Most people nowadays might not be into Deep Purple's music, but if you're of a certain age, you at least know how their music in the late '60s and early '70s heavily influenced bands that regularly headlined rock shows in the '80s and '90s. The band was huge in the British musical landscape, with several albums reaching multi-platinum status. And with songs like "Hush" and "Smoke on the Water" still played by today's acts, Deep Purple's music lives on.
In this two-disc set from Eagle Rock, the band's work from its founding in 1968 to its 1976 is touched on. It includes interview footage from many of the members and features a variety of performances. Some of which were done for German and other international television outlets (including a performance of "Hush" on "Playboy After Dark"), while other songs are pulled from concert footage. They cover a variety of the band lineups (Mark I to Mark IV, for you machine heads out there).
As one who was peripherally aware of the band, I knew that guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was respected but oddly uncelebrated for his work, and that was pretty much it. However, my lack of knowledge is not entirely unanticipated, since the many versions of the band over the years can confuse the brain. Of the first edition of Purple with Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice, singer Rod Evans, keyboardist Jon Lord and bassist Nick Simper, only Paice remains in the current lineup. Those who have come and gone include David Coverdale (better known for his work in the '80s band Whitesnake), guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, and the late guitarist Tommy Bolin.
That said, the case could be made that the group with Blackmore and singer Ian Gillan (with Paice, Lord and bassist Roger Glover) was most successful. From 1970's "Deep Purple in Rock" to 1973's "Who Do We Think We Are," the group released four albums, two of which were number one in the UK (the other two albums came in at number four on the charts). One of those albums included the seminal work "Machine Head," from which "Smoke on the Water" was a single, the only one to go gold in America for the band. The combination of Gillan's powerful vocals and Blackmore's hard rock guitar work was a major musical force. Unfortunately, like all great combinations in music, their collaboration was volatile, ultimately resulting in Gillan's departure from the band in 1973. Coverdale replaced him (additionally, Glenn Hughes replaced Glover on bass) and the band continued to see popularity with two albums in 1974 ("Burn" and "Stormbringer" were Top 10 hits in the UK and Top 20 in America). But Blackmore left, to be replaced by Bolin, and after a subpar effort with 1975's "Come Taste the Band," the group split in 1976, punctuated by Bolin's death from drug intoxication at the end of the year. This set covers the '68-'76 period, and includes the following songs, spread out over two discs:
"Wring That Neck"
"Child In Time"
"Strange Kind of Woman"
"No No No"
"Into The Fire"
"Smoke on the Water"
"You Keep On Moving"
"And the Address"
"Wring That Neck"
" Wring That Neck" (1970 Paris Concert)
" Mandrake Root" (1970 Paris Concert)
" Black Night"
" No No No" (Take 1)
" No No No" (Take 2)
"Smoke on the Water"
The set is nothing if not comprehensive when looking at the hits and some of the less notable songs (I enjoyed their interpretation of the Beatles' "Help"), and listening to the band discuss their work and concerts in that era delivered a healthy dose of nostalgia for this novice. It may not leave me a fan of their music, but at least after seeing these discs, I have a greater respect for Deep Purple.
The full frame presentation on both discs isn't horrid by any means. Eagle Rock pulls performance footage from a variety of sources, both from live and pre-recorded performances. Any sort of picture issues are presumably inherent with the source material, but the musicians look fine and there aren't any compression or artifact issues that deter from the viewing.
The two-channel Dolby stereo track is straightforward. The vocals from the singers are crisp and clear, and Blackmore's guitar work is still excellent. The rhythm section provides a low-end punch when needed, though subwoofer activity is lacking. It is what it is, and what it is sounds fine.
Well, there's a ton of songs and some time on the band on each disc, but there's nothing extra, other than an interesting (and colorful) 20-page booklet on the band which comes with the set.
The title of this set from Eagle Rock is History, Hits and Highlights, and it certainly delivers on that promise, with loads of songs, some done with slight modifications to them, and with recollections from many of the major players. Fans of the band will have no qualms in this purchase, and fans of rock music should take the time to explore the work by this great British band.