Paul McCartney with the London Symphony Orchestra – Working Classical (1999)

History: For this album Paul did a collaborative effort with noted composers and arrangers in the classical genre to take some of his pop songs and turn them into classical music. Some of the songs had not been released previously while others are among his well known solo hits.

My own personal history and initial prediction: I tend to spoil myself on details a little with these classical albums just because they are so unknown to me, so seeing that this is some of his rock and roll songs re-arranged in a classical way sounds absolutely fascinating to me. Of course scanning the track list I’m not sure many of these are an absolute stretch, it’s not like he’s trying to make “Helter Skelter” into a classical song. But I’m intrigued by the concept and looking forward to it nonetheless.

Review: I remember at some point, I think it might have been the early 2000s, there was a trend of releases of classical arrangements of harder rock music that were put out. I think a lot of them were named in such a way that it was supposed to make it safe for your infant to listen to Metallica, Tool, etc. without any of the harsher tones or bad words because the cellos were doing a lot of the heavy lifting instead. I really enjoyed most of those I listened to, because good music is often still good music even when you change the genre a little. Some of the arrangements on this album remind me very much of those. “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love” in particular sound pretty close to their originals, just replacing the various instruments involved.

Others felt almost naturally suited for the genre to begin with, like maybe this was the way “Junk” and “Calico Skies” were always made to be done. “Somedays” as well just naturally suits the genre. It makes it a smooth transition when he moves to the songs that were done especially for this album because even though they may not have that famous hook you’re already familiar with, they still fit together really well. “Spiral” and “Tuesday” are both allowed to be longer than the pop music length and so really breathe naturally and go through their own movements. I wish he had maybe tried to do something similar with the existing songs. I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t have started with the song’s traditional structure but then stretched them out into something new. But maybe he wanted to keep them as they were so people could hear what they were familiar with. Or maybe he was still in mourning and not yet ready to fully explore it all, which is absolutely understandable. Ending the whole thing with “The Lovely Linda,” as brief as it is, is a wonderful tribute to her.

Perhaps I’m just a sucker for hearing songs that are familiar to me, but this was my favorite of his classical works so far. I definitely think it would be a good intro for anyone who hasn’t really listened to any of it before. It would allow them to hear songs they know and also a few they don’t, and if they enjoy it, you’ve got plenty of other albums to take a listen to, include a couple I haven’t gotten to yet.

Next Time: Paul once again does something a bit different with Liverpool Sound Collage.


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