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'Ian Paice's Sunflower Superjam - Live at The Royal Albert Hall 2012' is a double disc release, providing an audio/visual document of when the Deep Purple drummer's regular, charity motivated 'The Sunflower Jam' took to the prestigious interior of London's The Royal Albert Hall on September 16th for what became appositely labelled for the evening as 'The Sunflower Superjam'. Organised along with his wife, Jacky, the two of them successfully attracted the participation of a whole array of cross-genre, musical luminaries, thus, it is indeed what could be called a 'super jam'. And here it is, two and a half years later, on earMUSIC, in a dual CD/DVD package.

Eclectic within perceptive parameters would be an apt way of describing the musicians involved. On paper, including the likes of Alfie Boe, Sandi Thom and Level 42's Mark King alongside Bruce Dickinson and Alice Cooper might seem a little misplaced, although it all works really rather well. And, to quote the Iron Maiden frontman as he wanders out onto the stage with a beer in-hand midway through the show: "Two words...Alfie Boe...not worthy!" Of course, not all performers occupy the stage simultaneously (apart from during a climactic rendition of 'Smoke on the Water'), so there's a pleasing variety of material and personnel throughout. Apart from the house band and aforementioned names, there's also The Temperance Movement (who open the show admirably well, considering they must've been well out of their comfort zone in such a venue); Margo Buchanan; Brian Auger; Uli Jon Roth; Steve Balsamo; Brian May; Kerry Ellis; John Paul Jones; and Ian Paice. Further, acting legend Jeremy Irons can also be sporadically spotted in the crowd, and end credits point towards him being the 'Master of Ceremonies' for the evening, although footage of such has not been included. A poignant tribute to legendary, ex-Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, who sadly died in July 2012, just two months before the event, is included in proceedings, courtesy of Steve Balsamo, in the form of 'Pictured Within', after he delivers a short eulogy about the great man regarding his own experiences of working with him. Just two years later, of course, in 2014, the 'Sunflower' event, back at The Royal Albert Hall', would be dedicated to celebrating Lord's life and career.

On the visual front, the DVD looks rather great - a professionally shot show that captures both the magnificence of The Royal Albert Hall and all of the live action within. However, the sound quality, particularly the mix, could be better. With no audio options available, it's just a LPCM 2.0/48 kHz track that's offered up, which is acceptable enough itself, although wavers a little here and there. The CD fares better sound-wise, conveying concert hall acoustics well enough without compromising any of the resonant rock punch you'd expect from the songs, and it mimics the setlist of the main show on the DVD. However, between-song banter has been edited out (obviously to fit the music on a CD's more limited capacity), plus the DVD includes some bonus Boe and Bri with three additional tracks. So if you can accept a less than perfect sound, the DVD is perhaps the most ideal way to digest the Superjam. And you also get to see the rough-and-ready edge to the night with onstage music stands occasionally in place from which lyrics are sung - I'm guessing this is indicative of a lack of preparation/rehearsal time, albeit you'd never know from the performances themselves. Overall, despite the DVD's inherent sound issues, 'Live at The Royal Albert Hall 2012' is most definitely worth a watch/listen, if only for curiosity's sake with the "one night only" billing of its assorted musicians.
Review by Mark Holmes
74:00 & 83:43
9th March 2015
CD: 1) Ain't No Telling; 2) This Wheel's On Fire; 3) The Sails of Charon; 4) Rock and Roll; 5) Pictured Within; 6) Something About You; 7) Lessons in Love; 8) Emerald; 9) Behind Blue Eyes; 10) Black Night; 11) Since You've Been Gone; 12) Elected; 13) School's Out; 14) Smoke On the Water
DVD: Same tracklist as CD + bonus material: 1) I Want to Know What Love Is; 2) Only Friend; 3) Born Free; 4) I Loved a Butterfly
"...definitely worth a watch/listen, if only for curiosity's sake with the "one night only" billing of its assorted musicians."