Deep Purple – Live In California 74 (2014)

This was the one where Ritchie Blackmore refused to go on stage, because it was not yet sunset — and he felt that would dim the impact of Deep Purple’s lightshow. The one where ABC, which was broadcasting this performance live from California’s Ontario Speedway four decades ago in April, brought in the sheriff’s department to roust him out of the dressing room.

The one where a still-outraged Blackmore then proceded to rearrange some of the pyrotechnics to go off into his amplifier — briefly sparking a dramatic fireball. Deep Purple was forced to flee by helicopter as outraged promoters, television executives and the law gave chase.

As such, it’s not hard to become so distracted by Blackmore’s increasingly bizarre antics, and the knowledge that he’d eventually exit Deep Purple a little more than a year later, that you end up forgetting the music. Live in California 74, due on April 1, 2014 via Eagle Rock, seeks to readjust our focus — principally because, unlike the original broadcast and the subsequent home-viewing editions, this first-ever audio release leaves us only with the songs.

Deep Purple began the show with four consecutive tracks from its then newly released Burn album, starting with a version of the title track that ditches the studio version’s prog pretensions for a gut-punch of metallic fury. Newly installed frontman David Coverdale sings like a hungry flame, while Blackmore, just-arrived bassist Glenn Hughes and stalwart Ian Paice make such a ferocious racket that you can scarcely hear organist Jon Lord’s soul-soaked asides.

That’s all you need to know about this show, which even today is so utterly visceral, so shockingly savage, so thrillingly unhinged at times that it sounds like Deep Purple might rattle California off into the sea. Despite Blackmore’s bullshit, he sparked something — something still remarkable in its power.

They make similar mincemeat of “Might Just Take Your Life,” “Lay Down, Stay Down” and “Mistreated” — though there are eventually a few glimpses of the funky turn Deep Purple would more fully embrace on Stormbringer, in particular through a grimy take on “Mistreated.” From there, Deep Purple returns to its typical set list, as heard on the Ian Gillan/Roger Glover-era Made in Japan setlist — including “Smoke on the Water”; a medley of “Lazy,” “You Fool No One” and “The Mule”; and “Space Truckin.’”

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Blackmore72

    I wonder why so many people are referring to this as a “first-ever audio release.” It’s not.

    Sonic Zoom (a part of Purple Records which was a part of Darker Than Blue) released this in 2003. I’ve got the CD in front of me. The title of the album, though, was “Just Might Take Your Life”. (ID # Pur 208)

    Sonic Zoom did a number of 70-era concerts… all legit releases.

    The booklet inside has photos from the event and the whole story.

    So I’m not sure why Eagle Rock pushes this release as one that’s never been out there. (Well, I guess I do… marketing is important, isn’t it?) Just kind of sad to see everyone buying into that line.

  • Zakko Rama

    Ofcourse marketing. Eagle Rock got all the rights of the previous releases by DarkerThanBlue. This is (I think) no. 4 in Eagle Rocks’ series of reissues. Previous releases were all out of print, so I think is great for those who missed out the first time.