Scandinavian Nights, In Concert 1970-1972, Live in London, and MK III: The Final Concerts
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Back in Biblical times, we kept our music in milk crates instead of on our telephones. Speakers the size of large dog houses rocked the neighbors and the dedicated fan kept a spare needle from Radio Shack on hand, just in case. And what we cranked to 11 were the classic bands, the Led Zeppelins and the Jefferson Airplanes and especially these guys: Deep Purple. It’s been over 40 years, but these guys are still touring and the fine folks at Eagle Rock just reissued four separate collections of Deep Purple’s live shows. This isn’t a boxed set but rather four separate jewel cases, and the material does overlap so let’s fire up the lava lamp and take the magical mystery tour.
The double album Scandinavian Nights has the earliest date code. It’s also the most self-indulgent album of the lot, and the one to consider if you really want the concert experience. The sound is clean and filled with long rambling jams, flashes of musical brilliance, and extended solos that allowed the rest of the band to go off-stage, take a shower, smoke a joint, go out for a pint, and maybe boff a few groupies. “Black Night” is a compact 7:51 and “Into The Fire” an absolutely pucker-tight 4:51, but the rest of the cuts run from 10 minutes to over half an hour. Purple covers the Stones’ “Paint It Black” and they delve deeply into “Child in Time.” While “Paint It Black” has a slow spot where I think the entire band leaves the stage, “Child in Time” features Gillian at his tight-leather-pants-screaming best. “Mandrake Root” and “Wring That Neck” are less well known, and at a half hour each you really need some psychotropics to justify the investment of time. That leaves “Speed King,” a solid piece that was a foundation of their show, but is now rather obscure. Scandinavian Nights is a free-form jazz concert improv jam album, and it’s an acquired taste like scotch whiskey and truffles.
John Peel and Mike Harding of the BBC introduce most of the music on Live in Concert 70-72. More disciplined than Scandinavian Nights, this album recalls The Doors – keyboards prominent and arresting, Deep Purple is at the peak of the “Mark II” phase, and the band is on the verge of its biggest success. The mega-jams are reduced and here we see the heavy rock stepping back from the faster-harder-better paradigm and turning toward the power ballad. The band is at its best lineup: Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Ian Gillian on vocals, Ian Paice on drums, Jon Lord on keys, and Roger Glover on bass. This session includes most of the Machine Head hits, although that release was still a few weeks in the future. “Wring That Neck” appears here along with “Mandrake Root” as well – these are acceptable songs, but feel like concert jam filler rather than reasons to pop for a ticket. We feel the beginnings of the power ballad with “Strange Kind of Woman.” It’s rock with a story line: A man pursues a woman, marries, and then she has the bad taste to die a few weeks later. While there’s an element of cock-rock in the song, it shows that heavy metal can have a heart. This two-disc set is my favorite; it’s like having a private Machine Head concert.
“Live in London” introduces the Mark III Version of Deep Purple. Glen Hughes replaces Roger Glover and David Cloverdale picks up vocals. The album Burn has just come out and that title track opens this show. After the mandatory local DJ intro, the band blasts out and gives the audience a sonic butt kicking. After the melodic “Might Just Take Your Life,” you hear the bones of “My Woman From Tokyo” opening Who Do We Think We Are? This is the modest live album – solos are minimal, but listen to this version for the monolith “Smoke on The Water” and you’ll see why some drunk is always shouting out for it. Even the half hour of “Space Trucking” seems oddly familiar.
By 1975, Glenn Hughes replaces Roger Glover and Blackmore is on the edge of starting his own solo project Rainbow Rising. In this gloriously decadent album, we open with what is undoubtedly Blackmore’s best take on “Burn.” The guitars roll on like a Mongol invasion, the drumming is tight and solid like a pit bull taking down a Doberman, and then the keyboard grabs your privates, spits in your face and drags you down to rock ‘n’ roll hell. And that was just the first cut. The shock and awe carries thought “Stormbringer,” “Gypsy,” and another rendition of “Smoke on The Water.” True, there’s a forgettable “Lady Double Dealer” and “Mistreated,” but everything else here is sonically crisp and clean and emotionally down and dirty – this is no muddy “Live at the Fillmore” slop and no fakey fakey “Studio Greatest Hits Mixed With Left Over Applause” sham. The wretched excess of jamming is limited to the second disc – “Space Trucking” and “Highway Star” lurk therein, but better versions appear on other discs. This is the high water mark of Deep Purple’s career, and of the first wave of metal – only Zep could challenge Purple, but they flamed out too soon. Deep Purple is solid evidence the Gods have touched us, and this is why they gave us “eleven.”
Eagle Rock Entertainment: http://www.eagle-rock.com