In Concert With The London Symphony
Deep Purple is at a stage in their career where they either fall under tweo labels: "classic rock oldies act" or "dynamic recording and touring act". In Concert With The London Symphony is sort an amalgamation of both. The idea of Purple working with an orchestra goes back to 1969 when keyboardist Jon Lord composed a three movement concerto called Concerto For Group And Orchestra for Purple to perform with the London Symphony. Thirty years later, with the help of Dutch composer, Marco de Goeji and conductor, Paul Mann, Lord was able to resuscitate the piece, using both Purple and LSO again, employing a moderately new score and arrangement. Along with songs from various Purple members' solo efforts and plenty of reworked Deep Purple classics, this two-CD set is a compilation of two shows that were staged on April 25 and 26, 1999 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.
Once you get past the schmaltz of some of the material, the whole idea of bringing together Deep Purple, the LSO and assorted friends and associates proves to be intriguing and unique. "Sitting In A Dream" and "Love Is All," written by bassist Roger Glover and sung with throaty reverence by the irrepressible Ronnie James Dio, shows a mellow side rarely seen from these musicians. Quite frankly, Dio — who rose to prominence singing with erstwhile DP guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow — outshines Purple vocalist Ian Gillan on this CD. For his part, Gillan revives a couple of laid back crooners — "Via Miami" and "That's Why God Is Singing The Blues" — from a Gillan-Glover side project.
The tension is broken, however, when guitarist Steve Morse and his ever-faithful backing band — bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Van Romaine — tear into a searing instrumental called "Take It Off The Top." The first CD finishes off with a jazzy take of Purple's own "Wring That Neck," featuring drummer Ian Paice (he's never made a solo record) and "Pictures Of Home," a moody and melodic piece from Machine Head.
At the heart of the second CD is Lord's three-movement Concerto For Group And Orchestra. Obviously, with advancements in recording and a more realized arrangement, the piece is much more dynamic. It can get rather thorny to rate rock musicians — especially of the hard rock variety — who delve into classical music. Alongside fellow 70s keyboard wizards Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, Lord is an exception to the rule. You just have to wonder how classical purists respond to Morse' flurry of ascending runs so neatly inserted within the concerto. Nevertheless, the band follows suit with a suite of Purple tunes from the 90s — "Ted The Mechanic" (also a hidden QuickTime video on the first disc), "Watching The Sky" and "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming."
Finishing off with the inevitable "Smoke On The Water" (featuring horns and the entire cast of singers), one can't help but think that Deep Purple has gracefully settled into middle age. But then Morse starts peeling off those chunky leads, and you realize this band still kicks some serious ass.
~ Shawn Perry