Ailing Jon Lord returns with newest take on his signature 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra'

Deep Purple fans will remember keyboardist Jon Lord’s “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” from the classic rock band’s 2000-01 world tour. It’s become something of a touchstone piece for Lord, who began work on the classically inspired piece in 1969 and has performed it on some 100 different occasions since.

The latest iteration arrives in September, courtesy of Edel in Germany and ABC Records in Australia. Lord recorded the hour-long, three-movement concerto at the legendary Abbey Road Studios with Liverpool’s Philharmonic. Special guests include Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse, as well as Joe Bonamassa, Steve Balsamo, Kasia Laska, and Bruce Dickinson, of Iron Maiden. Ian Gillan, another of Lord’s longtime bandmates in Deep Purple, contributed lyrics.

This new project arrives in the wake of Lord’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, though longtime Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice has said the disease was caught in its “really early stages.” (Lord, 70, was in the band’s lineup with Paice from 1968-76, then again from 1984-2002, and they were part of the all-star offshoot group Paice Ashton and Lord, as well.) Paice, in an interview with a radio station in Canada, said Lord had traveled to Israel to undergo treatment, and was hoping to return to the stage later this year.

Conductor on this new “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” date with Lord is Paul Mann, who also helmed the concerto’s memorable 30th anniversary presentation at Royal Albert Hall. AN expanded CD package reportedly will include a documentary on the making of the project.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Deep Purple. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

DEEP PURPLE – TOTAL ABANDON: AUSTRALIA ’99 (2012): An intriguingly presented retrospective set, as the newly added Steve Morse brilliantly reexamines a group of signature Deep Purple tunes. Before the show is over, Total Abandon recalls not so much the Ritchie Blackmore years as it does the band’s fiery Tommy Bolin period. There’s a similar level of front-line guitar craft, and a similar level of energy. Deep Purple sounded like it was having fun again. And, to my ears, the group never really looked back so intently again. By the time they issued Bananas, some five years later, original keyboardist Jon Lord was gone — and Deep Purple had metamorphosed. The addition of Morse, like an ozone-producing jolt of lightning, had transformed what once seemed like a ghost band trying to reclaim its glory days into a freshly rejuvenated force to be reckoned with.

DEEP PURPLE – SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE (1968; 2011 REISSUE): Coming together in 1967, Deep Purple were like a lot of bands of the day, as their mission was to push the sonic envelope as far as possible and create something new and exciting. Based out of Hertford, England, the group achieved their goal straight away. Dramatic and bombastic, Deep Purple played a tumultuous blend of heavy metal and progressive rock before such labels arrived into being, tagging them pioneers of the genres.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: EPISODE SIX – THE ROOTS OF DEEP PURPLE: THE COMPLETE EPISODE SIX (1994): Formed in the summer of 1964, Episode Six quickly developed a star-studded reputation as a hotshot live band. The English group, which included lead singer Ian Gillian and bassist Roger Glover, who eventually gleaned even more accolades in Deep Purple, also cut a flock of brilliant singles that are featured on this set, along with a brace of previously unreleased material.

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