Deep Purple legend Jon Lord’s final recording will be released as planned: ‘As valid as Beethoven’

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The late Jon Lord’s family will move forward with the release of his final project, the first-ever studio recording of the former Deep Purple keyboardist’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra.

Set to arrive on October 1, 2012, through earMusic, this groundbreaking synthesis of rock and classical was performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under the direction of Paul Mann in Liverpool and at Abbey Road studios in London.

The forthcoming project, which had been regularly performed in concert over the years but never issued as a studio recording, will include appearances by two of Lord’s former bandmates in Deep Purple: Steve Morse played guitar, and Ian Gillan contributed lyrics. Other guests include Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Balsamo, Kasia Laska, and others.

Many will remember this concerto from Deep Purple’s world tour in 2000-01. Lord actually began work on it back in 1969, and over the years the piece would be performed some 100 times. Lord died at 71, his publicist later confirmed, surrounded by family at a London clinic, having suffering a pulmonary embolism.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Glenn Hughes confirms that he and David Coverdale are considering a reunion to celebrate the work of fallen Deep Purple bandmate Jon Lord.]

The above image has been newly released from these final sessions. Lord had been diagnosed in August 2011 with pancreatic cancer — but not before having changed rock music forever as Deep Purple combined heavy metal and prog, forming an entirely new amalgamation.

“We’re as valid,” Lord said in a 1973 interview with the New Musical Express, “as anything by Beethoven.”

He’d helped found the band in 1968, and was part of the lineup through its initial split in 1976. He reunited with Deep Purple when it rebooted in 1984, and stayed through 2002 before going solo again. In the intervening years, Lord also joined Whitesnake, fronted by 1970s-era Deep Purple lead singer David Coverdale.

The keyboardist, who played with a classically inspired bravado on tracks like “Child in Time” and had been classically trained beginning at the age of 5, was also in the offshoot group Paice Ashton and Lord, with fellow Deep Purple member Ian Paice. An early band, called Santa Barbara Machine Head, also featured Ronnie Wood, who’d later become best known as a member of the Rolling Stones.

Lord had announced plans for this new recording of Concerto for Group and Orchestra in the months preceding his death, along with a return to the stage in July. Many fans had hoped that the scheduled appearance in Germany signaled a rebound for Lord. It was Paice who initially confirmed Lord’s cancer diagnosis for the media — though, back then, he was more optimistic about a recovery.

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.

IAN GILLAN AND TONY IOMMI – WHOCARES (2012): This new two-disc set of rarities and unreleased tracks, built around a double-sided benefit single from Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi, traces a series of intriguing side trips traveled by Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. There’s nothing on the order of “Iron Man” or “Hush,” but the two new cuts featured on WhoCares thrum with an old-school, balls-out energy — and, deeper in, there’s a terrific live redo of “Smoke on the Water,” which combines the bands’ two histories as the late Ronnie James Dio takes over to add a dark, bellowing vocal. Recorded in 1999 with Deep Purple and the London Symphony Orchestra, it was originally part of Live at the Royal Festival Hall.

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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