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Jon Lord - Sarabande CD (album) cover

SARABANDE

Jon Lord

 

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3.91 | 95 ratings

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4 stars Many consider Sarabande to be the most successful of Jon Lord's experiments to combine an orchestra and rock band. In spite of Lord's hard rock credentials, do not go in expecting a symphonic metal album. As the song titles suggest, the focus is on classical music rather than rock, with the songs being based on Baroque dances.

The album is certainly more cohesive than Lord's earlier effort with Deep Purple, Concerto for Group and Orchestra, where the objective was to start off with the orchestra and the rock band in opposition and gradually integrate them over the course of the three movements.

Sarabande was recorded in Germany, by the Philharmonia Hungarica, a distinguished symphony orchestra founded by Hungarian expatriate musicians fleeing the Red Army's occupation of Hungary in 1956.

Lord is also backed by a rock group comprised of competent session musicians. Future Police member Andy Summers does a fine job on the guitar, particularly his electric solos on Gigue and Bouree. The drummer is Pete York, formerly of the Spencer Davis Group. Mark Nauseef, who would later be drummer in the Ian Gillan Band, provides interesting percussion. The bass is played by Paul Karas, previously of Rare Bird and Stackridge. Lord does not try to hog the spotlight and plays a variety of keyboard instruments.

Fantasia is the only purely orchestral piece and stars things off with bombastic brass. The middle section with woodwinds, harp and stings is quite lovely.

The title track starts off with just the rock band playing a jazzy Latin American-influenced tune. Soon strings join in, followed by brass. Lord and Summers have solo spots halfway through.

I originally thought Aria is a misnomer, since it is not a vocal work, but apparently the term 'aria' was also used for instrumental pieces. It's a beautiful and melancholy piece that showcases Lord's piano playing. Interestingly, the sparse accompaniment is played on synthesizers, though it fooled me. Its mood is somewhat reminiscent of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

According to a quote by Jon Lord on his website, Gigue quotes the first twenty-four bars of Bach's 4th English Suite. Similarly to part 3 of Concert for Group and Orchestra, Gigue is slightly marred by a superfluous drum and percussion solo towards the end. Nevertheless, I consider it to be the most progressive composition on the album, with a multipart structure, and good solos by Summers, Lord and York.

Bouree has nothing to do with the Bach composition famously recorded by Jethro Tull. In fact, it has a distinct Middle Eastern feel, but in a much more authentic style than Blackmore's future Kashmir-style compositions with Rainbow and Deep Purple (Stargazer, Gates of Babylon, Perfect Strangers, Hungry Daze, Ariel). Mark Nauseef adds plenty of percussion effects. Great guitar and clavinet solos.

Pavane is a melancholy track, focused on acoustic guitar and piano later. Only the orchestra's string section is featured on this piece.

Caprice is a lively composition with an organ solo. It does not feature the orchestra. Due to the varied synths and uptempo, the piece reminds me of Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleve from Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Finale begins by reprising themes from all previous compositions accompanied by drum rolls. It ends in the same way as Fantasia, with a few overdubbed synths. This track is rather disjoint, since it was assembled by splicing extracts from the previous compositions, but it is short and finishes on a satisfying note.

I would have preferred for the music to be in a more baroque style and livelier. As is, the music sounds much more like 19th or 20th century classical music (which it is!). There is little of the music that reminds me of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Scarlatti or Pachelbel. I was expecting counterpoint, fugues, chamber music, Bach-style organ compositions, harpsichord sonatas or something in the vein of Lord and Blackmore's composition April, which remains one of my favorite Deep Purple songs.

Personal preferences and expectations aside, the music is very well orchestrated and performed. The album showcases Lord's compositional skill. The quality is very even throughout the album and the themes are memorable. I must admit that the album has grown on me with repeat listenings.

Replayer | 4/5 |

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