"We all came out to Montreux/On the Lake Geneva shoreline," sang a young and carefree Ian Gillan back in 1971 when his band Deep Purple recorded, "Smoke On The Water." The story behind the song is infamous, but here's the recap if you're not an old geezer or a music nerd: In the cold days of December of that year, Deep Purple planned to record their Machine Head album at the Montreux Casino, which overlooked the picturesque Lake Geneva. The place was casino, hotel, nightclub, bar, and theatre all on one property, and with the Rolling Stones Mobile Unit parked outside it was a perfect venue to record some rock, right?
Claude Nobs, the casino's head-honcho and organizer of the jazz festival of the same name, invited the group down to check out Frank Zappa's (" . . . and the Mothers!") set, their own equipment not even unloaded from the trucks. And if you listen to the song you get the rest of the story: "Some stupid with a flare gun," shot it up into the ceiling causing the whole place to go ablaze, Zappa's equipment with it. Nobs tried to hook the boys up with another place to record, but noise complaints put the kibosh on that idea. Oh, well, at least they got the song out of it, and we're talking one of the most classic riffs in rock history, here.
Flash forward to 2006, it's the 40th Montreux Festival and Deep Purple are headlining the festival over names like Iggy, Santana, BB King, Bryan Adams, Kid Rock, Morrissey, and others. Deep Purple and Montreux have some history between them. They've played the festival several times since the old days; the place said hello to their new guitarist, Steve Morse, but it also bid adieu to a founding member with keyboardist, John Lords (whose final performance was at the 2000 festival). So with Don Airey faced with filling Lord's seat, the stage was set for DP to celebrate their history, as well as their current (and quite successful) release, Rapture of the Deep.
Gillan's voice starts out a little on the shaky side, as the band opens it up with Machine Head's "Pictures of Home." The band sounds fantastic; Ian Paice and Roger Glover are locked, as always, in an amazing groove on drums and bass. Steve Morse's guitar is perfectly on top of the mix; his runs are crisp and performed with fluidity. Don Airey's organ playing is where it should be, adding texture while aiding the rhythm as well. They go into the more classically inspired notes with ease, but Gillan's voice doesn't quite match their agility, as in "Things I Never Said," (a bonus cut from Rapture) he falls flat several times. By "Strange Kind of Woman," you could tell that Gillan's voice isn't perfect (maybe it's just a bad night), but at least he's starting to get his legs, belting out a fairly convincing version of the song.
This multi-camera shoot puts you not only in the seats, but also behind the drum kits and right up close to Steve Morse's fretboard. The guitar player had his own fans in the house, and after hearing his rendition of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, as well as sneaking in his own signature sounds, it's clear why the former Dixie Dreg is so revered. By "Space Truckin,' it's obvious that this band is still operating on all cylinders; they are a fast and heavy machine, with Paice's pounding the driving force, and Gillan's charisma the navigational system.
1. Pictures Of Home
2. Things I Never Said
3. Strange Kind Of Woman
4. Rapture Of The Deep
5. Wrong Man
6. The Well-dressed Guitar
7. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
8. When A Blind Man Cries
10. Keyboard Solo
11. Space Truckin'
12. Highway Star
13. Smoke On The Water
15. Too Much Fun
16. Black Night
Video: as mentioned, this is a multi-camera shoot, and a professional one at that, with jib-arms and the like getting you the angle you want and in a smooth manner. Captured digitally, it's presented in the 16:9 aspect ratio, which really helps with a live show. Gone are the days where you feel like "you just had to be there," because the video didn't do any justice to the actual colors, with this DVD you are front row feeding off the band's chemistry pumping your fists to "Highway Star." The from the stage lighting to the blacks in the background, it's a high quality image that brings the concert to life.
Sound: with the options for Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Surround Sound, you can't complain at all. This is one area where it's actually better than being there. Listen to Airey's organ dance around your speakers, and how there's almost perfect separation between the rhythm section and Steve Morse's guitar.
Extras: We're filled to the brim with bonus material, there's enough Purple to make you think you're listening to Prince. There's also a booklet with some excellent liner notes by Dave Ling from Classic Rock and Metal Hammer magazines.
The Story Of "Smoke On The Water": If you've seen the Classic Albums, Machine Head edition you've heard this story, but you haven't seen the band tell it on location. With the gorgeous setting of Lake Geneva and the surrounding fields is the setting for the retelling of the story of "Smoke on the Water."
Improvising: in the same exotic setting, Steve Morse opens up by explaining how excited he is to be able to improvise on stage. Glover goes into how Deep Purple is closer to a jazz/jamming band than your traditional rock band. Ian Paice goes into the chemistry and anticipation that exists between the band.
John Lord & Don Airey: Steve Morse goes into how he and John Lord clicked musically. The senior members, Paice and Gillan discuss the sensitive issue of Lord's growing displeasure with touring, and his desire to do more orchestral work. Don Airey talks about the joining the band.
Steve Morse: It's clear that Ian Gillian is still a little pissed off about Ritchie Blackmore's last walk-out, mid-tour. He explains that Morse was the permanent replacement for their temporary replacement of Joe Satriani, who had filled in for Blackmore.
Montreux: Don Airey talks up how prestigious the Montreux Jazz Festival is, and how proud he was to play it. Steve Morse goes into his experiences from 1977 when the Dixie Dregs came to the festival.
A Special Concert: Ian Paice discusses how they will come up with the setlist, and due justice to the jazz fest by switching things up and improving a bit. Ian Gillan talks about how he deals with their spontaneity.
Ian Gillan's Voice: Ian say's as far as his voice is concerned, "You use it or you lose it!" And he feels that singers who operate on their throats to recapture their younger years are misdirected.
Steve Morse's Wrist: The guitar hero talks about rehabilitating his injury while gigging.
The Band And Their Audience: The band members seem sincere when they describe their unique relationship with their crowd.
If the Montreux show isn't enough for you, we get to see Purple in the more intimate setting of London's Hard Rock Café from October 10th, 2005. It's an awesome show with a more eclectic setlist than the Montreux show. The band are loose, having a great time together, and it was a definitely a better night for Gillan's throat.
2. I Got Your Number
3. Strange Kind of Woman
4. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
6. Rapture of the Deep
8. Perfect Strangers
9 Highway Star
10.Smoke On The Water
Video: also shot in Digital video, the small setting makes the color swoosh everywhere providing for a very atmospheric performance. This is also a mutli-camera shoot, although with less room for the crew to move around. You can feel the browns from inside the Hard Rock, and even the differences in hair color (from Steve Morse's blond to Gillan's gray's) look right.
Sound: Not as well recorded as Montreux show, you still get the feeling that you are there drinking a Guinness watching DP play. Again you get your choice of Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, or DTS Digital Surround Sound
Der der der, der der, der-der. Der der der, DER DER! If you understand that then you should go out and get this great celebration of an underrated band.
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?