From the band’s debut in the late 60’s, until his retirement in 2002, Jonathan Douglas Lord was at the helm of Deep Purple’s Hammond Organ, playing on 16 consecutive studio albums.
Many bands and musicians have had keyboardists in the past, but Jon Lord made his instrument just as popular as the guitar. Sadly, he passed away in July of 2012, after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. In honor of his memory, I’ve compiled a list of the ten best Deep Purple songs that he and his organ played a major role in.
10. Mitzi Dupree (From 1987’s The House Of Blue Light)
Even though this album was trouble by all accounts, and eventually constituted in the second breakup of the classic lineup, this song was a fine example of Lord’s skill at the piano, with his ever-so-subtle graces, along with classy blues-inspired accompaniment. With a couple of nods here and there to “Woman From Tokyo,” there’s a lot to enjoy from this song for both die-hards and “classicists,” who only acknowledge their work from 1970-1973.
9. Ramshackle Man (From 1993’s The Battle Rages On…)
This song, from the final album featuring Deep Purple’s most classic lineup, contains a great bluesy beat, and a monstrous organ solo from Lord. He makes that Hammond sound as if it might bite you if get too close!
8. Fingers To The Bone (From 1998’s Abandon)
The second album with guitarist Steve Morse, as well as Lord’s final album before his retirement from the band in 2002, this song is rumored to be inspired by former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Along with a classic Lord organ accompaniment, it has one of the most beautiful piano solos Lord ever played, while a member of the band.
7. This Time Around (From 1975’s Come Taste The Band)
Usually mixed with the same track as an instrumental entitled “Owed To G,” “This Time Around” is a simple piano piece, coupled together with an emotional Glenn Hughes vocal performance, with some synth overdubs here and there. A quiet ballad, almost requiem-style, this song is a breathtaking look into Lord’s more classical influences.
6. The Battle Rages On… (From 1993’s The Battle Rages On…)
Continuing the trend of stellar opening pieces, this song is a testament to the band’s musicianship. It contains powerful drums, thick bass, a quiet introduction that leads into a crushing riff by Blackmore, classic multi-tracked vocals, a classic guitar/organ breakdown near the final chorus, and a tasteful solo by Lord nearing the end. Whoever seeks this piece out will undoubtedly discover a hidden classic.
5. What’s Going On Here? (From 1974’s Burn)
With classics like the title track, “You Fool No One,” “Might Just Take Your Life,” and “Mistreated,” it’s no wonder “What’s Going On Here?” is an overlooked gem on 1974’s Burn. An interesting little note about this song, besides it perhaps being Lord’s best moment on the album; there is technically NO organ on the song. It’s entirely guitar-and-piano driven, featuring Blackmore and Lord with some stellar guitar/piano tradeoffs. It’s a great song for parties!
4. Hold On (From 1974’s Stormbringer)
Though this album ultimately led to Blackmore’s departure, 1974’s Stormbringer had more than its fair share of classics. Lord’s best moment here is on the tender love song, “Hold On”. With a tender electric piano intro, coupled with David Coverdale’s coos and Hughes’ wails, this is also memorable because it’s the only Deep Purple song from this period that does not have a Blackmore co-credit. Nevertheless, the song still contains a very bright guitar solo, which leads into a tasteful Lord electric piano piece.
3. Anya (From 1993’s The Battle Rages On…)
Perhaps the best example of both Jon and Ritchie’s love of classical compositions, 1993’s “Anya” starts of with a beautiful Spanish-style introduction, before segueing into a bright, but heavy, rock song. Though everything about this song is pretty much perfect, the true pièce de résistance is the ending. After a mesmerizing guitar outro by Blackmore, it fades into a beautiful piano refrain that, if it doesn’t inspire you to play the keyboards, it’ll at least leave you in awe.
2. Anthem (From 1968’s The Book Of Taliesyn)
“Anthem” starts out with Blackmore on acoustic guitar, and original front-man Rod Evans’s vocals, before the rest of the band joins in before the first choral bridge/key change. Beginning at 2:46, Jon Lord plays a beautiful Bach-style fugue, which gives way to beautiful violin arrangement at 3:09, which accompanies a returning Lord at 3:37, until Ritchie joins in 3:48 and, at the 4:26 mark, the band joins in with guitars and violins. The final chorus doesn’t come in until the 5:10 mark and, at 5:50, the band once again drops out, leaving only Lord playing another fugue-style solo until the song ends.
Unfortunately, due to the mass complexity of this song, there is no known live recording of this song, which is a shame.
1. Purpendicular (The Entire 1996 Album)
Yes, the entire Purpendicular album deserves the top spot; each and every song on the album has a strong presence from Lord. While it is an introduction to guitarist Steve Morse, Lord has very powerful moments on the album, none more powerful than on the songs “Soon Forgotten,” “A Castle Full Of Rascals,” “The Aviator,” “Somebody Stole My Guitar,” “The Purpendicular Waltz,” and even the hidden track, “Don’t Hold Your Breath”.
Even on songs where his presence is more subdued, such as “Loosen My Strings” and the quiet epic “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming,” Lord manages to maintain a beautiful ambiance that remains an unmatched force. For any emerging keyboardist worth their salt, this album is an undeniable must-have for your collection. Its awesome solos, quiet passages, and bluesy presence has been inappropriately lost on modern rock acts today.
The music world lost an irreproachable force of nature when Jon Lord passed away, but his body of work is eclectically vast. The man, and his art, was almost too great to simply be called spectacular.
Written By Patrick Cervantez