Six Brilliant Artist/Orchestra Collaborations

Six Brilliant Artist/Orchestra Collaborations


There is only one person on the planet that has been hailed as ‘The Queen Of Soul’. Just by reading that moniker, you should already know who I am talking about; you’re music loving devotees, of course, you do. However, for those who may be a little younger, but have a love for what we love, and may not have heard the term before, of course, I am talking about the inimitable, Aretha Franklin.

At 24, Aretha signed to Atlantic Records and launched into one of the most historic, and legendary music careers of all time. 18 Grammy Awards, over 75 million albums sold worldwide, the first female inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine’s number 1 singer of all time, Aretha is without peer.

Now, something really special is about to land in your lap. A Brand New Me weaves classic vocal’s from The Queen Of Soul’s biggest hits for Atlantic Records together with newly recorded arrangements by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, out on November 10th and available to pre-order here. 

Ahead of its release, you can hear the classic smash hit "Respect" bought to life with strings, horns and more on Spotify now...

So I thought, on the impending release of A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra I’d take a look at six brilliant artist/orchestra collaborations, to whet your appetite.

Deep Purple – Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969)

Jon Lord, the key master from legendary Deep Purple, was inspired to write Concerto for Group and Orchestra in 1969 after hearing the Dave Brubeck Quartet performing with the New York Philharmonic, saying “I started off as a pianist. I started piano at the age of five and very quickly moved to large orchestral music. And then I heard Little Richard and Elvis, and wow! I just felt incredibly lucky because my intense love of that didn’t dry out the previous development I had felt. And the idea was to put two things rather together and to see if I could in some sort of fairly graphic way pay homage to both.”
Needless to say, it’s huge. The best part is, you can watch the whole performance. (skip to 31:46 if you just want some Jon Lord GOLD)

Eric Clapton – 24 Nights (1991)

This one is particularly special for me, growing up, I wanted to be Eric Clapton. I would try to emulate what he did on guitar, of course never getting close, but I would study everything he did, his style of playing, the way he sang, that FEEL! When I found that he recorded 24 Nights (that took him 2 years to get just right) I loved it. And getting to see him perform at Royal Albert Hall a few years ago will live with me forever. Here’s what Eric said about his experience. “It’s a selfish thrill to play with an orchestra, but it hasn’t really clicked. It’s a very hit-or-miss process, because they play in a different time scale. They hit the beat just slightly after the conductor’s baton comes down; they play behind the beat, in effect. I play right on the beat or sometimes in front of it. I like pushing the beat, and so the marriage is very difficult.”

 “It’s a challenge to get it right, and more often than not, it’s a very painful disappointment,” he admitted. “But it is a great sound live, to hear all that moving air coming from the violas and cellos, double basses and fiddles. And to have an electric guitar in the middle of that, quite hard, it’s a tremendous feeling.”

Check this out, it still gives me shivers.

Metallica – S&M (1999)

This was another band/orchestra collaboration that took a long time to get going, getting all the ducks to line up just right took two years, but once it was set, Metallica fans were in for something totally different. Watch the start of this full performance, and if you’ve been to a Metallica gig since 1999, you’ll recognise the intro as the way they start all their gigs these days. The other thing that sold this performance for me was that they opened with "Call of Ktulu", slowed down, meshed beautifully with the San Francisco Symphony. Also, how can you not love a bit of Master Of Puppets (swears included) with an orchestra? It’s polar opposites but works so well.

KISS – KISS Symphony: Alive IV (2003)

Australian KISS fans will remember this one dearly from 2003 as it all went down at (what it was then known as) Telstra Dome in Melbourne. If you weren’t there, don’t for a moment think that it was some scaled down posh version of KISS, oh no, it was completely the opposite. Paul Stanley said The whole idea when doing this was not to wimp out Kiss but it was to take us to a more bombastic level. What we’ve done with the orchestra has only made it heavier. There’s nothing wimped out about what we’re doing. And we owe it not only to ourselves but to David Campbell who’s come up with these arrangements that are just lethal.” 

This was probably the biggest KISS production I’ve ever seen. Stage wise, pyros, and then you throw in a 60 piece Orchestra, all wearing KISS makeup I might add, and ‘Act 3’ of the night went down as one of the most insane performances ever. Check out "Detroit Rock City".

Pet Shop Boys – Concrete (2006)

This was something that caught me by surprise. I remember reading about it back in the day and thinking, ‘this is a synth pop band, what are they doing with an orchestra?’ When in reality, so many of their songs were written with orchestration, I just never noticed it. So in fact, Pet Shop Boys music lends itself beautifully to this kind of collaboration. Some history on this, it was broadcast exclusively on BBC2 and the track listing was chosen to include songs that were originally recorded with an orchestra, except for "It’s a Sin", and "West End Girls", which were adapted to include orchestration.
When you listen to these songs on Concrete, they make total sense, and it’s not a stretch at all, it just makes them more epic.

Scorpions – Moments of Glory (2000)

This was an album recorded in “collaboration with The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra featuring rearranged from the Scorpions repertoire, as well as classical interludes.” Much like the Metallica S&M album, some of Scorpions songs don’t lose a thing when combined with orchestration, they just get even more epic. So with that in mind, check out one of their hardest hitting and catchy tunes, "Rock You Like A Hurricane" from Moments of Glory. Keep in mind, whilst they toured quite extensively with an orchestra, this particular video is live performance overdubbed with the studio recording, but the effect is still massive.

These six are just scratching the surface, more importantly, I’d like to hear about your favourite rock/orchestra collaborations so I can go and immerse myself into a full orchestration phase for a bit. So leave em in the comments on our Facebook page, and don’t forget to check out A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for some truly beautiful mind-bending gear on its release in November. 

- Higgo

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