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Deep Purple - History, Hits & Highlights: ‘68-‘76
By Jason Marks

Deep Purple - History, Hits & Highlights: ‘68-‘76
Deep Purple - History, Hits & Highlights: ‘68-‘76 Eagle Rock, 2009

Even the casual rock fan knows Deep Purple, if only for the opening chords of one of the most famous riffs in all of rock and roll – “Smoke on the Water,” whose “duh-duh-duh duh-duh-da-duh” has perhaps only two rivals as ubiquitous in the popular culture – “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Pinball Wizard” by The Who. But Deep Purple has been so much more than this famous riff, a band of astonishingly talented musicians who took the blues, classical music, Renaissance melodies and traditional rock and jazz rhythms and mixed them together to form one of the archetypes of progressive hard rock. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band, Eagle Vision has released a 2 disc DVD set entitled “History, Hits & Highlights: ’68-‘76” – a lengthy (over 4 hours) package of the formative years of the band, a mixture of documentary material , rare videos and live concert footage.

Few bands still talked of so frequently, let alone touring and recording, forty years after its start have had as many lineup changes and drama as Deep Purple. In fact, quite a bit of the infighting mocked in “This is Spinal Tap” come from stories based on the band, mixed with those of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Beatles. Formed in 1968 by guitar virtuoso Ritchie Blackmore, keyboard magician Jon Lord and drummer extraordinaire Ian Paice, the band sought to create a harder edge version of then-popular band Vanilla Fudge. The MK1 lineup was completed with the addition of bassist Nick Simper and singer Rod Evans. The early hits “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” gave Deep Purple an international audience and, ironically, an inaccurate representation of the group’s music which onstage tended toward lengthy jams and challenging interplay between Blackmore and Lord. “History” gives some rare footage of the MK1 lineup, including some rather amusing clips from the Playboy Club, complete with a Hugh Hefner introduction! Within a year, in an attempt to create a more hard rock sound, Simper and Evans were out, replaced by vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, completing the classic MK2 lineup that would record the groundbreaking albums “In Rock,” “Fireball,” and “Machine Head.” The footage on “History” from this era is extensive. Some has been released previously, but the unreleased tracks, including very lengthy versions of Mandrake Root and Wring That Neck, both in black and white, showcasing the amazing fretwork of Blackmore. We also get a peek into recording sessions for Fireball, a true historical bonus for long-time fans. The rapid success of the classic lineup, including an entry into the Guiness Book of World Records as the world’s loudest band, non-stop touring and youthful egos led to the departure of Gillan and Glover, replaced by vocalist David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes. The MK3 lineup took a slightly funkier and more experimental turn on the “Burn” and “Stormbringer” albums. “History” features strong performances of “Burn” and “Mistreated” but I would have liked to have seen more of this lineup. Interested fans should look for the California Jam DVD to see this lineup and a finale that shows Blackmore blown off the stage when he set his guitar on fire. The funk direction led Blackmore to leave, and the band chose to carry on with Tommy Bolin as the new guitarist. The product of MK4, “Come Taste the Band,” has a lot of great music, just not necessarily in the Deep Purple vein, but rather foreshadowing what Whitesnake would sound like in two years. “History” has a wonderful performance of “You Keep on Moving” – perhaps the best song from this short-lived lineup, which came to a tragic end with the drug overdose of Bolin.

Deep Purple MK2 reunited in 1984 and recorded three albums into 1993, until Blackmore again left, this time for good. The band found a replacement in Steve Morse and has carried on continuously to today, with only one additional tweak – the retirement of Jon Lord in 2005 replaced by Don Airey. Interested fans can find many DVDs of the Morse era, which I find enjoyable even as a total Blackmore devotee.

Deep Purple has never received the credit they deserve for their pathbreaking contributions to hard rock. Musicians regularly acknowledge Blackmore for his guitar work, and I think he is the most imitated guitarist. Hopefully, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will follow the pleadings of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and recognize this great band.

The DVD set “History” certainly offers quality and quantity, but it is not marketed to either the die-hard fan or the casual fan. The documentary beginning is too little for the casual fan; some of the previously released material unnecessary to the die-hard fan. The packaging is beautiful and the liner notes extensive and revealing. The remastered sound quality is solid and consistent. A must for the true fan, and a joy ride for the uninitiated.

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