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Deep Purple - Concerto for Group and Orchestra CD (album) cover

CONCERTO FOR GROUP AND ORCHESTRA

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.18 | 192 ratings

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clarke2001
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Two concerti: one for group, one for orchestra.

Both are patchworks. The question is how successful (from the artistic point of view) these patchworks are.

Okay, the title is completely wrong. Concerto is a piece composed for a soloing instrument and orchestra. This is only my cynical intention to draw attention to the fact that both band and orchestra were not actually working well and homogeneous together. It was more like playing on turns. "Wring That Neck" and "Child In Time" are not a concerto by no means - however they are absolutely out of place here. The first one is an average Purple's bluesy tune, certainly not on a level of (intended) majestic atmosphere of a concerto. "Child In Time" is alright, but far from the best live version. If we take into the consideration the over-discussed fact about plagiarism of another band, then these two rock tunes are certainly just a patchwork of ideas that was suitable enough to fill the fourth vinyl side in.

As far as the Concerto goes, it's not a real concerto neither, since concerti are written for one soloing instrument (rarely two) and orchestra; we can talk about rock band as an one-piece entity (and a very versatile instrument too) but this happened only in traces. Lord respected the traditional structures and forms (three movements), and his writing skills are sometimes lovely, sometimes interesting, sometimes ingenious, sometimes plain boring.

To know why this Concerto was recorded at first place we should probably enter into the Lord's head and see what was he thinking at the time: he introduced new members of the band, wanted more advanced approach to the music, and was inclining towards classical repertoire. It was 1969 and rock music was music was moving towards the symphonic sphere rapidly - but even in the right moment, the record was not really a coherent statement, more a semi-failure and historical curiosity rather than a staple. Some critics were labeling DEEP PURPLE as the "traitors of the rock 'n' roll" after the premiere, however nobody characterised THE NICE in that way. Or other bands at the time: KING CRIMSON, THE MOODY BLUES and PROCOL HARUM.

Why? I guess because it is inconsistent. On a plain surface, some moments in Concerto are brilliant, Lord were using not only major and minor scales, the main theme in the first movement is both catchy and intelligent, second movement is dramatic, third one is furious. I think I've found traces of Stravinsky somewhere there, but that's not the problem.

The bands sounds too dry on a recording; that's not a problem with orchestra of course, but lacking the "beef" in the sound of the rock band, the record in its entirety already lost half of the possible appeal. The other thing is, they were playing on turns: eight bars of orchestra - eight bars of the band. Lord's songwriting saw light of a day too soon; it certainly lacks a lot of polishing. Raw drumming is out of place, Blackmore's anxiety too. Gillan's voice on Second Movement is sweet, and the lyrics are intentionally neutral - they can be interpreted both from a lenses of love as well as religion; that part was fine, although a bit tacky. Lord's Hammond is not on the same level as orchestral parts - it's majestic, expressive, powerful, but not both complex and beautiful as orchestrations. Since the whole Concerto was his baby, we can only wonder whether it is due to his technical inability as a organist, or his intention while writing a piece to emphasize the contrast between a rock band and classical orchestra. If the first one is the case, we will forgive him. If it's the second case, then that's a pure arrogance and nothing else. Arrogance and self-indulgence shouldn't be here - and here's why:

Nobody expected Emerson or Wakeman on Hammond here, they would be both out of place (in my opinion), on the other hand Ken Hensley (because of his raw power) would be out of place too. The only organist that fits here is Lord himself - with his amount of classical influence and furious rock approach - but he simply doesn't fit perfectly. Which means that the whole peace should have been rewritten - or to put it simply - it's weak.

Too bad. This record could have been a masterpiece if only a) Lord had polished his piece long enough b) waited for another parameters to happen, and for audience's preferences to become more inclined towards progressiveness and c) if he had written Concertino For Group and Orchestra.

clarke2001 | 3/5 |

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