Although I considered them a good band and had been brainwashed by their big hits, I was not a huge Purple fan, but after viewing Highlights ’68-’76 this writer is quite a bit more enamored of them. That isn’t to say this Deep Purple history-documentary is not without flaws…some of the technical aspects of the footage is subpar, some of the interviews with 0band members becomes somewhat rambling and not as cohesive as it could be…and founder / manager, Tony Edwards does an interview in French…
But at the core of this dvd is a group of very talented musicians striving to be true to their art, not compromising terribly, and performingwith an unapologetic boldness. Original frontman , Rod Evans, gives it hell on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark, performing “Hush” (a Joe South cover)–with keyboardist Jon Lord waxing witty while Hef strums Ritchie Blackmore’s Gibson ES-335 guitar.
Ian Gillan takes over on vocals in 1969 and this lineup of Gillan, Paice, Lord, Glover and Blackmore, is , in my opinion,their best one. This DVD captures Gillan screaming thru all the hits, and more interestingly, their long, mesmerizing, heavy metal, blues, classical jam sessions. A lot of the concert footage was shot in French and German venues–they were (and probably still are) huge in Germany, and the audiences look possessed (or stoned) by Purple’s music. This ’69-’73 footage is quite good. Ritchie Blackmore, as the DVD shows, could be brilliant when he chose to be. Playing lightning fast combinations of blues,heavy metal,medieval and classical riffs-string bending maniacally – Blackmore is without equal; the contrast is when you feel him get moody, sullen and prone to artistic, hellish rages pulverizing no less than three Strats in one concert. Jon Lord, on the other hand, comes off as the brilliant, witty, classically trained keyboardist that he is. Lord’s interview, despite some audio problems, is rather good.
He talks of his love and passion for the music, and how Deep Purple provides an emotional catharsis for it’s fan base’s pent up violent energy (is this Shakespeare?). Ian Paice, plays ferocious, yet precise drums all through the 68-76 era. Their performance of “Mandrake Root” in Paris ’70 is just awesome.
When David Coverdale takes over on vocals in ’73, the group’s best is, for my ears, behind them. There is a gut-wrenching jam of “Space Trucking” on disc 2 in ’74, that bowls you over though.
Finally, American Tommy Bolin replaces Blackmore in ’75 proves what a gifted axeman he truly was. This footage is also for the hardcore fans, essential for completists as Bolin passed away shortly thereafter.
Overall, this is a decent historical piece on Deep purple–a little disorganized, technically lacking in some places, but at the core it shows the brash and innovative genius of late ’60s heavy metal groundbreakers— exploding onstage at times in a way that their crew of fans expect.
There’s a decent photo gallery and Geoff Barton does well in the liner notes. I recommend it for fans and non fans. You can’t just watch it once.
P.S. Ritchie Blackmore released an acoustic cd of Christmas Carols on AFM records and it makes one wonder if his strat smashing days could be gone forever.
Deep Purple/ History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76 (two discs) Executive Producers: Tony Edwards & Drew Thompson