CD Review: Various Artists – Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord

CD Review: Various Artists: Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord
earMusic and Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Various Artists: Jon Lord, Deep Purple
& Friends - Celebrating Jon Lord
It had to take place at the Royal Albert Hall, didn't it?

After all, that was where Jon Lord and Deep Purple, in 1969, famously performed the revolutionary "Concerto for Group and Orchestra," a groundbreaking work that joined the forces of rock and classical music in a surprisingly natural and organic marriage that showed the two forms are not exactly oil and water.

Just weeks prior to his death in 2012, Lord finished his remake of the composition, a labor love for Lord and an all-consuming passion that, some years earlier, made leaving Deep Purple once and for all a little easier well, that and the fact that he'd had enough of touring.

No other setting then would do then for this extraordinary tribute to an uncommon man in Lord, as this 2014 version of the much-ballyhooed Sunflower Jam rounded up a veritable "who's who" of rock royalty for a gala all-star jam, backed by a full orchestra conducted by Paul Mann.

Cleaved into two halves, the concert, captured on a new release entitled Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord, offers a resounding and joyous examination of his remarkable career, in between jokes, stories and heartfelt expressions of love for the man. Two hours were reserved for a stylish, beautiful and wonderfully arranged renditions of Lord's classical music explorations, given new life by Mann and the Orion Orchestra, that comprises Jon Lord – The Composer and features three pieces from Sarabande, including a guest turn from keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman on the title track.

And then there's the Jon Lord – The Rock Legend set, where friends, colleagues and admirers remember Lord's extraordinary contributions to popular music, starting with Paul Weller and his bouncy, sweaty, horn-swaddled revivals of R&B rousers "Things Get Better" and – with a little help from Micky Moody – "I Take What I Want," recalling Lord's time in the early '60s with The Artwoods.

Glenn Hughes comes aboard for a soulful, smoky reading of "You Keep on Moving" that simply smolders with dark sensuality, following an especially poignant version of "Soldier of Fortune," with Steve Balsamo, Sandi Thom and Moody lending vocals. Perhaps predictably, a full-throttle, fiery "Burn" sets the venerable house ablaze, as Bruce Dickinson, Ian Paice and Don Airey join Hughes and Moody let it all hang out while roaring through the Deep Purple Mark III chestnut like a freight train.

Speaking of Purple, the current incarnation of the band – Airey, Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and Steve Morse – closes things out with 45 minutes of spectacular virtuoso jams, Airey in particular relishing the opportunity to grab "Lazy" by the throat and heat that Hammond organ up until it glows red. And for a finale, Dickinson, Wakeman, Moody, Phil Campbell and Bernie Marsden return to the stage with Purple to bring the house down with an invigorating take on "Hush." Somewhere, Lord is still smiling.
– Peter Lindblad

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