On Second Thought: Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata (BRO) – The Hills Are Alive (2011)

Hollywood has the unfortunate habit of taking an success and grinding it into the ground but remaking it until the essence of what made it successful dissolves. The music industry is very much the same in the philosophy of remakes and repackaging. Sometimes however, Hollywood and the music industry surprises us with a remake or sequel which is every bit as good if not better than the original.

The film The Sound Of Music is very much a remake itself, being based upon the moderately successful musical of the same name. The 1965 film, which included 30 songs written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, has been a holiday favorite for decades but also spawn hundreds of request to re-record the songs or do an updated remake of the movie. The estates of Rodgers and Hammerstein have been very careful to guard the material and very few opportunities have been given for any sort of remake. This year we’ve seen a television remake of the fabled movie (with mixed results), but in 2011 keyboardist/producer and composer Peter Kiesewalter took on the heady task of not only reworking 12 songs from the original play, but reworking the songs in a modern setting.

Kiesewalter and his band the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata do a stellar job. The band composed of guitarist Ben Butler, bassist Richard Hammond and drummer Jeff Lipstein with Kiesewalter holding down the keyboards, are masters at multiple genres. Add to the band three featured singers who are at the very pinnacle of their profession.

Vocalist Everett Bradley, best known for his work with Hall & Oates, provided the funkiest most soulful version of the song “Maria” ever imagined. Forget the nuns in the movie; Bradley’s version will bring a tear or two. Carolyn Leonhart a renowned jazz vocalist and Steely Dan cohort since 1996, provides a sexy yet pleading version of the song “No Way To Stop It”. Leonhart and Bradley also perform a funky duet on the song “Something Good” (which was not featured in the movie). The song is seductive, sweet and leave the listener wanting for more.

Victoria Cave rounds out the list for featured guest singers and she has the biggest surprise of the CD with her mash up of “Do-Re-Mi” with the Jackson 5 song “ABC”. Peter Kiesewalter’s arrangement is brilliant and unpredictable. Former Steely Dan touring band vocalist Cave being cast as a 11 year old Michael Jackson singing over a modern rock track is something you would never think would work, yet it does brilliantly. Every track on the CD takes the listener to an unimagined place, but singer Dave Wall deserves mention for his lusty vocal delivery of the song “Lonely Goatherd” over the AC/DC-like backing track. Wow!

This was a labor of love by Peter Kiesewalter and should not be missed. It’s always a Christmas time gift from me to someone who hasn’t been exposed to it.

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Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.