Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 9. 25 June, 1970
Record Review — Concerto for Pop Group and Orchestra featuring Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold (EMI Harvest Shvl 767)
Concerto for Pop Group and Orchestra featuring Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold (EMI Harvest Shvl 767).
Feature track on Deep Purple (Parlophone PCSM 6083) was April—a three part mini-concerto written by organist Jon Lord. At timet on other records Lord had shown an aptitude for adapting classical structure to group compositions but this was his first complete effort-piano, organ, accoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar and drums combining with a string quintet and seven piece wind section. April required up to eleven different tracks so it was basically a recorded concerto, not devised to be presented live. Lord's next effort is a much more important step forward.
At times the Concerto for Pop Group and Orchestra sounds like a modern day Vaughan Williams piece but this derivative nature is of little consequence. The first movement has its fair share of awkward moments—Lord has written for orchestra and group as separate entities and this has led to serious problems with balance and integration. The beginning is a lengthy orchestral introduction built around a theme introduced by the clarinet; tension mounts but it is shattered by the awkwardness of the entry of the brass section. Finally the group enters and it seems incongruous as Ritchie Blackmore's lead cuts an electronic swathe through the orchestra. Everything is much more unified once the group gets into the theme and leads up to the guitar cadenza but it is obvious that Lord has not quite mastered the task of presenting the group and orchestra as separate antagonistic forces.
The second movement is built around two evocative tunes introduced by the cor anglais and flutes. By this stage the composer is writing for orchestra and group together and the whole effect is much more relaxed and satisfying. The idea of using a vocalist in a concerto seemed rather out of place to me but Ian Gillan's tasteful lyrics sung in a sensitive manner blend well with the mood created by Lord. This movement is undoubtedly the highlight of the concerto—a memorable effort by Lord, orchestra and Deep Purple.
Loud brass chords over syncopated strings introduce the third movement. The percussion section is featured in 6/8 rhythm and is joined by drums and bass guitar and then by the whole group. This time there is no hesitancy as group and orchestra play at full blast. Blackmore introduces the allegro theme playing it in a straightforward classical manner then restates it in the typical Deep Purple style with plenty of syncopation and sliding into the notes. Drummer Ian Paice has always been kept in the background on previous records and he obviously revels in his lengthy drum cadenza which builds up and then allows the orchestra to take over and revert to the original theme. Most of the problems so apparent in the first movement have been solved and the balance in the finale, with brass and group fighting it out, is very good.
My overall impressions of this performance are most enthusiastic The individual work from group members is excellent and on the whole co-ordination with the orchestra is good. The work is obviously only a beginning for Lord. He is happiest when writing for the wind and string sections but no doubt he will master the rest. The 'live' recording in the Albert Hall has had its problems but the quality has not suffered too much.
Blood, Sweat and Tears started it all. Critics and the public jumped on the bandwagon and heralded a new era in pop music. Unfortunately the mass adulation that heralded the second BS&T album completely ignored other worthwhile groups. I still get annoyed with the blase manner in which most people ignore Chicago, who offer a much more exciting, inventive approach towards Big Band Rock. They have put out two double LP sets, both retailing at a special low price of $7.65. These are Chicago Transit Authority (CPS SBP 473676) and Chicago (CBS 473753).
The group's seven piece line-up is: Terry Kath—lead guitar/lead vocals; Peter Cetera—bass guitar/lead vocals; Daniel Seraphine—drums; Lee Loughanne—trumpet/flugelhorn/background vocals; James Pankow—trombone; Walter Parazaider-saxophone/clarinet background vocals; and Robert Lamm—pinao/lead vocals.
Chicago Transit Authority was a fantastic effort for a first record. It spotlighted the powerful, compact brass sound supported by swinging big band drumming and superb bass lines "establishing a melody of their own without detracting from the driving rhythms laid down by Kath and Seraphine". BS&T often tend to act as a mere backing group for vocalist David Clayton-Thomas plays uninteresting brass lines whereas Chicago's James Pankow's scorings allow much more scope for individual musicians. The only disappointments on this set are the uneven vocals and Free Form Guitar—minutes of Kath's feed-back efforts on a Fender Stratocaster which is as disastrous as the Beatles' Number Nine.
Chicago is a further extension of the promise shown on the first record. This time all the tunes were written within the group, the majority by Pankow. My favourite tracks are those written by Lamm. He appears to realize Chicago's potential best of all and Poem for the People. Fancy Colours and 25 or 6 to 4 highlight the group's versatility. Kath contributes Prelude. A.M. Mourning, P.M. Mourning and Memories of Love which have a very lyrical classical structure featuring strings and a sensitive cohesion between Parazaider and Pankow.
The main feature of the performances is a much more evenly balanced sound than on the earlier record. There is not so much flashy work by Kath, his leads are now a much more integral part of the total group sound, a good example is the tasteful use of the wah-wah pedal on Fancy Colours. The brass is even tighter and the reed work is given more scope. The vocals have improved enormously with all three lead vocals taking solos and harmonizing well. The vocals on the ballad-style numbers Poem for the People, Memories of Love and Colour My World illustrate just how great the improvement is.
All in all Chicago is the best Big Band Rock album ever released. At times it seems incredible that these musicians never double-track. Presumably we can believe the American and English critics who claim that Chicago are as good live as on record.