Orchestrating songs, or singing orchestral tracks?

Pop Goes ClassicalClassic FM is shortly going to release a new album, Pop Goes Classical. They have already played tracks from it on the station. It features the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra playing versions of famous pop songs.

The track that they keep playing on the station is a version of the 1991 song (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. (Now, why is it always written with the first three words in brackets?) This was originally sung by Bryan Adams, and famously accompanied the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, spending a record 16 weeks at the top of the UK singles chart.

Credit for writing the song is usually given to Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen, and Robert Lange. Michael Kamen wrote the score for the movie, but I seem to remember reading that he didn’t think there should be a song to go with the film. Adams and Lange therefore took Kamen’s music and turned it into the song. Classic FM have been crediting the track as being “by” Bryan Adams. I thought this was rather inaccurate as neither his lyrics nor his singing is included. The tune was clearly by Michael Kamen. I therefore dropped a quick note to presenter Bill Turnbull, who had played the track. Earlier this week, I heard him play it for a third time, and to my surprise, this time he credited it to Michael Kamen. I’d like to think that’s because I, and perhaps others, pointed out the omission.

The fact remains that there was already an orchestral version of the song, and it pre-dates the song itself. Anyone who wants to hear Michael Kamen’s own version of it should listen to the track Maid Marian from the soundtrack album. It does seem slightly bizarre to orchestrate a song that started life as an orchestral piece, particularly when, it has to be said, the original was far superior.

This is not the first time Classic FM have released such an album. In 2008, they released Songs Without Words, a very similar CD played by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. As I write, this is still available from Amazon for the princely sum of £16.04, or for 15p second-hand. This CD features that other famous movie song, My Heart Will Go On, from Titanic. As with Everything I Do, James Horner’s orchestral score for Titanic already includes many versions of the same tune, including one for Irish bagpipes. The song is credited to Horner and lyricist Will Jennings (and it was sung by another Canadian singer, Celine Dion). But the version on Songs Without Words is turned into a slightly jaunty waltz. That’s clearly from the special edition of the film where the ship doesn’t sink.

Orchestral versions of pop songs are a nice idea, but is it just a coincidence that the most popular are pieces that started out as orchestral works in the first place? Perhaps we should just listen to the originals, rather than arrangements of pop songs derived from them – the latter simply not being as good!

Leave a comment

By browsing this site, you agree to its use of cookies. More information. OK