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The battle rages on - 95%

blackoz, December 7th, 2006

This live collection from 1993 sees the deified Mark II Purple reunited and playing, appropriately, like gods. Ten years on from the ballsy “Made in Japan”, they blast through new songs as well as classics from “Machine Head” and “In Rock” with phenomenal precision and pace.

Don’t be tempted to skip through to the well-trodden tracks. The newer material excels here. “Twist in the Tale”, “Perfect Strangers”, “Knocking at Your Back Door”, “The Battle Rages On” all stand up shoulder to shoulder with “Smoke on the Water” and “Child in Time”. Even the music hall cheese of LVB’s “Ode to Joy” is a worthy track, propelled by Purple’s relentless power.

Spliced between the tracks are interviews with all members except (you guessed it) Blackmore. The other members waste no time in dumping on their erstwhile guitarist for his intemperate departure from the band just before the tour (from which this set was taken) was to fly to Japan. Blackmore looks at best impassive and at worst contemptuous through most of the show. He plays with impossible speed – almost too fast for comprehension at times – showing that he’s learned from the wunderkinder that learned from him, especially Malmsteen. There’s ample evidence here, though, from the sheer beauty and daring of his ideas, executed flawlessly throughout, who is the master of heavy rock and metal guitar.

The band is as tight as a fist and loving every minute of it (well, except for you-know-who) and the entire set reminds me yet again that Purple is primarily founded on the strength of one member … and it’s not Blackmore. It’s the appropriately named Ian Paice. He plays with all the firepower the job demands yet always with grace, flair and restraint. Yes, restraint. Like all the great drummers he can play for 32 bars without an embellishment. Bonham and Watts are the other two greats who spring to mind in this context. And like those other two deities, Paice can swing like crazy. One of my favourite Purple tracks gets a ridiculously fast workout in this set and it still swings like a dancehall – “Lazy”. The obligatory Paice solo sits here and there’s not a boring second.

It’s a great show as much for the drama surrounding Blackmore (just read the faces of Lord and Gillan through the show) as for the sheer punch and quality of the music. Well worth the money both for die-hard fans and the merely curious.