Review ·

Whether they're using solo piano, string quartet or full symphony
orchestras, there's something a tad dubious about classical renditions
of pop music. Most of them come off as wet-noodles, lame attempts to
validate the musical quirks of rock 'n' roll, as if we needed the
London Symphony Orchestra to tell us Led Zeppelin were more than just
blues musicians with fat wallets or that Dark Side of the Moon
was more than just a score for a Judy Garland flick. What makes
Christopher O'Riley so remarkable, though, is that his relationship
with Radiohead has nothing to do with patronizing rock stars and
everything to do with a classical pianist's flat-out admiration if
not obsession with five middle-aged rock musicians from Oxford.


His first set of Radiohead transcriptions, as collected in 2003's True Love Waits,
were first and foremost a fan's take on the quintet. Classics like
"Black Star" and "Knives Out" received truly worthy renditions
O'Riley's unadorned keys laying bare some of the best rock melodies of
the '90s while still tinkering enough with Thome Yorke's
post-millennial equations so you couldn't guess the sums.

Hold Me to This is an attempt to reap the fruits of O'Riley's research into the group's back pages. Rarities like "How I Made My Millions," an OK Computer B-side, and "Cuttooth," culled from the more recent Hail to the Thief
sessions, do well in displaying both O'Riley's virtuosity and his
record collection. There is real thrill in hearing the one-time Ravel
and Bach performer's take on stompers like "There There" and
"Polyethylene Part II," even if it sometimes becomes clear that a
Steinway, no matter how talented the guy is who's twinkling the
ivories, is no match for an old-fashioned Tele. O'Riley's enthusiasm
shines, but certainly not more so than his subjects.

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"I Didn't Understand" mp3

"Punchdrunk" mp3

Christopher O'Riley Web site

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