After performing in Graz, Austria on April 3, 1975, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore would play just two more gigs with Deep Purple before founding Rainbow. The new Graz 1975 from Eagle Rock contains the eight songs the band played that night. These were the final performances of the third incarnation of Deep Purple, or “MK III” as fans refer to the lineup of Blackmore, David Coverdale (vocals), Glenn Hughes (bass), Jon Lord (organ), and Ian Paice (drums). Perhaps because nobody but Blackmore knew he was leaving at the time, Graz 1975 is one of the best of Deep Purple‘s many live albums.
Deep Purple MK III came about with the replacement of vocalist Ian Gillan by Coverdale, and bassist Roger Glover with Hughes in 1973. Consequently, the band were loathe to perform many songs from the MK II period, even though that was their most commercially successful time. In fact, only two survived from their earlier days, “Smoke on the Water” and “Space Truckin’.”
“Burn” is the title track of the first MK III long player, and it opens the show. The song is aptly titled, as it smolders in the classic Deep Purple vein. The follow-up to Burn was Stormbringer, and the title track of it is next. The Stormbringer album was a point of contention for Blackmore, and it represented a real departure for the group. Hughes has since taken credit for introducing an R&B element to the band‘s music, which manifested itself on Stormbringer. While nobody would mistake Deep Purple for Earth, Wind and Fire, the record contains the funkiest sounds the band would ever be associated with.
What is strange is hearing how Blackmore himself was influenced by this change, especially in the classic opening chords of “Smoke on the Water.” On the live Made in Japan from 1972, Blackmore’s guitar sound is extremely clean and precise. On Graz his playing is loose, he plays all around the chords, very much like a jazz guitarist. This new style of playing is even more pronounced on the final track “Space Truckin’,” especially during his extended solo.
I have always enjoyed Stormbringer, and the more groove-oriented playing of Blackmore on it, and it is surprising to realize that he had to leave the band to shed the style. This is the key attraction of the MK III period for many, as it is a type of music Blackmore never really returned to. Graz 1975 captures this incarnation of Deep Purple in their final days, and this lesser-known era was one of the most intriguing chapters of their career.
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