Deep Purple-Concerto for Group and Orchestra (DVD-Audio) (1969) (NTSC)

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Released 1-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Animation
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-The Best Of Both Worlds
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 112:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Jon Lord
Ritchie Blackmore
Ian Gillan
Ian Paice
Roger Glover
Malcolm Arnold
Case ?
RPI ? Music Jon Lord
Malcolm Arnold


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English MLP 48/24 5.1
English MLP 48/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'm going to presume that if you're reading this review then you already know something of the history of this great band, so I am not going to go into the complexities of the many and varied incarnations this group has seen. There are many detailed sites out there dedicated to that very subject, I'll only say that this recording features what many purists consider to be the definitive line-up of Deep Purple; Gillan, Glover, Lord, Blackmore and Paice.

    In recent years many artists in the rock genre have used orchestral accompaniment to add colour to their live performance, from Metallica to Kiss, and even The Tea Party. The Concerto For Group and Orchestra was composed by Deep Purple's keyboardist, Jon Lord, and marked what was arguably the first combined performance by a rock group and orchestra. Lord has stated in many interviews that it was his intention to compose a piece that almost sounds improvised, like a jam, although the body of work has been meticulously arranged. This effect certainly worked, as many moments during the piece have a very loose feel.

    Recorded in 1969, the entire performance consists of three distinct segments; Malcolm Arnold's 6th Symphony in three movements, a set of three songs by Deep Purple on their own, and the Concerto For Group and Orchestra with encore. The performance itself is continuous, apart from only two fadeouts that exist between tracks three and four, and six and seven.

    Ambitious and melodic, Arnold's 6th symphony would have appeared quite contemporary at this time. It certainly suits the occasion, with swooping, gorgeous string arrangements and pompous bursts of brass that sharply counteract and play against the strings. I found the third movement most interesting, with a theme that strangely resembles a western movie - both dramatic and adventurous.

    After a brief introduction by Ian Gillan, the band launch into a classic cover tune that they made their own, a driving rock song with a solid groove. The following title, Wring That Neck, is a bluesy instrumental number, featuring solos for keyboard and guitar. Child In Time closes the band's set and features an inspiring vocal performance by Gillan. This is a seminal Deep Purple tune, which later appeared on their breakthrough album In Rock.

    The concerto is very distinct from movement to movement, showing a developing and often reluctant relationship between the rock group and orchestra. The first movement is predominately taken up by the orchestra establishing itself - in fact, the band doesn't appear until the movement's second half and even then it is a subdued appearance. Movement two sees the orchestra become less aggressive and is at times delicate and wistful, featuring a brief vocal interlude by Ian Gillan. The band begins to make itself a little more known, and by the third movement the two entities are co-existing harmoniously, trading melodies and complementing one another as though they are one cohesive unit. Movement three is highlighted by a great drum solo by Ian Paice, who also features in the bombastic encore.

    This is - according to my knowledge - the first time that the concert has been available in its entirety. The performance of the concerto was aired live by the BBC in 1969, and was subsequently released on album the following year. The band's three song set was later made available on the compilation LP Powerhouse after the band split in the mid 70s, and EMI scoured the vaults for more material suitable for release by the definitive line-up. Arnold's 6th Symphony performance appears to not have been officially released along with the other portions of the concert until now.

    The concerto was re-recorded by Deep Purple in 1999 with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Mann and makes for a slightly different performance with Steve Morse on guitar, rather than Ritchie Blackmore. This 1969 performance is my preferred of the two, as it contains a different energy and somehow feels less clinical than the 1999 rendition.

    It's satisfying to see titles such as this arriving on DVD-Audio, and I for one am looking forward to the future of this format, for both historical and contemporary releases.

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Track Listing

1. Op. 95: Energico (9:16)
2. Op. 95: Lento (8:50)
3. Op. 95: Con fuoco (6:57)
4. Hush (4:44)
5. Wring That Neck (13:22)
6. Child In Time (12:00)
7. Concerto Movt.1: Allegro (19:27)
8. Concerto Movt.2: Andante (19:10)
9. Concerto Movt.3:Vivace-Presto 13:07
10. Encore (5:51)

Transfer Quality

Video

    The disc contains some brief video content in the extra features and is satisfactory in quality, considering the age of this performance. As with most DVD-A discs, all video content is NTSC, and presented without 16x9 enhancement.

Audio

    There are four audio options to choose from on this release. If you are using a DVD-Video player, you can select either Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kb/s) or Dolby Digital 2.0 (448 Kb/s), while those bestowed with DVD-Audio hardware can access MLP 5.1 and MLP 2.0 tracks, both of which are sampled at 48Khz / 24bit. The 5.1 audio option is default on both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio players.

    I began with the DVD-Video portion of the disc, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The use of the surround channels appeared minimal at first, with only slight echoes and a little panning directed to the rears. As the horns made themselves more known, I realised how encompassing they were in comparison with the strings which seemed to be situated to the right of the mix. Crowd cheering and the like is very prominent from all angles.

    All facets of the orchestra come across crystal clear and although I haven't heard any such music on DVD-Audio before, it is plain to hear that this kind of recording benefits from an immersive surround mix. As the band begin their set some flaws in the recording made themselves known, such as distortion to the vocal which can be heard during Hush and similar distortion and crackling on the odd cymbal hit. Blackmore's guitar has been given a similar enveloping feel to that of the orchestra's horns, spilling slightly from the rear channels and dominating the front soundstage at times. Gillan's vocal is situated in the front centre speaker, while the keyboard stays slightly to the left, with the bass guitar.

    Very little response is noted from the subwoofer. It appears that most of the lower end of the mix is being reproduced by the front left and right speakers.

    The Dolby Digital stereo track has a slightly lower volume level and appears to suffer a little more from the distortion issues. It's possible that this is the original stereo mix that was produced back in 1970, but I cannot be certain. The stereo mix lacked the depth and clarity of the surround mix and at times sounded like a bit of a mash, much too busy for two channels.

    I was surprised by the DVD-A content of the disc, and first listened to the 5.1 mix. The clarity and brightness of this track is striking - you can literally hear a pin drop in the orchestra and I noticed many more coughs and the like during the recording that I did not hear in the Dolby Digital tracks. The extra brightness inherent in the MLP audio is very easy to hear, particularly in the third movement of Arnold's symphony which features several big cymbal crashes and a very sharp tone from the snare drum. The brass sections of the performance are similarly sharper and come across in a much more dominating manner when they intend to. The distortion is still present in Gillan's vocal delivery during the band's first song, but to a slightly lesser degree. I didn't notice any distortion issues related to the percussion or cymbals.

    The MLP 2.0 track is similar to the Dolby Digital 2.0 effort, in that it seems to suffer more heavily from distortion to the vocals and drums. It is also of a similarly busy nature compared to that of the surround mix. My preferred of all the audio tracks is without a doubt the MLP 5.1 track, for its clarity and crisp, lightly enveloping delivery.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menus are animated with very funky graphics, but the main menu strangely doesn't include any audio. All other pages in the menu system contain audio samples from the concerto, as do the transitional pieces between screens. None of the menu pages are 16x9 enhanced. I found a slight glitch with the menus - when stereo audio is selected followed by the Play All function, the playback automatically starts from track two, rather than the beginning of the feature.

Featurette - The Best Of Both Worlds (3:31)

    This brief featurette contains some hilarious pompous voiceover by a British journalist, and includes some interesting background info on Malcolm Arnold's career, as well as an intimate conversation between Lord and Arnold. The NTSC transfer is presented in 1.33:1 and contains some minor videotape artefacts, but is generally easy to watch.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As a general rule, DVD-Audio releases are identical across all regions. In this case, I thought it would be interesting to briefly list the contents of the DVD-Video release of this title for comparison.

    The DVD-Video release of this title has a relatively brief runtime of only 59 minutes because it is missing the first three movements of orchestration by conductor Malcolm Arnold. It is authored on a single-layered disc, and contains:

    I haven't personally seen the photo gallery, but if it is anything like the stills that accompany the DVD-Audio there is not much worth seeing.

Summary

    Deep Purple are one of the groups who defined rock in the 70s. This wouldn't be a very good place to start if you haven't heard them before, however fans who have been awaiting this release can rejoice! The mix is lightly enveloping, and makes good use of the surround channels for atmosphere alone. The MLP 5.1 track is the highlight, with superb clarity for percussion and cymbals.

    This is a great value DVD-Audio disc from a legendary band, and well worth checking out.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using S-Video output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
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