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Robbie Williams XXV: Awesome Orchestra?

Orchestra, Eh?

Well, Orkest. The Metropole Orkest. Well regarded and very well done here. And the arrangements are from Jules Buckley, Steve Sidwell and Guy Chambers.

Yes, Guy Chambers. And that’s very important for 2 reasons;

Guy was around when Robbie Williams was in his sales pomp.

Although maybe it’s just my hanging onto reviews that makes me think Robbie Williams became less attractive to CD buyers because, as Billboard says;

‘He’s collected more BRIT Awards than any other artist (18), and all but one of his studio albums have topped the chart; the only album to miss the mark was 2009’s Reality Killed the Video Star, which peaked at No. 2. He’s also led the Official U.K. Singles Chart with seven titles.’

Robbie Williams
Credit; The Guardian

Orchestral greatest hits albums are often seen as a placesitter, a natural ending, a lack – no new Robbie Williams work, you see?

So having Chambers here just underlines that older, more popular, time. And that’s a shame because not only is this Robbie Williams album heading to the toppermost of the poppermost in the charts, but it’s also rather good.

Not Good All The Way Through…

Robbie Williams wasn’t just popular as a singer. He was an artiste. And his appeal was about him as much as it was about his music, he was a chancer all front, kicking in the doors of your perception  and flicking the V’s. He wasn’t arrogant, he could back it up. They cause extreme confidence.

And I for one enjoyed it.

That’s why it’s a shame that sometimes these arrangements, very well done as they are, sound a little…polite. This album starts with ‘Let Me Entertain You’ and although it has a Soul feel and a choir, whilst the original screams ‘Roll up, roll up!’, this one asks ‘Do You Mind If I Entertain You?’. It isn’t ideal.

‘Strong’ isn’t. Smothered with strings, it loses all the bullish irony of the orginal, when he states ‘You think I’m strong’ and sounds like it, so that when he answers himself with ‘You’re wrong’, we wonder.

Same with ‘Rock DJ’, which has ridiculous audacity at its base, Robbie Williams giving us only that. Here the daring is smoothed out it’s a bit drivetime and a song of this type can’t take it. And ‘Millenium’ is almost a pastiche in its original form, that James Bond almost sample, that wink of a vocal; here it adds orchestral parps and becomes a pastiche of a pastiche.

But Some Of This Is Wonderful

They just leave the stuff that doesn’t need accoutrement alone.

Like ‘Kids’. Here with Kylie Minogue as the essential from the original; this libidinous largesse slinks along on a righteous roistering ride. And the almost Funk jam of ‘Hot Fudge’ is left that way too, these are excellent choices.

And some songs gain from the Orkestra treatment; the faux ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ pushy brass and smooth, squelchy backing work for ‘Regrets’ and ‘Supreme’ slinks on Soul.

Yes, ‘Angels’ is done straight and delivered well.

What Else?

‘Disco Symphony’ has a Jake Shears-like chorus, which is very much a dancy compliment and ‘The World And Her Mother’ has an imperious Pop position that the Pet Shop Boys might enjoy waving from.

There are 25 tracks here, as you might expect. That’s too much Robbie Williams. But taken in bitesize chunks, this is warm, welcoming but a little bit wild too.

25 years since he hit the charts.  And since then there have been times when he hasn’t graced the charts and tried a little too hard. And now Robbie Williams is riding the nostalgia wave but dressed in a sumptuous new suit. Here’s to the next XXV years?

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