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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jon Lord

Pictured Within

Review by Larry Toering

Jon Lord released this long awaited solo album after much hesitation. Lord is joined by the great guitarist/vocalist Miller Anderson and female vocalist Sam Brown, among others. Both turn in outstanding performances that help make this such an uplifting, yet extremely mellow, record. It is twelve tracks split into four parts of brilliance. This is funnily enough categorized by many outlets as a hard rock album, probably because Lord has always been known as a hard rocker in Deep Purple and Whitesnake. However, this is no rock album by any means. Even though it might carry an undeniable essence, it gets a prog stamp here.

Lord has released several solo projects since this disc, all of them varied somewhat in styles, but this was recorded back in 1998 and released in 1999, while he was still banging away with Purple. It started something in him that hasn't let up since. Combining some hard core classical and other forms of music including a bit of new age, this is a masterpiece of an album with great imaginative titles designed for the mature ear, without seeming like he's giving a music lesson or anything in the process. Make no mistake about it, this is the real deal for lovers of classically infused music. It's easy to tell by listening to this that Lord is of the most musically important band members in the Purple legacy, simply because of his diversity and composing abilities. Sadly he was not used nearly enough during their second coming, from 1984 til he retired from his position with them in 2002. This is a real treat for any real music lover, whether familiar with Lord or not. It's one of his most interesting releases to date, and I'm sure his fans, as well as fans of classically infused popular music can appreciate it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sunrise

This is just a little prelude for the next track, and it sets the mood of the whole album perfectly. Lord commands the composition but it's accompanied by a lovely string arrangement.

Pictured Within

The title track starts with Anderson singing, and it's almost a tear jerking account of friends and family, lovers and fighters. Majestic vocals help the overall mood on this excellent piece of music.

From The Windmill

Lord spars on piano with a swiping string arrangement that at times bursts through the otherwise woodwind featured piece. There is nothing quite like it to be found in his catalog before this. All is subtle when need be, and  crashing on the other hand when the time comes.

Circles Of Stone

Things get much much more quiet on this number, which is mostly string dominated. Nothing overall too exciting, but the beauty of this album is the quietness of it, rather than it's occasional orchestral outbursts. This little track rounds out part one.

Menorca Blue

Part two begins with much more of a thing of beauty than the previous tune. Things start to take shape for what is to come and we get some lovely flute.

Evening Song

This starts out with a wavering string arrangement before Brown sings a sweet melody that might seem out of place to some, as she does go a bit against the arrangement in places. No matter, she is so captivating that it goes very unnoticed until repeat listens bring it out. Otherwise Brown puts in a fantastic performance here that makes way for a killer violin solo before she returns with some of the most beautiful sounding falsettos. She is well known for those falsettos, singing with the likes of Pink Floyd and others.

Music For Miriam

The mood goes into a more complex arrangement without losing the listener for one second in the process. As mentioned before, this record concerns friends and family, and just like everything here, it's personal, so it easily captures the soul with its brutal honesty.

Arc-En-Ciel

The unique beginning of this one brings it in with more complexity, but it's a much quieter piece overall, as it even gets nearly silent in parts. If anything here can go unnoticed it would have to be this piece, but after repeated visits it grows and grows.

Wait A While

Part four starts with this great track which Brown had the opportunity to perform live with Lord and the London Symphony Orchestra at Deep Purple Concerto for Group and Orchestra's second coming at the Royal Albert Hall, almost 30 years to the day later. It's one of my favorite vocal performances from Brown, which is likely because of so many repeated listening to get it there.

Crystal Spa

We get an all out epic number here, clocking in at the longest here in its near fifteen minutes, it's the albums magnum opus if you ask me. A simply brilliant arrangement, this has all kinds of wonderful ups and downs that are a joy to kick back and experience. While it doesn't have any sort of rock flair to it whatsoever, it would be ruined if it did, so it gives an insight to where Lord's heart was pointing, and has stayed the course ever since. This track makes the whole album for me.

The Mountain Sunset

This is another that lends so well to its great title, and it pleases the ear to invest time to get through, as once again it's a classically defined number. Here the ears are treated to a more up and down arrangement that builds up in places while a quiet factor somehow enhances it as well. Things come to a crashing halt toward the end with a gong piercing through the ears - truly amazing!

A Different Sky

Things end on an appropriately somber note.

 
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