Roger Glover & Friends
The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast
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.