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

CONCERTO FOR GROUP AND ORCHESTRA

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.24 | 262 ratings

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Progfan97402
3 stars Jon Lord must've had a monster-sized ego to come up with orchestra and rock group concept. Not that they would be the first (the Moody Blues were the first with Days of Future Passed) nor the last (Procol Harum, Rick Wakeman, The Nice, ELP, even Eloy, if you're wondering what that Eloy album was, it was Dawn) had all tried rock with orchestra concepts with varying degrees of success. Lord had a background in classical so I guess he was familiar with the music. I'm sure at fire Malcolm Arnold, the conductor had his reservations, but then it resulted in him being pleasantly surprised to see a rock and roll musician try classical and had an understanding in classical composition. Ritchie Blackmore thought it was a bad idea and felt the orchestra was rather condescending (the usual rift between classical and rock). This album was the first with the Mark II lineup (Roger Glover and Ian Gillan as the newcomers, as you probably already knew that) and a rather strange way to get started. I was resistant in buying the album because of the mixed reaction, but since I found a used LP for cheap (second American pressing on Warner) I gave it a shot and wasn't all that bad. Certainly there are big glaring obvious flaws that there isn't too much band/orchestra interaction. Usually it seems one of the band members will participate with the orchestra but rarely the whole band, and when the whole band performed, as in the killer jam they do on "First Movement" the orchestra remains silent. "Second Movement" is actually two parts (because of the time constraint of the LP). Ian Gillan does everything to sound like his predecessor Rod Evans, you'd almost think Evans was still a member of the band. He never uses his trademark high pitch screams (a big influence on the likes of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio and many other heavy metal singers). The second half of the "Second Movement" has some bluesy passages from the band, while "Third Movement" is most notable for the extended Ian Paice drum solo, like they were taking after the likes of "Toad", "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" or even "Moby Dick" (but bear in mind this was recorded in September 24, 1969, LZII was released a month later). The '70s was often considered a decade of excess, and this album is the epitome of '70s excess, even if it was released in December 1969 (originally in the US on Bill Cosby's Tetragrammaton label, yes THAT Bill Cosby, although that pressing is hard to find give the label quickly went belly up shortly after this album's release and no wonder Warner gave that album a second life when the band moved to that label in the States, since it didn't have much a chance on Tetragrammaton).

I have to say it wasn't entirely a success. There could have been more band and orchestra interaction. The Moody Blues's Days of Future Passed wasn't entirely a successful combination of rock band and orchestra, it too suffered problems of lack of band/orchestra interaction (either the band plays or the orchestra), it was a big commercial success, and even a critical success, because at least there the orchestra frequently played themes that the band would often play too, although (I'm not the only one) many had criticized Peter Knight's orchestral style as it veered too close to lite classical (but then to be fair, it seemed lite classical was a big influence on the Moodies). Deep Purple it sounded like the orchestra did not relate to the band, and neither did the band relate to the orchestra, aside from Jon Lord.

It can be easily thought of in many different ways: Rubbish, a rock band/orchestra experiment that failed, 70s excess at its worst, or actually a great example of proto-prog. I am a bit torn about this album, but to my ears it isn't too bad, but this isn't exactly In Rock or Machine Head, and I obviously didn't expect that. There are some brilliant ideas, but there areas either the band or the orchestra loses focus. So I guess three stars it is, because I enjoyed it despite obvious flaws.

Progfan97402 | 3/5 |

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