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Music DVD Review: Deep Purple – History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76

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It is time for The Deep Purple faithful to gather as the group has raided the vaults once again. History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76 traces the groups history from their beginnings to 1976. This includes the first four incarnations of the group.

Disc one begins with a twenty minute documentary. Interviews with the members, which were recorded decades ago now, are interspersed with performance clips.

The original group, which their fans call Mark I, is represented by three performances. “Help” is the first song and shows an impossibly young Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore is almost unrecognizable. Their first hit “Hush” is taken from an old Playboy After Dark television show. Rod Evans is the vocalist and his pop approach runs counter to the sound and style Deep Purple would become famous for and his bright yellow pants don’t help. The band would fire him and bassist Nick Simper early in 1969.

The classic Mark II line-up is represented by fourteen songs. Singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover are now on board and Deep Purple would rise to the very top echelon of hard rock bands. Songs such as “Speed King,” “Black Night,” “Strange Kind Of Woman,” “Highway Star,” and “Smoke On The Water” are all presented live from 1969-1973. Their sound is instantly recognizable and the songs remain a part of their stage act close to four decades later. These tracks are part of one of the best catalogs in hard rock history.

Mark III, 1973-1975, finds David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes replacing Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. The highlight of this era is a live rendition of “Burn” which is representative of their evolving sound.

Mark IV, 1975-1976, lasted less than a year as Tommy Bolin took over the lead guitar duties after the abrupt departure of Ritchie Blackmore. Bolin’s style never really fit that of Deep Purple and this is shown by the forgettable “Love Child” and “You Keep On Moving” which are the only two tracks from this time period.

Disc two follows the same format as the first as it tracks the chronological development of the group. Rare performances from television shows and concerts see the light of day, some for the first time. Highlights include “Wring That Neck” from the Bilzen Jazz Festival of 1969, “Mandrake Root” from a Paris concert in 1970, and a New Zealand TV documentary recorded in November of 1975.

History, Hits, & Highlights ’68-’76 is sure to please any fan of Deep Purple. It is a well constructed and presented set. The only handicap is due to the age of the performances as some of the video is not up to modern standards.

Hopefully this DVD set will be the first of several as it only traces the first eight years of the group’s existence. It has managed to walk a fine line between historic and interesting and as such is worth 287 minutes of your time.

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