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The latest project by legendary Sir Paul McCartney is his highly anticipated original orchestral score, OCEANS KINGDOM; recorded earlier this year with the London Classical Orchestra. Written for the New York City Ballet, OCEANS KINGDOM is his first-ever orchestral piece written specifically for the world of dance.
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I am really pleasantly surprised by this album. No one should be expecting huge classical scope here. But for what it is -- tuneful, engaging orchestral music designed to drive a storyline in a ballet context -- I found this to be pretty darn good.
McCartney uses the tricks of the trade well. It starts out with a sufficiently watery-sounding opening that vaguely recalls the atmosphere of the underwater opening of Wagner's "Rheingold". Dramatic sequences use the percussion section well -- tympanis and xylophones beat out rhythmically driving, somehow corporate-sounding themes representing the bad guys in the storyline of the ballet.
The ballet itself has an environmental theme about a happy underwater kingdom being invaded by an army of aggressive landlubbers. This represents, of course, mankind's pollution of the seas, as McCartney said in a recent interview I read when the ballet premiered a few days ago.
I came to the album with some skepticism, half expecting it to be clumsy and amateurish. But it's really well done. McCartney brings his outstanding talent for writing tunes to a complex, satisfying work that seems like it would serve its storyline well in the ballet hall. Of course he's not Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky -- the two composers who were held out to him as examples of melody and rhythm when he accepted the commission to write the ballet. But he's Paul McCartney and he found his own way.
If you're getting the MP3, pick up the version with the digital booklet. It has a synopsis of the action and good background on how the ballet was commissioned and written.
Note the track times given by Amazon, which also show up in the Cloud Player, are off. The tracks are in fact much shorter than listed. The real track times are:
I imagine Amazon will be fixing this soon.
I'm afraid usual McCartney fans might not be attracted to a classical work, and classical music people might turn their noses up at this, because as McCartney himself said, he wrote this without "knowing how things are supposed to be done". But I'm very glad to have picked this one up. Recommended for anyone prepared to give up their preconceptions about Paul McCartney on the one hand, or about classical music on the other.
I was never impressed with his classical work--though I bought it because I am indulgent and a fan. I felt Ocean's Kingdom (OK) would be the same incipid, bland, sometime interesting stuff he normally puts out with this genre--but I was wrong.
I had an evening winter's drive this past january in a car with an excellent stereo--popped in the CD and was overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of OK. I have listened to it about a dozen times a week since and given it out to friends as a gift.
It reminds me of Ravel's Boleo in that one melody weaves its way thru the entire piece--but each time it is different in that the orchestra plays it with different instruments or greater richness or feeling. One can even feel the ocean roiling at times. Profound mental images of what is happening--for it is a story and PM does especially well when telling a story or focused on a theme (i.e Sgt. Pepper, Band on the Run, Tug of War, Electric Firemen).
Recommend it heavily. In fact, I am surprised the local classical station has not picked it up and played it. It is really a nice work.
PM....what a treasure of talent and of humaity in that he never rests on his laurels--and takes chances and once in a while hits it out of the park.
A great piece of work.