Roger Glover & Friends

The But­ter­fly Ball And The Grasshop­per’s Feast

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff Reissues - tim Batcup

Deep Pur­ple bassist’s en­dear­ing 1974 pe­riod piece re­vis­ited.

Atouch­stone that will be part of any half­way-com­pre­hen­sive 70s vinyl col­lec­tion, Roger Glover’s pas­toral rock opera/con­cept al­bum The But­ter­fly Ball And The Grasshop­per’s Feast has a rel­a­tively con­vo­luted back story. William Roscoe’s early-19th-cen­tury chil­dren’s poem of the same name piqued the imag­i­na­tion of the Bri­tish psy­che­delic artist de jour Alan Aldridge, still rid­ing high in both pro­file and pop­u­lar­ity with the suc­cess of his two-vol­ume The Bea­tles Il­lus­trated Lyrics. Aldridge and writer William Plover then col­lab­o­rated on a full-length book of the poem (1973) which won chil­dren’s book of the year, and sold a shit­load.

Es­chew­ing any moral guid­ance and fea­tur­ing an an­thro­po­mor­phised cast of bugs and an­i­mals in a set­ting not en­tirely dis­sim­i­lar to The Wind In The Wil­lows, its ap­peal to the psychedel­i­cally in­clined was writ large, and was an ob­vi­ous con­tender for the rock con­cept treat­ment. Af­ter both Pink Floyd and Jon Lord passed, a newly unem­ployed Roger Glover took up the chal­lenge, and the re­sult­ing al­bum showed a breadth of song­writ­ing pre­vi­ously buried within Deep Pur­ple’s pa­ram­e­ters. Veer­ing from dra­matic whimsy to cham­ber pop and prog, all shot through with a stage­mu­si­cal sen­si­bil­ity, notes of Peter Ham­mill, Hair the mu­si­cal, El­ton John, Camel and Car­a­van can all be de­tected. Glover was aided and abet­ted by a cast of fa­mous friends in­clud­ing David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, a pre-Rain­bow Ron­nie Dio, and part of the record’s ap­peal is the in­clu­sion of lesser-known and some­times lesser-able con­trib­u­tors on vo­cals; Elf pi­anist Mickey Lee Soule in par­tic­u­lar de­liv­ers a won­der­ful hes­i­tancy to the pub-rock knees-up No So­lu­tion. It’s Dio how­ever, who steals the lime­light with smooth un­der­state­ment on Sit­ting In A Dream, and power on The Bea­tles-y (and mi­nor hit) Love Is All, even with the ig­nominy of play­ing the role of a frog.

This reis­sue is given a hand­some clamshell treat­ment by Cherry Red, with three CDs, lyric poster plus ex­ten­sive liner notes and a Glover in­ter­view by CR’s Mal­colm Dome, and a host of nichein­ter­est al­ter­na­tive mixes are buoyed by a rel­a­tively stripped-down demo of Love Is All, with Dio shar­ing vo­cals with an un­named co-singer. A con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous Amer­i­can ra­dio half-hour spe­cial re­veals Glover as a mod­est and con­sid­ered in­ter­vie­wee, pre­dis­pos­ing one to­wards af­fec­tion for both the man and the con­cept. And while there’s nothing stellar on of­fer, the co­her­ence, range and charm more than make up.

Roger Glover per­form­ing his But­ter­fly Ball at Lon­don’s Royal Al­bert Hall in 1975.

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