|Jon Lord – ‘Before I Forget’ (Purple Records/Cherry Red)|
|Written by Jonathan Kardasz|
|Thursday, 16 March 2017 04:30|
If you’re a fan of hard rock then Jon Lord really shouldn’t need any introduction but just in case you’re a young ‘un or newbie to the scene then you need to know that Lord (who sadly passed away back in 2012) was a key member of Deep Purple Mk. I – IV (in fact a founding member of course) and then active in pretty much all of the reactivated versions of the band until he retired from touring and was replaced by Don Airey. In between the Purple work he also played on all of the best work by Whitesnake (some of which is arguably the match of the Purple oeuvre) before they went all hair metal. Actually, as an aside, is it fair to say that the prettier Whitesnake got the worse the music became? No offence to the early blues guys but you know what I mean eh? He also wrote the odd concerto or two; worked on film & telly soundtracks and guested with numerous acts and artists as well as releasing a bunch of solo albums.
All of which brings us to ‘Before I Forget’, his 1982 LP originally released on Harvest but now forming part of the lovely Purple Records reissue series from Cherry Red. The LP was recorded with a quite stellar cast of musicians…Boz Burrell, Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs (Bad Co); Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray (Whitesnake) and Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Whitesnake, Sabbath and much else) along with old pal Tony Ashton (Paice, Ashton & Lord). Also involved were Vicky and Sam Brown on both lead and backing vox, with Elmer Gantry on lead vox (no, me neither, but what a voice – search out the band Elmer Gantry for more info). Oh, and on one cut, Simon Phillips on drums (well, a quite astounding series of bands and musicians).
Lord himself regarded this as a “vaguely autobiographical” and “very personal” album and sequenced it specifically: “Side one has the ‘up’ tracks and side two contains the ‘down’ numbers so you can choose your mood”. For the purposes of this review though we will slice it up in to instrumentals and vocal sides.
It was no surprise that Lord released a predominantly instrumental record, and this is packed with examples of tunes that display his versatility and craft on all manner of keyboards, pianos and synths. This is a good thing if you’re a fan of songs sans vocals but if you’re not, then I guess you may well be skipping a few tunes as arguably the songs don’t necessarily have the power, dynamics or sheer pizzazz to stand repeated plays – but then maybe after all the blood and thunder of duelling with Richie and bringing the blues for Coverdale, Lord wanted to take things down a notch or two. ‘Tender Babes’ sounds like a title stolen from the smutty mind of Lord Coverdale but is a delicate little piece featuring harpsichord with a tender medieval coda. ‘Bach Onto This’ was the single and, well, it’s Bach reinvented as a lengthy, busy, up-tempo number with a cracking guitar solo from Bernie Marsden. Probably the most infectious instrumental cut here and easily the most memorable, ‘Before I Forget’ sticks around in the synapses, a subtle piano intro that builds up half way through to a louder effort with a nice understated coda. ‘Burntwood’ has attractive piano, but the up-tempo ‘Going Home’ (B side to ‘Bach Onto This’) has the cheese dial on the synth set a bit too high. The studio outtake Ravel’s ‘Pavane’ is a bit of a misfire, nowhere near as memorable as ‘Bach Onto This’. The 7” edit of ‘Bach…’ is included and is nowhere near as gonzo as the full length cut and the lesser for the edit. Finally, ‘For A Friend’ is an exceedingly pretty meander around Lord’s keyboard and synth rig.
Meanwhile, back with the vocal cuts… Opening cut ‘Chance On A Feeling’ leads with organ supported by a throbbing bass (sorry ,the ghost of Coverdale forces single entendres) with a lovely swirly mini organ sole morphing in to a guitar/organ duel. It chunders along at a Whitesnake pace and is a strong cut, albeit the only weakness being Marsden’s vox: but perhaps it’s harsh to judge him against the previous mic wielders that Lord was associated with in previous bands. ‘Hollywood Rock And Roll’ is a delightful funky little number – cheeky beat and bubbling rhythm section. In fact, a proper groover enlivened by backing vox (the Browns excel on this album) and with a strong vocal lead from Ashton. ‘Say It’s All Right’ is a strong tune, a lovely piano ballad intro that builds in to a bit of an epic – the sort of tune that a telly talent show would be all over. The only co-write on the LP, with man of mystery Gantry and featuring a very nice guitar solo, ‘Where Are You?’ has aching Gantry vocals with just a Lord accompaniment: a simple tune and yet possibly the stand out cut on the album. ‘Lady’, sung by Vicky Brown, is nearly an ABBA song – and that’s absolutely not meant as an insult as they crafted some superior tunes (just ask Elvis Costello and the Pistols).
So, in summary, is this album worth your hard earned? Well if you’re a Purple completist, then it’s a no brainer; if not… well yeah, it’s a tidy album very much of its time; well played and well produced, with quite a few keepers and sure to be a grower.
‘Before I Forget’ is out now.
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