Jon Lord

Typically, when an artist branches out from their current band for a solo outing, it is to "prove" something. Wishing to be seen as more than just "one of the guys in the band," they want to take an excursion into the studio, hoping to demonstrate to the loyal legion of fans that they have something different to offer. This is especially true when they are not the main songwriter in said group. Jon Lord, a founding member and former member of Deep Purple, successfully found a way of sounding relevant with Sarabande, his second solo outing, without losing the respect of Purple's fan base. Originally released in 1976, Eagle Records has digitally remastered and reissued this absolute masterpiece.

Anyone expecting a Deep Purple-sounding album will be disappointed. In this case, that may be a good thing. If you have an appreciation for majestic, brain-jarring compositions of pure musicianship, Sarabande may be the album for you. With the Hungarian Philharmonic as his accompaniment, in addition to an array of other studio musicians, including a pre-Police guitarist Andy Summers, Lord offers up eight songs of pure musical, majestic bliss. To some, it may appear Lord is just being pretentious; but to those with open ears, he is merely demonstrating that his talents reach beyond his years with Deep Purple.

In a way, Sarabande almost resembles the soundtrack, to one of Hollywood's old-time classics, ala Lawrence of Arabia or Ben-Hur. That's what I love about it. It is truly grand on all levels. With the musicianship and the swooping, epic-like execution of each track, there is not a moment on this mesmerizing album where the listener will fail to be impressed. Combining classical music with jazz, blues, and straight forward rock, it is an ambitious piece of work that, for the most part, succeeds, thanks to the genius of Lord's capabilities.

The opening track "Fantasia" begins slow, building up steadily to a bombastic conclusion, before moving onto the title track. I will not give a tedious breakdown of each track, aside from mentioning that each composition stays true to Lord's musical intent, never swaying from its course.

"Caprice," I must point out, is my personal favorite. It is very up tempo, almost leaning towards radio-friendly pop, but staying closer to the always melodic influence of Mozart. The closing track, the appropriately titled "Finale" does suffer a small bit, only by being a tad overly ambitious. Every style of music is thrown into the mix, never really transcending from one feel to the next - instead becoming a large, potentially messy musical mixing pot. But that is not to say it is, in any regard, a bad track.

If I must muster some criticism, it would be with the pacing on the song list. "Gigue" and "Bouree" are both 11-minute tracks. Appearing subsequently, they become a bit intrusive, on listening to them straight through. Had they been broken up and book-ended with a couple of the other tracks, the flow of the album would be a bit smoother. This, however, is just a bit of unnecessary nitpicking and  has little bearing on my perspective of the overall album.

Produced by Martin Birch, of Deep Purple and Iron Maiden fame, this one of the most amazing albums I have heard in some time. Unfamiliar with Sarabande upon its original release, I am grateful to have now been exposed to it. Sarabande is not Deep Purple, nor was it intended to be. It wasn't made for the casual rock listener, but more so for Lord's personal trek of playing a wide array of classically inspired music. This is a brilliant example of what a true "solo" album should be like.

~ Bruce Forrest

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