wed 01/12/2021

CD: Trevor Horn – Trevor Horn Reimagines the Eighties (feat The Sarm Orchestra) | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Trevor Horn – Trevor Horn Reimagines the Eighties (feat. The Sarm Orchestra)

CD: Trevor Horn – Trevor Horn Reimagines the Eighties (feat. The Sarm Orchestra)

The producer covers hits with strings and gets in a terrible mess

Over the last decade or so, there have been a couple of noticeable trends in broad-based, popular music that have segued from mild irritation to disfiguring infection. The first is the fey cover version, the awful balladification of perfectly good songs with the sole purpose of shifting units of plastic crap come Christmas

The second is the idea that club music would be a more profound experience were you to bolt on a full orchestra. This has resulted in the emergence of a kind of rave Glyndebourne for aspirational arseholes who did a pill once in 1994 – a night they now excitedly refer to as “my party years”. 

Both are present on Trevor Horn Reimagines the Eighties (feat. The Sarm Orchestra), but if anyone is going to steer these tropes into safer waters, it’s the producer responsible for the widescreen pop of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm and The Art of Noise. Isn’t it? 

Sadly, the answer is no. This is a uniformly awful album of beautifully produced but utterly pointless noise. The only thing I can say in its favour is that “Dancing in the Dark” does actually work quite well as a ballad. Or at least it would do if the strings didn’t overpower everything, swelling and soaring with the loud-mouthed, grandiose bluster of the nouveau riche. 

The interpretations are horribly misjudged throughout, erasing any trace of the elements that made the originals work so well. “The Power of Love” sounds huge but, without Holly Johnson’s timbre and phrasing, ultimately empty, like Aladdin’s cave after a smash and grab. 

A largely beatless version of “Slave to the Rhythm” misses its mark, loses its footing and falls flat on its face, while the awkward reimagining of Dire Straits' “Brothers in Arms” as a string-soaked sea shanty is devoid of Mark Knopfler’s hushed hesitancy and delicate pacing. 

In fact it’s interesting to see just how much these songs were defined by the voices that originally sang them – how much more character they posessed than the echoes presented here. Nowhere is this more painfully obvious than on “It’s Different For Girls”, Joe Jackson’s (1979) masterpiece. Marillion’s Steve Hogarth sounds like he’s trying, but with an orchestra shadowing every single note he sings, there’s no room left for him to impart anything other than the words. 

Music should never feel this prosaic.


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