Back in 1970, it seemed as though any British group that could was starting to utilize classical elements in their work -- for some, like ELP, that meant quoting from the classics as often and loudly as possible, while for others, like Yes, it meant incorporating classical structures into their albums and songs. Deep Purple, at the behest of keyboardman Jon Lord, fell briefly into the camp of this offshoot of early progressive rock with the Concerto for Group and Orchestra. For most fans, the album represented the nadir of the classic (i.e., post-Rod Evans) group: minutes of orchestral meandering lead into some perfectly good hard rock jamming by the band, but the trip is almost not worth the effort. Ritchie Blackmore sounds great and plays his heart out, and you can tell this band is going to go somewhere, just by virtue of the energy that they put into these extended pieces. The classical influences mostly seem drawn from movie music composers Dimitri Tiomkin and Franz Waxman (and Elmer Bernstein), with some nods to Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, and Mahler, and they rather just lay there. Buried in the middle of the second movement is a perfectly good song, but you've got to get to it through eight minutes of orchestral noodling on either side. The third movement is almost bracing enough to make up for the flaws of the other two, though by itself, it wouldn't make the album worthwhile -- Pink Floyd proved far more adept at mixing group and orchestra, and making long, slow, lugubrious pieces interesting. As a bonus, however, the producers have added a pair of hard rock numbers by the group alone, "Wring That Neck" and "Child in Time," that were played at the same concert. They and the third movement of the established piece make this worth a listen.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder