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

CONCERTO FOR GROUP AND ORCHESTRA

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.20 | 286 ratings

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GruvanDahlman
2 stars (I am only reviewing the original "Concerto for group and orchestra" album, not later editions containing "Wring that neck", "Child in time" etc.)

I have found that through the years this album been an alluring one. The cover is strikingly simple with its photo depicting the interior of Royal Albert Hall and the group is at first really not visible but there they are, slouched in the seats of the great theatre. It has become quite an iconic cover and it has been the very thing that drew and draws me in to this album. And yet, I find it a difficult piece of Music but not in the sense one might imagine..

The marriage of classical music and rock is one that is made in heaven. The pompousness of classical music merges so well with the over the top view of progressive rock. Unfortunately it doesn't always turn out as great as it could have done. Ekseption and ELP are but a few of the prog rock groups that managed to pull it off in the most glorious of fashions. Jon Lord, as brilliant a man as he was, dreamt of making the perfect blend of the two genres and actually got the go ahead quite a few times in his career. The first attempt was "Concerto for group and orchestra" and the idea was born half a century ago. When released in 1969 it was really not the barnstormer he had hoped for. For the marriage to succeed classical music (in this case a symphonic orchestra) has to cooperate with rock music (the group). When that is the case I love it, as in the case of the brilliant "VIctor" by Rigoni & Schoenherz. In the case of "Concerto..." you get a scizophrenic experience since the two genres for the most part seem seperated from each other. You get the orchestra playing without the group for 8-10 minutes and then the band plays for a while before handing over the microphone (or whatever) to the orchestra. This is the case, in general, on "Concerto...". Only rarely do they interact with each other. I get a bit uninterested in the long classical bits, which is a shame, just waiting for the group to come crashing out of the speakers.

The parts where Deep Purple actually plays are generally good and interesting. I wish Gillan sang a bit more but there you go. The rock pieces are not very complex but energetic and shows, if nothing else, something new as opposed to the albums recorded by the Mark I setting. I find that interesting. To make matters worse, sorry to say, there is a lengthy drum solo in the third section that should have been shorter, in my opinion.

The musicianship is as always spectacular and the sound of the group is quite raw and rough, which I like. The thing I like the most about the album is actually the organ played so brilliantly by Mr. Lord. It may be it's not his most technically challenging playing but the sound and how he handles the keys is enough to give me goosebumps. As for the vocals, as previously mentioned, Gillan should have been given more space and really show his talent since he by then had been given the role as lead singer, now that Evans was out of the picture. He gets only a fraction of room to show his talents and that's a pity.

So, while this could have been a defining moment in the progress of progressive rock music it falls pretty flat in comparison to other excursions in the same genre made by other bands. I think Lord, however proud of the achievement he was, should have given the execution of it all another thought. Had he merged the two genres into one pompous cohesive body of work this would really have been something extraordinary. The opening of side A should not have consisted of eight minutes of classical music. It would have suited the album better had the classical music started the album with, say, three minutes and then let the band enter it would have been a completely different matter. When you get to know the album properly it all works fine, you just live with it, but it makes the album sort of a hard listen. You just sit there, waiting for the rock parts to dive head into the pool of orchestrated music. It really never happens. While it is all very competent and quite bold it does not reach the heights I hoped and still hope for. Nevertheless I hold a great love for this album. It's something endearing with it but at the same time the flaws and inadequacy of the end result is there and no matter how much I want it to be different, there it is. Warts'n'all.

GruvanDahlman | 2/5 |

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