Some works of pop and rock music beg to be orchestrated more richly, to put their original electric or electronic sound into a classical context to see if the music, at its most basic, can survive the translation without losing too much. And occasionally, the original music is already so well arranged and thought-out, there’s no need to try to make that paradigm shift happen.
And this is the fence straddled by the London Symphony Orchestra’s Fortress, an orchestral reworking of songs by Sting and the Police arranged and conducted by Darryl Way. In some places, the new context suits the songs well, and it comes out sounding rather fun – the busy, Gershwinesque treatment of “Synchronicity II” comes to mind here. In other places, especially with Sting’s solo material, there was already a session orchestra, or a portion of one, playing on the original recording, and parroting that material (and the arrangement) comes across as more of an exercise in making a karaoke album (“Moon Over Bourbon Street” is especially guilty of this).
And then there’s the other stuff, the stuff that just seems to lumber around with unremarkable arrangements. In most cases, the original rock recordings were quite interesting, but here, songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King Of Pain” become frightfully bland, resembling a weak marching band arrangement more than anything. Maybe I’m too attached to those songs in their original form to be completely objective, but at least half of this album barely evoked a reaction of active like or dislike at all. Not something I’m used to from songs written by Sting. (Thank God this album pre-dates “Desert Rose”.)
I’ve heard successful orchestral translations of songs by Led Zeppelin and Split Enz before, so I know that more could have been done with Sting’s catalogue than this. I can only give Fortress a cautious recommendation as a curiosity.
- Russians (5:25)
- Moon Over Bourbon Street (5:11)
- Synchronicity II (5:29)
- Fortress Around Your Heart (5:46)
- King Of Pain (4:50)
- Invisible Sun (4:09)
- Every Breath You Take (5:58)
- Why Should I Cry For You (5:22)
- Wrapped Around Your Finger (5:19)
- They Dance Alone (5:52)
Released by: Angel
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 53:21