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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Deep Purple

Live At Montreux 2011

Review by Larry Toering

As a major fan of Deep Purple, I am approaching this with a more informative angle, to not only shed any overly biased factors, but explain a few things from within the Purple frame of mind. By now it's hard to talk about Deep Purple without leaning one way or the other concerning which line-up may or may not be the ultimate one. So, one might ask that ever inflammatory, but somehow relevant question, “is this really Deep Purple, or just their way of paying very good homage to the memory of Deep Purple?”  In some ways this release is Deep Purple’s answer to that question. That alone places a meter on the relevance of anything this band can produce outside of its expected proverbial box. So I lay to rest any such desires or pressure. They're simply Deep Purple, however we see them, and that is a fact no one can change. So even if I get concerned sometimes as to who they are, as a fan I have to take them or leave them for who they are by now.

This is a significant historical record because at the time it was recorded they were on tour with an orchestra and this features that configuration. Unlike such projects in the past to include an orchestra in Deep Purple music,  the orchestra was brought along just to enhance the songs. This is just the band and the orchestra playing Deep Purple songs, albeit less of their current ones than their classics.  Putting together a Deep Purple set list has to be tough. If they fall too far in favor of the new music, fans will be missing the classics. But too many classics might have fans complaining that it’s the same old list.

Needless to say I welcome this as much as I welcomed their 2006 live at Montreux release. In fact, I’d say this is a far better release. That says a lot because the predecessor was a strong album. Here we are treated to an energetic performance by all, including Ian Gillan who is clearly challenged more and more as the years pass. Still, on this set he doesn’t appear to be struggling any more than he was on the 2006 set. In fact even though there are a couple of very rough spots, I find him better here. Roger Glover had just returned from some unavoidable time off, so I'm sure he was welcomed with much love by the Swiss crowd. Morse and Don Airey play to the highlight of musicianship level, and prove that, without them there would be no existing Deep Purple as we know it. Ian Paice’s drumming must also be mentioned. In addition the group is backed by a tight orchestra. It's not easy to describe endless versions of the same songs you've been listening to for most of your life, but I have developed a rise to such a challenge over the years... and we describe CD's track by track at MSJ, so this will prove to be a much more thoroughly detailed review. But rather than give a thesis on them, I will stick to how they sound thus far in the seemingly never ending Purple legacy, and how well they go over over with the orchestra's involvement, instead of what they're about lyrically and all of the things already legendary about them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Orchestra Intro

This is just a little piece they played before all of the shows on this orchestral tour combining some strings and horns that culminate into repeating the first half of the 'Smoke On The Water' riff several times at a ferocious speed and intensity, in a grand outro fashion, even though it's an into that leads into the first track.

Highway Star

This is a grand opening salvo in classic Deep Purple tradition. Following the haze, they gradually build up with the snare drum lead into what die hards  also consider to be their best all time number. This instantly establishes the quality, although it even increases to everyone's astonishment. This alone answers the question of whether Deep Purple still have what it takes to dazzle crowds in as many countries as they apparently do. The show is underway and there is no letting go of it from here.

Hard Lovin' Man

This begs the question whether or not one simple change from the norm in the cuts list cuts it or not. The answer is simply, “yes.” This is really all it takes for them to bring out both fans who've been attending loyally for years, and fans who demand something new (even if it be old but seldom played live before). A track like this has a certain majesty about it that can do no wrong. It doesn't matter if Airey and Morse don't play the solos note for note. I'll bet it's hard to veer too far from the original anyway because the song structure doesn’t allow for it all that much. This time we have Gillan doing the veering, as he fumbles through it, elegantly I might add, with some words being changed. It adds humor in a way that’s distinctly his. If you like Deep Purple as they are today, this will more than do. It's easily as good as they get.

Maybe I'm A Leo

This is already where I would throw my two cents in concerning the set list, but not in a bad way really. This has, for some strange reason, never been a favorite of mine, so hearing it live has never done much for me. But, to my recollection this is probably the best I've heard them do it live, or at least in some time anyway. So, I actually welcome it in this set.

Strange Kind Of Woman

This track definitely could go away and I wouldn't miss it, and I don't know what keeps it in the set. The way they do it has paled in comparison since Morse joined the band. I know it goes over just fine on most mights, but it could be replaced. To be fair, they re-arranged it some time recently to a much better effect, I do like how they have since adjusted other aspects to buff it up. All in all, I feel still feel the set time could be used more effectively by simply playing just about anything else, regardless of which era. Still, this is all they need to win over the crowd, even those who feel the same way. There is just something about being there.

Rapture Of The Deep

This is the definitive epic track of this line-up, so to not include it would be sheer blasphemy. For those who haven't heard this great showcase number, it features a riff by Airey that defines the Purple sound, and I mean the Ritchie Blackmore/Purple sound, as he knows how to capture it, perhaps unlike Lord even did. At least this is evidence of that much. This also features a magnificent unison solo section from Morse and Airey which proves their worth in terms of creating Deep Purple music.

Woman From Tokyo

This is one classic I would always like to see them keep in the set list. They apparently haven't lost any steam at it either. Here the track sizzles very well with the help of the orchestra.

When A Blind Man Cries

This will always be a set  pleaser and to many the entire show is built around its essence of beauty. It has been referred to as a song that has taken on a whole new life since they started playing it in the 90s. I can’t argue with that statement. It has always benefited from the use of an orchestra, and here is no exception. It becomes one of the highlights of the show. No matter how Morse decides to play the guitar solo, I'm always impressed with how he pulls it off, as he manages to trasnform it more often than any other Purple classic, night by night.

Well Dressed Guitar

This is one of only two Morse era numbers in the set. I loved it, the first time they did it, but by now I see no reason to keep it in the set, other than it's a Morse number and keeping a couple modern Deep Purple songs in the set seems appropriate. One thing this does have going for it beyond any negatives, is its sheer menacing beauty, and lightning fast delivery. Luckily they had a chance to record this in the studio during the Bananas sessions, but it can only be found on the Tour Edition of their latest studio release, Rapture Of The Deep.

No One Came

This is another I would never argue against inclusion in a Deep Purple show, as it's one of my all time favorite Mark II tracks. Still, it's not exactly evolving to its potential. However, once again, the orchestra adds just enough to make it yet another worthy inclusion here.

Disc 2
Knocking At Your Back Door
For me this is a “must remove,” and I haven't gone quite to that extreme concerning any of the other tracks, except for perhaps the previous tune mentioned in that regard, which is much more agreeable by the masses I am quite sure. However, this benefits somehow from the orchestra, so in the case of this version I am all for it. I do think they could have sonically improved the intro though, as that is an opportunity clearly lost. I think it still somehow has the potential to be somewhat of a highlight on this product, so I remain divided on this album.
Lazy

This might be the number one highlight in the set, followed closely by “Rapture Of The Deep” and “When A Blind Man Cries” for overall spotlighted numbers with parts in the show not to be missed. The band simply fly through yet another killer rendition of an essential Deep Purple track. Here the orchestra conductor gets to join them for a blistering violin solo that shows he has the chops to not only keep the orchestra on their toes trying to keep up with the band, but play alongside one of the best rock bands ever. What a shining moment it is, and must have been for the crowd to witness.

Don Airey Keyboard Solo

This just had to be the title of a song? Oh well, despite the less than creative title, this is probably along with the following number, the fourth highlight in the set. Airey is amazing to witness on any occasion, so not much to be said here other than that. To describe one detail here about the video, pick it up along with this and watch as the orchestra marvel at him.

Perfect Strangers
This contains not a sliver of criticism from me, other than perhaps how much things have taken a toll on the voice of Gillan. Still, it's taken nearly the entire show before any particle of evidence has surfaced concerning that, and it's only a tiny observation. This is the big reunion number with an already symphonic approach, so naturally it goes over really well with the orchestra.
Space Truckin'
This too, begins to show what I only refer to as “wear and tear” by this late in the set, and I have to say they could play anything besides this and that probably would not be the case. Out of all the things to drop from the classics, this for me would be more important to leave out than anything else on the release. I find it to be the only thing flawed here, really. Having said that, I'm positive I would have still enjoyed this moment, as we all know playbacks don't live up to being there.
Smoke On The Water

This is a lot harder to bring down, as it will never be taken out of the set, and I suppose rightfully so. I mean they have to do at least something everyone can agree with, and I've rarely heard anyone complain about it having its place at every Purple concert since 1972. Does it benefit any from the orchestra? Sure, just about everything on offer here does. This works to bring the house down whenever they play it. I really can't find a bad version out of thousands I've heardNo Deep Purple concert would be complete without it. Whether you find it criminally overrated, or just plain proper Deep Purple, it's synonymous with their name, and equally matched in size.

Hush

This is another track they can do no wrong in including. It's a treat with the orchestra, so it goes over well. There is just no disgracing anything here, and although I'd always like to hear a longer keyboard solo, I can still see why they don't go there.

Black Night

They always save the jamming for last, and over recent times have designated this home to “Black Night,” which in the early years contained a great bit of improvising. Later they went to a more standard delivery for what seemed like forever. Now it's their token encore jam, and I don't see that changing. What's most important when playing this number, is getting past its almost pop structure and letting the solo sections breathe, which they do. On most nights this can tend to top out as the longest track, but during this set it gets beaten out (in terms of length) by the newly, and much welcomed added length of tracks like “Strange Kind Of Woman” as well as “Hard Lovin' Man.” This one still manages to showcase more improvisation, nevertheless. This is always a guaranteed way to close their awe inspiring concerts, and on the night of the fortieth anniversary of the Montreux Jazz Festival, it proved to go down as well as to be expected, and then some.

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