Album review: THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA – Plays Prog Rock Classics


Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra [Release date 20.04.15]

Classical rock is an often maligned genre, when done well it can bring new dimension to time-worn classics, done badly and it can fail to enhance the originals.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra have always done it better than most, and in recent times they’ve orchestrated Queen and Fleetwood Mac and – even further back – the music of Pink Floyd and – where it all started – Deep Purple in 1969.  I suppose it all comes down to the arrangements and the interpretation.

Having well known rock musicians as “soloists” (and in one example the original artist) stops any over-egging or extravagance and a core rhythm section including the Cottle brothers – Laurence and Richard – at least keeps the foundations rocking.  They are particularly impressive on ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ and it’s perhaps a little surprising that Steve Hackett is conspicuous by his absence.

Amongst the guests,  Ian Bairnson stands in for David Gilmour on ‘Comfortably Numb’ whilst one-time mediaeval rocker Richard Harvey (Gryphon) excels on ‘Thick As A Brick’.

The heaviest almost big band diversion is King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ which features Gavin Harrison and the fusion guitar of Guthrie Govan.  Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith is featured on Rush’s ‘Red Barchetta’.

Elsewhere, as you might expect, this is a production job of widescreen proportions, especially evidenced on ‘Think Of Me With Kindness’ the lesser-known Gentle Giant song (from ‘Octopus’ in 1972) that now comes across as Vaughan Williams mixed with Big Country (the movie theme not the band).  Yes’ ‘Roundabout’ (featuring the late Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards) sounds like it could have been a Bond theme.  Of course this treatment may not appeal to all tastes but it is very well done.

Hopefully this will be the start of a series (there’s also a “More Symphonic Rock” album released in May although not on the same label).  It demonstrates that in amongst prog rock there was always a damn good classical musician trying to get out, and an even more durable tune.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.


The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk was streamed on Sunday 22 November.

More about Josh:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 15 November 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 17 November 2020

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Featured Albums w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 JEFF SCOTT SOTO Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 LAZARUS DREAM Alive (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 RONAN FURLONG The King Of Leaves (Thoroughbred Music)

Power Plays w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)

L.A. GUNS All That You Are (Golden Robot Records)
THE DUST CODA Limbo Man (Earache)
IRON SAVIOR Souleater (AFM Records)
IVY GOLD This Is My Time (indie)

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