This is a good time to be a Deep Purple fan. A number of concert albums are being remixed and re-leased as part of their “Live Series”. Soon they will also release a DVD of the Perfect Strangers Tour in Syndey. The band didn’t really like making albums, and thrived on stage. There their musicianship and improvisational skills came to the fore making them a great live show. And those live releases became such an important part of their catalog. These releases capture the band at different phases of their career.
One of those re-releases is the concert in Copenhagen back in 1972, just before the release of their Machine Head album. The concert features a number of songs from that album, but not “Smoke on the Water” which had not unexpectedly “caught fire” yet.
The reasonably priced double disc set does include 3 songs from a later concert in NY (Hofstra University in ’73) that includes “Smoke on the Water” so fans will get their fix. But we see them still figuring out a play list that would become legendary by the time Made in Japan was recorded against their wishes (the record company forced the issue, and all parties benefited from that!). The album also includes nearly 6 minutes of interviews as the last track.
The mix was interesting. I have listened to the discs in my car, on my computer (with subwoofer system) and my iPod. The mix seems to favor the lower end: drums and bass. It was great to be able to appreciate Paice’s incredible drumming more easily. Many listeners will gain a greater appreciation for Roger Glover’s work on the bass. He plays better than many give him credit for playing.
It was frustrating, at times, for the lead instruments to not be as “out front” as I wanted. I wanted to hear more of Blackmore’s guitar and Lord’s organ. It wasn’t Blackmore’s best night, but he’s still better than the vast majority of guitarists. Or perhaps I should say he started slowly because by mid-show he’s in classic form. Gillan is more talkative between songs, and during songs, than in any other concert recording I’ve heard aside from the BBC TV shows.
This is an excellent show, and deserves to be in a fan’s collection. It doesn’t match the heights of Made in Japan, but it is still an excellent concert reflecting a different period of their existence.
The album begins with them tuning up, one of the odd differences between concerts then and now. Ian mentions that they are on TV that night and the new album is to be released. “Highway Star” is to be their opening bit for the tour.
Blackmore’s guitar work during the verses is drowned out by the drums. Gillan seemingly forgets some lyrics, or at least to sing at times. As usual, the solos by Lord and Blackmore follow a similar pattern with room for improvisation. So, they are like other solos for the song, but toss in some different elements. Blackmore seemed to be playing to the cameras a bit on this song, which doesn’t always translate to the musical side of things.
Gillan introduces “Strange Kind of Woman” (terminology from the KJV referring to the adulterous woman in Proverbs) which is based on the experiences of a friend of theirs. Blackmore’s guitar work was more audible during the body of the song. Paice is just having fun pounding the drums and tossing in rolls. But the focus of the solo work is Blackmore, including the trademark back & forth with Gillan. At times they didn’t seem to be on the same page. But there is more and different back & forth than in other renditions. It is unique enough to merit having. As usual, Blackmore tosses bits of other familiar songs into unexpected places.
From there they move into “Child in Time”, “a sad story”. The song and mix highlight Gillan’s vocals as well as Lord’s organ until late when Blackmore’s guitar work erupts on the scene. During Lord’s first solo, you can hear some good bass runs by Glover. During his second solo there are some lines in which he and Blackmore are playing together in synch and at times repeating one another. You can also hear Gillan playing the congo drums periodically. This leads into Blackmore’s second and much longer solo. Lord weaves his playing back into the mix at times. This is a very different version of the song than I am used to hearing, and much of it is great. With the exception with Ian’s little rant praising mediocrity about 15:30 into the song. “Just be happy and stick around in the middle somewhere. You know what I mean?”
“The Mule” is “based on something little Ian does on the drums” and is “about Lucifer and his friends.” The song is about how Satan deceives people, not quite what you’d expect from a rock band. It is mostly a drum solo (replacing “Paint It Black” for that purpose), as usual. Ian, Jon and Richtie are all in top form in the segment prior to the solo. Glover also has some nice work as the other instruments re-enter the fray after Ian’s solo is done.
“How can I change when my mind is a friend of a Lucifer hid in the ground? Just another slave for the Mule.”
“Lazy” gets off to a less bombastic start, without Jon nearly destroying his Hammond B-3. It starts with a line that sound like an old R&B number played by Jon. They were still sorting this song out live, but they still played a great rendition. During the harmonica solo Roger can be heard laying down some good bass lines. As usual, Blackmore’s guitar work on this song is excellent.
They then broke into “Space Truckin'” which was already at a lengthy 22 minutes. The alternate version from NY is just under 11 minutes. But this is a classic song by Purple featuring lots of improvisation as the music swells and wanes. Glover’s bass is prominent playing the lead line during the chorus. There is a lengthy section with Blackmore playing with feedback before they return to a frenetic pace in which his guitar continues to dominate. The last 5 minutes Blackmore just unleashes all kinds of musical mayhem.
Their encore begins with getting “our instruments rebuilt and stuff like that” and is comprised of “Fireball”, “Lucille” and “Black Night”. The latter songs would continue to comprise the encore for many years to come. The dominant instrument on “Fireball” is the organ, but you can hear some very good bass work by Glover. It takes awhile to get into “Lucille” as Ian keeps mentioning that it is “an old Little Richard from a long time ago.” What comes across is a more aggressive version of the song than most you hear as Blackmore and Lord attack the song. I think it does go on too long as Gillan repeats the chorus a few too many times, though it allows for a short solo by Roger. In “Black Night” Glover’s playing seems at the forefront as Blackmore zooms in and out with fills until his feedback laden solo. They all just rip through the song to provide a very tight, aggressive double encore for the crowd in Copenhagen.
The NY version of “Strange Kind of Woman” opens with a very different sounding solo by Ritchie and then the chorus and then the 2nd verse, as they picked up it up mid-song. The next solo by Ritchie is very good. The back and forth between Blackmore & Gillan is smoother than the Copenhagen version.
They then move into “Smoke on the Water” with its signature riff. The mix is different on this mini-set from NY. Ritchie’s guitar is prominent during the verses. And this is good news because he throws all kinds of interesting things in there from time to time. It is a shorter than usual version, clocking it at just over 5 minutes.
They then slide into a more economical, or condensed, version of “Space Truckin'”. They rip through the song with gusto. I prefer this shorter version. It has all the best elements without the extreme over-indulgence. Sounds like Jon had begun to use the Moog on this solo. The crowd reacts loudly as Ritchie begins to abuse his guitar while Jon plays on before moving into an aggressive solo by Ritchie. The song ends with the hum of what is likely an abandoned and abused guitar.
The interview is about their first Australian tour in ’71 and compares the 1st 3 albums Mach II produced. Then the writing process for “Machine Head” is discussed. It was designed to promote “Machine Head” and is an interesting bit of context for this concert just before the album’s release. Why did they rarely play the first single, and “most commercial thing we ever did” (“Never Before”) on tour? The world may never know.