Rock and Classical music have long been awkward bed fellows. And while it’s over four decades since John lord first dipped his toes into the water to meld his Deep Purple organ licks with orchestral music, his ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’ is blighted by the same problems now as back then.
The two musical forms remain antithetical, even when a concerto such as this works its way through the three movements to bring two independent musical entities together.
There’s certainly enough bombast, stark dynamics and fleeting melody lines, but too often the string parts sound like film music, while the horns suggest an impending musical event that never happens and the rock band format is at best squeezed in between the spaces.
Jon Lord leads from the front with mix of meandering keyboard link pieces, some contrasting big breaks and an occasional call and response section with the orchestra. But for the most part this is a stop-start project that doesn’t in truth have enough structure to fully integrate the two musical forms, let alone facilitate a flow.
Rock fans will be drawn to the occasional Morse and Bonamassa guitar solos – particularly the bluesy guitar break – and they will lap up Bruce Dickinson’s imposing vocals, but the material doesn’t really play to the guest’s strengths. Ironically enough, the Steve Balsamo/Kasia Laska duet which probably works best, comes too close to being a forgettable MOR piece.
Nonetheless, the concerto does achieve its aim as the rock band eventually becomes interwoven with the orchestral format, but too often the strings sound like film music, and the quiet/loud dichotomy hardly justifying what has gone before.
Movement three offers a sense of resolution, as the two musical formats finally throw off the shackles, though the revised score could probably have quietly deleted the drum solo.
As with many similar projects from Zappa and McCartney to Waters and beyond, the composer’s sense of ambition is not realised by the core compositional structure. John Lords’ ‘Concerto For Group & Orchestra’ remains a benchmark for such a cross genre project, but in spite of some spirited moments, the term ‘where’s the beef’ comes to mind?
Review by Pete Feenstra
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