Deep Purple "PERFECT STRANGERS LIVE"

Deep Purple "PERFECT STRANGERS LIVE"

   After lying dormant for eleven years, the definitive MK II line-up of Deep Purple (responsible for the monolithic cornerstones of the group's catalogue: In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head) reunited for a new album Perfect Strangers and a world tour. The album was a massive success and the related concert tour ran from November 1984 to the end of August in 1985 visiting Australia, The U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe. As was often the case back then, although not so much these days, touring meant promoting the latest release and Deep Purple did this, every night playing five of the eight tracks on the Perfect Strangers album. The title track specifically shines in a live setting, rising majestically into a modern epic.

   As important as the record and resulting tour were however, it's unbelievably taken twenty-nine years to finally get an officially released quality live document of this period.

   The new release of Perfect Strangers Live captures a show early in the tour from Sydney Australia on Dec 12 1984. Clearly reinvigorated playing together, the five piece group charge the stage with confidence and a clarity of purpose. Ian Gillan is vocally still very strong, retaining most of his considerable range. Ritchie Blackmore's guitar playing alternates between sharp precision and chaotic enthusiasm, but always his choice. The guitar solo for example at the end of "Under The Gun" is an astonishing example of melodic lyricism and fierce riffing resulting in Blackmore removing his axe and violently scraping it against his own P.A. (something I vividly recall from the April 1 1985 Toronto concert). True to the man's mercurial nature, later on in the tour this solo would be completely rewritten (see Paris July 9 85 for example) making this more exciting solo all the more scarce to be filmed here. 

  The relationship between Gillan and Blackmore seems at it's healthiest here as well, the two front-men openly smiling at each other and seemingly enjoying playing together again. Far from the icy divide between them that has existed now for years and directly led to Blackmore finally quitting the band for good in 1993. During "Gypsy's Kiss" Blackmore reaches from behind Roger Glover and plays the bassist's instrument for a rare moment of levity. This sense of comadaradiere was increased at the June 18 85 show in Malmo, Sweden when he actually switched instruments with Glover for the encore "Smoke On The Water"!

  The DVD includes a twenty-three minute documentary featuring period clips, rehearsal footage and live material. Unfortunately the doc leaves out any film from the following night on Dec 13 where George Harrison joined them for the encore (the footage exists). The doc does have a clip from UK TV from their appearance headlining the huge Knebworth festival on June 22 1985 (documented on the substandard Knebworth 85 2 CD set) and a Canadian TV clip from the final night of the tour at the Texxas Jam festival on Aug 25 1985. A more comprehensive documentary surely could have been produced, including the official music videos from this era as well as bonus footage from other shows on the tour (ie: Providence March 3 85) and some contemporary interviews with the band members discussing this reboot of their career. 

    Perfect Strangers Live is available on both CD and DVD plus a deluxe edition of CD, DVD and double vinyl. The Japanese import boxed set version includes one bonus track.

 

RL 2013.

   After at least three live DVDs featuring Brian Johnson (and all filmed since 1990) it's better late than never for these guys to finally release the 1979 concert film Let There Be Rock  on DVD for the first time. Featuring the formidable vocalist Bon Scott in Paris on the Highway To Hell  tour (his last) this is simply one of the greatest live concert videos ever.
   From the set opener "Live Wire" the energy absolutely crackles as the band make their intentions clear: to rock. Song after song is delivered with ultimate impact. The rhythm section doesn't just pound away, they actually swing. Angus rips sparks from his axe and sends them sprawling over the crowd, and at the center of the bedlam is thier Scottish frontman Bon learing like a deranged master of ceremonies.
   If you're only familiar the the band's later tours and live DVDs one thing may stand out about this one. There are absolutely no props on this stage. No massive swinging bell, no canons, no giant "Rosie" inflatable, no towering Angus statues etc.. Just five working class guys hammering away at a tight set list of straight ahead rockers. Back then they didn't need giant toys on the stage.

​ And if you think it's not captivating viewing without all those props just remember that the Let There Be Rock film actually played theatrically in the early 80's and audiences went to see it like they were going to a concert.

   Let There Be Rock is available in a standard basic DVD or as a numbered limited edition that includes exclusive bonus interviews, collector cards, a tribute booklet & a guitar pick all housed in a tin case.

   The limited collector's edition is also available on blu-ray.

AC/DC "LET THERE BE ROCK"

"ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME LIVE: LEGENDS"

   Late 2009 saw the release of a fantastic 3 DVD set Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: Live celebrating 25 years of induction speeches and performances. Not only was the collection a remarkable explosion of musical styles, it also presented extremely heartfelt and humorous toasts. Not surprisingly, the set was an immediate hit with both critics and fans. Also not a surprise, after 25 years there's still plenty of gold in the Hall Of Fame archives to be mined which leads us to the second volume Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Live: Legends  another 3 DVD set with absolutely no duplication with the first volume.
   The first disc kicks off with an all star version of "Roll Over Beethoven" from the very first ceremony in 1986 featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and Neil Young.

When a DVD begins with a line-up like that you know you are in for a hell of a show!
   An extremely special moment occurs when Little Richard while inducting Otis Redding in 1989 breaks into a beautiful version of "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" displaying a rare vocal sensitivity luckily captured on film forever. This is one of the Hall's not to be missed clips.
   Easily the heaviest footage on the first disc occurs in 2009 when Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page fuse "Beck's Bolero" and "The Immigrant Song" into a single massive wall of dense riffing. Watch how these two life-long friends ram signposts from their respective, divergent careers into each other creating an almost new slab of classic rock.
   But the music isn't just what the Hall Of Fame is about. The induction speeches are a big part of the festivities as well. Two of the most entertaining toasts in the history of the hall are found in the bonus features in disc one. Little Steven Van Zandt's 1997 speech inducting The Rascals not only gave the group it's long over due spotlight, it also led directly to Van Zandt being cast in The Sopranos as mobster Silvio Dante. Talking about the group's place in the history of white soul singers, he exclaims "to sound that black...you had to be Italian!"
   Best of all is the speech given by Tom Hanks inducting The Dave Clark Five in 2008. Hanks dramatically, and not without a bit of humour although far less than you might expect, colourfully describes the impact this band had upon young, impressionable minds in the mid 60's. He punctuates his words with fists pounding, finger pointing and occasionally shouting while the audience whistles and hollers their support and approval. Hank's appreciation for the music isn't a surprise. His directorial debut 1996's

That Thing You Do! wonderfully captures the early rock and roll era perfectly. His passionate speech inducting The DC5 is itself a tribute to a more innocent time about to be changed forever by the British Invasion.
   The set's second disc features an educational sampling of past inductees including: Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ruth Brown, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Carl Perkins. Can't beat a line-up like that.
   The 1993 induction of Creedence Clearwater Revival however is a bit problematic. Sure, Springsteen's speech inducting the group is smart and funny. And the performance of "Born On The Bayou" is fine but it's not by CCR. One of Fogerty's demands regarding his old group entering the hall was that although his former band mates would be collecting awards, they were forbidden from sharing the stage with him. This bit of ugliness behind the scenes taints the moment and Fogerty's reputation forever.
   Also from 1993 is the induction of The Doors with lead vocals supplied by Eddie Vedder, an idea that might have looked good on paper but is even better in person. They dig deep into a solid version of "Break On Through" with Eddie doing his best to channel the energy if not the spirit of the late Jim Morrison. When Vedder makes a mistake by starting the chorus too early at one point even it seems like a small tribute to the unpredictable former front man. Here's hoping a future volume includes their blistering take on "Roadhouse Blues" which was also performed this night. Oddly, although Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield's 2006 speech inducting Black Sabbath is here, Metallica's crushing rendition of "Iron Man" is nowhere to be found.

   The last disc spotlights many of the R&B, soul and funk artists who have been honoured over the years. Any DVD with live performances by Solomon Burke, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Al Green and my personal faves The O'Jays has got to be a winner and this does not disappoint. The 1992 induction of Booker T and the MG's includes a searing take of "Green Onions" with Steve Cropper, The Edge, Neil Young, Keith Richards and a completely over the top Ernie Isley trading smoking guitar solos. The version of "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker" by Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997 starts pretty rickety but man do they hammer down the groove by the middle section and then use the repetitious beat to drive home what made this group so great at their peak.

Among the bonus features is Ron Wood's speech from 2009 inducting the great Bobby Womack although not a single song from his set (he performed a medley of hits) appears on the DVD which is a huge mistake and missed opportunity.

   Still, the incredible collection of various artists being presented here is an almost overload of some of the greatest artists in the history of music. Personally I actually have some problems with the very idea of the Hall Of Fame and their whole induction process but I cannot deny that these DVDs are important documents of some fantastic music to be treasured forever.

And I'm already looking forward to volume three....
 


RL 2010.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Needle Magazine.