Rock with strings

Good day fellow musicheads! This goes against my inner rock child, but as I age (gasp), I find myself digging rock/pop string section Lps. Moody Blues made the definitive expression with Future days and the Zombies Odyssey is amazing. This seems a predominantly British genre, and at times very pretentious (haha), but one has to applaud the ambition. Any other suggestion? Also, I'm pretty content with the sacd version of Future Days, but curious to see what others have. Safe and happy upcoming Turkey Day to all. And...go Lions!

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female artist named Jordane I believe ... been some time since I heard her work though
Some of my favorites -

Elton John - Live in Concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Procol Harum - Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Metallica - S&M - live with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra - Eldorado

Rock & strings...I'm not sure anything exists that proves it's a good idea...

The Metallica amalgam is awful.
Generally a terrible idea IMO, but there's always an exception (or two) that proves the rule. Not sure what that exception might be in this case.
Beatles and Stones did it, so every rock star feels compelled to emulate. Forgot to add, I'm really only interested in 60/70s string era.
Could be worse. Rock + flute(vomit).Sorry Tull fans.
Whenever I hear Journey I want to hang myself with a rope from the nearest tree. That's as close as I get to rock and strings; rock and rope.
11-11-15: Phasecorrect
Could be worse. Rock + flute(vomit).Sorry Tull fans.
Check out the "Projections" album by The Blues Project, ca. 1966-67. To me one of the best rock albums ever made.

The cut "Flute Thing" on that album has a flute as its featured instrument, of course. A flute is also used in places in what to me is the best song on the album, "Steve's Song," and possibly on some of the other songs as well.

Regarding rock and strings, while I always have the greatest respect for Marty's posts, and although none of the Beatles and Stones songs in that genre are great favorites of mine, I certainly would not consider "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," or even "As Tears Go By" (both the Stones' version and Marianne Faithfull's version) to be "terrible ideas." Not to mention Elton John's "Your Song," which to me is the best song he ever did.


-- Al
Not much better than the flute sections with Marshall Tucker.
Don't apologize to Tull fans, it's your loss. Jethro Tull made a lot of great music.
This is not rock but neo-classical. Might be interesting to some.
Yngwie Malmsteen with New Japan Philarmonic. Great music, bad recording. Actually, youtube sounds better than cd. I think, this is his best album, at least to my taste, and the orchestra is excellent too. Lots of strings, and other instruments.
Check out David Cross who had also been in King Crimson;
Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin) with Jerry Goodman on violin;
Soft Machine with Rick Sanders on violin.
The first Spirit LP had some nice moments with strings.
"Could be worse. Rock + flute..."

As a longtime Jethro Tull fan, I'm not offended-just puzzled! Also a fan of some of the Marshall Tucker Band music. As Roxy54 said, "Don't's your loss."
"Actually, youtube sounds better than cd."

What are you talking about...??!!
The New York Rock Ensemble were Julliard grads and played excellent string and woodwind parts on their albums.

Canadian band Lighthouse had their own string and woodwind section.
LOVE..."Forever changes" 1967 Elektra...Brass and strings arranged by Jazz composer/arranger David Angel.
The seamless blend of great vocals,electric combo Rock, brass and strings has rarely been surpassed.
This record is in the top 50 of Rolling Stone top 500 albums,if I recall.....It really is a cult record and if you don't know it, well........
ELO should be right up your alley.
Forever changes is a great selection. Immaculate production as well. Not that I dislike Tull, I just feel better when they are not around.

I think you mistook my intention (although it's possible that I didn't state it clearly). You cited a bunch of ballads (albeit ballads performed by rock bands) in your post. I wasn't really trying to reference that in my post. Strings are definitely more appropriate for ballads than rock n roll, IMO, but - even there - caution should be exercised lest the schmaltz factor take over.

When posting, I was thinking about real, up-tempo, backbeat, rock n roll. I may have overstated my point a bit, but I'll generally stand by the post. Things like "Orchestral Tommy" generally strike me as very bad ideas. I will also mention again that there are probably exceptions, even there. Some of The Moody Blues' material and snippets of The Wall work well enough, but it's still not an approach that succeeds very often, IMO.

Of course, that says as much about my taste in rock music as it does about the strings idea. As always, YMMV.

I saw ELP live in 77 with full orchestra at MSG NY. Incredible performance, well suited for their style of music.

The editing of the album and YouTube videos don't do it justice.
Thanks, Marty(kl). Agreed.

There is a good deal of ambiguity inherent in the term "rock," of course, which was added to (at least in my mind) by the reference to "rock/pop" in the OP.

Speaking of the "schmaltz factor," BTW, I won't deny not being averse to it in many cases :-)

Best regards,
-- Al
Getting into the 80s, but Echoe and the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain is predominantly string laced...Killing Moon obviously the pinnacle. Does get a bit monotonous over an entire Lp but I'm nitpicking... It's a unique recording.
ELO is a concept that worked very well. What doesn't work well is when a producer throws a string section behind a R&R band.
I don't know how well it fits, but It's A Beautiful Day used an electric violin and rocked out.

The aforementioned artists using violin in their compositions is different than what the OP is referring to. He's talking about massed string sections.

Even Siouxsie and the Banshees added cello to their later works. Nothing wrong with adding a "Classical" labelled instrument to Rock music if it adds to the creative process and the end result.
I will go w/ Rock's 1st (3) concepts albums;
Days of future Passed
Pet Sounds
Sgt Pepper

these (3) offerings set the gold standard and will continue to stand the test of time. Brilliant.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
buffalo springfield, expecting to fly
temps, just my imagination
Add 3 more:

Pretty things- S.F. Sorrow
Some pretty good recommendations here. I had to think about this one a little bit. I suppose you are referring to full orchestras rather than a few strings. "Pirates" from ELP's Works vol. 1 is great and "Gates of Delerium" from Symphonic Yes uses an orchestra well. However, IMO Alejandro Escovedo's "The Boxing Mirror" uses cellos and violins in a really interesting way to rock. Check out "Deer Head on the Wall" from that album. Escovedo uses a string quartet to complement his electric guitar and the results are very exciting live. "Roomful of Songs" is just a string quartet with no electric guitar, but is a beautiful album. As implied in the posts above, you don't want to devolve into musak elevator music. Strings can be inspirational when applied in creative ways.
Max, I agree that Boxing Mirror is a spectacular record - a top ten all-time favorite in my book. However, I don't think that the sawing cello Escovedo uses there is what the OP was referring to. Similarly, the use of a string quartet is a different "different idea". Escovedo has covered an astonishing range of expression over the course of his career and his use of strings is IMO right at the top of the rock n roll heap. However, I think that his use of strings is a very different kettle of fish than The Moody Blues or The Zombies as cited in the OP.
Thanks, just ordered Boxing Mirror.

Great sounding mix of orchestra and rock band is Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson. This one always gets a strong reaction from the local audio club!

from Wikipedia:
Histoire de Melody Nelson is a 1971 concept album by French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Produced by Jean-Claude Desmarty, the album was released in March 1971 through Philips Records. The Lolita-esque pseudo-autobiographical plot of the album involves the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally colliding his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost into teenage girl Melody Nelson's bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues. Histoire de Melody Nelson is considered by many critics and fans to be Gainsbourg's most influential and accomplished album. It is also regarded one of the greatest albums of all time by a number of prominent music publications, the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine having named this album the 4th greatest French rock album (out of 100).


Just a little heads up: Boxing Mirror is IMO an incredibly powerful record, but it won't necessarily grab you on first listen. It's both very honest and direct and, at the same time, deliberately artful. Escovedo's later stuff - whether the Chuck Prophet collaboration "Real Animal" or "Street Songs" or "Big Station" may be more instantly appealing, but they're not really quite in the same league as his earlier material, IMO.

Boxing Mirror may take a few listens to get under your skin, but hang with it. It's powerful in a low-key, brooding way. The earlier Escovedo solo records like "Gravity" and "With These Hands" work similar territory in a more accessible (IMO) way. I'd usually tell people unfamiliar to Escovedo to start there before jumping into the deep end with Boxing Mirror.

BTW, Escovedo also did cow punk with both Rank and File and True Believers, as well as screaming garage rock with Buick McKane. You might also enjoy his song cycle called "By The Hand of The Father" that I find quite touching in an understated way. All of the solo records are worthwhile, even tho IMO - in the ten years since Boxing Mirror - he's never reached the level of his earlier material.

George W Bush gave him a moment when it turned out that Escovedo's song Castanets was on the presidential iPod and Springsteen made gave Escovedo another 15 minutes of fame when he covered Real Animal in concert, but I think you're starting at the top.

Bottom line: Don't necessarily expect to be blown away at first listen, but Boxing Mirror is IMO great, great stuff...given time.
Escovedo has a great Boxing Mirror era performance on Austin City Limits that uses the string section if you can find it on some kind of archive site.Like Marty said, this is a far cry from Procol Harem or the Moody Blues, but it is really powerful in its' originality. "Roomful of Songs" is much more laid back and sounds fantastic on a decent system by the way.
Excellent job by Jafant. Well done sir, or madam.
The song Madman across the waters by Elton John has strings in the end.
James Taylor's Fire and Rain has some beautiful cello work going on. Never noticed it when I was young, but heard it later on a more resolving system. James had some of the best musicians, engineers and production people working with him.
"Something in the Way" on Nirvana's Nevermind is a nice use of the cello as well.
Not Rock music (that didn't happen until he engaged Toto to play on his recordings, much to the detriment of his music, imo), Randy Newman's first album features fantastic orchestration. It's production, by Lenny Waronker and Van Dyke Parks, is excellent as well.

My problem with Groups/Bands with string sections (ELO, for example) is that the Group/Band is then obligated to find something for them to do on every damn song, whether the songs need strings or not. I prefer it when the song is allowed to dictate whether or not it needs them (according to the tastes of the Artist and Producer, of course). Same thing with "Horn Bands". Chicago sounds like their horn parts are just tacked onto the songs.

Try the 2013 redo version of "The Snow Goose" by Camel. I think you would appreciate Andrew Latimer's guitar work alone here if you have never heard it before.

The original from the mid 70's is regarded as one of the masterpiece works of progressive rock in many quarters and there are some strings and other orchestrations introduced in this version that the original was perhaps longing for.

Camel is IMHO one of the most under appreciated musical acts of any genre of the 20th century. Anyone who thinks David Gilmour in Pink Floyd is something will take right to Andrew Latimer except the music of Camel is not dark at all like Floyd, in fact generally quite the opposite, maybe by design. I read Latimer at one time was under consideration to replace Gilmour in FLoyd but it did not work out. Floyd's loss.
So this thread seems to have evolved from the original "strings" topic to encompass acoustic instruments of all flavors. Quite frankly my favorite music is from those who explore the use of unique instruments in a rock format. Someone mentioned flute. Mr. Anderson did a phenomenal job with the flute. In an interview he said the reason he took up the flute was due to the fact that he felt he wasn't good enough on guitar (could have fooled me). Another phenomenal use of flute was Peter Gabriel in Genesis. I am always amazed at how the guitar work of Steve Hackett melded so well with Tony Banks keyboards and Peter's flute.

As for strings, I would suggest taking a look (you tube) at the version of "Rainsong" that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page performed with strings in the background. It's very cool especially with Jimmy playing acoustic guitar. He's simply amazing!

There is so much good music out there that involves strings/acoustic instruments.....many have been mentioned but consider also, Loreena McKennitt (what a wide variety of instruments she employs), ELP and the outstanding guitar work of Greg Lake also Neil Young, check out Afrocelt Sound System for some Celtic based world music, even DMB use violin, and a variety of wind instruments, Traffic (more flute)....I could go on and on. Geez, how can you knock Jethro Tull? Listen to Mother Goose!

Just gave the new Camel "Snow Goose" Cd first serious listen off headphones. Gorgeous. This is a real audiophile symphonic rock treat! I think I've ascended. Highly recommended! πŸͺ🎢🎢🎢
Neil Young's first solo LP had some great string arrangements, courtesy of Jack Nitzsche.

Not 60s/70s, but string arrangements by Beck's father on Sea Change and Morning Phase add a lot to those recordings.
Most anything by Al Stewart should satisfy your need for a more refined rock sound, including orchestration and acoustic guitar, not to mention many lyrics based on historical events.
Grateful Dead / Terrapin Station
Nico / Desert Shore
King Crimson / Any of there early releases
Well, I dove into Camel "Snow Goose". This is alot better than I anticipated. Great production, playing, etc. Evidently this is based on a novella which I'm unfamiliar with and that will probably remain unchanged. No matter, a new gem discovered. Thanks Map!