Live At The NEC By Deep Purple

January 10, 2017

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Deep Purple founding member Jon Lord announced his retirement from the band in 2002. He had other projects in mind after nearly 35 years with the group and he was feeling his age. He would pass away in 2012. The baton was officially passed on September 14, 20012, when Deep Purple took the stage at the NEC in Birmingham, England. New keyboardist Don Airey played with the band for the first half of the show and was then joined on stage by Lord for the second half.

This seminal concert by Deep Purple has only been available as part of the massive and pricey box set Around The World Live. Now the 109 minute performance has been issued as a stand-alone DVD.  The video is clear and the sound crisp as it presents the modern day version of Deep Purple at its best.

Given the historic nature of the concert, the set list is made-up of their well-known songs. “Fireball,” “Woman From Tokyo,” “Space Truckin,’” “Speed King,” Smoke On The Water,” ”Hush” “Black Night,” and “Highway Star” are a trip through the first two decades of their career.

The transition occurs with Airey’s keyboard solo at the conclusion of “Speed King,” when Lord comes on stage to join him as they move into “Perfect Strangers. “ Whether Airey, Lord, or both; the music is straightforward. At this point in their existence, they take few chances but give the fans what they want with passion and energy.

The concert provides a dividing line in the career of Deep Purple. The music would remain the same but Lord’s absence took a major presence out of the mix. Live At The NEC is a historic concert for the band in that it both a farewell and a look toward the future.


Monsters Of Rock: Live At Donington 1980 By Rainbow

September 19, 2016

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Ritchie Blackmore has had three distinct periods to his career. First he was the lead guitarist for Deep Purple, which made him a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Since 1997, he has found peace and happiness as part of the renaissance rock outfit Blackmore’s Night with partner Candace Night. In between he was the lead guitarist extraordinaire and front man for his own band Rainbow, with one pit stop when he reunited with Deep Purple for a short time.

During its existence Rainbow went through a number of personnel changes. When they performed at Donington, August 16, 1980, Blackmore was joined by vocalist Graham Bonnet, keyboardist Don Airey, bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Cozy Powell.

Vocalist Bonnet was only with the band for a short time and was in the unenviable position of replacing Ronnie James Dio. The rest of the band, in retrospect, is more like a hard rock all-star band.

The music from their Donington performance has been around in bits and pieces for a number of years. Now all the available music and footage from the concert has been issued as a CD + DVD set under the title Monsters Of Rock: Live At Donington 1980. This is the first time the concert has been released as a full length CD. The DVD is shorter, which probably means there is video footage that is lost.

Blackmore steals the show as he has rarely played better, which is quite a statement. The solos contained in “Catch The Rainbow” and “Stargazer” are rediscovered classics.

The concert is a combination of the band’s songs of the day, two covers including their hit “Since You Been Gone” and a surprisingly creative “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” plus a couple of Rainbow staples, including a crunching “Ling Live Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

Live At Donington: 1980 fills a hole in the Rainbow legacy with a document of a short-lived line-up. A nice addition for fans of the band, Blackmore, and Deep Purple.

 


Hush 45 by Deep Purple

August 10, 2012

This was the very early Deep Purple before Ian Gillian and Roger Glover. Guitarist Richie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, drummer Ian Paice, bassist Nick Simper, and vocalist Rod Evans were the original Deep Purple. While Simper and Evans would only last for three albums worth of material, they did manage to produce some excellent material.

The early incarnation of the band was more psychedelic rock than the hard rock sound for which they would become famous.

“Hush” was their first big hit single. Released during the summer of 1967, it reached number four on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States.

“Hush” remains one the the more unique and one of the best songs in their large catalogues.


Made In Japan by Deep Purple

February 6, 2012

Made In Japan was the live album that almost wasn’t. Originally intended to have only been issued in Japan, its release in the United States was pushed back five months so as not to interfere with Deep Purple’s studio release of Who Do We Think We Are. Finally released in the U.S. in April of 1973, it sold over one million copies and reached number six on the Billboard Pop Album Chart.

Whether by design or accident, the album caught Deep Purple at the right moment in time. The Mark II incarnation of Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover were at the height of their power. Gillan’s vocals were never better, and Blackmore was engaged and interested.

The album was recorded August 15-17 from concerts atKosei Nenkin Kaikan in Osaka and Budokan in Tokyo. The sound was excellent for the day, especially for the haphazard nature of the process. The album has been released in several expanded forms down through the years, but I am still attracted to the original.

Though it contained only seven songs, the initial vinyl release was a two-disc affair with two tracks to a side and one on side four. The band was touring in support of their Machine Head album, and elongated performances of four of its songs appear in this live set.

Made In Japan blasts out of the gate with a powerful rendition of “Highway Star,” making it immediately clear that the band members are in tune with one another and firing on all cylinders. A 12-minute “Child In Time” follows, allowing the band to stretch out a bit as Lord and Blackmore begin to improvise.

“Smoke On The Water” doesn’t get the audience reaction one would expect but the song had yet to become a hit at this point. This is a fairly loose interpretation of the song but the signature Blackmore guitar licks remain intact.

“The Mule” contains arguably the best drum solo of Ian Paice’s career, which given the quality and longevity of that career is saying a lot. Paice has provided the foundation for Deep Purple’s music for decades and this track illustrates him at his best. Ian Gillan’s voice now reflects the years of stress and strain but this live rendition of “Strange Kind Of Woman” finds him hitting notes that have rarely been reached. The 10-minute “Lazy” serves as a vehicle for some interplay between Lord and Blackmore.

The album comes to a close with a spectacular and nearly 20-minute version of “Space Truckin,’’ which begins with an extended jam before settling into its familiar melody. Just when you think the song is drawing to a close, one of the band members takes off in a new direction. This is probably the definitive version of this often-played hard-rock classic.

Made In Japan remains one of those live albums that that serves as a template against which all live albums should be judged. If a band is measured by its live work then Deep Purple receives an A+ for this effort. It is an essential listen for anyone interested in hard rock.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Made In Japan on Blogcritics.


Inglewood – Live In California by Deep Purple

January 26, 2012

The original Deep Purple line-up included singer Rod Evans, bassist Nicky Simper, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice. This Mark I incarnation of the band was together for three albums before Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.

For years it was thought that no live footage of the early Deep Purple existed. It turned out that one 1968 concert in Inglewood, California, where they opened for Cream, was recorded on a primitive open reel recorder. The tape was lost for years but ended up in the hands of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society. The music was finally issued on CD for the first time during 2002. Inglewood: Live In California contained some of the very few live Mark I recordings that have survived.

The sound leaves a lot to be desired due to the primitive and haphazard recording process. They probably cleaned it up as well as modern technology allowed but the result was average bootleg quality, at best.

Rod Evans was a good vocalist in the studio but on stage he paled next to his future replacement Ian Gillan. Still, it’s nice to hear him interpret the band’s early material. Bassist Nick Simper comes across as an excellent bassist as he and drummer Paice formed a very competent rhythm section. Blackmore was a presence on some of the tunes but it was Jon Lord on the keyboards that provided the dominating instrumental sound.

The set list is very different from every other Deep Purple live recording. Their two early hits “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” are psychedelic rock and hard rock respectively. “Mandrake Root” and “Wring That Neck” enabled Blackmore and particularly Lord to jam together and separately.

They couldn’t translate their brilliant cover of The Beatles’ “Help” from the studio to the stage. They just didn’t get the textures and tempos right. They finished with an almost 10-minute rendition of “River Deep Mountain High” and the old Leaves psychedelic classic “Hey Joe.” The Phil Spector/Ike &Tina Turner tune was turned into a psychedelic/hard rock hybrid. “Hey Joe” was a raw and gritty performance that would look ahead to some of their future work.

This early live material is not for the Deep Purple neophyte. It is for fans who want to explore their history and in that regard it is a valuable addition to their catalogue of music.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Inglewood – Live In California on Blogcritics.


Concerto For group And Orchestra by Deep Purple

January 25, 2012

Deep Purple released Concerto For Group And Orchestra in 1969 and it remains the most unusual album in its long history.Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had just replaced original members Rod Evans and Nick Simper, so Jon Lord and Gillan came up with the idea of recording with an orchestra.

The duo wrote a concerto in three movements and recorded it with theRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold, at Royal Albert Hall on September 24, 1969. The album had limited commercial success in the United States but was a hit in their home country of Great Britain.

This is one release where I advocate tracking down the 2002 two-CD edition. The sound on the original vinyl release was poor and not much better on the first CD reissue of the album. The 2002 CD release has a significantly cleaned up sound. In addition, more music was presented, which included a set by Deep Purple that was not included on the original release.

The actual concert began with a performance by Malcolm Arnold and the orchestra of his own, “Symphony Number 6,” in three movements. The music is available but is oddly out of place within the context of the album.

The 2002 CD release began with a three-song set by Deep Purple which stretched out to about 30 minutes. This was the first recording of the famous Mark II Deep Purple line-up. It is interesting to hear the band perform the pre-Mark II hit “Hush,” as it was a sound the band would quickly leave behind in the years ahead. Ritchie Blackmore was on fire for the 13-minute instrumental version of “Wring That Neck,” and if you are a fan of his style then this track is an essential listening experience. The classic Deep Purple track, “Child In Time,” was unreleased at the time but it served as a vehicle for Gillan’s amazing vocal range, which was at the height of its power back then.

The actual Concerto For Group And Orchestra was really the Jon Lord show. While Gillian did write some lyrics, Lord was responsible for the music, which was the concert’s centerpiece. The band and orchestra tended to trade the spotlight more than they actually played together in a traditional sense. While both seem to jam a little, in reality they do so within the structure of the music. Blackmore’s solo within the first movement and Paice’s thunderous drum solo during the third movement are highlights. The second movement was the least successful as it was more calm and peaceful as it veered toward a Moody Blues sound.

Concerto For Group And Orchestra was a unique stop for Deep Purple. It remains an album of “What ifs” for the band, as it would have been interesting if it had explored this direction a little more.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Concerto For Group And Orchestra on Blogcritics.


Rapture Of The Deep by Deep Purple

January 23, 2012

Deep Purple released Rapture Of The Deep November 1, 2005, and it remains their last studio album to date. The Mark VIII line-up of vocalist Ian Gillan, guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Don Airey returned for this, their second album together, and they continue to play together as of 2012.

It was a solid modern day Deep Purple album. If you want classic Deep Purple, however, then track down Machine Head, Fireball, In Rock and the like because they are different from what the band was producing in the studio during the 1990s and 2000s. The group, on this release, produced more of a straight-forward hard rock sound that has remained the same from recent album to album. It took fewer chances than during the 1970s and 1980s, which meant not as many low points but also fewer high points as well. What remained were songs that ran together not only on individual albums but from album to album. The band also had the experience to produce songs that translated well to the live stage.

Steve Morse emerged as a guitarist of the highest order when he joined the band, and now the instrumental sound revolves around his expertise. Airey had several tours and an album under his belt and has emerged as more of a presence since his first release with DP. Paice and Glover have remained one of the more powerful rhythm sections in rock.

With all that said, it was Ian Gillan who was at the heart of the album. His lyrics were some of the best of his career and while his voice may not have been as strong as in the past and some of the high notes were not reachable anymore, he had adjusted and his voice remained one of the superior instruments on the hard rock music scene.

There are a number of solid songs that add up to 55 minutes of listening enjoyment. “Money Talks” was a heavy blues/rock fusion piece with a thumping bass foundation. “Clearly Quite Absurd” was a gentle ballad and a nice counterpoint to much of their modern day material. “Junkyard Blues” can be best described as a southern hard rocker that had its roots in Morse’s former, and once in a while current, band the Dixie Dregs. “Don’t Let Go” was another southern rock-type song with some honky tonk piano by Airey. “Back To Back” found Airey establishing himself with an excellent synthesizer solo.

Rapture Of The Deep was an intelligent album from a veteran band. It may not have broken any new ground, but it covered the old very well. And at close to 40 years into their career at the time of its release, that was more than enough.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Rapture Of The Deep on Blogcritics.