First of the Big Bands is a studio album by Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke and Jon Lord of Deep Purple, released in April 1974 by Purple Records in the UK and Europe and Warner Bros. Records in the US. The project was Ashton's and Lord's brainchild and continuation of their working relationship after Ashton Gardner & Dyke performed music written by Tony Ashton and Jon Lord on the soundtrack album The Last Rebel from 1971.
First of the Big Bands was begun its life in October 1971 at Apple Studios as a projected single - We're Gonna Make It . Tony Ashton and Jon Lord had such fun they decided to get together and do a whole album. Sessions took place at Air Studios in 1971 and 1972, De Lane Lea in 1972 and Island Studios in 1973, with return visits to Air and Apple at later dates for mixing down. Ashton and Lord wanted to create the feel of a big band in the studio, so had up to 15 musicians in at any one time, and usually worked with two drummers, guitars, brass, keyboards and backing vocals.
Other than Tony Ashton and Jon Lord, First of the Big Bands features the musical talents of: Roy Dyke, Terry Cox, Gerry Conway on drums, Caleb Quaye, Mick Grabham, Mick Liber on guitar. Also named but tracks not identified are Peter Frampton (of “Frampton Comes Alive” Fame), Ron Wood, pedal steel legend B.J. Cole, Wings saxophonist Howie Casey, Galliard’s Dave Caswell, Jeff Beck and Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell and fellow Deep Purple legend, Ian Paice even plays on one track.
Originally released in 1974 to avoid confusing the market during the line-up changes in Deep Purple.
When it finally emerged, it was decided not to credit any of the musicians to avoid any possible contractual problems. A complete list of players has never been published until now. Stylistically, First of the Big Bands was the precursor to Paice Ashton Lord's Malice in Wonderland album from 1977. This issue of the CD comes with an extensive booklet and two bonus tracks supplied by the Tony Ashton Estate.