Vitamin takes on the brood and sway of Depeche Mode with this string quartet tribute, running through nine of the band's songs with the aid of violin, cello, acoustic bass, viola, and a bit of percussion. Like most string interpretations of pop music, the album can grow tedious over the long haul. However, there's plenty to like incrementally, especially for fans. Highlights include "Personal Jesus," with its hint of mouth percussion during the breakdown, and the violins aping the tradeoff vocals of "Master and Servant." There are a few glaring omissions – "Everything Counts" and "Policy of Truth" among them. Even still, Depeche Mode completists should get a kick out of the novelty and slight decadence of this collection.
As persistency goes, one must give credit where it is due to the Vitamin imprint. Their rigorous schedule of releases assures the public that there will be, at bare minimum, one to two releases per month paying homage to a current pop icon or legendary rock figure. With this installment, the label looks to honor one of grunge's most revered albums, if not the most revered album of the era: Nirvana's Nevermind. Stripped of the brutal percussion work, the squelching fierce attack of Kurt Cobain's guitar mastery and his trademark screams, the quartet find and emphasize layer after layer within the simplicity of Cobain's melodies and song arrangements. While some songs don't transfer over well in the process, others work quite nicely. While most people can easily dismiss this as a novelty (and to a degree, it is), there are interesting aspects to this album that the die-hard Nirvana fan will find intriguing and enjoyable.
Vitamin's String Quartet Tribute to Iron Maiden draws primarily from the pioneering U.K. metal band's fertile early-'80s streak: Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave. It starts strong with "Run to the Hills," "The Number of the Beast," and "Two Minutes to Midnight," all three of which feature stirring violins and crisp changes. The addition of light percussion to the normal lineup of violin, viola, and cello is also an interesting move. Later highlights include "The Trooper" as well as the Somewhere in Time favorite "Wasted Years." It would be impossible for the musicians here to fully replicate the power and rapid-fire playing of Iron Maiden. But they are able to climb into the grandeur and ambitious structure of these songs, and that's something in which Maiden fans are sure to be interested.
Celebrating the music of Tori Amos, the string quartet tribute Precious Things was an elegant and haunting reflection of an incendiary artist. Pieces follows that original release with more incredible interpretations of Tori's best-loved classics. Spurred by incredible feedback from her dedicated fans, talented musicians recorded another set of sparse, lyrical arrangements. Pieces is a meticulously-crafted album and classically-charged suite of music that every Tori Amos fan will want in their collection.