In Concert With The London Symphony Orchestra
Spitfire Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/28/2000
In 1969, Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord premiered a composition he wrote, "Concerto For Group And Orchestra". The album featuring that work is either seen as one of the most collectable items in Deep Purple's discography or a throat-clearing embarassment that some would prefer to forget ever happened.
Although the original manuscript of Lord's work has been lost to time, the dedication of Lord and a diehard fan from Holland who helped to re-create the work has allowed this piece of modern classical music to breathe again. Add the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as a plethora of guest musicians and singers to it, and you have the latest Deep Purple release, In Concert With The London Symphony Orchestra. Pompous? A bit. Beautiful? At times. A must own? We'll get to that in a minute.
If you're looking for all of the hits from Deep Purple, you're going to be somewhat disappointed. Only three "classics" are included in the 16 tracks on this CD, though hearing an orchestral version of "Wring That Neck" is rather intriguing (if not a tad disappointing that Steve Morse doesn't allow himself to go to full shred). "Pictures Of Home" and "Smoke On The Water" round out the familiar material.
Otherwise, Ian Gillan and crew choose to pull material from the band's last two studio efforts, Purpendicular and Abandon, for songs like "Ted The Mechanic" and "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming". While these aren't instantly recognizable, it does give Deep Purple the freedom to break out of the traditional musical mold they're cast in and allows them to lay down a rather funky groove. In the end, it's kinda fun.
But here's the rub - you don't get to hear the full band for some time. Instead, you have mood pieces like "Pictured Within" (beautifully sung by Miller Anderson), "Wait A While" and "Sitting In A Dream". Ronnie James Dio even comes on board to sing on two tracks, "Sitting In A Dream" (which really shows his vocal powers without the banshee wailing) and "Love Is All" (well, so much for the absence of the wailing). If my ear picks it up right, he also takes over a verse on "Smoke On The Water"... interesting.
While the diehard fans might cringe at the opening pieces, they do properly set the mood for this show, and they are undeniably beautiful pieces to listen to. Give them a chance, and let them grow on you - it doesn't take long at all.
The heart of In Concert With The London Symphony Orchestra, of course, is "Concerto For Group And Orchestra," a piece that, admittedly, isn't the most approachable piece of music. Still, Lord does a good job moving the ghosts of classical into the modern age, and makes sure not to tread on the toes of either side. I'm fully willing to admit I need to spend more time with this piece in order to appreciate it - here's hoping the casual listener will be willing to do the same.
If you want the typical Deep Purple live experience, this is not the album you want to pick up. Go spend some time with Made In Japan - and then come back to this set. If, however, you want to hear a decent collaboration between electric rock band and symphony orchestra, then Deep Purple do a fair to middling job on In Concert With The London Symphony Orchestra. The only caveat? Be willing to spend some time with this disc. After all, like a fine wine, music such as this is meant to be savored, not cannonballed in one sitting.