Saturday, February 5, 2011

# 10: Rock Symphonies

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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Creative Meshing of Two Genres, July 20, 2010 I've always been a fan of music that crosses genres. Artists like Mike Phillips who mixes hip hop and jazz so well, or the Finnish band "Apocalyptica" who play heavy metal on Cellos.

And of course the "Hip Hop Violinist" herself, Miri Ben Ari who has been featured with such hip hop artists as Kanye West, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Akon, Styles P and others.

I first listened to the snippets of the album, because as much as I love this kind of thing, it's often very hit or miss. For every Miri Ben Ari or Apocalyptica there's a whole slew of others that make you want to burn your ears off.

After listening to three snippets, I immediately bought it. Even if it had been 10 dollars I would have gotten it, because this is really good music.

He covers a wide range of Rock music from Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit) and Guns N'Roses (November Rain) back to Aerosmith (Walk this way) and Led Zeppelin (Kashmir), and also throws in some classical classics such as Beethoven's 5th and Toccata.

I remember the first time I heard Apocalyptica was while viewing the film "Your Friends and Neighbors" in the theater while living in Charlottesville Virginia. I heard them playing Metallica songs on Cellos during the opening and closing credits and was amazed. I had never heard anything like that before.

I felt that again while listening to Garrett's album because I think even though I've heard this type of thing before, it's still something that takes me aback. It's not something you hear every day. You don't turn on the radio and hear this. You tend to hear the same 10-25 songs a day (several times a day) and there's very little exposure to true artists like Garrett.

One of the definite highlights of this album has to be, hands down, his track "Vivaldi vs. Vertigo" in which he brilliantly mashes up the classical Vivaldi with U2's "Vertigo". I actually listened to this several times and just marveled at how great it worked together.

Also his performance of Aerosmith's Walk this way was a powerhouse due to Garrett's fiery violin playing, and the guitars of Orianthi, who was featured in Michael Jackson's "This is It" movie).

Garrett, who studied at Julliard under the legendary wings of Itzhak Perlman, shines brightly on this album, and I imagine that he's got a great career ahead of him.

If you enjoy creative and highly enjoyable music, then this album is for you. The great thing about this album, and others like it, is it really shows you that there's no more lines in music. There's nowhere you can't go.

There are no more limits. The only limitation is your imagination and your creativity and your abilities. As the famous quote says, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it".

And no better example of that lies at the heart of this album.

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful: 3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks the sparkle of earlier albums..., July 30, 2010 This review is from: Rock Symphonies (Audio CD) David Garrett's new album "Rock Symphonies" marks his first new crossover work in several years (2009's David Garrett was largely drawn from David's existing European albums Free and Virtuoso). I loved his mashups of classical vs. pop on his previous albums, and had eagerly awaited "Rock Symphonies." Starting with the majorly-airbrushed album cover (note a partially bare-chested David brandishing his 1772 Guadagnini like an electric guitar that's about to get shredded on stage) and liner notes, David rocks the Kurt Cobain grunge look well...almost an eerie resemblance. Unfortunately, the album itself left me disappointed.

Now, I'm not a big fan of rock / metal, so I'm probably not the intended audience for the album, although I did watch MTV in its infancy and had a fascination with White Lion, Poison and Guns n' Roses as a kid. David's violin is eerily effective at angsty caterwauling on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and imparts menace on Metallica's "Master of Puppets." However, I question some of the production choices: in the middle of Paul McCartney & Wings "Live and Let Die," the interlude sounds like the soundtrack from the classic computer game The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition [Online Game Code]. Led Zepplin's "Kashmir" fares better; the haunting "Kashmir" has echoes of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Song of India" woven throughout. "Walk This Way" had a kind of hoedown vibe; it would have been infinitely cooler to mashup "Walk This Way" with "Cotton-Eyed Joe"(see Vivaldi vs. Vertigo below).

The classical side of the house fares better, with hardcore versions of Albeniz's "Asturias," Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor (the unofficial Halloween anthem) and "Winter" from Vivaldi. The version of "Asturias" veers into ad-libbing, but also incorporates some delightful Spanish flair into the orchestra's cues. The Toccata was great. Vivaldi vs. Vertigo, however, lacked the rock punch found on David's version of "Summer" on "David Garrett." U2 was almost lost in the background; I would have added some much-needed drama by moving the U2 vocals as the intro to the song, counting in with "uno, dos, tres, catorce" rather than muddying the vocals in the background (again, I wasn't familiar with "Vertigo," so I had to look it up and listen to the song to recognize it woven into Vivaldi vs. Vertigo).

In my opinion, the original song "'80s Anthem" was bland; it sounded a lot like some of David's original compositions off his previous albums (songs like "A New Day," "Chelsea Girl," "Eliza's Song," etc.). I would have much rather seen David's earlier works "Rock Prelude" and "Rock Toccata" recycled; those tracks are way more hardcore than anything on "Rock Symphonies." The much-hyped appearance of Orianthi on "Walk This Way" was kind of muted (although I've heard that the David / Orianthi duet really rocks in his live concert DVD from Berlin); there are more poignant guitar solos elsewhere (there's a lovely call-and-response line in the intro to "Live and Let Die" that was heavenly, but the guitar mostly fades into the background).

Overall, Rock Symphonies is a good album, not great. It kind of grew on me after a few days of listening, but there weren't nearly as many catchy songs as on David's previous releases, nothing with the edge-of-your-seat intensity of "Smooth Criminal" or AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" or even David's original crossover compositions like "Rock Prelude" or "Rock Toccata." If I had to sum up "Rock Symphonies" in one word, it would be "underwhelming." However, David's one of those artists who is even more impressive live, so I'm giving these songs another chance. I've pledged to PBS and am looking forward to seeing David perform these songs live in concert on his Rock Symphonies DVD filmed in Berlin. I'll also order the German version of the Rock Symphonies DVD, which has nearly twice the tracks as the PBS version.

Verdict: fans of David will want to snap this up (and the accompanying PBS pledge exclusive Rock Symphonies DVD filmed in Berlin), but newcomers are better off checking out David's earlier work such as his eponymous North American debut David Garrett or Virtuoso.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars Not So Much, August 2, 2010 This review is from: Rock Symphonies (Audio CD) I got this CD as soon as I saw the amazon ad for it. His earlier CD David Garrett was mind-blowing (and I am a grandma!) and I was anxious to play this when it arrived. Okay, so DG is a brilliant violinist and it shows on this album. BUT I doubt he had much to do with the production end of it. He does some great arrangements but some of the cuts here lack his usual vitality. What is most disappointing, though, is the editing. Poor sound quality, the mixing borders on horrible. This is studio work of the worst kind. My feeling is that his producers wanted to rush this out in prep for the spectacular DVD Rock Symphonies available now only from PBS (for the usual overprice donation).
What I want to say most of all here is that if you saw the DVD on PBS, don't expect this CD to be made of cuts of the live performance. The two media only have a name and a very few cuts in common. And none of the jaw-dropping fervor. After hearing DG Live in Berlin, I bought the CD and waited for the release of the DVD, again, a much superior product. "It is not available." on amazon and PBS doesn't have it either. Huh???????????? Maybe if we all scream, his record label will issue a CD of the Rock Symphonies DVD ....
Perhaps it's that some of the excitement about hearing his virtuosity is lost without his obvious delight in playing toe to toe with his bass guitarists and other members of his orchestra in a live venue. His duet with Orianthe is lackluster on this CD; it is a powerhouse on the DVD.
So why four stars instead of three? For those who want more (actually, less for us fans since there are only a few cuts)exposure to this kind of music, you can hear a few great licks sampled here and do ITunes. But to hear the real artist, buy the David Garrett CD. I have several earlier ones, including those for Deutchgrammaphon where he is strictly classical -- and younger. You can see why he is the longtime favorite of Europeans.
Finally, here are some cuts not included in this CD: Schubert' Serenade a la Garrett style, I'll Be There and Billie Jean with Orianthe in a killer performance,Mission Impossible, Child's Anthem, the Pretenders' I'll Stand by You, Zorba, Albinioni's Adagio, Grieg's Peer Gynt Last Movement, and a poignant Hey, Jude where his 13K audience sings to his mike as he plays.
For others of a certain age, his inspriration for combining classical music with rock are U2, Nirvana, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, the Beatles. But, in a short interview, he says he really bases his selections on the great artists who play their instruments with precision and passion, notably the bass guitars. If you love Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and the Baroque, you will be delighted with this man's work, a classically trained prodigy who was mentored at Julliard by Izak Perlman.
If you love the violin, you will find DG "awesome."
I have this CD and it'll go into the glove box of the car. But to hear the real Rock Symphonies, I'm calling PBS for the DVD ....
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