If the new Adele Bond theme ‘Skyfall’ has whet your appetite for all things orchestral, then it looks like you’re in for a few treats this coming winter. As well as what is set to be an incredible soundtrack to the Les Miserables film (recorded live on set), one of the major trends occurring in pre-Christmas releases is the re-release of albums and collections that have been completely re-orchestrated for an even greater listening experience. And we’re not just talking about a couple of buttons played with on a mixing desk of previously existing tracks – this is music completely re-recorded with an orchestra replacing original synthesisers or bands. Literally music to my ears. Here’s a few I’m particularly excited by…
Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Cabelle – Barcelona
In 1987 Freddie Mercury became besotted with the voice of Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe, and set about writing a duet for the 1992 Olympics which had been awarded to Barcelona. The song developed into a full album, released in 1988. Freddie’s death in 1991 meant he was unable to perform the title track at the 1992 Opening Ceremony, but the project is an important part of his musical legacy, hinting at the opera music he had planned for the future. Label uncertainty meant that funding wasn’t readily given for an orchestral recording, so Freddie recorded the whole thing on synthesiser keyboards. Now, for the first time, on the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the project, we can listen to it the way it was meant to be.
Standout Track: ‘Barcelona’
Kylie Minogue – The Abbey Road Sessions
As pop music goes, Kylie Minogue’s repertoire is rich. From the Stock Aiken Waterman hits of the late 90s, through the experimental wilderness of the early 90s, to the glorious post-Spinning Around years up to now, you can’t help but love at least a couple (if not several). Now they’ve all been reworked into new arrangements, recorded with full orchestra at London’s legendary Abbey Road studios, and complete with new vocals from Ms Minogue herself. For some of the tracks which traditionally sound a bit cheesy (‘I Should Be So Lucky’), or completely played to death (‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’), this is a new way to enjoy them. It’s even been given a bit of a Christmas polish, with some of the instruments used, and the glistening album cover. Lovely.
Standout Track: It’s a toss up between ‘All The Lovers’ and ‘Confide In Me’
Tori Amos – Gold Dust
This album is marking the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Tori’s unique career, in which she has always been an experimental artist. Gold Dust is her 13th studio album, most of which are self-produced. In the past she’s done a covers album, a collection of unreleased tracks, albums in character, and reworkings of Christmas carols. She says it’s working with the unity of the orchestra, as opposed to individuals in a band, that makes this new project special for her. She’s recorded new versions of songs from throughout her career, with the renowned Metropole Orchestra, and the results prove her musicality is still one of the greatest working in the industry today.
Standout Track: ‘Precious Things’
The ones I want to hear next…
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
Elton’s magnum opus is the perfect album to give the reworking to. It already has orchestral elements in tracks like the 11 minute ‘Funeral For a Friend’ and it would make tracks like ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ and ‘Candle In The Wind’ sound even more lush.
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975)
Springsteen spent so long trying to perfect the sound he wanted for Born To Run, it went through at least 3 styles, and nearly ended up as a live album, before some hard work made it into the legendary piece we know today. This is an epic album, in concept and musicality, and an orchestra is probably the only thing that could make it even more compelling, if not taking it off in a different direction. ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ would be a massive ball of fun; ‘Jungleland’ would be something truly remarkable.
Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
Prince has so many projects on the go at one time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had an orchestral version of a classic album up his sleeve. This cutting edge production in 1984 would lend itself so well to ever grander arrangements – not least the Oscar winning title track – and I’m sure Prince is just the man to give it a wacky reworking.