Pete Tong reunites with The Heritage Orchestra (Her_o) for Chilled Classics, a new album set for release through Universal Music on November 29th. Chilled Classics is the follow-up to the chart-topping 2016 and 2017 albums Classic House and Ibiza Classics, which saw the revered DJ, broadcaster and dance pioneer rework classic tunes with the orchestra, conducted and arranged by Jules Buckley. This third collection sees Tong and Buckley introduce a number of new tracks, fitting seamlessly in amongst the classics as if they too were unearthed from the vaults. "We’re trying to make timeless music,” says Tong, “and we think these fit in.” The first taste of the album is, fittingly, one of these original compositions – ‘Go Crazy’ featuring legendary New Jersey house and garage producer Todd Edwards, a joyous ride channeling Daft Punk via Chic and Kool and the Gang.
“Todd used to be signed to me back in the day at FFRR,” Tong reveals. “We always stayed in touch, and he moved to LA and I kept bumping into him. I gave him all the references of what I was looking for, sent it over to him, and a month later he came back that with this. He came up with the line, ‘go crazy’, which was a no-brainer for us, for the show, for everything. I’m super-pleased to be reunited with him and really proud of it. It’s an amazingly powerful three minutes, with the Heritage Orchestra vocalists backing him up.”
With the new record, the overarching aim was to continue to develop and evolve the original idea at the heart of the project, the original idea being classical, orchestrated interpretations of Ibiza, house and techno classics. Key, Tong says, was to push things forward on all fronts: inspired song choices, inventive interpretations, ambitious collaborations. As he acknowledges: “We hope our versions are true to the visions of the original songwriters, producers and artists – but equally, they have to stand alone as a worthwhile tribute, alternative and complement to those visions.” He is quick to clarify that the “chilled” concept is meant in a specific context, however. To Tong, a man who knows the scene better than most, if not everyone, this new selection of tunes “is chilled in the sense of a sunset set Ibiza. So that doesn’t mean it’s all ambient or meditation music,” he notes with a smile. “It’s what a DJ might play at Café Mambo for Café del Mar as the sun’s going down. So it can have tempo, and be quite soulful, too.”
At the higher end of the BPM scale are new versions of Dutch trance anthem ‘Greece 2000’ (a 1997 UK dance Number One by Three Drives on a vinyl), ‘The Cure and The Cause’ from 2005 and originally by Irish production duo Fish Go Deep) featuring Rudimental and Wiley collaborator Sinead Hartnett, and ‘Touch Me’ (Rui Da Silva’s ground-breaking progressive house 2001 track, a UK Number One) featuring a thrilling turn by Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of The Kills.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected moments on the album is grime don Wiley’s take on Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’. “That song has always been in the frame for this project, from the very first prom,” explains Tong. “It’s one of those tracks where, if you’re mess with it, you better make sure you do it right! But how do you do that?” The answer: half-step it and take it down to grime tempo. Suitably inspired, Wiley came up with bars that are a tribute to the Ibizan experience. With the Heritage Orchestra vocalists singing the original verses, the result is a classic reboot of a classic.
Switching it up again, he had 17-year-old Au/Ra sing on ‘Alright’ by Red Carpet, “one of the all-time great Positiva releases, a prog-house-stroke-trance tune”. The teenager rubs shoulders with another blazing youthful talent, Zara Larsson, who brings chilled class to ‘Every Heartbeat’. “I had a strong history with the original Robyn track,” notes Tong of his own dance mix of the 2007 hit. “Here we’ve turned it upside down and made it an acoustic chill-out version. [We] thought it would be great to get the new Swedish prodigy, whose idol is Robyn. And that’s how we ended up with Zara Larsson.”
Then, alongside new versions of Neneh Cherry and Youssou N’Dour’s ‘Seven Seconds’, The Beloved’s ‘Sweet Harmony’, St Germain’s ‘Rose Rouge’, Groove Armada’s ‘At The River’ and, perhaps most intriguingly of all, Samuel Barber’s ‘Addagio for Strings’, are those brand new tracks. Alongside the aforementioned ‘Go Crazy’ feat. Todd Edwards, Tong enlists MNEK for ‘Peace and Harmony’, in Tong’s words “a conscious house tune, like Ce Ce Rogers and Ten City did back in the day,” referencing the current London knife crime and gang crisis. ‘Darkest Days,’ meanwhile, features fast-rising singer, songwriter and actress Shungudzo.
Last but definitely not least Tong reconnected with the iconic Boy George on the glorious ‘Symphony Of You,’ almost 40 years since a young Tong booked Culture Club to appear at The Barracuda in London. “I wanted this Philly International vibe, ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ meets ‘I Love Music’, and George felt like the perfect fit to sing it, it was his key and vibe. And he loved it.”
These, then, are Chilled Classics. Some things old, some things new, some things borrowed and some things inventively, boldly, brightly and excitingly reimagined. And when the Pete Tong, Jules Buckley, Heritage Orchestra and special guest vocalists touring phenomenon hits the road again later this year, including a return to London’s O2 arena on December 13th & 14th, the party will be bigger and better than ever.
Classic House, Ibiza Classics, Chilled Classics: three albums in, Tong and co are owning the dancefloor and the concert arena in a wholly fresh, forward-thinking way. All classic, all new, all good times.