Followers of music trends over the last few years will have noticed the proliferation of, for want of a better description, “reimagining” albums. You now the sort of thing – new recordings of classic pop and soul from various symphony orchestras and by ”new” we don’t mean completely “new”. What happens is that the producers/label execs take the original recordings and sweeten them with orchestral sweeps and flourishes. We’ve had plenty of them over the last few years – everything and everyone it seems has been given “the treatment” …right through from Elvis and the Beach Boys and on to the likes of Aretha and Al Green. The latest music to get “the orchestral treatment” is more generic – the music of Motown! And why not? The venerable old label has a catalogue second to none and in the Holland-Dozier-Holland song, ‘I Hear A symphony’ they have both the inspiration and title. (It is included, by the way).
Thus, the eleven tracker that is ‘A Symphony Of Soul’ wins release on November 19th. As with most Motown compilations, don’t expect too many surprises; the producer has selected all the big ‘uns – ‘I Heard It Though The Grapevine’, ‘Reach Out For Me’, ‘My Girl, ‘Dancing in the Street’, ‘The Tears Of A Clown’ et al and all have been faithfully reworked by the globally renowned Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, marshalled and produced by genial scouser, Motown fan and Grammy Award winning Brian Rawling.
Being a fan Mr R takes few liberties with the masterpieces he’s been given to work on. He simply uses his orchestra to enhance passages and add extra lushness to what was already pretty well near perfect, case in point is the re-rendering of ‘My Girl’. Here there’s a brief but sweet string passage before that familiar guitar, finger clicking intro. The other included Temptations’ tune is ‘Just My Imagination’ which becomes even lusher – lovely!
The production uses the original vocals throughout, but two tracks – Marvin Gaye’s ‘Abraham Martin & John’ and Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes Of The Broken-hearted’ – feature newly recorded vocals by Beverley Knight and Mica Paris, who feature in harmony with the original vocalists. Both tracks have been all over mainstream radio in the last few weeks.
Interestingly, to these old ears at least, the lead voices are well up on the mix – the diction seems clearer, more meaningful and when the mighty voices of Marvin, Levi, Smokey, David and Eddie are swathed in the sweetest of strings – you have a winning album. Oddly, though no Stevie.. wonder why?
A SYMPHONY OF SOUL released November 19th; vinyl (coloured limited edition and black) – February.