History, Hits & Highlights
Deep Purple has been fairly prodigious in the DVD market, releasing dozens of concerts, along with the stirring, insightful Classic Albums documentary, The Making Of Machine Head. Now comes along History, Hits & Highlights 1968-1976. A veritable pig-out for prime time fans, this double-DVD set features rare TV appearances, concert performances, interviews and miscellaneous film underscoring Deep Purple's place as one of the quintessential hard rock bands of the 20th century.
The first DVD opens with a 20-minute ‘History’ segment that spotlights pivotal moments of the band’s run through 1976. The only flaw is that, it its brevity, it doesn’t begin to tell the story. It’s almost as if the filmmakers are teasing the viewers with snippets of historical footage and sound bytes. A more comprehensive piece with up-to-date interviews with key band members would have been far more fetching, but politics and life changes being what they are may have made that an impossibility. Still, those 20 precious minutes are golden, and they spawn great interest in what follows.
The true gist of this set is the ‘Hits’ and ‘Highlights’ clips, presented chronologically without quick cuts or disruption. Watching the Mk. I and Mk. II lineups, you get a sense of a band on the rise, unafraid to expand their repertoire, flexing their musical muscle, and becoming adept and challenging in the process. Clearly, in the beginning, the group was angling for an identity. A black and white video of them performing the Beatles’ “Help” provides a glimpse of their emerging style. Purple’s appearance on Playboy After Dark, a popular late-night show hosted by Hugh Hefner, is more captivating for its novelty, although they skillfully skip through “Hush” and “Wring That Neck.” The then-affable Ritchie Blackmore even willingly lets Hefner strap on his guitar for a strum.
The second incarnation with singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover is where Purple ultimately found their niche, and this package holds nothing back on this period. There’s an elixir of vintage B&W studio (“Hallelujah,” “Fireball Writing Session”) and concert (“Mandrake,” “Lazy”) footage; early music videos (“Speed King,” “Strange Kind Of Woman,” “Never Before”) alongside live and not-so-live TV clips (“Black Night,” “Child In Time,” “Fireball,” “Demon’s Eye,” “Into The Fire”). Of exception are the live German TV clips of “No No No” and “Highway Star.” Who can resist the hostess. A latter-day take of “Smoke On The Water” finishes out the Mk. II portion.
Of particular interest to fans of Deep Purple may actually be film of the Mk. III and Mk. IV — the configurations fronted by singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes. The first disc offers up “Burn” and “Mistreated” from the previously released California Jam DVD, before sliding into the soulful funky groove of “Love Child” and “You Keep On Moving,” featuring Tommy Bolin on guitar. The second disc, with five additional live tracks from Mk. II, is dominated by the last two years of the band's time in the 70s. Interviews, a short documentary, odds, ends and a badly edited video of “Smoke On The Water” (the soundtrack doesn't match the video) provide an even-handed balance that accurately sums up Deep Purple's final direction and eventual demise.
With so many DVDs from Deep Purple available, it’s hard to know if what you’re getting is really anything of value. Recent releases from the current group (Mk. VII, if you’re counting) are high on solid playing, picture quality and sound reproduction. The quadruple-DVD Around The World Live is probably your best bet for what the band's about today. But nothing quite encapsulates the lean and mean years of Deep Purple quite as eloquently as History, Hits & Highlights 1968-1976 — two discs full of fire no self-respecting follower of British hard rock should be without.
~ Shawn Perry