I probably should have known better.
When I signed on to review this massive DVD boxed set, I just didn't yet realize what I was getting myself into, nor that I was probably biting off a bit more than I could chew. You see Around The World Live isn't just any live concert DVD, but rather captures four complete Deep Purple concerts filmed between 1995 and 2002.
That's 540 minutes — as in nine freaking hours — of ear-splitting live rock and roll from the band who to this day holds the Guinness World Record of being the loudest in the world. That my friends, is a whole lot of "Smoke On The Water."
So at the risk of coming off like that guy from Maxim magazine who got busted for writing about a Black Crowes record he never actually bothered listening to, I'll also admit that I haven't quite gotten through all nine hours yet.
But I am working on it. I also like what I've seen and heard so far. A lot, actually.
I have some very fond memories of Deep Purple from my high school years. Most of these revolve around the classic live album Made in Japan, which was always in heavy rotation at all of the keg parties I attended back then. It was also a perennial favorite on the 8-Track tape deck in the car, occupying a sacred spot somewhere in between Uriah Heep Live, Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies, and Black Oak Arkansas' immortal live classic Raunch And Roll.
I also have a distinct memory of actually losing my hearing after attending one of their concerts, and standing a little too close to the P.A. For three days after that, I actually found myself stumbling around like a sloppy drunk, and walking into walls due to my equilibrium being knocked completely off-kilter by the temporary deafness.
That band, in its classic incarnation featuring guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, organist Jon Lord, and vocalist Ian Gillan probably did more than anyone to popularize what we today call heavy metal, though the music itself bears little resemblance to the current 2008 genre model.
What is seen and heard on Around The World Live is not the same band.
Actually, not even close. Deep Purple have been through so many personnel changes since the glory days of the classic lineup, you wouldn't be far off in calling them the real life Spinal Tap. At one time or another, everybody from the late, great Tommy Bolin, to Joe Satriani, to Whitesnake's David Coverdale has done time in the 'Purp.
So what we have here, is the more or less current model that features Gillan, drummer Ian Paice, and bassist Roger Glover (from the classic lineup). Jon Lord is also on board — at least for the first concert, recorded in Bombay, India prior to the keyboardist and founding member leaving the band.
For the subsequent concerts seen here, they are joined by relative newcomers Don Airey on keyboards and Steve Morse on guitar. Both prove to be more than up to the task of filling the respective shoes of Lord and Blackmore here. Morse in particular was a great choice to follow the long line of A-list guitarists who've done time in this legendary band.
The new incarnation also sounds great on the concerts I've viewed thus far, from Australia in 1999 and the U.K. in 2002. Gillan shines here as well, hitting those familiar shrieks from "Highway Star," "Woman From Tokyo," and "Space Truckin" with ease. Well mostly, anyway…
But for me the most interesting part of this set — and the DVD I went straight to after opening the box — is "Access All Areas," a documentary feature that traces the band from its inception in the 1960's, through all of its various incarnations and members from subsequent decades, right on up to the present lineup. A second documentary, "A Band Down Under" is featured on another of the discs here. There are also interviews with original members Gillan and Glover.
Around The World Live comes housed in a nice purple bound cover (of course!) that folds out to reveal the four discs, and a nice 32 page book featuring lots of photos and incisive writing by Joel McIver from Classic Rock magazine. From the same folks at Eagle Rock responsible for both the Live At Montreux and Classic Albums DVD series, this stands as a great live document of this still kicking current version of one of rock's most legendary bands.