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Jon Lord - 'Concerto For Group And Orchestra' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a2/f3/41/2999_jonlordconcertoforgroupandorchestra_1353616664.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 22, 2012    
 
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Stunning.

The late, great Jon Lord will be remembered for many legendary contributions to music, but one of his greatest works remains his ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’. Originally a somewhat controversial idea, his vision of marrying an orchestra and a heavy rock band nevertheless has proved to be enduring, with Deep Purple recording the original version back in 1969. They revisited it in 1999 due to the original score being lost then faithfully re-transcribed, but there was one drawback for me. The 1999 version had a stack of other songs performed, taking the spotlight away from the Concerto itself and similarly, the reissue of the 1969 original also had extra tracks added. On top of that, both versions were live. What we have here is the last thing Jon Lord was working on before he sadly passed away. This he hoped to be the definitive, studio-recorded version to give the best possible representation of Jon’s vision, both creatively and sonically.

Split into three movements, those who are familiar with the work will know that the first movement is mostly orchestral, performed here by the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic conducted by Paul Mann, before the rock band takes over. The orchestra then hits back in the “duel” before giving way to some of Lord’s trademark organ work. A sublime guitar solo leads into the final orchestral passage.

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As the second movement starts, the orchestra quietly begins building a gentle melody with swirling strings before the first vocal segment. Featuring the superb Steve Balsamo and Kasia Laska, the pair sing exquisitely and angelically and this remains one of my favourite parts of the Concerto. The orchestra takes over again, before making way for the rock band playing a blues section. Although Deep Purple don’t appear on here, their guitarist Steve Morse does, with the rest of the guitars courtesy of Joe Bonamassa and Darin Vasilev. Bass is handled by Guy Pratt and drums by Brett Morgan. The second vocal section is left to Bruce Dickinson. While nobody will top Ian Gillan’s original soaring performance, Dickinson does an excellent job and performs his part well.

The final movement sees orchestra and band mesh together as one. What I did discover was how much more I enjoyed the Concerto as a standalone piece, without the extra Deep Purple songs and everything else put before and after it. As an album in its own right, I got much more out of it and the performers all do the work proud. The production is sublime and fortunately, Jon was able to hear and approve the final mixes before he died. Is it the definitive version? Hard to say - I suppose it depends on which version you were raised on, that might skew your preference. I miss Ian Gillan’s presence, but even without him, this is truly superb, and you could certainly make a case for it being the best version. Only Jon would know for sure. Just enjoy it and make your own mind up – stunning.

James Gaden

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