Another year, another Deep Purple live album. It’s not nearly as essential as Made in Japan, of course, even if there are some redeeming qualities. Ian Gillan’s voice hasn’t lost a trick in the 40 years since he took over as Purple’s singer. If anything, his vocals are even more powerful than they were during Purple’s early-‘70s peak. Similarly, the rhythm section of drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover remains one of the most potent in hard rock.
There are, however, two key failings here. For one, guitarist Steve Morse (ex-Dixie Dregs) remains a poor fit with the band. His attempts to replicate Ritchie Blackmore’s sawtooth attack fall flat-—he’s simply too much of a muso (he gets not one but two noodley jazz-guitar solos). The real weak spot here, however, is the orchestra. Deep Purple have gone the orchestral route before, with the 1970 album and film Concerto for Group and Orchestra, but then the music was written to accommodate the orchestra. Here, the orchestra is simply tacked on to the band’s hard-rock songs, usually replicating guitar and keyboard lines, which makes it either redundant or, during some songs—such as “Hush” and “Woman from Tokyo”—unlistenable clutter. Deep Purple’s best songs remain worthy of respect but this is hardly the place to hear them. Unless you’re looking for a (very poor) sequel to Concerto, save your money.