Christopher O'Riley studied at the New England Conservatory and went on to win prizes in several international piano competitions. He is well-known as the host of From the Top, a long-running NPR program about young classical musicians. His concert repertoire and discography are absolutely unique, being split equally between classical works (generally from the late Romantic period) and arrangements of rock songs. O'Riley's 2003 album True Love Waits, consisting entirely of Radiohead songs arranged for solo piano, hit me like a lightning bolt.
"Thinking About You" served as a filler track on Radiohead's 1993 debut album Pablo Honey. In between attention-grabbers like "Creep", "Anyone Can Play Guitar," and "Stop Whispering," and given an utterly nondescript production, this song gets lost in the shuffle. O'Riley discovers exciting new potential in the song. If Radiohead's original version was the soft glow of a night light, he has built it into a raging bonfire.
The key elements in this transformation are the faster tempo and the perpetual-motion accompaniment. The blazing-fast staccato line fills in the harmony by dancing around the chords, never stating them simply. The melody is lightly tapped out by the top fingers of the right hand, and feels thoroughly integrated with the accompaniment, almost percussive itself. Somehow O'Riley fits three verses and three choruses into an action-packed two minutes; it feels neither rushed nor short, as the duration fits the material just like a Chopin prelude. The choruses are slightly more intense than the verses, thanks to the use of sustaining pedal, the initial low bass note, and the louder dynamic. The tag at the end (finally resting on the home chord, with the melody's "Been thinking about you") is technically the same as how Radiohead finishes the song, but O'Riley's light hint of the fast accompaniment adds a little burst of energy to close his electrifying rendition.
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