An Orchestrated Songbook

BBC Symphony Orchestra / Jules Buckley / Paul Weller

(LP - Polydor #3845942)

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

For somebody with a restless creative spirit, Paul Weller has no quarrel with taking frequent strolls through his back pages. An Orchestrated Songbook finds the singer/songwriter plucking a number of softer tunes from throughout his career, then turning them over to Jules Buckley to arrange for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Weller held the concert on May 15, 2021, releasing it as An Orchestrated Songbook later in the year, and as something of a companion piece to Other Aspects: Live at Royal Festival Hall, the orchestrated live album he released just two years prior. Where Other Aspects was designed to showcase 2018's True Meanings, An Orchestrated Songbook gives away its game with its title. It's neither an unveiling of new material nor a bunch of greatest hits but rather a cohesive collection of ballads and introspective numbers punctuated by an occasional bit of pop. Most orchestral rearrangements of pop/rock material veer toward the grandiose, so it's noteworthy that An Orchestrated Songbook feels intimate, the symphony acting as empathetic support to Weller's guitar and voice. Buckley's arrangements of Weller's canny self-curation help give An Orchestrated Songbook a subtle but palpable emotional resonance that separates it from other orchestral pop reworkings, not to mention the heavy number of Weller live albums.

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