Live in California 74 is but the latest incarnation of Deep Purple’s concert recorded and aired live by ABC-TV on April 6, 1974 at the Ontario Speedway near
Los Angeles. In addition to its official release on DVD in 2006, various versions have appeared in various formats with various titles over the years, all but the 2006 DVD missing one song, “Lay Down, Stay Down.” Now, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the concert, listeners can now get the complete show as a CD or via various digital formats.
The show was part of a 28-day tour that not only hyped the band’s new album, Burn, but also its new lineup featuring singer David Coverdale and bassist/secondary vocalist Glenn Hughes. All but two songs are from Burn, perhaps an indication of how much this lineup wanted to distance itself from Deep Purple’s past glories. Of course, they had to pump out the obligatory “Smoke on the Water,” and they closed out the set with “Space Truckin’.” Sort of. “Space Truckin'” is recognizable for a few minutes before Jon Lord (keyboards), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), and Ian Paice (drums) go space jamming. Well, it was the “California Jam” festival.
In many ways, the set sounds like a band in transition. There are two serious nuggets, the opener “Burn” and “Mistreated,” a blues number co-written by Blackmore and Coverdale. Other offerings such as “Might Just Take Your Life” and “You Fool No One” aren’t essential Purple tracks and not exactly barn-burners here.
Ironically, the Live in California 74 concert is best remembered for Blackmore’s misbehavior before and at the end of the show. He didn’t like the idea of the band going on early, which would ruin the light show, and was forced to join his brethren on stage courtesy of the local sheriff. Once “Space Truckin'” was over, Blackmore tried to take revenge by destroying ABC cameras and amps. Those were the days.
In the end, Live in California 74 is for completist on a budget only. There are far better live Deep Purple recordings, and many of them to boot. The DVD package of this very show is a much better buy for both the visuals and bonus features.