The history of Deep Purple is a colorful joyride with a high turnover and its share of ego clashing. Ritchie Blackmore, in particular, could be described as a personality whose moods and temperaments altered much of what happened to the band. Since his departure in the early 90s, the lineup has been airly solid, aside from keyboardist Jon Lord's exit. How interesting that Lord apparently wanted out of Purple soon after the first time Blackmore left in 1975. At least that’s what he says in Gettin’ Tighter, the documentary that's part of Phoenix Rising, a DVD and Blu-ray that focuses on the mid 70s, Mark IV period of Deep Purple.
In addition to the 80-minute documentary, that also features one-time Purple bassist Glenn Hughes, the disc includes 30 minutes of concert footage shot at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, on December 15, 1975. Along with Lord and Hughes, there’s drummer Ian Paice (the last man standing in Purple these days), singer David Coverdale (the main man of Whitesnake since 1977) and the late guitarist Tommy Bolin. This is a different kind of Deep Purple where even older songs like “Smoke On The Water” and “Highway Star” sound brighter and funkier. Bolin, chosen largely because of his incredible playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album, is fairly laid back at this show and refrains from playing any of Blackmore’s signature solos at the breaks. As a result, it seems like Lord handles most of the soloing.
“Love Child” and “You Keep On Moving,” from Deep Purple’s final studio album of the 70s, Come Taste The Band, represent where the band was heading. Within a year of this show, however, Bolin would be dead from a heroin overdose and Deep Purple was shut down for the next eight years. They would, of course, reunite with what many consider the classic lineup of Blackmore, Lord, Paice, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. When that chapter will get its own video is anyone’s guess, but it couldn’t possibly be as daunting as what happens in Gettin’ Tighter. Hughes goes on at length about his drug abuse, and admits that he and Bolin were problematic to the functionality of the band. While it would have been nice to get insight from Coverdale or Paice, the documentary does an admirable job opening the files on what lead to the band’s 1976 break-up.
More intriguing still on Phoenix Rising are the bonus features. Included here are nine live tracks of the Mach IV lineup from Japan and Long Beach, California, remastered for this release. “Burn,” which opens the live concert video and is reprised here from Long Beach, may be the best song the Coverdale-Hughes version ever put together. Extra treats like “Lazy” and “Stormbringer,” both from Long Beach, find Bolin stepping up and soloing much more than he did in Japan. Without any dates listed, one can only assume the Long Beach show took place some time in 1976. Another bonus feature is a segment with Lord and Hughes talking about the band’s disheartening experience in Jacarta, Indonesia, where one of the band’s employees died after falling down an elevator shaft. Hughes was held for questioning and the band as a whole was subjected to humiliating treatment from the city’s officials. Rounding out the bonus features is an EPK for Come Taste The Band, with clips from the documentary, as well as additional concert footage and rare audio commentary from Tommy Bolin.
~ Shawn Perry