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& Philharmonic Orchestra Hagen - Symphonic Floyd

Review by Gary Hill

This is a cool album. As you might gather from the title, it is comprised of live performances of Pink Floyd music with a symphonic orchestra and choir. The arrangements here are all quite effective. Sometimes they play it pretty faithfully. At other points the arrangement really takes it in new directions. I suppose if there is a complaint to be made it's that for me the vocals don't always work as well as the music. Still, it's a fairly minor complaint, and this is really a great double disc set.

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Track by Track Review
CD 1
This is a purely symphonic arrangement of themes from The Wall at the start. It is suitably bombastic. It works into some other Floydian territory including "Money" and "Wish You Were Here" and more. It's kind of a cool symphonic journey through Floydian territory, making it a great start to this set.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part I)
Mellow motifs bring this into being with keyboards merging with the symphonic. The introductory section takes on new dimensions in this arrangement. The guitar rises up to deliver the classy opening solo segment. Eventually they make their way to the rocking musical concepts as the symphonic elements bring flourishes over the top. They create quite a tasty and extensive recreation of this Pink Floyd classic. While the vocals are a change, they work well. The choir on sections is particularly effective. It really adds a lot. I really love the saxophone work on this.
One of These Days
Trippy atmosphere serves as the background for the opening bass work. It shifts upward to a rocking jam from there. The echoey bass jamming section gets some seriously freaky stuff over the top. They really create something pretty crazy with this. Then after the "One of these days..." line, it powers out into some smoking hot rocking stuff to continue. I don't really hear a lot of symphonic presence on this number.
Fat Old Sun
An acoustic guitar based, folk meets country kind of piece, this is stripped back. The orchestra adds an intriguing angle to it, but I'm not crazy about the vocals on this one. It works better when it intensifies later. The more rocking stuff is effective as well. That's particularly true of the guitar solo segment.
Wot's... Uh The Deal

A classy psychedelic rock turned symphonic kind of vibe is on tap with this cool cut. There is a lot of folk music built into this. The violin and backing vocals both bring a lot of magic here.

A gentle and slow moving instrumental, the orchestral elements bring a lot to the table here.
Astronomy Domine
There is some cool space radio chatter at the start of this. A bit of a repeating keyboard element comes over the top. Then the guitar rises upward. As it builds out the symphonic elements provide emphasis. They put in a pretty amazing performance of this old school Floyd classic. The choral vocals and orchestra really add a lot. I love the scorching guitar solo, too.
High Hopes
I have always loved the original version of this. The clanging and piano intro works really well. As they build it out from there it's equally effective. The orchestra adds a lot. I would love to hear this arrangement with David Gilmour's voice, but the singing here works well. I love the guitar soloing here, but the whole piece is just so strong. The acoustic guitar bit at the end is both tasteful and tasty and the strings help to emphasize it.
Run Like Hell
I dig the way the little intro thing is re-designed here. As they work out to the song proper, the orchestra brings a lot of extra bombast to it. This thing really rocks. They put in quite a successful re-imagining. The instrumental movement later in the track in particular really benefits from the orchestra and non-lyrical chorale styled vocals.
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)
We're continuing in The Wall territory here. This two-fer gets a classy live performance here. Again, I'm not overly crazy about the vocals, but the orchestral arrangement (and chorale) bring plenty of great sound to it. This rocks pretty well.
CD 2
Atom Heart Mother

The symphonic elements bring this in with a trippy kind of feeling to them. Sound effects and other things emerge as this drives forward. Around the three minute mark some keyboards are heard in the mix along with some bass guitar, but the symphonic things are still in the driver's seat. By around the four minute mark the more rock band elements have taken control, and it has begun to resemble Pink Floyd more. There is some expressive guitar soloing, but it still has plenty of symphonic fanfare in the mix. Operatic chorale vocals emerge in the arrangement as this works forward and the more rocking sounds drop back. The rock sounds get revisited with different melodic elements further down the road. Some vocals come in over the top around the 13 and a half minute mark. They turn toward some serious strangeness after that point and work it forward with a mostly symphonic arrangement that gets downright creepy. Around the 19 minute mark (this is 23 and a half minutes long) this gets more "song" oriented to carry forward. They work through several variants as it continues.

Speak To Me / Breathe in the Air
The cool electronic vibe of "Speak to Me" gets some extra magic via the orchestra. I love when it drifts into "Breathe in the Air." They create some wonderful sonic tapestry here on this piece.
They put in quite a compelling performance of this classic. I've always loved the song, and the orchestra adds quite a bit to it.

I've always loved this number, too. We get a smoking hot rendition that also benefits from the addition of the orchestra. I dig the guitar soloing later in the track. They turn it a bit Meddle as they work it forward.

Us And Them
Another Floyd classic gets redone here. They play this pretty true to form, but there enough enhancements to keep it interesting. The vocals on this come closer to the original than those on some of the others do.
Any Colour You Like
The orchestra almost brings a jazz vibe this number. It's cool stuff.
Brain Damage / Eclipse
This two-fer works well here. It feels more psychedelic than the original version does. There are some almost jazzy playful things here as this works through the transition section.
Wish You Were Here
I like the guitar sound on this cut. They play it pretty faithfully I dig the acoustic guitar section on this number, and the orchestral elements are effective at augmenting the sound.
Is There Anybody Out There?
Another from The Wall, this is such a pretty piece of music. The guitar melodies work so well, and the symphonic features really help to augment the sound. This short instrumental works well.
Comfortably Numb
The bombastic orchestral elements on this really bring something cool to it. I'm not crazy about the vocal performance on this, but there is a great rocking groove to the cut. I love the guitar soloing on this thing. It really drives the melody and power home with style. The chorale and symphonic elements at the end of this really add a lot of power and majesty to it.
Outside The Wall
The final piece from The Wall (or is it the beginning? After all, the album is a circle), this really benefits from the sea of voices here.
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