Back in 1971, Jon Lord took a much more leading role in Deep Purple, and was able to push through projects such as 1969’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra, an ambitious attempt to solder his dual backgrounds in orchestral music and blues-based heavy rock. It seemed quite logical at the time; after all, The Who were in the process of inaugurating rock opera, and the idea of the adolescent medium of rock graduating to a higher plane of sophistication felt like a proper one for serious musicians to pursue.
Concerto was sufficiently well-received for conductor Malcolm Arnold and the London Symphony Orchestra to return for Lord’s Gemini Suite. This recording compromises concerto pieces for various rock instruments, with guests including Albert Lee on guitar and Yvonne Elliman on vocals, as well as regular Deep Purple members. And it works every bit as well as its predecessor. Which is to say not very well.
Lord is a capable enough classical composer, working in a 20th-century, sub-Elgar idiom. However, attempts to mix in rock drums or electric guitar are like trying to mix ice cream and gravy in the hope they’ll produce some unexpected alchemy. Lord’s own piano section integrates better, the piano being a common instrument to classical and rock, while Elliman’s vocals are similarly smooth for the same reason. Roger Glover’s bass soloing, however, invites inevitable comparisons with Derek Smalls’s Jazz Odyssey.
Sir Michael Tippett tried to fuse rock with classical, and he too failed – the dynamics don’t blend. Gemini Suite is best regarded as a harmless, ornate, occasionally pleasant folly.