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Music DVD Review: Deep Purple – Phoenix Rising

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They called it Deep Purple Mark IV. David Coverdale (vocals), Tommy Bolin (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Glenn Hughes (bass), and Ian Paice (drums) made up this short lived, and final seventies edition of the band. For the past 35 years, it has been thought that no live footage of Mark IV existed. As sometimes happens however, accepted wisdom proved to be incorrect. The new Phoenix Rising DVD from Eagle Rock contains 30 minutes of the band playing live in Japan during their 1975 tour.

Although the entire concert was filmed, only five songs have survived: “Burn,” “Love Child,” “Smoke On The Water,” “You Keep Movin,” and “Highway Star.” This being the mid-seventies, the quality and editing leave something to be desired. The historical significance of the footage is undeniable though, as Tommy Bolin would be dead within months of the show.

Unfortunately for Bolin fans, his performance is severely limited. In the accompanying documentary “Getting Together” it is explained that he had slept for eight solid hours prior to the concert, on his arm. Bolin could barely move his fingers by showtime, and his playing is seriously compromised. He was so good with the guitar that he almost gets away with it, but not quite. Watching him strut around the stage like a peacock with platform shoes is pretty great though.

With Bolin practically sidelined, it is up to Jon Lord to take up the slack. He was always Purple’s not-so-secret weapon, and he steps up to the plate here in a big way. Lord’s solo during “Smoke On The Water” is a definite highlight, as is his synth turn during “Love Child.” Ian Paice’s drumming is power personified, and it is pretty amusing to watch Glenn Hughes ham it up with his bass playing. Listening to a hoarse David Coverdale croaking his way through the songs is the biggest drawback, but this was the end of the tour and he had probably blown it out.

The previously mentioned “Getting Together” is the other main feature of the set. In this 85-minute documentary, the various incarnations of the band are discussed. Both Jon Lord and Glenn Hughes were interviewed for this, and offer their observations about the history of the group. Hughes spends a lot of time discussing his cocaine addiction, while Lord explains the nightmare the band had in Indonesia just prior to the Japan concert. It is a fairly long story, but it sounds like the guys were lucky to get out of the country alive – one of their roadies did not.

As for extras, there is a more succinct re-hash of the Indonesia story, and an electronic press kit for the only album DP MK IV ever released, Come Taste The Band. This 20-minute piece about the record is actually quite interesting, with a fair amount of anecdotes I had never previously heard.

There are also a couple of booklets included in the set, featuring contemporary articles and pictures of the band. With all of this to recommend it, and despite the less than stellar performances, Phoenix Rising should appeal to most Deep Purple and Tommy Bolin fans.

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