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Rock bands and orchestras

The Hartford Advocate took a rather unorthodox approach of promoting the upcoming Deep Purple gig by publishing an interesting speculative article about the merits of teaming a rock band with a classical orchestra:

Deep Purple weren’t the first to do the rockers-with-orchestra thing (the Moody Blues used the London Festival Orchestra for 1967’s Days of Future Passed), but Concerto was a significant and early example of an experiment several bands tested. In a similar vein, there’s Metallica’s S&M (1999), Scorpions’ Moment of Glory (2000), KISS’ Symphony: Alive IV (2003), Dream Theater’s Score (2006), and Mono’s Holy Ground: NYC Live With The Wordless Music Orchestra (2010). Deep Purple even went back to the well with a 1999 live album, as did the Moody Blues with a 1993 live album.

While this extravagant practice hasn’t been milked to death, the angle’s been utilized by a broad enough roster of bands to carve its own niche. This interest in the approach raises some intriguing questions about the power of rock songs as-is versus their souped-up re-takes. Just how useful are these band/orchestra collaborations on an artistic level? What makes some work and others not? Novelty aside, is “Rock and Roll All Nite” really worth experiencing with strings, brass and other orchestral trimmings?

Read more in Hartford Advocate.

19 Comments to “Rock bands and orchestras”:

  1. 1
    Michiel says:

    KISS with an orchestra is a joke. As is KISS WITHOUT an orchestra!

  2. 2
    KlausVonScribe says:

    On a bit of a different note…just returned from Blackmore’s Night at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. GREAT, GREAT show. Over 2 1/2 hours, and what a treat at the end. An acoustic/then classic version of the most famous three chords in the history of rock n roll…Yep…Smoke on the Water!! And Candice handled it wonderfully! Blackmore had a ball with it…he was quite comfortable and embracing. In fact, the entire night he was very warm and was having a great time as was the rest of the band.

    They seemed to take requests for the latter part of the show, and then this soft girls voice shouted out “Smoke on the Water”…and there were whispers in the crowd…”don’t say that, he’ll walk off stage”. But instead he went into this acoustic version and the band was brilliant…particularly Gypsy Rose who handled a great violin solo while Ritchie strapped on the Stratocaster…and then the groan of those three chords…

    Candice also handled some idiot wonderfully…some moron kept shouting out “Dio” toward the end, and she politely reminded him that they were a Renaissance band. She then very politely stated she would go up to the balcony and get “medieval on your ass”! Well Done, Candice!!

    Honestly, I was at the show a year and a half ago in Somerville, and this one was much more solid. Ritchie kep over-running the curfew and to the credit of Berklee that let them keep going.

    Now, here’s hoping that Deep Purple can deliver as well in a couple of weeks here in Boston.

  3. 3
    Drdp says:

    is “Rock and Roll All Nite” really worth experiencing with strings, brass and other orchestral trimmings? EFFING ”A” RIGHT it is..especially when it’s REAL classics like Hwy Str,SOTW etc. etc. and I WILL be @ that Hartford Show 2nd row center aisle!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait and I hope Roger will be able to make it as well. Regards,Drdp

  4. 4
    Roberto says:

    “Deep Purple weren’t the first to do the rockers-with-orchestra thing (the Moody Blues used the London Festival Orchestra for 1967’s Days of Future Passed),”

  5. 5
    john says:

    the advocate is a joke!!they dont have any reporters with an any experiencein rock&roll if my memory recalls they gave stevie ray vaughn a negitiven a bad review @toads place

  6. 6
    john says:

    roger hope to see you in HARTFORD GOD SPEED MY CAPTAIN!!

  7. 7
    stoffer says:

    Pretty simple really, if you don’t like it or even remotely think you won’t like it DON”T GO give your ******* comp seat to a real fan!

  8. 8
    T says:

    Deep Purple may not have been first, but they set the standard for the rock version of the concerto grosso.

    Theirs was a serious attempt to meld the modern and traditional with the intent to integrate the styles and timbres–not just to have a rock band for the sake of including a rock band as others had done.

    Much like William Russo did with a blues band years before, Jon Lord did a splendid job of intergrating the opposing styles into something greater than the sum of the parts.

    So although not a new idea, the Purple attempt remains the model, and Lord’s work remains one of the greatest concerti of all time in my book–and not merely for the rock element. One passage in particular during the second movement would do Mahler proud.

    The spontanaiety of the performance lent a great deal to its success. Although the orchestra sounded a little under-rehearsed at times, it was the impromptu nature of the event–both in the performance and in its composition–that created the tension that is quite audible in both the group and the orchestra. Sometimes, a little nerves are a good thing.

    Blackmore took advantage of that extemporaneous nature in order to inject even more drama by the extended soloing in the first movement–a solo which was only supposed to last a short time and ended up being some of his best playing–ever.

    Lord felt the concerto was contrived. On the contrary, it was fresh and new, and it would be later compositions such as the live version of the Gemini Suite that sounded contrived. For me, only the first movement of the Gemini Suite worked–although the recorded version was immensely better, even (unfortnately) sans Blackmore on the banjo.

    This is the sort of interplay that Purple should do with an orchestra rather than merely add texture to existing songs that need no embellishment. On the other hand, alternate arrangements such as the one done for “Wring That Neck” are also very interesting.

  9. 9
    RickF says:

    When I saw the Faces in the Fall of ’75 they played with a Orchestra. It worked well. They used the orchestra only for certain songs. Mostly ballads and the Motown songs Rod was singing during this time. Strictly as sidemen. Seems I read that Steve Morse commented that this is the way they planned to use them.
    For the past few years Ian Gillan has toured with a Orchestra during touring breaks from DP. Can’t help but assume that this has played a factor in the upcoming tour.

  10. 10
    Larry R. Toering says:

    Popera comes to mind, and not all that appealing. The Concerto was one thing. After seeing the recent footage of their performances without Roger, and him having nothing to do with this, I’m beginning to think deciding not to see them on what is probably going to be their last in the US, if not second to last tour here. After 17 times in various territories, and not seeing them since 2004 because they balk at the US as it is, I’ll leave it tat that, sadly. I guess I’ve had some blessed times with them, so not all is lost.

  11. 11
    Roberto says:

    @1 I Totally Agree!

  12. 12
    Tracy Heyder (aka Zero the Hero) says:

    Awe come on Larry. Don’t become such a spoiled sport. The shows in the US along side the Orchestra should be quite interesting. And if as you state, is their final hurrah, why would you miss it? Sour grapes isn’t a good Purple color……

    Hopefully as I stated elsewhere, they will use the orchestra as did Metallica on the DVD “S&M”. What an incredible sound. If you haven’t seen it, check it out and see what I mean regarding how if used in this fashion, it would truly enhance and add new depth. Hopefully they will put out a DVD of this leg of the tour also.


  13. 13
    Jerome says:

    Sometimes you don’t have to be the first, to essentially be the best! Such is the case between “The Concerto for Group and Orchestra” and “Days of Future Passed”. Jon Lord composed a milestone in Deep Purple’s career that well positioned them above most of their peers. Deep Purple took the risk of playing alive, winning the crowds, and gaining marketing notoriety. On the other hand, we can read the inner sleeve of Moody Blue’s Days of Future Passed, Ray Thomas states, “We never actually worked with the orchestra.”
    It’s not the same to write a piece of music for a full length orchestra, than to adorn songs. They both work, but the musical endeavor is different.

  14. 14
    purplepriest1965 says:

    I listened to the Moody Blues album.
    Nice piece which reminded me a lot of The Beatles.

    Strange comparing with The Concerto.

    Is this still rock?

  15. 15
    Larry R. Toering says:

    The Moody Blues didn’t play live with an orchestra until recent times either though, decades after doing so in the studio, cut and paste style. This renders it apples and oranges concerning that band, I would agree.

  16. 16
    Jerome says:

    It’s a good and valid question, “Is this still rock?” Personally, I think the Concerto is a collage of music of various types that’s played by a rock band and classical orchestra. The composition in itself is extravagant and falls under the classical concerto format were the solo instrument is actually the band. There are parts that are genuinely classical music; other parts are rock, and still other parts that seem to fall into any other related category. Perhaps it’s part of rock dynamics to dab from other sources.
    From another point of view, I assume that the broad-spectrum of audiences that have embraced the concerto are mostly from the rock realm.

  17. 17
    The Purple Chair says:

    Hi Jerome

    I m afraid I meant to ask the question about The Moody Blues.

    Cheers, Mark

  18. 18
    Jerome says:

    Hi Mark,
    Nice to be able to chat! I think “Days of Future Passed” falls as one of the predecessors to the many sub-genres of progressive rock. There’s a good web site that covers a lot of ground, “Gibraltar Encyclopedia of progressive rock” you might want to check out. The realm of progressive rock is enormous and at times very controversial, meaning it doesn’t always look or sound like rock. In “Days of Future Passed”, the use of the Mellotron, Peter Knight’s orchestra bridges, and Decca’s intention to produce a demonstration album for one of their sound technologies, throws the end product into the symphonic rock arena.
    On the other hand, The Moody Blues is well positioned as a Rock Band, so whatever they do will obviously be perceived as rock music.
    Best wishes,

  19. 19
    The Holy Chair says:

    Hi Jerome

    I m not trying to say I dislike The Moody Blues btw.
    Rock may be the core of my musical taste but around it there is a large universe to explore.

    I ll certainly look at that website you are suggesting.

    It might be a nice adding to the kaleidoscope we are all swimming in : the wealth of music, information and so on on the web.

    Cheers, Mark

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