Judge P.S. Colbert believes "Imperfect Acquaintances" would have made a more truthful album title.
"Actually, we're not a heavy metal band. We're more country and Western compared to heavy metal."—Roger Glover
The time was 1984. The place was Down Under. One, two, three and:
Let's bring out the band: Ian Gillan on Vocals. Ritchie Blackmore on Guitar. Roger Glover on Bass. Ian Paice on Drums, and John Lord, (quite literally) rocking the Hammond Organ. Ladies and Gentlemen…Mark 2!
Deep Purple have been the subject of a parlor game that has enflamed rock music historians and critics for decades—principally, whether the five man pop/psychedelic/heavy metal outfit qualifies as masters of their domain, or merely as pretentious followers who lucked into massive success by being in the right place at the right time (specifically from mid-1972 through mid-1973, when stiff competition was decidedly sparse). Troll through the annals of Verdict reviews and you'll find a microcosm of this debate raging between my ever-opinionated colleagues, pleading pro, con, and in one case, almost perversely artful equivocation. (Judge Patrick Naugle, take a bow!)
No offense intended towards the many top-flight musicians who've filled out the roster before or since, but Deep Purple's Mark (or Mk.) 2 has always been the definitive line-up for me. I guess I came along at just the right time to be convinced that the creators of "Smoke On The Water" were mystical musical gods from on high, and should be worshiped accordingly. An extremely volatile unit, both musically and temperamentally, this permutation lasted a whisker over four years (1969-73) and—having just established themselves as platinum superstars—separated, most acrimoniously.
Deep Purple: Perfect Strangers Live is the testament of a miracle. Eleven years after their fiery implosion, and against all odds (not to mention multiple big money tour offers), Mk. 2 announced their reformation. Nowadays, the announcement of a "classic" rock ensemble reconvening its most famous formation and hitting the road for auld Lang Syne is greeted with all the excitement of the latest traffic and weather break on oldies radio stations. But in 1984 (before the genre had even celebrated its thirtieth birthday), news that DP Mk II was rising from the ashes to release a new album ("Perfect Strangers," natch) and tour behind it was groundbreaking stuff.
The performances on this disc were culled from the tour's kick-off in Australia, where the band played eleven shows, from November 27 through December 13—I wish I could be more specific than that, but neither the packaging nor the performances themselves give any specific indication of date or location. What the well-written booklet (and the performances themselves) does make clear is that these dates were used in order to let the guys get reacquainted with playing out live together.
That's not to say the performances are bad; on the contrary. Gillan's voice betrays some ragged edges (he can be seen coughing into his hand on a few occasions), and Paice drops a stick during his drum solo spotlight on "Lazy," but these are minor impediments, not to mention remnants of the days where bands actually played without programming and lip-synched perfection. If you've been raised on a steady diet of Ashlee Simpson and Boy Band shows, this footage might be alarming, so please view responsibly.
As Mk.2 disciples are aware, Gillan, Paice, and company are more than capable of wiping the floor with most—if not all-comers, stage gremlins be damned, and this mix of old favorites and (then) new numbers are sure to satisfy the faithful.
One more disclaimer for the uninitiated: Though Deep Purple are rightly cited as "heavy metal pioneers," the genre had changed a lot while they were separated. Thus, anyone expecting stage props on the order of giant demon heads belching fire, animated dragon battles projected on overhead screens, and scantily clad, dancing succubae are in for a shock: Deep Purple shows featured Deep Purple, playing and singing, period. Okay, there's a bit of dry ice fog occasionally wafting in to hide the floor, but no pentagrams, flash-powder explosions, cowled druids, or any of the other bush-league toys that turned "heavy metal music" from harder rock into a laughable sub-circus act. In fact, the "special effects" here are the spontaneous smiles breaking out on the faces of the musicians as they clearly enjoy playing together again.
God only knows where the footage has been hiding all these years (again, the packaging is no help!) and why it wasn't made available back in the day, considering the obvious demand. In fact, the "Perfect Strangers" tour wound up becoming the most successful international concert juggernaut of 1985—only in the U.S. did Purple come second, behind Springsteen, then in his "Born In The U.S.A." peak.
Better late than never, Eagle Vision shows us how it all went down in those days of yore. Because this footage was apparently never intended for theatrical release, it's reasonable to expect full frame visuals, and there are some tell-tale lines, betraying their video origins, they otherwise look great. There are DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and a further stereo track to choose your audio presentation from. Again, bearing in mind the age of the source material, I think you'll be well pleased, sound-wise, too.
Aside from the aforementioned booklet, there's an additional twenty-minute "Tour Documentary" added. I have no idea where this came from, but it's obviously another mid-'80s relic, and it shows quite a bit of aging. Then again, it's a treasure for DPMk2 fans, in that it transports the viewer immediately back to that kinder, gentler time when a thirty-eight year old musician had to endure being called a dinosaur.
Meanwhile, Purple soldiers on into its forty-sixth year, with keyboardist Don Airey and former Dixie Dregs axe man Steve Morse augmenting Gillan, Glover, and sole remaining founder Paice. Blackmore left in a final huff circa 1993, and Lord—who quit in 2002—died in July, 2012. He was seventy-one.
Never content to rest on its laurels, or atrophy into an oldies review, Purple (Mk.8!) released its nineteenth studio album, "Now What?!" in April of this year, and the reviews have been very encouraging—some of them, anyways.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What, no "Woman From Tokyo"?!
Thank you, and goodnight—Safe home, everyone!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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