Christopher O'Riley: True Love Waits: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead.
There's a bit of history behind this review. Several years ago I had recently picked up Brad Mehldau's Songs recording. One day I put it on while I was in the car; two of my then-teenaged daughters perked up immediately when they heard the opening bars of Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)." I was amazed that they recognized the music so immediately. I had heard of Radiohead, but had never listened to any of their music. My daughters were big fans without my even knowing it, thanks to headphones, I guess.
Because I really liked the Radiohead song as played by Brad Mehldau, and because I started noticing a lot of favorable reviews of their music, I decided to give Radiohead a try. Their big new album at the time was Kid A, which I tried and found, well, wanting. I was told that their real masterpiece was OK Computer, so I dutifully picked up a copy and listened to it several times, trying really hard to like it, but as much as admired their overall sound and musical ambition, I could never really enjoy the recording. I really wanted to like it, but listening to it was really tiresome.
Along comes classical pianist and radio host Christopher O'Riley, who enjoys Radiohead's music to the extent that he decided to make transcriptions of some of their songs for solo piano. And you know what? This is a really enjoyable recording! That is quite a tribute to the band, for most "serious" arrangements of rock music fall flat on their fandango, but these arrangements of O'Riley's are really interesting to listen to--much more interesting than the originals, in fact, at least to these admittedly aging ears. Whereas I had found the originals to be tiresome, this music sounds stimulating, and I find myself playing the CD over and over again.
This seems to be more than a novelty. There is real music going on here, not just pleasant melodies, but tension and drama and musical satisfaction. It really sounds as though this music could have been composed originally for piano; never do you feel as though you are simply listening to rock music that has been prettified. This music had substance. (As much as I enjoy the music on this CD, though, I still can't really take listening to the Radiohead originals. Go figure.)
Even if you are not a Radiohead fan--and I suspect many of you are not--you might want to give True Love Waits a listen. It is a thoroughly enjoyable recording of solo piano music. What a wonderful surprise!