CD Review: Celebrating Jon Lord - The Composer/Celebrating Jon Lord - The Rock Legend

A loving tribute to a giant of a musician.
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The Sunflower Jam was started in 2006 by Jacky Paice, the wife of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, after meeting a teenaged Deep Purple fan who was stricken with cancer. Ian Paice and his fellow Purple band mate, the late Jon Lord, brought some signed posters for the teen, who sadly passed two weeks later. The teen had been receiving treatment at the complimentary care facility at University College London. After seeing the good the center did, Jacky Paice wanted to raise money for the center and the Sunflower Jam was born.

Many famous musicians, including Robert Plant, Brian May, Alice Cooper and members of Deep Purple, performed at the event. Initially, these shows were closed to the public, but popular demand made the organizers rethink this. In 2012, Lord died from cancer and the 2014 Jam was dedicated to him. The show was divided into two parts -- one celebrating his classical music and one celebrating his rock music. These performances are now available as the single disc Celebrating Jon Lord -- The Composer and the two-CD set, Celebrating Jon Lord -- The Rock Legend.

The composer disc opens with "Fantasia." Backed by the Orion Orchestra with conductor Paul Mann and a rock group led by Wix Wickens of Paul McCartney fame, the track opens with a majestic rock intro, before the classical instruments take over. Lord knew how to blend classical and rock elements better than most, as this opener is proof of.

"All Those Years Ago" features Steve Balsamo of the Jon Lord Band on vocals and Micky Moody on guitar. Middle Eastern-sounding keyboards and guitars duel at the song's outset while Balsamo gives a heartfelt vocal over a piano backdrop. Along those lines is "Pictured Within," a pretty ballad that features Miller Anderson.

JonLordRockLegend.jpegThe rock discs begin with "Things Get Better." A soulful track, punctuated by horns and organ, it features a strong vocal by Paul Weller. Continuing in that vein is"I Take What I Want," also featuring Weller. For those who only know Lord from his hard rock work, these tracks are an exciting change of pace.

Balsamo returns and is joined by Sandi Thom and Moody for an emotional "Soldier Of Fortune." As songs from this era of Deep Purple aren't performed that often, it is a nice treat to hear and Balsamo does David Coverdale's original vocal justice. Former Purple member, Glenn Hughes, returns for a number of tracks, including a fantastic "You Keep On Moving" where he is joined by Paice, Don Airey, Moody and Bruce Dickinson and a potent "Burn," which also adds Rick Wakeman to the mix. The only negative is the guitar on "Burn" is a bit buried in the mix behind all the keyboards and orchestra.

The current Deep Purple lineup closes the show, opening with "Uncommon Man," a new song dedicated to Lord. Guitarist Steve Morse shows off his considerable cops during the song's melodic opening and Ian Gillan is in strong voice throughout. The band hits its stride with intense versions of "Lazy" and "Perfect Strangers," mixing well with the orchestral instruments and they are joined by Dickinson, Wakeman, Moody, Phil Campbell and Bernie Marsden on a rocking "Hush," the song that started it all for Deep Purple.

The music world lost a true giant when Lord passed away. The Sunflower Jam concert is a loving tribute to an incredible musician from his peers. While most fans will probably lean toward the rock discs, the classical disc is an excellent listen as well and definitely worth checking out.