Monday, August 8, 2011

Deep Purple - Phoenix Rising

Deep Purple
Phoenix Rising
Thompson Music Pty. Ltd./Shock Entertainment

If there’s an era that bitterly divides Deep Purple fans, it would have to be the MK IV era (existing between 1975 and 1976), which would be the final line-up prior to the band deciding to call it a day before reforming some nine years later with the classic MK II formation (Producing 1984’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ album).
For many years, fans of MK IV (Who comprise of vocalist David Coverdale, guitarist/backing vocalist Tommy Bolin, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice) have been anxiously waiting for something that documented the short lived line-up of the group on the live front. And after years of talk and speculation (Spurred on with rumours of more MK III material to emerge from the vaults around the remastered/deluxe reissue of their 1975 album ‘Come Taste The Band’ last year), fans can finally get their hands on ‘Phoenix Rising’.
Given the hype surrounding the release of ‘Phoenix Rising’, and my own general fanaticism of the MK III/IV era of Deep Purple, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘Phoenix Rising’. With this C.D./D.V.D. package boasting never before seen footage of the band playing live, and a documentary, how could you not want this?
The desire was certainly there, and I was well and truly pleased to get hold of a copy as soon as I could. But if the truth be told, as pleased as I am with ‘Phoenix Rising’, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with what’s offered on this package as a whole.
The main feature on this D.V.D. is ‘Deep Purple Rises Over Japan’, a thirty minute performance from the band at Japan’s infamous Budokan Arena on 15th December 1975. Despite the fact that the band’s entire performance was shot, only five tracks from the concert have been successfully found, and is presented here for the first time ever. Performance wise, the band aren’t really at their best. But given what members of Deep Purple had just gone through while on tour in Indonesia, Bolin’s problems with his hand prior to taking the stage and the tension within the band itself (All of which are talked about in detail on the D.V.D.’s documentary), it’s understandable why the band struggle to hit their form. Despite the flaws, both ‘Love Child’ and ‘You Keep On Moving’ are exceptionally strong efforts, and definitely qualify as the real highlights from this somewhat abbreviated live show.
The overall quality and rarity of the footage itself will definitely interest diehard fans of MKIV Deep Purple. It’s just a shame that the remainder of the film hasn’t been able to be unearthed.
While some fans may find the live footage a little underwhelming, most will agree that what really stands out about ‘Phoenix Rising’ is the documentary ‘Gettin’ Tighter’.
Running for eighty-two minutes, and featuring extensive interviews with Lord and Hughes, ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ is a warts and all recount of all things Purple related from the demise of MK II (In 1973), the formation of MK III, the departure of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, the rise of MK IV and the inevitable demise of Deep Purple.
Both Lord and Hughes go into great detail demystifying the troubled years that made up the MK III/IV line-up’s of the band, lifting the lid on the music (Lord is quite forthright in his views on the three albums the band produced between 1974 and 1975), the drug addictions (Hughes and Bolin were both battling addition at the time), the world tours (The ‘Indonesian Nightmare’ chapter is quite simply unbelievable), life on the road and the eventual demise of the band.
While the documentary is a fascinating watch (The spliced in live footage really adds to the feature), it’s a shame that there’s no contributions from Coverdale and Paice. It’s a real shame, because while Lord and Hughes do an admirable job and demystifying the last days of Deep Purple, the opinions of all the members involved would have given the story a little more balance, as well as fleshing out the Deep Purple story in general.
In terms of extras, the band’s disastrous and tragic tour of Indonesia is explored in greater detail on the seven minute ‘Jakarta, December 1975 - Interview With Jon Lord & Glenn Hughes’. There’s also a nineteen minute ‘Come Taste The Band Electronic Press Kit’, where Lord and Hughes focus solely on MK IV’s only studio release. The pair breakdown each one of the album’s nine tracks, and with archival interview audio and visual footage of Bolin, shed light on the part Coverdale, Hughes and Bolin played in giving ‘Come Taste The Band’ its sound. In terms of personal highlights, this particular feature is by far the best the D.V.D. has to offer.
Overall, ‘Phoenix Rising’ is a good release, but somewhat lacking overall. The absence of both Coverdale and Paice in the documentary is quite disappointing, and the way the interview footage is shot is also a little amateurish in parts. I can’t help but feel that as a whole, ‘Phoenix Rising’ has almost everything it needs to be great, but could have been put together better.
MK II Deep Purple fans aren’t likely to find that much of interest within ‘Phoenix Rising’. But for MK III/IV diehards, this is a must have – provided that your expectations aren’t set too high.

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© Justin Donnelly