On his new album, Trevor Horn reinvents some of the biggest songs of the past with the help of guests like Tori Amos, Rick Astley, Iggy Pop, Seal and current social media It couple, Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox.
Few figures loom as large and influential as super producer Trevor Horn. It boggles the mind reading his discography, the man helped to shape the very sound of the '80s and at one point was largely responsible for killing the radio star. [If you get that reference, you’re someone I might want to hang out with!]. Now Horn has embarked on a journey through time and sound on ECHOES – ANCIENT & MODERN. On this daring project, Horn takes 11 quintessential tracks from the '80s and beyond and reinvents them, infusing fresh life through new vocalists and orchestral arrangements. The chosen tracks span the works of artists such as Roxy Music, Pat Benatar, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Billy Idol, Joe Jackson, Grace Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Nirvana, and Yes. The album features an eclectic lineup of artists.
ECHOES – ANCIENT & MODERN is more than just some retro trip though, it's an exploration into Horn's creative process. In a conversation with long-time friend and collaborator Paul Morley, Horn revealed the meticulous thought behind selecting tracks and choosing the artists to bring his vision to life. He emphasized the importance of finding the right singers, to turn the album into a reflection of his artistic vision. Beyond his production role, Horn is deeply immersed in the album's creation, contributing vocals, playing keyboards, bass, guitar, and working with instrumentalists like Lol Creme (10cc, Godley & Creme, Art Of Noise) and a string orchestra. The result is something that transforms familiar tunes into something magical and entirely new. As Horn confesses, "Building a feeling into a song is a tricky, intangible thing to do," acknowledging the elusive nature of creating authentic emotions in the studio.
The album opens with a bold statement, as Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pool (Drank)" is reimagined with Tori Amos's vocals and intricate string arrangements. Horn's reinterpretation of his own '80s hits, including Rick Astley's dance-infused take on Yes's "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" and Lady Blackbird's reimagining of Grace Jones's "Slave To The Rhythm," showcase a clever blend of nostalgia and contemporary flair. Horn doesn't shy away from the expected, revisiting three of his biggest '80s hits while infusing them with new life. Notable among them is Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox's unexpected rendition of "Relax," which Horn describes as a joyful departure from the original by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
The journey continues with the pairing of the ineffable cool of Seal with Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" and Marc Almond's yearning voice with Pat Benatar's hit "Love Is A Battlefield." Meanwhile, Steve Hogarth of Marillion lends his vocals to the Cars' "Drive," injecting it with an added layer of melancholy. From there, Iggy Pop breathes new life into Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," while Jack Lukeman tackles Nirvana's legendary "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in a haunting solo performance. And lastly, Horn himself takes the lead on Roxy Music's "Avalon," an affecting choice to conclude the album.
On the surface, ECHOES – ANCIENT & MODERN may look like just a collection of covers, but it’s much more than that; it's a celebration of Trevor Horn's mastery of song and sound, no matter the genre or artist. As the final notes of "Avalon" resonate, Horn bids adieu, not just as a producer and band leader but as a performer. “It’s a little like at the end of the show I’m saying this is me – the producer, the band leader, but also the performer – signing off. For now…” Horn explains.