Over the years the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has strived to present truly great collections of music for both audiences in the UK and abroad. Whether they’re performing classical works or covering famous film scores, listeners can be fairly confident that whatever the orchestra puts out will be worth a few listens. This latest album, which consists of 14 especially recognizable tracks from the classic motown repertoire is no exception. Covering everything from Marvin Gaye to Smokey Robinson,  this is an album that motown songwriter-producer Lamont Dozier called “one of the most exquisite albums I’ve listened to in years.”

For a fitting sample of why Dozier might make such a hearty case for this album, listen to the moment about two-thirds of the way through “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” when the orchestra hits a crescendo and the 50 piece choir joins in with the instruments – it’s pure magic. While much of the album sounds like an expansive film score, there are too many moments of expansive energy for one movie to hold. Throughout the album various crescendos are reached which both remind listeners how exciting the original motown classics themselves are and drives home the competency and beauty of the Royal Philharmonic. Conductor Ben Foster (best known as orchestrator and conductor for the television series “Doctor Who” conducts his orchestra with a steady hand, allowing for moments of reflection (illustrated grandly in the contemplative exploration of “What’s Going On?”) but also looking for expressive moments to jump out and hit the audience with a loudly memorable note or two (check out “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”).

With almost an hour of music collected here, this is a welcome addition to any audiophiles collection. I would have preferred if the choir would have been used a few more times than they were – it seems a pity to have 50 trained voices on hand and use them so infrequently.  Kudos go to Evan Jolly who’s responsible for putting these arrangements together. He’s created an imaginative and memorable collection of music.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: A mixture of orchestral and motown aesthetics
Stay Away if: You don’t need your motown favorites reworked

To purchase I Hear a Symphony, visit Amazon

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