Album review: JON LORD – Reissues (Gemini Suite/Before I Forget)

JON LORD - Gemini Suite

Gemini Suite [Release date 09.12.16] Before I Forget [Release date 27.01.17]

It is perhaps sometimes overlooked, but Jon Lord left a quiet legacy of solo albums even though for most of his career he laboured in the gargantuan shadow of Deep Purple and, for a time, Whitesnake.

Gemini Suite (earMUSIC) was first performed live in September 1970 and connects with the previous year’s Deep Purple & Orchestra album not least because Malcolm Arnold took up the baton again.  The album version came out in 1972 with Yvonne Ellman (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Tony Ashton (Ashton, Gardner and Dyke) on vocals (on one track).

This work is split into different sections showcasing one soloist.  On the opening track, the juxtaposition of Albert Lee’s bluesy guitar and full-blown orchestra is at times uncomfortable, the orchestral score seemingly at odds with the more rock-orientated approach.  The second section featuring Lord on jazzy piano opens well but again it sounds like the orchestra are playing on a different album.

Ian Paice’s piece is as you would expect an extended drum solo and whilst technically impressive will not repay repeated visits and, similarly his Purple colleague Roger Glover gets a double-tracked bass solo.  This leaves the final flourish to Lord’s Hammond organ but again it feels disjointed and sounds better when the orchestra is absent.

The integration of rock and orchestra is not always easy to achieve, although perhaps it needs a sympathetic arranger,  and you are left feeling that much as you admire Jon Lord’s musicality others like Rick Wakeman might have achieved a more satisfying fusion.  Perhaps a better approach would have been to have combined all the rock instruments with orchestra rather than in separate showcases.  This edition has been remastered from the origianl stereo mixes.  ***

‘Gemini Suite’ would reappear on album in 1993 when a 1970 live recording was released, this time with Mk II Purple.  Lord would make another orchestral based album, Windows, in 1974 but we’d have to wait until the late-1990s for the next definitive solo work – ‘Pictured Within’.

In the meantime, in 1978 Lord had joined Whitesnake and the solo album he released in 1982 Before I Forget (Cherry Red)  – again mainly instrumental  – was far more worthy of a rock audience whilst still alluding to his classical/baroque persuasions on tracks such as ‘Tender Babes’ and ‘Bach Onto This’.

On this album he collaborated with Whitesnake alumni Neil Murray and Bernie Marsden, various drummers including Cozy Powell , and members of Bad Company.  Vicky and Sam Brown add atmospheric vocals to the title track and feature on several others including the excellent bonus cut ‘Lady’.

This reissue adds the 1994 and 2012 reissue bonus tracks but omits the radio interview edit that appeared  in 1994.

Throughout, the vibe is a gentler, more reflective, melodic rock punctuated by Lord’s classy keyboard figures.  In the original sleeve note Lord commented that he thought Whitesnake and Purple fans should be able to be more introspective “and I’d rather they did so with my music than Barry Manilow’s.’  Job done.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

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