The original Deep Purple line-up included singer Rod Evans, bassist Nicky Simper, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice. This Mark I incarnation of the band was together for three albums before Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.
For years it was thought that no live footage of the early Deep Purple existed. It turned out that one 1968 concert in Inglewood, California, where they opened for Cream, was recorded on a primitive open reel recorder. The tape was lost for years but ended up in the hands of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society. The music was finally issued on CD for the first time during 2002. Inglewood: Live In California contained some of the very few live Mark I recordings that have survived.
The sound leaves a lot to be desired due to the primitive and haphazard recording process. They probably cleaned it up as well as modern technology allowed but the result was average bootleg quality, at best.
Rod Evans was a good vocalist in the studio but on stage he paled next to his future replacement Ian Gillan. Still, it’s nice to hear him interpret the band’s early material. Bassist Nick Simper comes across as an excellent bassist as he and drummer Paice formed a very competent rhythm section. Blackmore was a presence on some of the tunes but it was Jon Lord on the keyboards that provided the dominating instrumental sound.
The set list is very different from every other Deep Purple live recording. Their two early hits “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” are psychedelic rock and hard rock respectively. “Mandrake Root” and “Wring That Neck” enabled Blackmore and particularly Lord to jam together and separately.
They couldn’t translate their brilliant cover of The Beatles’ “Help” from the studio to the stage. They just didn’t get the textures and tempos right. They finished with an almost 10-minute rendition of “River Deep Mountain High” and the old Leaves psychedelic classic “Hey Joe.” The Phil Spector/Ike & Tina Turner tune was turned into a psychedelic/hard rock hybrid. “Hey Joe” was a raw and gritty performance that would look ahead to some of their future work.
This early live material is not for the Deep Purple neophyte. It is for fans who want to explore their history and in that regard it is a valuable addition to their catalogue of music.