Celebrating Jon Lord Pays Proper Homage To One Of The Music World’s Great Minds And Musicians

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

The music world lost one of its greatest figures two years ago when Deep Purple keyboardist and founding member Jon Lord passed away.  Lord may be gone but his legacy as a member of one of rock’s greatest bands lives on today thanks to songs such ‘Smoke on the Water,’ ‘Soldier of Fortune,’ ‘Burn’ and so many others.  His legacy as a composer lives on to as he crafted his own modern classical works including the now famous ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’ among others.  Earlier this year, Lord’s former Deep Purple band mates and his fellow musicians came together to celebrate his rich legacy at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall at the annual Sunflower Jam.  And now fans of Deep Purple and of Jon Lord alike get to experience that celebration for themselves thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment and Universal Music Group in the form of the triple-disc CD set Celebrating Jon LordCelebrating Jon Lord is a wonderful tribute to one of the great musical minds of the modern era.  The primary reason that it is such a wonderful tribute in its CD form is that the celebrations of Lord’s contributions to the rock world and the classical world are separated into two stand-alone collections.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this collection is its collective set list.  And last worth noting is the audio mix on this recording in whole.  All three factors together make Celebrating Jon Lord a wonderful celebration of a great man and a great musical mind and one more welcome addition to the library of any Deep Purple fan or classic rock fan in general.

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new live recording Celebrating Jon Lord is not the first feature to focus on the late founding member of Deep Purple.  The leader in live recordings, Eagle Rock released Jon Lord: Concerto for Group and Orchestra on both CD and DVD last year in separate packages.  The recording focused primarily on what is considered one of his greatest non-rock compositions.  Celebrating Jon Lord does not include this work on either half of the recording.  While it doesn’t include that composition, Celebrating Jon Lord: The Composer presents even more of Lord’s non-rock compositions.  It stands alone from the other half of the concert recorded earlier this spring, “Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend.  This separation of the show into two packages is the central point of the concert’s CD presentation.  Audiences that want to hear only Lord’s work with Deep Purple can pick up the second half of the performance Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend.  Those that prefer hearing Lord’s personal non-rock compositions can pick up Celebrating Jon Lord: The Composer .  Sure, it’s a little problematic for those wanting the full concert experience on CD as it means having to purchase both sets.  But it’s money well-spent regardless.  And now that the concert has been released onto a companion Blu-ray, those same audiences can see the entire concert in one single package in place of having to purchase both CDs if they don’t want to have to pay that much for two separate sets. Regardless, both of the CDs offer their own share of enjoyment from start to finish.

The separation of the Sunflower Jam concert celebrating the legacy of Jon Lord is among the most important factors in the success of this triple-disc live recording.  Just as important of note is the recording’s overall set list.  On the rock side, audiences are treated to a number of classic Deep Purple tunes which Lord helped bring to life.   Some of the best of those classics include the bluesy ‘I’m Gonna Stop Drinking,’ the full-on rocker that is ‘Burn’ and the much easier-going almost funk-style ‘Things Get Better.’  On the classical side, anyone that has any familiarity with the world of classical music will most certainly appreciate that collection’s first two songs.  ‘Fantasia,’ which opens the classical portion of the concert, bears very clear influence from Aaron Copland and to a lesser extent, Eric Osterling.  And its Indian-influenced opening measures aside, ‘Durham Awakes’ feels like something that came right out of the Broadway rendition of author Arthur Laurents’ book West Side Story with its complex, multi-part arrangement.  It’s the type of thing that would make Leonard Bernstein proud if he were alive today to hear it.  It’s one more example of what makes the collective set list of these two collections such a joy.  There are plenty of other songs from which listeners will find their favorite(s).  Simply put, there is not one back performance throughout the concert regardless of which side of the show one prefers.  Altogether, it’s one more reason that fans of Deep Purple and of classical music and classic rock alike will enjoy this recording in whole.

The separation of Celebrating Jon Lord into two separate halves and the set list of each half of the concert together make this recording a true joy for any Deep Purple fan and any fan of classical music and classic rock.  Neither of these factors would mean anything on the recording’s CD packaging however without one all-important aspect.  That aspect is the recording’s audio mix.  It is noted in the booklet included with Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend that Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson and Lord’s former Deep Purple band mate Glenn Hughes actually “endangered the Albert Hall Architecture with ultra-passionate and furiously energetic versions of two Mark 3 Deep Purple classics, ‘You Keep On Moving’ and ‘Burn.’  That’s saying something, especially considering Albert Hall’s massive size from ceiling to floor and stage to doors.  Luckily, as powerful as Dickinson and Hughes were on these pieces, those charged with balancing the levels handled their duties expertly.  Though, that power does still show through at least to a certain extent whether in a car or on a radio.  That in itself is a tribute to the work of said individuals.  Much the same can be said of their work balancing the levels when powerhouse singer Steve Balsamo took the stage to perform on Lord’s composition ‘All Those Years Ago.’  Balsamo exhibits such control over his instrument.  He soars when it’s time to really hit those key moments.  He holds back just enough in the more reserved moments, too.  The audio engineers make those moments come out even more with their work here.  They exhibit just as much talent and expertise throughout the remainder of the concert.  Audiences will hear that expertise for themselves when they pick up either or both of these recordings for themselves.  The concert’s high quality audio mix, coupled with the show’s set list and its separation into two halves, leads to one more live recording that adds to Eagle Rock’s reputation as the leader in live recordings. It also adds even more to the reputation of Deep Purple and Jon Lord as one of the music world’s best bands and best musical minds.  Altogether, it proves Celebrating Jon Lord to be a wonderful celebration that any true music lover will appreciate.

Celebrating Jon Lord is a wonderful musical celebration of a wonderful musical mind.  The separation of the concert’s audio side into two halves lets audiences choose which half they prefer more should they prefer one half of the show to another.  The set list itself proves that both sides of the concert are well worth the purchase in its audio side.  The work of the concert’s audio engineers balancing the concert’s audio levels is nothing short of expert.  All three factors together make the audio portion of Celebrating Jon Lord a welcome addition to the library of any Deep Purple fan and lover of music in whole.  That is not to discount the booklets that come with each half of the concert.  The booklets that come with the CDs offer their own additional insight and enjoyment to the experience, making it even more worth hearing.  Those wanting to hear the concert’s audio side can pick up either collection now or both as they are available in stores and online.  The CDs’ companion Blu-ray presentation is also available now.  More information on these releases and others from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

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From Dust To Dreams A Concert Dream Come True

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Las Vegas is typically known by its nickname, “Sin City.”  The other “city that never sleeps” is dominated by gambling, girls, and much more.  Because of that reputation, few people would ever associate the famed city with a center for the performing arts.  But there is in fact a center for the performing and cultural arts in Las Vegas now in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.  Thanks to PBS, audiences that weren’t able to be in attendance at the celebration of the center’s opening can now re-live the concert event any time that they want.

from Dust to Dreams: Opening Night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts chronicles the celebration held in honor of the center’s opening.  What can be said of this performance but it was an impressive show from a who’s who of the music and entertainment community.  Performers the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Mavis Staples, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and more than can be named here took part in the two-hour long celebration of the arts coming to Las Vegas at long last.  Host of the Tonys and star of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother served as emcee of this presentation.  What’s interesting to note about his presence in this performance is how much different it was in comparison to what audiences have become accustomed to from the actor.  This isn’t a bad thing, either.  If anything, it only serves to heighten the enjoyment of the overall presentation.  Add in expertly mixed audio and video, and audiences get what is in retrospect one of the best live recordings of 2012.

The very first thing that can be noted of from Dust to Dreams is that it opens and closes in fine fashion.  The opening number performed by trumpet player Arturo Sandoval.  Sandoval’s performance was an outstanding opener for the two-hour event.  His control over his instrument shows the result of his years of training.  This is especially the case when he hits the final high note of his opening number.  Far too often, some overzealous performers hit high notes in songs, thinking they sound good.  But in reality the performers in question are blasting out the notes, resulting in a very harsh sound.  That wasn’t the case with Sandoval’s performance.  His performance got the energy flowing and set the bar for what was to come through the rest of the show’s performances.

The performances that follow that of Sandoval hold the bar quite well.  Whether the medley of songs from Man of La Mancha and West Side Story, the classic country of veteran artist Willie Nelson, or even the more rocking sounds of John Fogerty, this show spans the musical spectrum and will entertain audiences of all ages and musical tastes.  Adding to the enjoyment of the concert is the presence of emcee Neil Patrick Harris.  Yes, Harris was more subdued in his hosting duties here than as host of the Tonys.  But this was an entirely different event.  Even the performers had their time on stage limited as there were so many performers.  What’s more, Harris did offer his share of pretty funny jokes when he was on stage.  Audiences need to keep this in mind in considering his performance as emcee of this event.  In doing so, those same individuals will enjoy the laughs that Harris shares when he is on stage.

The performance of host Neil Patrick Harris and that of the show’s performers make from Dust to Dreams quite the enjoyable live recording.  One would be remiss though, to ignore the importance of the show’s audio and video mix.  Going back to the show’s opening number by Arturo Sandoval straight through to the show’s closing number, the audio and video have been expertly mixed.  There are some songs that absolutely soar throughout the course of this program.  And then there are other, more subtle pieces that were captured so well.  Whether one has a home surround sound theater or not, one can still experience so much.  Those that do have home theater systems will appreciate the performances even more.  That’s because the picture will look crystal clear on an HDTV and the sound will sound just as clear.  This is especially true for those with surround sound.  It is these aspects that make the overall presentation on this DVD so enjoyable.  In retrospect, it makes this collection of performances one of the best live recordings of 2012.  From Dust to Dreams is available now.  It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=13233132&cp=&sr=1&kw=from+dust+to+dreams&origkw=from+Dust+to+Dreams&parentPage=search&searchId=1374600.

Fans of PBS and its programming can keep up with all of the latest news, releases and more from the network online at http://ww.facebook.com/pbs and at http://www.pbs.org.

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