CD Review: Deep Purple - Live in California 74

This classic Coverdale-era Deep Purple show is available on CD for the first time.
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In 1974, Deep Purple brought its new lineup to the United States for a tour to support Burn, the first album to feature David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, who had replaced Ian Gillan and Roger Glover on vocals and bass respectively. Toward the end of the tour, the band played the California Jam, delivering a literally explosive set as misplaced pyrotechnics set the stage on fire. A dispute over what time the band would take the stage led to an angry Ritchie Blackmore, who would trash some of his guitars, as well as a TV camera, at the end of the show. The show was recorded, which is fortunate as the tension led to a powerful set, and is available on CD for the first time as Deep Purple - Live in California 74.

The band's set drew heavily from the Burn album, with five of the seven songs played coming from that release. Opening with the ferocious title track, the band went for it right from the start, with Blackmore and keyboardist Jon Lord turning in virtuoso performances respectively. Coverdale and Hughes trade vocals as on the studio version, with Hughes pushing the upper limit of his register. Fans only familiar with Coverdale from his Whitesnake MTV days should check out his gritty, blues-soaked vocals on "Might Just Take Your Life, " as the band's rendition is far more energetic than its studio counterpart.

Similarly blistering is the Burn track, "Lay Down, Stay Down." Coverdale and Hughes share vocals on this barnburner, with drummer Ian Paice really pushing the tempo. The band had a new lineup to sell to the more than 200,000 fans in attendance and delivered when it counted.

The band's classic, "Smoke On The Water," is delivered in a rather straightforward fashion, with the group perhaps not wanting to upset long-time fans. Its Machine Head track mate, "Space Truckin'," is presented in a 25-minute rendition, however, with the band's legendary stage prowess on full display. Complete with Blackmore's onstage meltdown, it is a dramatic and powerful closer to a stunning set by the band.

The Mk. III version of the band would last one more album and tour before Blackmore left to form Rainbow. While different than the Gillan-fronted version, this lineup could be just as powerful in its own right when they were on, as Deep Purple - Live in California 74 proves.