Rock fans have never really bought into the old ‘less is more’ approach. Turn it up, stretch it out and no sleep til Hammersmith is broadly the attitude we adopt. Don’t tell me you’ve never judged the strength of a song partly on how long it is… Yet even the proggiest of jazz odyssey-loving collectives would find their audience getting impatient if they made four songs stretch over 70 minutes. Especially if they were only the support band.
But the world was a different place in 1971, so when Deep Purple’s classic Mk II line-up opened for The Faces at the University of Southern California on 30 July, a greatest hits medley wasn’t on the agenda. /o:p
Happily for us, the DJ on the night took the liberty of recording the show so he could play it back on the college’s radio station. The Faces weren’t having this, and asked for the tapes to be returned, but Deep Purple, and opening act Matthew’s Southern Comfort, gave him the green light.
The resulting recording did the rounds as a highly-regarded bootleg for years afterwards, but now, only 43 years after the event, it’s finally getting an official release. Many a fan has stared at the track listing at record fairs, noted that there are only four tracks, and asked, ‘Is this an EP?’
Far from it. You see, songs weren’t just songs back then. You get the distinct impression that on stage, each track is essentially a vehicle for certain members of the band to flex their instrumental muscles at length. One member in particular. So this reissue is well worth the wait if you’re a fan of Ritchie Blackmore’s never-knowingly-understated wang-bar excursions.
At one point Strange Kind Of Woman is stripped down to just Ian Paice’s drums and Sir Richie’s flights of fancy. Although now and then Gillan can be heard hooting along, scat-style, in the background – presumably in appreciation, but do we hear just a hint of mockery in the mix?
A 20-minute reading of Child In Time (which, to be fair, was never a short, snappy affair in the first place) gives a welcome chance for Jon Lord to express himself with some dazzlingly trippy organ adventures, but the band sound even better when they’re not soloing.
Paice and Roger Glover’s rhythm section is taut and punchy, and while Ian Gillan’s well-spoken tones inbetween songs contrast amusingly with the American accent with which he sings, he’s in superb voice throughout.
And shall we sign off with 27-minute version of Mandrake Root from Shades of Deep Purple? Go on, you know you want to./o:p