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View Full Version : Pop songs with the best/most interesting orchestration


Argent Towers
04-23-2011, 04:53 PM
By pop songs, I mean songs that would get played on mainstream radio stations - no Grizzly Bear or other eclectic alt-rock. By orchestration, I mean a massive array of instruments in the background providing a very layered and elaborate accompaniment. Could be strings, brass, woodwinds, world-music type stuff, or all combination of all.

For me it's a tie between Al Stewart's Year Of The Cat (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqZc7ZQURMs) and Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHWJOUiKvRk)

cain7
04-23-2011, 05:15 PM
The Moody Blues, the Verve...Sting has done at least two albums of pop reorchestrated...fair amount of mainstream metal/rock has a backing cello part (Metallica, Fuel, The Cult).

I agree that "Year of the Cat" was done very well.

Chefguy
04-23-2011, 05:19 PM
Yeah, The Moody Blues kind of pioneered this idea with their Days of Future Passed album in the 60s. It was succeeded by other albums with orchestral backup.

Eonwe
04-23-2011, 05:20 PM
In the synth/electronic/pop realm, it's heard to beat Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror (or any number of his Quincy Jones-produced songs). Layered percussion, keys, synths, strings, guitars, and vocals. Every time I listen to that song I am impressed with how polished and complex an arrangement it is.

Mean Mr. Mustard
04-23-2011, 05:25 PM
First song I thought of was Eleanor Rigby. You can hear just the strings on one of the Anthology CDs. Very cool.


mmm

Taomist
04-23-2011, 05:34 PM
I grew up with Boston and Chicago, if those count.
And I also grew up thinking ELO actually WAS orchestra music, ie 'classical' music. It was some time before that notion was disabused, but I still have tons of their songs on my playlist, and love them for not being the typical 3-4 instruments and some guy singing. (Even though they probably ARE just that, I just thought they always sounded more...well rounded, or something.)

Molotok
04-23-2011, 05:37 PM
Crowded House have had some amazingly orchestrated songs, Private Universe the first that comes to mind. And Into Temptation. Neil Finn knows his stuff.

Argent Towers
04-23-2011, 05:44 PM
Oh...I forgot. Life In A Northern Town (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzTNUMiMIsU) by Dream Academy. (I try to forget about Sugarland's brutal raping of this song.)

Robot Arm
04-23-2011, 06:48 PM
First song I thought of was Eleanor Rigby.If I remember correctly, doesn't When I'm Sixty-Four have some interesting brass in it?

I don't know if it's terribly complex, but I've always though the gold standard in effectively using classical strings in pop music was Annie Lennox.

Argent Towers
04-23-2011, 07:20 PM
When I'm Sixty-Four may or may not have strings - I can't remember - but its most prominent instrumentation is a clarinet choir.

voltaire
04-23-2011, 11:40 PM
A bit tangential to the OP, but it's too cool to not post here:
http://fororchestra.com/
Orchestral renditions of many good, and some not so good, pop songs. They even manage to make internet memes like Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" listenable!

pulykamell
04-23-2011, 11:44 PM
Anything off Pet Sounds qualifies here. In my opinion, it's the most beautifully orchestrated pop album ever.

MacCat
04-24-2011, 12:09 AM
Yeah, The Moody Blues kind of pioneered this idea with their Days of Future Passed album in the 60s. It was succeeded by other albums with orchestral backup.When they were not performing together for a while, Justin Hayward did Forever Autumn for War Of The Worlds...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUcvXLzLPHE


I posted this one earlier in Cafe Society > Some Of Your Favorite Songs but it really fits here too...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K71uYiCriHE&feature=related

DiosaBellissima
04-24-2011, 12:19 AM
I often catch myself being tremendously shocked by how surprisingly complex the arrangement of Bad Romance is. I'm no musician, so I can't tell you exactly why, but the song has so many. . .layers when you really listen to it.

Spoons
04-24-2011, 12:24 AM
Many good selections have been mentioned. I'll add "Conquistador (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F945LQG6fuA&feature=related)" by Procol Harum.

voltaire
04-24-2011, 12:43 AM
I often catch myself being tremendously shocked by how surprisingly complex the arrangement of Bad Romance is. I'm no musician, so I can't tell you exactly why, but the song has so many. . .layers when you really listen to it.

You might want to check this out: (though, IMO, it's not one of their better renditions)
http://fororchestra.com/2009/12/21/for-orchestra-24-lady-gaga-bad-romance/

DiosaBellissima
04-24-2011, 01:08 AM
You might want to check this out: (though, IMO, it's not one of their better renditions)
http://fororchestra.com/2009/12/21/for-orchestra-24-lady-gaga-bad-romance/

Interesting, but I feel they could have gone a little heavier and darker with their version. It seems lacking that. . . depth and grittiness that the Gaga version has.

casdave
04-24-2011, 05:33 AM
You may remember the '70's group Rennaissance, they are likely to be among the most notable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_(band)



Songs like

'Carpet of the sun'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upIlhve5r-g&feature=related

'A trip to the fair'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKh4kqMiV-I
This takes quie some time to develop, but it builds

'Mother Russia'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caIM8e5m4u8&feature=related

For the most part this was stuff you did not just get instant joy from, unlike much of todays stuff.

tumbleddown
04-24-2011, 05:38 AM
This may be a controversial choice, but the first thing I could hear in my head when I read the thread title was the intro to "Gimme Gimme Gimme" by ABBA, and the lush strings on that. There are a number of songs of theirs where Benny & Bjorn put together some really lovely arrangements.

Girl From Mars
04-24-2011, 06:55 AM
Crowded House have had some amazingly orchestrated songs, Private Universe the first that comes to mind. And Into Temptation. Neil Finn knows his stuff.

Although this project was Eddie Rayner's idea not Neil Finn, you might also like Enzso (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzso), which was the music of Split Enz orchestrated and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Joey P
04-24-2011, 07:11 AM
You might want to check this out: (though, IMO, it's not one of their better renditions)
http://fororchestra.com/2009/12/21/for-orchestra-24-lady-gaga-bad-romance/

Bleh, was that a real orchestra? I assume it's just a midi file based on the tinny sound, the stuff the guy wrote about how he composed it and the fact that those entire songs load in a few seconds.

don't ask
04-24-2011, 07:38 AM
A bit tangential to the OP, but it's too cool to not post here:
http://fororchestra.com/
Orchestral renditions of many good, and some not so good, pop songs. They even manage to make internet memes like Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" listenable!

Thanks for that. The first thing I listened to was AC/DC's You shook Me All Night Long. What a blast.

don't ask
04-24-2011, 08:02 AM
At that link check out Sweet Child O Mine (http://fororchestra.com/tag/guns-n-roses-song/). Still rocks with dozens of different instruments.

voltaire
04-24-2011, 08:47 AM
Bleh, was that a real orchestra? I assume it's just a midi file based on the tinny sound, the stuff the guy wrote about how he composed it and the fact that those entire songs load in a few seconds.

No, not a real orchestra. But I warned you that that wasn't a good example of the best work - not even close. It may take a few seconds to load, but I assure you, it takes considerably longer to create, and a real musician to compose.

deadindays
04-24-2011, 08:54 AM
XTC's Apple Venus 1 and Skylarking albums

TreacherousCretin
04-25-2011, 12:46 AM
Anything off Pet Sounds qualifies here. In my opinion, it's the most beautifully orchestrated pop album ever.

Exactly what I was going to post.

Son of a Rich
04-25-2011, 01:13 AM
I always liked the accompaniment to Lulu's To Sir with love.

Banquet Bear
04-25-2011, 01:43 AM
Although this project was Eddie Rayner's idea not Neil Finn, you might also like Enzso (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzso), which was the music of Split Enz orchestrated and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

...ha! I was just going to mention this..."I See Red" is my favourite of the first album but I can't find it online: here are another couple, "Message to my Girl" (my fav Split Enz song), and Stuff n' Nonsense...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-6Ta_8T7QM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ucDD_nVEuE

Indygrrl
04-25-2011, 01:44 AM
I don't normally enjoy Coldplay, but I think Viva la Vida is a neato song with all the instrumentation and whatnot.

The version they did at the Grammy's a few years back kinda gave me chills.

Argent Towers
04-25-2011, 02:26 AM
Many good selections have been mentioned. I'll add "Conquistador (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F945LQG6fuA&feature=related)" by Procol Harum.

Damn, forgot that one. I agree totally.

I was raised on 70s music even though I grew up in the 90s because it was what my dad played.

NineToTheSky
04-25-2011, 04:41 AM
I've always loved the orchestration in Santana's Every Step Of The Way (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne-mg4wGmn0) from Caravanserai. It is so integral to the music; it sounds like a separate single instrument.

GuanoLad
04-25-2011, 04:50 AM
Although this project was Eddie Rayner's idea not Neil Finn, you might also like Enzso (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzso), which was the music of Split Enz orchestrated and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

...ha! I was just going to mention this..."I See Red" is my favourite...Wow! I also was going to mention this, and I See Red is my favourite too. Beautiful orchestration.

Molotok
04-25-2011, 04:51 AM
Although this project was Eddie Rayner's idea not Neil Finn, you might also like Enzso (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzso), which was the music of Split Enz orchestrated and performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
I like ENZSO as well, but Crowded House's/Neil Finn's songs are lush enough on their own, IMHO.

MrDibble
04-25-2011, 05:51 PM
Shatter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2Zz7BX3tsQ) - Shelleyan Orphan

Exapno Mapcase
04-25-2011, 06:15 PM
Back in the 60s, almost every song seemed to have added strings or "sweetener" as it was called. A lot of rock and folk hits do and it's mostly forgotten about, even though it made the songs sound much better than the groups ever achieved playing them live.

One of my absolute favorites is Chad & Jeremy's A Summer Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvD0_aeAf2E). The orchestration doesn't drown out the voices and the horns are fine. Best, there are two passages where the violins play a theme that is handed off to the violas which is then handed off to the cellos that's chilling in its perfection.

I'm going to throw in one that nobody else in the universe remembers and I can't even find a reference to it. Michael Kamen, just after leaving The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra a "rock ballet" he'd written. I thought at the time it was the best merging of rock and classical I'd ever heard. It wasn't recorded and I don't know if he ever did it again. That was almost 40 years ago, so I haven't any idea how well it would hold up if I heard it today. But losing an important piece like that should never have happened.

MacCat
04-25-2011, 07:06 PM
One of my absolute favorites is Chad & Jeremy's A Summer Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvD0_aeAf2E)Mine too. It's been in my iTunes from the beginning and now it's one of my music loving three year old granddaughter's too...

EinsteinsHund
04-26-2011, 05:53 AM
"Automatic For The People" by R.E.M. is one of my all-time favorite albums, and I especially like the orchestral arrangements on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming", which were done by John Paul Jones.

Banquet Bear
04-26-2011, 06:13 AM
Wow! I also was going to mention this, and I See Red is my favourite too. Beautiful orchestration.

...well, great minds and all that! ;) But it truly is a magnificent version of the song.

Don Draper
04-26-2011, 09:39 AM
Lady In Satin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_in_Satin) - Billie Holliday.

Floater
04-26-2011, 09:47 AM
There are a number of songs of theirs where Benny & Bjorn put together some really lovely arrangements.
Since none of them can read or write music (it beats me how you can avoid it in their business) the credit has to go to others. The names Rutger Gunnarsson and Anders Eljas come to mind (couldn't find anything about them in English). Michael B Tretow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_B._Tretow) was also very much involved in creating the ABBA sound.

JohnT
04-26-2011, 10:43 AM
I've always thought strings were used to good effect in songs by The Cranberries.

Saitou
04-26-2011, 04:00 PM
I think I have a renewed respect for the harmonies and orchestration of Motown after listening to these analyses of their multitracks: Same Old Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVpWqcuKsf0#t=4m40s),More Love (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X855SWFDiU#t=1m10s), Reflections (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v6FRftZ8SA#t=1m53s)

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