrangements.
There is nonetheless considerable diversity in the world themes for the soundtrack. "Atlantis" is one of the most mature and atmospheric efforts on the series, elegantly blending aquatic sounds with increasing orchestration. In contrast, the superficial but enjoyable "Jolly Roger's Lagoon" features whistling inspired by traditional seafaring melodies. Other novel additions include the primitive percussive theme for "Terrydactland", a twisted waltz for "Witchyworld", and the mechanical brass-based depiction of "Grunty Industries". Even though most themes have a darker tone, some are a little more easygoing. "Glitter Gulch Mine" hearkens back to the first soundtrack with its laidback banjo use and "Jingo Village" portrays relative tranquility with its dainty woodwinds. "Cloud Cuckooland" is delightfully frivolous too and features plenty of influences from avant-garde art music.
The soundtrack has an appropriately dark finale. "Cauldron Keep" is an ideal lead-up to the final battle with its dark cinematic use of brass and strings. "Final Battle" is even more cinematic with its use of rasping orchestral discords and tremolo strings. Though quite generic out of context, it really raises the bar within the game and even features a few cute references to the "Witch's Lair" theme. The credits theme provides a nostalgic six minute arrangement of the series' main theme in a variety of styles. It's a nice way for the main series to say goodbye for the next half a decade. Although this convincingly resolves the dramatic arch of the soundtrack, unfortunately a lot of good material remains unreleased. A Japanese soundtrack release was planned containing three additional tracks, but appears to have been later shelved. Rare has also given away eight tracks from the game free on their website although this doesn't really make up for the deficit.
In summary, the Banjo-Tooie CD Soundtrack offers a dark twist on the Banjo formula. Kirkhope blends the lyricism and orchestral focus of the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack with stern moods more akin to his work on Perfect Dark. Although the soundtrack isn't quite as accessible, the pieces are still fitting, interesting, and memorable. The album release itself is a bit disappointing and doesn't compare to experiencing the soundtrack within the context of the game. However, it still does a good job of compiling a humongous score into a single 67 minute disc.