2 Cellos – In2ition – Sony Masterworks 88725 40944 2, 47:00 (1/15/2013) ****:
(Stjepan Hauser – cellos; Luka Sulic – cellos; with special guests Elton John – vocals; Steve Vai – guitar; Naya Rivera – vocals; Lang Lang – piano; Sky Ferreira – vocals; Zucchero – vocals; Tom Snider – keyboards; Bob Ezrin – keyboards)
It seems that for years, popular music has attempted to enhance its sound with classical orchestration. Groups as diverse as Mettalica, Sting and Procol Harum, have adapted their music and live performances to this concept. However, classical musicians have now embraced modern pop influences. Kronos Quartet’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ”Purple Haze” was groundbreaking in assimilating hard-edged rock imagery to classical string format. Violinist David Garrett has recorded albums that rearrange heavy metal and hard rock.
It is not surprising that Croatian cellists Luks Sulic and Stjepan Hauser (known collectively as 2 Cellos) have achieved success in this arena. Elton John discovered their online videos and they were signed to Sony Masterworks. Their self-titled debut featured compositions by U2, Kings Of Leon Trent Reznor and Guns N’ Roses. But it was their version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” that lead to a guest appearance with Naya Rivera on TV’s Glee that propelled the duo into the mainstream.
2 Cellos has released their follow-up album IN2ITION. Produced by Bob Ezrin, there are 13 tracks of blended classical/pop music, many with guest artists. The opening cut works to perfection. The duo resurrects “Oh Well” from the Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac catalogue. Sulic and Hauser use their cellos like driving electric guitars, creating a blues/rock groove. Even better, Elton John belts out the vocals with grit and soulful passion. He reminds the listener that his roots have always been in this genre. A likely “hit” will be the head-banging rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”. The dual cellists lay down the requisite cohesive framework to free up Steve Vai’s screaming guitar licks. Another rock hit(“Every Breath You Take”) interprets a well-known standard, maintaining the baleful undercurrent of this Police classic.
On “Clocks” (Coldplay), pianist Lang Lang ramps up the intensity. The vocal collaborations are varied with different results. Maya Rivera joins on a nasty take of Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole”. The organic connection of voice and cello is not consistently fluid on certain vocal contributions (“Bang Bang”). But Italian singer Zuccharo does provide some romantic nuance to “Il Libro Dell’Amore”. The cello accents are lyrical and prominently melodic. Possibly the most engaging arrangement is an instrumental: “Benedictus”. Exploring a meditative theme, the addition of two keyboardists (Tom Snider, Bob Ezrin) builds a layered sonic effect. The use of harmony (especially by the cellos) is haunting. The duo shines on an original, “Orient Express” that employs a pulsating tempo and highlights the chemistry between these instrumentalists.
It is entirely possible that classical music purists will be skeptical about this album. For that matter, rockers may react in a similar fashion. For those who are not entrenched in either camp, IN2ITION will be a breath of fresh air.
TrackList: Oh, Well; We Found Love; Highway To Love; Every Breath You Take; Supermassive Black Hole; Technical Difficulties; Clocks; Bang Bang; Voodoo People; Candle In The Wind; Orient Express; Il Libro Dell’Amore; Benedictus