In Concert 1970-1972
Live In London
MK III: The Final Concerts
Made In Japan may be the definitive Deep Purple live album, but it only documents a fraction of the band's strength as a live attraction. This is evident by the flurry of Deep Purple live CDs and DVDs that have come and gone over the years. Next to the Grateful Dead and Miles Davis, no one else has so many live releases. But after Made In Japan, where the hell do you go? Well…why not start with the following four entries: Scandinavian Nights, In Concert 1970-1972, Live In London and MK III: The Final Concerts.
Long before "Smoke On The Water" and Woman From Tokyo," Purple were gaining steady ground as a live act. The original band paved the way, but once singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover stepped into the fold, the group transformed into a powerhouse. Both Scandinavian Nights and In Concert 1970-1972 capture the band in action, albeit in a much rawer, less refined manner than on Made In Japan.
Scandinavian Nights, recorded in 1970 in Stockholm, Sweden, is Purple at their hairiest and scariest. You get four songs on one disc and three on the other - much of it elongated Ritchie Blackmore guitar solos, Jon Lord organ solos, Ian Paice drum solos and other self-indulgent pyrotechnics to keep you spellbound and intrigued. "Into The Fire" and "Black Night" rates as the most dynamic of the bunch.
In Concert 1970-1972 is a double-CD set with songs from two different shows. The first disc is taken from a February 19, 1970 performance at thee BBC Studios in London. Within the intimacy of the venue, there's an opportunity to experiment and show-off. The version of "Speed King" here is much tighter and livelier than on Scandinavian Nights. It's the same situation on "Child In Time," a showcase of Ian Gillan's vocal power, glowing with fire and brimstone (although it's still nothing compared to the version on Made In Japan). "Wring That Neck" and "Mandrake Root" also sound exceptionally bright.
The second disc is what many Purple heads will want to hear due to the overwhelming amount of material from Machine Head. It was recorded two years after the 1970 performance, almost to the day, at the BBC Studios. "Highway Star," "Maybe I'm A Leo" and "Never Before" all come off particularly edgy. "Lazy" starts off with some heavy Hammond tinkling from Lord before a 20-minute version of "Space Truckin'" moves in for the kill. Afterward, a somewhat clumsy take on "Smoke On The Water" seems almost unnecessary. Fortunately, Little Richard's "Lucille" gets cooked up for a nice closing spread.
Live In London and MK III: The Final Concerts is the best of the Deep Purple Mach III in action. By the end of 1973, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes had replaced Gillan and Glover, respectively. With that, they brought a funkier, lighter, more vocal-oriented approach to the band. It didn't last, but that didn't prevent Purple from staying strong on the concert stage. Live In London is the band in full swing on the only British tour this lineup would ever take. "Burn," "Might Just Take Your Life" and "Mistreated" are fresh and undiluted whereas "Smoke On The Water" just doesn't rub right without Gillan's at-a-glance vocal maneuvering. A double whammy of "You Fool No One" and "Space Truckin'" on the second disc somehow levels the playing field to a more temporal tone.
As the name implies, MK III: The Final Concerts marks Ritchie Blackmore's last days with Deep Purple in the 70s. By this time, Coverdale and Hughes were solidly entrenched within the fold, which no more evident than Stormbringer. A spirited live blast through the album's title track shows no signs of wear on part of any of the payers, especially Blackmore. Even "Gypsy" and "Lady Double Dealer" sidestep the funk oozing from Stormbringer, giving Blackmore the room he needed in those days to wrangle his Strat.
Alternate versions of "Mistreated" and "You Fool No One" on the second disc do little to even the score of the versions on the first disc. But behold, "Space Truckin'" is still as flighty and angular as ever, while the groove that cuts through an impromptu stab at "Going Down" seems all the more odd to be followed by "Highway Star." At this stage, it was hard to tell what turn Deep Purple might take next.
Chances are if you're a Deep Purple fan, there's something on these four discs that'll stir your goad. There can be little argument that the five years covered on these discs were undoubtedly the most productive of the band's 40-year-plus existence. Which isn't to say the band have had their moments since the 70s. As more Deep Purple material resurfaces, there has to be some prime live shows from the 80s reunion that have yet to be unveiled. Cross your fingers and hold on tight.
~ Shawn Perry