‘Gemini Suite’ was first performed live, as the follow up to Deep Purple's 1969 release, ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’ (a pioneering work that was one of the very first attempts to fuse hard rock and classical music together), at the Royal Festival Hall in London in September 1970, and was actually recorded the following year at Abbey Road and De Lane Lea studios. The album contains six pieces, each focusing on a particular instrument, with the inspiration being a member of Deep Purple.
The first piece features the guitar, the soloist being Albert Lee rather than Ritchie Blackmore. The guitar, as you would expect, is prominent but by no means dominates. In fact, there are passages where some forbidding sounding timpani or mellower woodwind parts take centre stage. Lord, in his composition, manages to blend both the rock and classical elements into a largely harmonious whole.
The second piece, and the first of two keyboard centred compositions, is built around the piano and Lord himself is the soloist. The piano, at times, plays a somewhat urgent motif and this sets the pace for a rather fast moving performance but with more reflective passages also accommodated. The third composition features Lord's Deep Purple band mate Ian Paice on drums, with percussion being the focus and he is able to showcase his considerable skills with a near 3 minute drum solo, without any accompaniment, within the framework of the overall piece.
The fourth and fifth arrangements feature vocals and the bass guitar respectively with the talents of Yvonne Elliman, a well-respected singer-songwriter who played Mary in the original production and TV adaptation of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and Tony Ashton of Family and Paice Ashton Lord the focus in the former while Roger Glover, another colleague of Lord's in Deep Purple, provides some atmospherically dark solo bass lines in the latter.
The sixth piece, the album's tour de force and the longest at 12 minutes, sees Lord demonstrate his unsurpassed skill on the organ with a combination of powerful classical passages, interlaced with moments where a more conventional rock style is apparent when Paice supplements Lord's playing with his drumming.
In terms of the classical influences on show here it seems, to these untrained ears at least, that Lord is steeped in the finest traditions of British classical music as elements of composers such as Vaughan Williams, Britten and Holst are discernible. Jon Lord, from the age of 5 when he started piano lessons in his home town of Leicester, had a classical background to his musical education and it seems that the two strands of both classical and rock were important to him throughout his hugely successful life as a musician. Far from competing with each other, it is apparent that Lord was able to move between the two with ease and, on occasion, such as is shown with this rerelease, combine the two to quite stunning effect.
I'm sure that this album won't be to everybody's taste but if you are open to the idea of different genres of music being forged together to create a greater whole then, if you haven't already, I would recommend that you give this superb work a moment of your time.
GEMINI SUITE (2016 REISSUE)
Review by Dave Uphill
9th December 2016
1) Guitar: soloist Albert Lee
2) Piano: soloist Jon Lord
3) Drums: soloist Ian Paice
4) Vocals: soloists Yvonne Elliman/Tony Ashton
5) Bass guitar: soloist Roger Glover
6) Organ: soloist Jon Lord
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...it seems that the two strands of both classical and rock were important to him throughout his hugely successful life as a musician. Far from competing with each other, it is apparent that Lord was able to move between the two with ease and, on occasion, such as is shown with this rerelease, combine the two to quite stunning effect."