Thanks for joining me this week for Purple Week at mikeladano.com. Today is Part 5 and the last album for now. But don’t worry, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Deep Purple around these parts…
DEEP PURPLE – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann (1999 Eagle Records)
The original Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) was Jon Lord’s baby. The rest of the band didn’t care too much for it, and it had only ever been performed twice. The Albert Hall recording became a successful live album, and it was performed once more in Los Angeles. Soon after, the original score was lost, permanently. Even if Deep Purple wanted to (and let’s face it, if Blackmore were in the band he’d probably say no), it could never be performed again without the sheet music.
I’ll let Jon Lord take it from here. From the liner notes to the CD:
“Marco de Goeij, a young Dutch composer…had decided to re-create it by listening to the recording and watching the video. Over and over and over again. A task of mind-bending complexity, dexterity and musicality, which then only left me the far simpler job of filling in what he had been unable to decipher, re-creating what I could remember of my original orchestration, and in part, as those who know the work will hear, re-composing where I felt it needed it.”
Conductor Paul Mann had independently been searching for the original lost manuscript. When Jon informed him of the re-created one, Mann was on board with the London Symphony to do it once more. Deep Purple now had a new guitar player, Steve Morse, who undoubtedly would have to bring his own slant to the guitar solos. For Jon and the fans, it’s the stuff of wishes come true.
Since the Concerto was really Lord’s project, it seems like a fair compromise for each of the members of Deep Purple to also get a moment or two to showcase their solo work. In fact many musicians from those solo works are welcomed to the stage, including the Steve Morse Band, Ronnie James Dio, Mickey Lee Soule (ex-Rainbow and ex-Gillan), Sam Brown, and more. Deep Purple fans are generally open to different styles of music, and this album showcases those styles in a professional, classy format.
Once again at the Albert Hall, the set commences with a disc highlighting the solo careers. Lord’s “Pictured Within” (with Miller Anderson) and “Wait a While” (with Sam Brown) begin the proceedings with a quiet, powerful pair of songs backed by Jon’s piano and dramatic strings. These versions are, dare-I-say-it, superior to the original studio versions.
From there, Roger Glover’s solo career gets a looksee, with “Sitting in a Dream” and the irresistibly bouncy “Love is All”, my favourite. Ronnie James Dio reprises his vocals from the original Butterfly Ball versions, sounding as great as he did nearly 30 years prior! It really is impossible not to like “Love is All”, which of the two is especially fun.
In 1988, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover did a project together called Accidentally on Purpose, a quirky tropical pop rock album. “Via Miami” is one of the more upbeat tracks from that album. Ian’s “That’s Why God is Singing the Blues” features his solo band’s guitarist Steve Morris (not Morse!) Both it and “Via Miami” spark and roll along joyfully.
Steve Morse (not Morris!) is up next with the Dixie Dregs’ “Take it Off The Top”. It’s the Steve Morse Band and the Kick Horns. It’s always a pleasure to listen to Dave LaRue, Van Romaine, and Steve Morse playing together, but to hear them at the Albert Hall? That’s a venue suitable to the genius they wrench from strings and wood. Graham Preskett joins on violin to dual Morse with string acrobatics.
Ian Paice’s spotlight song is a horn-laden jazz version of Purple’s “Wring That Neck”. This is my kinda jazz, the kind with a rock beat you can swing to! The violin solo lends it a bluegrass feel, too. The first CD ends with a powerfully heavy “Pictures From Home”, originally from the immortal Machine Head record, performed by Deep Purple with the London Symphony. It’s a powerful, dramatic song on which for the full Deep Purple to enter.
Disc two features the entire Concerto from start to finish, all three movements, roughly 50 minutes in length. This truly was Lord’s baby, the piece that kept him up nights in 1968 and 1969 writing little black notes on white paper. It made Deep Purple a unique property when it was released on LP 1969, but had not been heard live in 30 years. Purple fans will be in seventh heaven with this de-extinction. Indeed, Morse’s guitar is different, but he hits the right notes at the right time while still playing within his style. Otherwise, I’ll be damned but I can’t tell the difference.
What can I say of the Concerto itself? I think it’s pretty cool, and I’ve always geeked out to stuff like this. Jon envisioned it as “rock band meets orchestra” — at first they say hello, and play around, then they start shouting at each other, and before long it’s all-out war! Speaking of shouting, my favourite is probably Movement II, which has Gillan’s all-too-brief but oh-so-perfect vocal.
The disc concludes with three more (three Morse?) of recent vintage. “Ted The Mechanic” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” are two of the best songs from Purpendicular, and “Watching The Sky” is probably the heaviest song from Abandon. I personally feel that all the Abandon material was better live than on album, and “Watching The Sky” maintains that. Unfortunately none of the Abandon songs were really that great.
Of course, “Smoke On The Water” ends the album with guests returning, including Ronnie James Dio who takes a verse. “What do you think Ronnie!” Then the Elf himself is up at the microphone singing “Smoke on the Water” with Blackmore’s old band Deep Purple. I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is one of my all-time favourite live versions of “Smoke”.
This album, which ended up being one of Lord’s last with Purple, was really a special gift to the fans. It is a beautifully crafted live performance containing some of the rarest of the rare gems in the extended Purple canon. An event like this will never happen again. There is a DVD of this show, but beware, it is only about 2/3 of the set. What a disappointment that DVD version was. You want every moment, but you won’t get it.
If you do hunger for more after this, then you can binge on The Soundboard Series 12 CD boxed set. It consists of 6 shows, two of which featured full live performances of the Concerto, with guests such as (yup!) Ronnie James Dio. There is also Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy which lacks the Concerto portion, but makes up for it with a more extensive set of classic rockers, including Dio’s own “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Fever Dreams”!…But that’s another review.
5/5 stars. For the true fan, and anybody who’s not afraid to expand their listening territory.