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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Various Artists

80s Symphonic - 2LP vinyl


  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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