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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

Deep Purple
Live on the BBC
Released: January 20, 2004
Origination Year: 1980
Time: 89:54
Tracks: 11
Produced by:Pete Dauncey
Style: Live / Studio
Format: SACD
Enhancement: DSD/Bonus Tracks

Every young person that has ever aspired to rock stardom since the 70s knows the riffs of "Smoke on the Water". Its simplistic structure and ease of movement on the fretboard makes it the 'go-to' warmup or the introductory lesson in learning to play the instrument. If you didn't play this on an actual guitar, then you have on air guitar at some point. It is easily Deep Purple's most recognizable tune and is definitely their signature song.

Not only does "Smoke on the Water" resonate as one of the great songs in the annals of Rock but their immensely popular 2 disc live document, Made in Japan, was Top 10 for a while, thereby cementing the historic album as one of the great live sets. It is therefore fitting that all subsequent live albums from Deep Purple be judged by the yardstick of MiJ and to a lesser extent, their Made in Europe followup. The lineup that comprises the band at the time of MiJ is referred to as the Mark II lineup. This lineup of Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover generated the band's hottest fire resulting in their finest hour.

Audio Fidelity's release of Deep Purple Live on the BBC in the popular format of SACD is from the Mark II lineup and therefore represents many of the songs that issued from the band's magnificent Machine Head album. This BBC show was recorded in 1972, which was the same year that Machine Head was recorded and Made In Japan was released. Immediately you're in excellent company. This contributes to the quality and strength of this live issue.

This album contains 10 songs, six of which came from Machine Head. The introduction and the atmosphere are not as frenetic and enthusiastic as MiJ (told you about that yardstick, didn't I?) but is relatively mild by comparision. This allows for the music to be unhindered by crowd noises. As far as performances go, this Live at the BBC is more picture-perfect. Where Live in Japan uses lots of crowd-pleasing tactics, this performance allows the band to play the songs more naturally. The vocals are more relaxed, the instruments allowed to play the range that Deep Purple loves to use.

A hallmark of Deep Purple is their blend of rock and jazz into a hyper metal hybrid. During the central parts of their songs, the organ experiments with many styles including a funerary "Lazy". In the recording, this song actually brings forth the first crowd interaction. Ian Gillan's voice is smooth, able to slither in and around anything that is required of it. Blackmore's guitar is controlled with breakouts here and there. The bottom line is that Live at the BBC is an excellent live album for the Mark II lineup of Deep Purple.

The performances of the songs on this album are what you would expect from Deep Purple, experimental ("Space Truckin'" is an example with organ that sounds 'bad Sci-Fi movie' spacey), and laden with favourites. And Machine Head was a favourite.

"Space Truckin'" is the major jam on this album, testing the mettle of every bandmate while clocking in at over 20 minutes. The album's BBC concert finishes with a special track of Little Richard's "Lucille". The album's closer live track, "Lucille", is not available to the CD layer due to space limitations and will therefore transition from "Smoke on the Water" to the two real gems on this SACD, "Hush", and the memorable "River Deep Mountain High", two pre-Machine Head tracks and from the Mark I lineup.

This is an SACD Stereo only issue of this album. What SACD brings to any album is clarity and an introduced appreciation. With this particular album, the live setting, while not immersive due to the disc's lack of a multi-channel mix, is defining. The guitars are crunching and heard in a depth that many of you reading this review and familiar with what DSD does for music will no doubt appreciate. Ian Gillan's vocal qualities are embellished and quite clear. Lord's organ is also clarified by the treatment. My only complaint is that the drumming and bass do not seem to be given the amount of clarity that others on this issue enjoy. That could be a problem of the masters. You can hear the drums, at times distant and buried and at other times fine, especially when not drowned by guitars, just never given the clarity it deserves. Glover's bass is not as clear as it could be.

This does not detract from the experience of the album. Deep Purple is one of those bands that is loud and noisy on purpose. As a matter of fact, they are noted as being, at one time, the loudest rock n roll band. This recording brings some beautiful artistic moments out. With "Smoke on the Water" where every instrument gets a chance to merge in with the preceding instruments, the effects are great. Spacing is not bad considering the album's stereo only limitation. You certainly won't hold it against the album.

Those bonus tracks? Oh, it's what makes this disc an even more exciting release and a powerful reason to acquire the issue. For this reviewer, to hear the spectacular "River Deep Mountain High" was revelatory. The lyrics are a bit creepy with references to love and ragdolls but what a great Deep Purple song. And it sounds extraordinary. I would have liked the main vocal more central but that's a subjective issue.

"Hush" is equally impressive. For those of you that loved pre-Machine Head Deep Purple, this funky version rocks and easily showcases the SACD qualities found on this album. For DSD showiness, "Hush" is your tune. For greatness, "River Deep Mountain High" from 1969's The Book of Taliesyn is stunning.

Again, if you wonder what all the hoopla about SACDs are about, you owe it to yourself to investigate. Being a Deep Purple fan makes it easier with this release.

Track Listing:

SACD - Introduction / Highway Star / Strange Kind of Woman / Maybe I'm a Leo / Never Before / Lazy / Space Truckin' / Smoke On the Water / Lucille (Special Track for SACD Only) / Bonus Tracks - Hush / River Deep Mountain High.

Deep Purple - Ian Gillan: Vocals; Roger Glover: Bass; Richie Blackmore: Guitar; Ian Paice: Drums; Jon Lord: Keyboards.

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