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With a fantastic album like Burn behind them, the new Deep Purple Mark-III incarnation went on tour to the States, where “Smoke On The Water” was no.1, reaching greater success than it achieved in the British charts, surprisingly. Glover and Gillan were long gone and the new additions Coverdale and Hughes redefined the band’s sound. Their performance at one of the most epic rock festivals of the decade, preceded by giants like Black Sabbath and The Eagles will be remembered as one of the most remarkable this line-up ever offered, maybe the best, in front of 200,000 people. The famous incident backstage between the group and the promoters certainly provided these guys of some extra motivation to play harder, louder and faster – in particular, Blackmore’s performance was absolutely ferocious and devastating. April 6th, 1974 was undoubtedly an historical date for Deep Purple, preserved eventually on this official CD fans had been waiting for years.
They were introducing the new album on this tour, so “Burn” and “Might Just Take Your Life” were a vital part of the set-list, with whom the group opened this show. Both are considerably powerful and energetic, tempos are generally looser than they were originally on studio – variations on both Lord and Blackmore solos are substantial, Coverdale and Hughes would also modify some of the lyrics and accent certain verse while Pacey as usual incorporates completely rich and inventive drum rolls and fills. However, those 2 tracks obey mostly the studio patterns, if we refer to their structures and configuration, even though as I mentioned these guys innately add renewed assorted arrangements or details without affecting the continuity of the original composition of the music. On other hand, improvisation, extended jamming and countless of alternative sections are included on following songs to elude the studio ways – starting with that incredible version of “Mistreated”, on which Blackmore’s lines sound totally crushing and abrasive, combined with Coverdale’s most lyrical performance ever, featuring as well lengthier pickin’ parts, starts and stops, a vocal solo and a faster rhythm on that intense final sequence. Even “Smoke On The Water” sounds more aggressive than ever, with the new combo providing it of a more funkier/bluesy reminiscence and class – yet essentially dynamic and crude, Mr. Lord himself is unleashed on his incendiary solo, headbanging as mad along with Glenn and David in that last vigorous section, succeeded by Hughes’s unexpected soul vocal solo. The most immense titles of the set are however “You Fool No One”, presenting an immaculately elaborated organ intro, a stunning 10 minute guitar solo of absolute shred by Ritchie and Paice’s impressive drum solo on “The Mule” – followed by the 25 minutes of ecstasy, real aggression and astonishing virtuosism displayed on “Space Truckin’”, on which Blackmore took his revenge smashing his Start against one of the ABC Television cameras, blowing up his amps and thrashing the stage equipment…simply unforgettable, check out the video.
The attitude and fury of that characterized heavy metal is materialized on each of these cuts, originally all these tunes were ahead of its time on the studio records – yet live they achieve bigger power, velocity and progression. Once again as they did on every concert they played back in the early-70’s, Deep Purple prove to be the true pioneers of metal, not only with the character, looseness and complexity of their music, the determination to deliver all that ferocity reflected on the music didn’t have much to do with the politeness and cheerful spirit of Seals & Crofts, Black Oak Arkansas and Rare Earth. Black Sabbath and these guys had that singular European vision, completely distinct from those Americans they shared stage with that day, discovering new horizons for rock, besides melody, bluesy influence and traditional weighty tempos most archetypical 70’s bands embraced. The Man In Black here added certain punkish connotation to the sophistication of the group, even though that music style wasn’t developed yet – not only with those 5 final minutes of guitar smashing, amplifier & monitor explosion and gear destruction, rebellion behind the stage also determined the nature and feel of this performance. Ritchie says:
“We were the headliners of the show and we were supposed to go on the stage at dusk – specifically at 7:30pm. We arrived early, to tune up and sort everything out but when we got there, the promoter came up to us and says: “You’ve got to go on”. We outright refused, it was 6.30pm. He started threatening us. I just ignored him. The guy kept standing there and said we’d be off the show if I wasn’t on stage by the time he counted 30. I sat there, tuned my guitar and listened to him count out loud. He hadn’t reached 15 when I had him thrown out. Forget the money we stood to lose, it was a matter of principal”.
Submission isn’t what rock music is about as you can see, at least for Purple – specially when some greedy promoter isn’t keeping his word, not sticking to the contract because as you can see on the video, the band took stage before dusk. Technically precise and disciplined still, Blackmore wasn’t the only member unleashed that day – Lord would whack his Hammond enthusiastically and experiment with surrealistic synthesizer textures, Hughes drunk and high screamed like crazy while Coverdale angrily threw his mike to the ground at the final cut. The band never sounded as punkish, passionate and possessed by rage as they did that historical date.
As they have been doing for more than 45 years, Deep Purple always offer something different and refreshing in their shows – that day in California specially, Blackmore & co. did one of the most extraordinary in the history of the band. Technically immaculate, as progressive and electrifying as usual, displaying instrumental excellence and spectacular musicianship, they added fury and more notable aggression to the equation and results spoke for themselves. Ritchie took all the attention in the end but certainly Lord and his extravagant synthesizer effects and baroque/classical shredding solos (Keith Emerson, eat your heart out – his band came out after them to close the event, by the way), Paice’s intricate rhythms and fantastic drum solo (a total expression of skill and talent conceived with such minimalist drum-kit, hats off to him), along with Coverdale’s majestic tone and Hughes charisma deserve absolute recognition too.
Deep Purple headlined the California Jam festival in 1974. Although some other great bands were on the bill (including the mighty Black Sabbath, featuring Ozzy on vocals), no one could top Ritchie Blackmore's crew. They delivered what everybody expected: a great concert, fortunately recorded and released as a CD.
200.000 people (estimated crowd on the festival) couldn't be wrong. This was the best band on the planet playing some of their all-time classics (Smoke on the Water was there, of course), and also the marvellous tracks from 1974's awesome Burn.
With David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes sharing the vocals, no one missed Ian Gillan's incredible voice. After his departure, the band increased their songwriting, bringing in some new elements, specially under the influence of Glenn Hugues, a former Trapeze member.
The only thing we could complain about this album is the number of tracks that it contains. There are just six songs - and we can't blame the record company, because that was the entire gig! Back then, Ritchie Blackmore used to play long guitar solos, spending some precious time, in which the band could include at least two or three songs.
Anyway, this is a masterpiece. The rating: 99 - it can't be 100, because then it would be Made in Japan... but, believe me, it's almost there.