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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Deep Purple

Live at Montreux 1996

Review by Gary Hill

Deep Purple has always had a special place in my heart. When I first started getting into hard rock a friend turned me onto the In Rock album and I was amazed. Their brand of gritty, bluesy hard rock with just enough instrumental prowess and sense of adventure to almost qualify them as prog rock was a real winner with me. I have to admit that I've never heard a Deep Purple album I didn't like - and I've heard most of them. When Richie Blackmore left the band many folks were really taken aback. While I agree the man is a rock god, his shoes were filled by Steve Morse and this live recording certainly proves that he was up to the job. This is a smoking DP album and a great listening experience. I like the fact that they don't always choose the most obvious cuts to play here, instead digging into some of the more obscure music. This is a great companion to the DVD that I reviewed last issue and a strong live disc on its own.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fireball
Starting with percussion the band quickly launch into this classic old school DP rocker. This one purely smokes and Jon Lord's keys lend that tasty retro sound. Both the guitar and those keys get the opportunity to lay down some tasty soloing. And, the amazing thing is, they pull it all off in less the four minutes, and even manage to pull in a quick segment of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" for the outro.
Ted The Mechanic
This newer (originally from Purpendicular) Purple track is a smoking, bluesy rocker with a chunky sound. Steve Morse's guitar lends some very tasty, nearly jazzy sounds to this one. This also has one of the trademark almost acapella Gillan segments.
Pictures of Home
Moving way back in their catalog, once again percussion leads of this DP classic. This one has that smoking old school sound and has always been a favorite of mine. It's not one of their over-played hits, but it has lots of drama and power - not to mention a great vocal arrangement. Morse does a nice job of both maintaining the integrity of Blackmore's guitar soundscapes, but still putting his own branding on them. That has to be one heck of a feat. Jon Lord also works in a couple more killer solos on the organ. We also get that rarity, a bass solo from Roger Glover. When they drop it back to the brief spacey segment, then power back out they are purely on fire and I don't know if I've ever heard the band sound better. This one is definitely a power house and one of the highlights of the disc.
Black Night
Here they come out with another deep cut from the old days of the band. This is another smoking hard-edged rocker that has a great bluesy riff. It's another where they had the foresight to pull out one of the not so overplayed pieces from their catalog. Once more both Morse and Lord pull out on the stops on their soloing, even moving into a killer dual of leads. Morse also gets some full on spotlight soloing in the later segments. This one is another highlight of the CD. At close to seven minutes it's also one of the longest tracks on show here.
Woman From Tokyo
OK, you know there are a couple Purple songs they pretty much have to play, and of the most obvious ones, this is the lesser evil. Don't get me wrong, I love this song, but along with a couple of others ("Hush" and uh - ummm - "Smoke on the Water") it's one of the ones from their catalog that has been pounded into the dirt by way too much airplay. They do put in a rather interesting, almost prog rock take on the number here with a lot more emphasis on the keyboards. I've just heard this one a few too many times for it to still captivate like it used to. I can't imagine being in the band and having to play it at every show for this many years. Still Jon Lord is purely on fire in this particular performance. I have to say that Gillan's vocal antics at the end of this one leave me a bit cold, too.
No One Came
Another of the lesser known cuts from the Fireball album, this one is a hard-edged, fast paced, bluesy rocker. I like this one quite a bit. Gillan's almost spoken, almost rapped delivery here is a nice touch. I've always liked that side of his singing a lot. Morse powers out some more meaty guitar soloing here, too. The jamming on the outro is simply incredible.
When A Blind Man Cries
Originally only available as a B-Side, this is a great example of another "deep cut" that the band pulled out here. A sedate, dramatic and evocative keyboard solo begins this in fine fashion. In fact the keys carry this one for a minute or so, then Morse's guitar joins in, but still in a very atmospheric sort of neoclassical manner. It's almost 2 and a half minutes into this seven and a half minute rocker before it shifts to the exceptionally tasty blues rock jam that makes up the main portion of the cut. This one is actually one of my favorites on show here. It's another example of everything that makes this band great - bluesy riffs, impassioned performances and virtuosic playing. I hear a bit of Pink Floyd in this one, but in some ways you can almost look at Deep Purple as a heavier PF. The fiery segment later when they pump up the volume is purely magical.
Hey Cisco
Another cut from Purpendicular (hey, it was their latest album when they did this show), this one comes in with an almost playful guitar line. They move through this with a rather prog rock approach for a while, then launch out into a smoking, classic sounding Deep Purple jam. Gillan uses his spoken vocal approach on this one. They move out later into more of the prog like music (with a playful air) but then shift it out into a trademark DP jam from there.
Speed King
This old school Deep Purple classic is another that hasn't been played to death. The group put in a smoking rendition here that's definitely on par with any incarnation of the band. Both Morse and Lord find plenty of chances to shine on this one. And that includes another of those awesome duels.
Smoke On the Water
Well, you knew it had to happen - especially since the events chronicled in the song take place in Montreux - the first line is - "We all came out to Montreux." So, even if this weren't their best-known number, they'd have to play it at this festival. They open up this one with an extended keyboard solo here - mostly piano. Then guitar joins in to carry the same basic musical concepts - sort of fusion-like jam. At the apex of this soloing Morse pulls out the classic opening riff from the track. I should say that while this one has outworn its welcome for me, from the reaction of the crowd it still has a lot of life in it for them - they go nuts! I also have to say that this particular performance is a suitably incendiary one. The guys appropriately smoke it enough to even pull me in a bit, despite my misgivings. This one does include the obligatory section where the crowd sings the chorus. I won't really give much of a description of this track because if you haven't heard it you must have come here from some other planet. Even then it's hard to believe you didn't catch it on radio waves on the way here. Let's just say that this is one of the most inspired renditions I've heard of the tune. At over 8 minutes, it's also the second longest cut on show here.
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
The first of two bonus tracks that actually come from DP's 2000 appearance at the Montreux festival, this is another cut that originally surfaced on the Purpendicular album. This starts with a balladic rocking guitar sound - like an arena rock ballad. They create the opening verse over the top of this, and it feels a bit like something Iron Maiden might have done to me. After the first verse they pump it up just a bit more, but don't change the general musical theme here. Then it shifts out after verse two into something more akin to maybe Joe Satriani or someone like that. It screams out from there, though, into a more classic Deep Purple sound for a time. Then they drop it back to the balladic segment. Frankly, this song isn't bad, but it's not really one that blows me away - and it only marginally feels like DP. There are some cool segments, but overall this track leaves me a bit dry. The varying segments don't really seem to mesh well either.
Fools
The final cut on the disc, and the other from the 2000 show, this one originally comes from Fireball. It's also the longest number on show here with a length of almost ten minutes. This starts with a classic DP keyboard dominated mellower sound, like a bluesy ballad. They work through a few lines of vocals in this format then a bit of a keyboard solo moves it forward, then they pump it out into another smoking DP jam as the rest of the band thunder in. They drop it back later to almost unaccompanied percussion, then keys begin to paint a great dramatic texture over the top of this. They mutate this into a great mellow jam that has elements of the blues, prog and fusion. This eventually moves out into something that is basically an all out modern prog jam for a time before eventually turning the corner back to the gritty DP jam that preceded it. This is another killer track and a great closer for the album.
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