Celebrating Jon Lord:
The Rock Legend
Two years after his passing, original Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord continues to be revered for his immeasurable musical contributions. Aside from his role as the master of the Hammond for Deep Purple from their beginnings through the late 90s, Lord collaborated with numerous artists and established himself as a prolific composer of classical music, some of which he performed with Deep Purple. During the last few years of his life, Lord regularly participated in an annual charity concert held at the Royal Albert Hall called The Sunflower Jam, organized by Jacky Paice, wife of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice. On April 2, 2014, the sold-out Sunflower Jam was completely dedicated to Lord’s music and rebranded as the "Celebrating Jon Lord" Sunflower Jam. Recorded for prosperity, Eagle Rock Entertainment has since issued the show in various audio and video formats under the title Celebrating Jon Lord.
There are two CD sets: Celebrating Jon Lord: The Composer and Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend. The first one focuses on classical music composed by Lord, including selections from Sarabande, Durham Concerto and Pictured Within, featuring such guest musicians as Rick Wakeman and original Whitesnake guitarist Mick Moody. The second one is more of interest to those who followed Lord’s work in rock. The two CDs feature songs that cover all corners of Lord’s career — from with his first band The Artwoods, to Paice Ashton Lord (his first post-Purple band of the late 70s), to highlights of his work with Deep Purple. The Jam’s Paul Weller takes the reins for the two, fairly basic Artwoods rockers, “Things Get Better” and “I Take What I Want.” Thing s get a little more funky and heavy on the two Paice Ashton Lord tracks from the band’s one album, 1977’s Malice In Wonderland — “Silas And Jerome” and “I’m Gonna Stop Drinking.” We get the benefit of two original members — drummer Ian Paice and guitarist Bernie Marsden — with Phil Campbell of The Temperance Movement filling in for the departed Tony Ashton on vocals.
The Deep Purple years are next. First, we get a glimpse into the Mark III and IV eras featuring Glenn Hughes. Actually, he doesn’t come out until after an ethereal take of “Solider Of Fortune,” beautifully sung by Steve Balsamo, who collaborated with Lord on his post-Purple projects. Instead of David Coverdale — who never seems to be involved with any Deep Purple –related tributes — Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson joins Hughes on vocals for “You Keep Me Moving,” from the final Purple album of the 70s, 1976’s Come Taste The Band, and a heavily orchestrated “Burn,” which also features Paice, current Purple keyboardist Don Airey, and keyboard legend Rick Wakeman. Hughes finishes up with a lush, languid arrangement of “This Time Around,” another one from Come Taste The Band.
Deep Purple then mount the stage for a seven song set. From the band’s 2013 release, Now What?!, there are prescient renditions of “Uncommon Man” and “Above And Beyond,” which, as singer Ian Gillan says, was especially written “for our beloved Jon.” If nothing else, both tracks underscore that Deep Purple is still a potent and viable musical force. That leaves “classic” Purple songs like “Lazy,” featuring Airey, clearly is the right man to succeed Lord, “When A Blind Man Cries,” “Perfect Strangers” and “Black Night.” Curiously, “Smoke On The Water” didn’t make the cut, possibly due to the fact that it showcases the talents of Ritchie Blackmore a little more than that of Lord’s. Dickinson, Wakeman, Campbell, Marsden and Moody join in for a big finale of “Hush.” There’s an earful of keys on this one, thanks to Airey and Wakeman, who engage in a Hammond vs. synth call-and-response before a barrage of horns and voice brings the whole concert to a triumphant finale.
A heart-warming, incredible musical tribute, Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend could have gone in several directions. Indeed. Some of the selections aren’t exactly representative of what Lord was all about; they seem to come more from the perspective of the performers involved, making it far personal than gratuitous — not necessarily a bad thing. Proceeds from sales of the Celebrating Jon Lord CDs and DVDs benefit the Jon Lord Fellowship, set up to fund projects promoting Lord’s integrated approach in managing the pancreatic cancer that claimed his life. It’s a win-win situation for buyers and those who may be at the receiving end of a charity set up in the name of one of rock’s greatest and most respected keyboard wizards.
~ Shawn Perry