The Deep Purple DVD's are coming out in bunches these days, and that's a good thing. Live in California 74 is the infamous performance at 1974's historic California Jam festival. This was a 12 hour event held at the Ontario Speedway in California back in April of 1974, co-headlined by ELP, and also featuring Black Sabbath, The Eagles, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Rare Earth, Seals and Crofts, and Black Oak Arkansas. With over 200,000 people in attendance, full TV crews, hot sunny weather, you would have expected all sorts of craziness going on in the crowd. In reality, there was plenty of controversy going on backstage, as Deep Purple and the promoters argued about what time the band would take the stage. As history tells it, all of the opening acts actually finished ahead of schedule, so as 6PM rolled around, and with 5 hours left, they had ample time to get the two headliners sets in. Purple had agreed to let ELP close the show, but upon their arrival at the speedway they figured that they had some time to relax and get ready for their set, which should have started around 7PM. To their surprise, the promoters wanted them to go on an hour earlier, which infuriated the band (especially Ritchie Blackmore) and they threatened to pull out of the festival and not perform. Well, cooler heads prevailed, and the band did indeed go on a little earlier than expected, much to the delight of the 200,000 plus strong in attendance, who were already getting impatient from waiting around for a while after the Black Sabbath set. However, Mr. Blackmore was still peeved, but more on that later.
The tour that Deep Purple were undertaking was for the new Burn album, with their fresh new line-up of David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass/vocals, who joined original members Blackmore, Lord, and Paice after Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had left. For the young Coverdale,this was his first major tour, first time in the US, and first ever time in front of such a massive audience. Watching the show, you can see that the singer was as nervous as he was excited to be in front of this sea of people, and while his frontman persona had not yet fully developed (he spends most of the concert standing still in one spot) his vocals were in fine form, especially on the Burn material. Bringing in Hughes (from Trapeze) to handle bass and second lead vocal was an interesting concept, as the two complemented each other nicely on the studio product. Live, Hughes' more powerful vocals tended to drown out the more soulful pipes of Coverdale, especially when they were both singing lines together. However, when each had their own moments in the spotlight, they shined, and shined brightly. Killer versions of "Burn", "Might Just Take Your Life", and "Lay Down, Stay Down" were played at this event, and you can see and hear the renewed vigor that the two new members have instilled in the band. This music was heavy, but with more empasis on blues and funk. The band also played a scorching "Mistreated", comple with a stunning guitar performance from Blackmore as well as Coverdale's emotional and powerful vocal.
Of course, the band could not leave the California Jam without playing "Smoke on the Water", yet somehow it seemed strange hearing Coverdale and Hughes singing this song. The Gillan era material seems to have a stamp for his vocals and his alone for some reason. No matter, the crowd of course loved it. Next up, the band launched into two huge epics, "You Fool No One" (featuring a wicked guitar solo from Blackmore and a drum extravaganza by Paice) from the Burn album, and the classic "Space Truckin' ". Each song gave the band plenty of time to jam and solo, and while today it would have been insane to attempt two songs at over 45 minutes as your closing two numbers, back in the early 70's this was commonplace. On "Space Truckin' ", the band allowed for the wild Hammond and synth solos from Lord (let's face it, this guy is the king of the Hammond organ, and his playing throughout this set is just amazing), Hughes' scat singing and wah-wah bass solo, and of course, the destructive and chaotic finale from Blackmore. You see, Ritchie destroyed not one, but three guitars this night, as well as many of his amps and speaker cabinets. In addition, he decided to take out his frustrations from the earlier argument with the promoters on the poor camera guy who was filming near him. So, in the middle of him smashing his guitars, blowing up Marshall amps and throwning them off the stage, he turns to the camera man with his Fender Stratocaster and starts smashing the camera! I don't think I have ever seen such a wild scene of destruction at a rock show. It's truly something you have to see to believe, and the crowd at Ontario is just going nuts!
If that's not enough, the DVD has a few extras, like some commentaries, photo gallery, alternate camera angles of a few songs, some extra backstage and pre-show footage, and varying audio options. The overall quality of the show is pretty good, as it has been restored and remastered.In short, this is a must own DVD for Deep Purple fans.
2) Might Just Take Your Life
3) Lay Down, Stay Down
5) Smoke on the Water
6) You Fool No One
7) Space Truckin'