In Concert With the London Symphony (SpitFire)
Reviewed by Steve
I'm always a bit skeptical of CDs by rock bands with orchestras. The results can either be spectacular, pompous and overblown, or just plain boring. Deep Purple covers all the bases on their newest release, recorded over two nights at London's Royal Albert Hall. The first two tracks are a bore. There's nothing here to give you the impression that you're listening to one of the original metal bands. The next two tracks aren't much better. Ronnie James Dio handles the vocals, but you've never heard him sing like this before. Did you ever think you'd hear Dio singing boring pop tunes? I know I never did. By this time, the band tries to pick things up a bit with "Via Miami." Unfortunately, it just doesn't work. You can't get much further away from Deep Purple than this.
By the time I get to "That's Why God is Singing the Blues," I'm ready to trash the CD. But no, I decided to wait and see what they do with the Dixie Dregs classic, "Take It Off the Top." The press kit said that Steve Morse (current DP guitarist, and leader of the Dregs) repeatedly refused to perform the song, but then gave in when he was able to perform it with his band. Bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Van Romaine join the band on stage, along with the always excellent Kick Horns and manage to give the song the once over. It's not as good as the original, but it's an interesting performance nonetheless.
The first surprise on the CD is the new version of "Wring That Neck." One of the band's earliest tunes, this time it's performed 'big-band style' and it kicks some serious ass. The orchestra finally gets into a groove and the whole cast swings hard. This is easily the best track so far. "Pictures of Home" begins quietly with just the orchestra, then drummer Ian Paice bursts in and turns it into the song we all know and love from Machine Head. This is more like it.
The centerpiece of this double CD is Jon Lord's "Concerto for Group and Orchestra." The epic, 50-minute suite was originally performed almost 30 years prior to the day. This time out, it's being done right. The first movement finds the group and the orchestra seemingly at odds with each other. In the second and third movements, they work together--especially in the third movement. If you were put off by the original version, check out this one. You just might enjoy it. It's never been an easy listen, but the concerto as a whole seems to work better now. It's still quite a pretentious piece of music, but if you're into the classical side of the music, it's very well done. Morse's guitar work is exceptional, and Lord's organ solo on the second movement isn't too shabby either.
The second disc comes to a close with three Morse-era DP tunes (the best of which is "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming"); followed by the no-brainer, "Smoke on the Water." Unfortunately, nothing can compare with the version on Made in Japan (a true 'classic rock' song if there ever was one), and this one comes across as simply pompous. This album will definitely appeal to the longtime DP fans, if for no other reason than the updated performance of the Concerto. But for those who aren't already familiar with the material, this is a classic case of a double album that should have been a single.
(Editors Note: There is an unlisted .mpg of "Ted the Mechanic" on disc one for your viewing pleasure.)
© 2000 - Steve Marshall