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80s Symphonic / 80s originals combined with orchestral arrangements

Warner Music/Rhino are to release 80s Symphonic next month, a new ’80s compilation that features 80s original recordings combined with orchestral arrangements.

The album features songs like David Bowie‘s ‘Let’s Dance’, a-ha‘s ‘Take On Me’, Simple Minds‘ ‘Alive and Kicking’, Echo & the Bunnymen‘s ‘The Killing Moon’ and many more eighties classics.

Now these are neither re-recordings, nor original vocals with full orchestral arrangements, but rather something in between. Lots of original elements from the multi-tracks of the actual recording combined with new orchestral arrangements. With permission of the artists, the work has been carried by producer and arranger Andy Wright, with orchestrations arranged and conducted by Sam Swallow. The one exception is Nile Rodgers who ‘produced, arranged and conducted’ Let’s Dance.

He says “My work with David Bowie and specifically “Let’s Dance” is sacrosanct to me so when I was asked by David’s family and Warner’s to add orchestration to the original recording I approached it with extreme trepidation. In fact my only concern was to protect David’s artistic vision and integrity. In the end I’m very grateful that we did this, as I believe anyone who loves the original will be excited by it. I’m certain David would approve from above”.

In fact, Nile tweeted about this very recently, although at that time no one quite knew why he was working on an orchestral arrangement of David Bowie’s number one single!

#letsdance The orchestra playing the solo super tight! @abbeyroadstudios @davidbowie “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues” #funky & #jamming

Posted by Nile Rodgers on Saturday, 22 September 2018


The video above allows you to hear some work in progress, but check out the full ‘symphonic’ version of a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ below, via Spotify.

What do you think about the a-ha arrangement? For me, the jury is out. The strings are all over the shop and rather ‘fight’ with the vocals ruin some of the enjoyment of the song. It will be interesting to sample some of the other tracks, especially minimalist numbers like Bronski Beat‘s ‘Smalltown Boy’.

80s Symphonic will be released on CD on 9 November 2018. A double vinyl edition will follow on 7 December 2018.

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  1. David Bowie – Let’s Dance*
  2. a-ha – Take On Me
  3. Simple Minds – Alive & Kicking
  4. Ultravox – Vienna
  5. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
  6. Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
  7. Howard Jones – What Is Love?
  8. Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
  9. Simply Red – Holding Back The Years
  10. Chris Rea – Josephine
  11. Chicago – Hard Habit To Break
  12. Roxette – It Must Have Been Love
  13. Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is
  14. The Cars – Drive
  15. Pretenders – 2000 Miles

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Marc Osborne

Ironically, the a-ha song is one of the weakest on the album. Smalltown Boy is gorgeous, with even more emphasis placed on Jimmy Somerville’s amazing vocals. The harp and flute on Holding Back The Years is also rather lovely.

Julian Bashford

THERE’S AN ERROR ON THE ALBUM! And its hilarious! Drive – Who’s gonna hold you down, when you – USHK! They have Shake reversed, or they have an out-take on the recording and have failed to spot it!!!

Richard Mc2

Midge Ure help create Ultravox Orchestrated, with a selection of their hits (and some album tracks) that have been re-imagined to good effect, worth listening too.

This backs up an earlier comment about OMD, I think the artists who have actually worked with orchestras end of up good results (even Steve Strange of Visage did orchestrated versions of their classics).

This is just a nice to have 80’s collection, but probably worth waiting when the price is reduced! Artists will endorse this product because it is free publicity for their work!

René Peraza

Well, I just purchased my MP3 album, and ‘Drive’ is seemingly still the same take Ben Orr did with The Cars. He give’s is a unique “shhhh…ake.” Sound like he original vocal take to me. Yes: I’m of that age generation to know this when it was new ;)

Fred

An 80’s compilation without Duran Duran ??? RIDICULOUS !!!

Johnny Spasm

I saw Duran Duran perform with a symphonic orchestra back in 2005.

Fletch

I’m not a fan of these types of orchestral do-overs (the Beach Boys one was pointless) but some songs on here may actually benefit from an orchestra – Foreigner, Ultravox, Chicago, etc.. I didn’t like the a-ha track. It’s like they’ve taken all compression off his voice – it’s very raw and doesn’t really suit.

Jasper

Back in time this would have been a cheap gas station tape. Love Bowie but I have no need for these reworkings that he obviously can not have a say in.

René Peraza

My jury’s still out if it works or not — or even needed — but I ‘like’ it. ‘Let’s Dance’ has been my favorite of David’s 80’s catalog since the day it came out and I bought the 45-rpm single. But, Nile Rodgers, whom produced, arranged and conducts the track uniquely for this collection, had the family’s blessing (they sought him ought), and he makes it a point of not ‘wrecking’ David’s performance, but perhaps try and enhance it.

[…] The Eighties (feat. The Sarm Orchestra) has some similarities with the recently announced 80s Symphonic album in that it contains big hits rearranged with an orchestral element, but on Trevor’s […]

Rob

I think I’ll wait for Trevor Horn’s ‘Reimagines the 80s’ album that was announced today. Covers of 80s hits with strings and some artists ‘from the 80s’ as well.
Sounds far more interesting to me. :)
Its planned for release in February 2019.

CJ

If “Take on Me” is representative of what the rest o fit is going to sound like, there’s no way I’m getting this. And I’m typically a sucker for anything that re-imagines the 80s. That clip sounds something like I imagine people who only ever listened to A-Ha while high on a ton of coke would picture the song sounding like. Yikes.

Kiki_

This is more or less the same treatment that Alex Christensen did with its “Classical 90s Dance “. I think it was successful in Germany, so it might have given ideas…

Arnd

That’s not Morten Harket on vocals!

Anderson

Yes it´s him but the version orchestrated is the earlier 1984 version not the re-recorded version of 1985. Most of people doesn´t know but there was an older version before.
The 1984 version was released in the 2015 super deluxe edition CD of Hunting High and Low and the vocals is seemed quite of this version.

Mark

Yikes…

Timmay

I think of it this way: this is what ’80’s music’ would have sounded like had Disco remained king, and continued to infect every musical thought, what with it’s strings n things. As is, people got wise and moved away from Disco. This is essentially reimagining what would have happened if Disco hand’t died.

ed

At least massive attacks mezzanine album converted into a can of black spray paint fortunately will be unplayable (this is a real thing by the way – can you do an unboxing video paul?). I am now genuinely scared that someone will get me this for Christmas, make me listen to what I am imagining to be a truly awful job made of lets dance and to which I will have to be pretend to be pleased about out of politeness. Its the thoughtlessness that counts (wink)

Richard Cosgrove

Not sure re the a-Ha track. It’s not horrible, but it’s not lovely either. I think the best description I can think of is ‘surplus to requirements’.

AdamW

Based on the comments I thought it would be awful, but I listened to the whole “Take On Me” on Apple Music and… it’s not that bad. It works, for what it is. I wouldn’t change the station if it came on the radio, and it’s far better than 80% of the Billy Idol Revitalized endeavor. And the Nike Rodgers snippet surely gives one hope for “Let’s Dance.”

The problem for me is that this stuff might work well as one track on a mixtape, but a whole album of it might get tired. We shall see.

EdwinM

OMG this definitely sucks. Why mess with someone elses product. This is like painting a moustache on Mona Lisa.

Tonk

You ’80’s kids are getting a bit long in the tooth now . . here’s something soothing for you in your dotage . . .
There’s a lovely Buddy Holly With Orchestra (much like the excremental Big-O one) coming before Christmas for the even older gits . . .

Mo Zart

Well, that was horrible. The orchestra is far too high in the mix.

Andrew

Bizarre!
When OMD have so fantastically collaborated with Liverpool Philharmonic to show how it can be done.

Unfortunately the release date is a clue….Christmas gift time.

Take a leaf out of what Andy and Paul have done and put the proper work in and look at the results.

Stephen dC

Thank you so much! Another £10 saved.

I might have impulse bought this audio graffiti but now I just have to get that noise out of my head.

Don S

Besides the $ aspect, if you’re going to do this why not collaborate WITH each artist for a new symphonic interpretation? Otherwise (except for the Bowie track) this could be titled:
The 80s VS The Symphony!

Rickjapan

In a word……

why?

martin farnworth

unnecessary. feels rather cluttered. the only point to such an exercise would be a more radical overhaul- but then the risk is messing up some classics and removing some of what was good about the originals. even when bands like echo and the bunnymen have recently with there own stuff i can’t get excited much.

Dennis

Can’t imagine them using the original Version of ‘It must have been love’ + only that one was recorded in 1987, the re-recorded, commonly known version (from the ‘Pretty Woman’ soundtrack) was recorded in 1990. So, would be out of place.

Not a fan of these orchestral things in general, but will give it a listen. Hopefully the others will be better than this ‘Take on me’ version.

-SG-

I know what you mean, but actually, 1990 is part of the decade that is commonly referred to the “80’s.”
Strings can be good, Howard Jones already did orchestral arrangements of some of his songs in the 80’s to mixed result. Often, the strings in these new arrangements are overdone to show everyone they are there, but done sparringly, they can be amazing, like A-ha did with the single version of Hunting High and Low.
Having not heard any clips, I can imagine Let’s dance could take on a Peter Gunn feel if done with an orchestra.

Francis

I have heard the A-Ha ‘Take On Me’ track and it is absolutely awful! There is way too much going in the recording compared to the excellent and more simple original arrangement. It almost seems as though the orchestra are trying to keep up with the song and it sounds like a jumbled up mess and ludicrous! It is an insult to a classic song and I have a feeling all the other songs will be similar catastrophes! I will save my money and give this release a miss!!!

RJS

Supermarket fodder bought by people who buy a couple of CDs a year or bought as a ‘stocking filler’ for some unfortunate recipient.

Phil Salter

I played the whole song on Spotify…horrible!!

seikotsi

Well done, I only got halfway :)

Kauwgompie

Let’s Dance sounds sensational.

The Fourth Walker Brother

What a load of tacky crap.

Harold Steptoe

As if the recent Elvis, Beach Boys and Big O butchery wasn’t bad enough.
Will there be no end to this crass and tasteless cash-in crap?

frattonlad

Hmm, I recall my Dad’s awful Allan Tousaint CD doing exactly this but to 70s hits. It was quite appalling. Think I’ll stick with my Love And Dancing by the League Unlimited Orchestra. Contemporary to the time and rather good too.

DiscoDuck

Just to say I picked up a copy recently and was blown away, not heard it since my bro had upon release. Then reading up and how it was made, cutting up the tape and all sorts. Amazing one one of the first true remix albums.

michael59

where is falco’s “rock me amadeus”?! ;-)

Peter

Listened to the Take On Me snippet, what a mess!

Rune T

There are so many a-ha tracks that would be better suited to this treatment. But gotta go with the big hits in a collection of this type of course.

Not a big fan of stuff like this, but remember a great (pure orchestral – no vocals) rendition of Two Tribes (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) by London Symphony Orchestra back in the day, so I guess it can work well once in a while.

Tielo

I think what London Philharmonic Orchestra did on the first Elvis album (an in a lesser way on the second one and in no good way on the Christmas one) was great.
I like Pet Shop Boys and their bland with an orchestra so let’s hope this will be nice too.

Peter Muscutt

This brings to mind a compilation available here….

https://www.amazon.co.uk/80s-Re-covered-Various-Artists/dp/B0158MZ9E6

Where 80s bands basically cover non-80s songs, does anyone remember it and whether it was any good? ABC covering Radiohead, anyone? Wang Chung covering Blur????

David H Richards

The ABC cover of Radiohead was sublime, imho. The rest were ok here and there.

Jakob Rehlinger

I bought it. It seemed great and refreshing for a few listens then ended up in the sell box.

Mikael

I have this, it is absolutely brilliant. I play it constantly. If you like the 80s, you’ll like this.

David Johnson

A couple of these artists have already played the Proms with full orchestra so they know it works.
Interesting to hear how different the version of Vienna will be from Midge Ure’s orchestrated version too.
£18 for 2 vinyl, I might give it a go….

Ben Williams

Definitely an interesting idea to do 80s songs – will have a listen when it’s released. However, this symphonic craze has gone into overdrive now… begs the question, who will get the treatment next?

Queen?
Beatles?
Mozart?

StevieB

Ben – Cilla Black with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, out on November 16th.

Renato

Wow, this will probably be as awful as it seems (which is pretty awful). No, thanks.

Wayne Olsen

HOOKED ON A-HA!

WILLIAM ENGLAND

back of the net!

tim

I love it that the same demographic who buy overpriced box sets laden with utter frou frou, rattle and hum back scratchers, let’s dance lint brushes, the exact same freaking song on the cd, the vinyl, the white vinyl, the 7” edit the radio edit the edit of the edit and complain that not all of the mixes are on the set even the absolutely unlistenable 90’s tribal house techno trance mix (but not the edit of that one) are gonna bang their shoe on the table now and say THIS CROSSES A LINE.

Caroline

That made me laugh, Tim, thank you!

Mark Bumgardner

The original versions of these would make a great ’80s mix tape for sure. Back in the late ’90s/early ’00s, I sort of “got” the glut of ‘Symphonic ‘ versions of Floyd, Zeppelin, Queen, etc. that were everywhere, as that music lent itself to orchestral arrangements fairly well. This…I don’t know. I don’t see myself running out to nab this. Not when the originals are so good.

eMSig

One of the most unnecessary releases ever. What a waste…

Craig Hedges

Utterly pointless.

DJM

That ‘Take on Me’ is just awful. I completely agree with your observation “The strings are all over the shop and rather ‘fight’ with the vocals”. I think the orchestra is playing an entirely different song. Either that or no one involved has ever heard the original

Gary Hunter

Agree with you Paul regards the A-Ha track, terrible arrangement and all over the place, hopefully the other tracks are better.

Tim-Meh

Coming soon to a hotel lobby/lift interior near you soon…

Matteo Leoni

“Take on me” with those drums sounds like a 180 bpm techno-hardcore remix with strings all over it…

kevin

The only way to treat remixes, re-workings, tribute covers etc is to enjoy them for what they are and don’t worry about the original. The original is still available, untarnished. So if 8 out 15 tracks interest you and maybe 3 or 4 of those really work then you have an idea of how much value this compilation really has. Personally I like re-interpretations of major songs but they might have limited the range of artists and tried 2 or 3 from each artist. I can see this failing commercially because its too wide a range of artists. They maybe should have limited it to early 80’s british synth pop or US chart acts but not done both.

Steve

Agree with you about take on me. I was ready to be pleased but it’s all over the shop and awful. Maybe the rest of the tracks will fair better? I do enjoy listening to the summer solstice version of take on me from mtv unplugged and used recently in deadpool 2

Ben Williams

That version from Deadpool 2 is stunning – I advise everyone to go out and listen to it!