Jon Lord / Ashton Gardner & Dyke -
The Last Rebel

To a Deep Purple fan, especially a Jon Lord fan, this album is a lost gem. Add to which that it also features Tony Ashton (as part of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke) and you have both an addition to the catalogue of Jon's orchestral work and a precursor to their subsequent collaborations, "First Of The Big Bands" and "Malice In Wonderland".

Whilst originally credited as an Ashton, Gardner & Dyke album, a look at the writing credits shows that this album owes an awful lot to Jon Lord. The session tapes also testify to Jon's management of the project. In addition to providing keyboards on many tracks, he also conducts the orchestra and turns his hands to tambourine and xylophone.

Recorded at De Lane Lea's Dean Street studios (not their Kingsway studios where Deep Purple, amongst others, recorded), the album was put together, with engineer John Stewart, over three days in late September 1970, together with a further day three weeks later, in October, when the group numbers were completed and the orchestral pieces were laid down. The enjoyment that was had in the studio is clearly evident on the outtakes that have been included on the CD.

Remarkably, work commenced only a few days after the debut of Jon's "Gemini Suite" and Jon fitted the project's recording sessions in between UK dates with Deep Purple (their biggest tour to date, coinciding with the success of "Black Night" and press reports of "Purplemania"), a date in Paris and a seminal session for BBC Radio One. Ashton, Gardner & Dyke had also just recorded their "Resurrection Shuffle", to be released later in the year.

Jon provides the bulk of the music, cleverly carrying themes throughout the work: The main melody of the title track appears again during "The Pool Game" and "Hollis' Getaway", whilst the opening number is featured again towards the end (though with the group's section preceding the orchestra's theme) as "Graves To The Graveyard" and the melody for "Up The Hill" resurfaces in "The Meal" and "Death Of A Whore".

scans of 'The Last Rebel' book & video covers

The original vinyl is quite rare, though it was on catalogue in America long enough to be printed with both red and green Capitol labels. The titles of the film's instrumental tracks (at least those included on the original album) simply describe the scenes to which they relate and so they serve to outline the plot.

I find the film, for all its faults, quite enjoyable. For the benefit of those who have never seen it, it is set in Missouri in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War. The main actors and their characters are: Joe Namath as Burnside Hollis, Jack Elam as Matt Graves, Woody Strode as Duncan, Ty Hardin as Sheriff, and Victoria George as Pearl.

Namath's character is The Last Rebel: An ace marksman, pool hustler, God's gift to women and all-round good guy. His two colleagues are Matt Graves and Duncan, the latter saved from a hanging.

Whilst Namath was relatively new to films, Strode is best known for his brief but riveting appearance as a gladiator who battles with Kirk Douglas in Spartacus" (1960), also appearing in the John Wayne film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) and Sergio Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West" (1968). Wild-eyed Elam's credits include "High Noon" (1952), "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955), "Gunfight At The O.K. Corral" (1957) and "The Comancheros" (1961). He later played self-parodying Western heavies, in "Once Upon A Time In The West" (1968), "Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1969), "Rio Lobo" (1970), and "Support Your Local Gunfighter" (1971).

With virtually all of the women falling to the last rebel's charms, it is Pearl (and no, she's not a singer) who gives Hollis the chance to make some serious money, though we are later told on a couple of occasions that, "having so much money in your britches makes a man do funny things!" The pace is often slow, the dialogue thin, but liberally scattered throughout is the film's saving grace, the soundtrack. Enjoy.

Nigel Young

'The Last Rebel' CD is available from the dpas online store. Visit purple records for sound clips.

"You wouldn't buy this from the cover if you saw it in a record store. Another dull Western soundtrack, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

Jon Lord was the keyboard player with Deep Purple, and is renowned as one of the best Hammond organists to come out of the UK. While Deep Purple played rock, this album features some unbelievable way-out funk! Really odd prog-influenced, wah guitar horns and massive breaks. Look out for the killer old-school funk cut 'Hanging', and the wicked breaks of The Last Rebel. Definitely an oddball LP - there's a heavy dose of strangeness lurking in the arrangements - but a worthy addition to a funk soundtrack collection, and a producer's dream. I'm still in shock after listening to it."

LP review: Ed Griffiths,

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2002 DPAS/Darker Than Blue.
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