“Phoenix Rising” (DVD/CD) by Deep Purple

Artist: Deep Purple
Title: “Phoenix Rising” Special Edition DVD & CD Set
Label: Eagle Vision
Release Date: 6/29/2911
Rating: 5/5

“Deep Purple Phoenix Rising” is a definitive view at the twists and turns Deep Purple took in the post Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, and Ritchie Blackmore years. While Eagle Rock rolls out a slew of Deep Purple related CD reissues this summer the video arm of the company, Eagle Vision, offers this brand-new package examining the group’s Mark III & IV incarnations. 40 years down the road, this era is often over-looked or even dismissed in the annals of music history, but as viewers will learn it was a very interesting, creative, though often rocky ride.

The Special Edition DVD & CD (non-Blu-Ray) package is loaded with goodies. The lure of piece is the previously unreleased “Deep Purple Rises Over Japan” which was filmed live at Budokan Hall in December of 1975. The footage has been restored and mixed for 5.1 and contains nearly the only extended view of the band with Tommy Bolin on guitar. The heart of the release is a nearly hour and a half documentary “The Untold Story of Deep Purple Mark IV” that candidly details the highs and lows of a band in transition. Current in-depth interviews with Jon Lord and Glenn Hughes are peppered throughout the film, their points being bolstered by archival footage.

Finding themselves without the lead singer and bassist who helped define the sound that made Purple #1 in the USA they set about scouting replacements, first in the talents of Trapeze bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes. Next, lead vocalist David Coverdale was recruited on the strength of “about 4 bars of a 30 minute tape” as drummer Ian Paice relates in a 1970’s interview. David brought “bucket loads of talent”, “immense courage” and ability to fill Gillan’s frontman position, Lord and Hughes both agree. The double fire power of the two exceptional singers, as exhibited on the “Burn” album, (“Monumental vibe”, “almost perfect album”) more than quieted the naysayers who thought the band finished with Gillan’s exit.

The film goes on to follow Blackmore’s eventual abdication, and the recruitment of young “phenom” guitarist Tommy Bolin. Bolin’s work on Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham’s first solo effort “Spectrum” had come to the attention of the group. Though Tommy himself was not initially convinced the mix would work, his audition jam session “effortlessly” got him the gig. “We had a jam and within the first minute or two I could tell they were into the same things I was into”, Bolin notes in contemporaneous interview footage. Lord remembers Bolin as a “delightful man… impossible not to love” but clearly “damaged by his addictions”.

Those addictions, along with Hughes’ substance abuse issues, marked coming hard times for the band. While selling out shows and headlining festivals the band was taking a downward spiral on a personal level. Lord, who believes the “contract” with your audience to give your best on stage is sacred, found himself often playing with “compromised” band mates. Living in Los Angeles Hughes embraced the “circus atmosphere” becoming “pathetically involved with my mistress cocaine…the bane of my life”. Lord notes, that in LA in the 70’s no one was exactly “drinking milk”, but Purple found themselves touring with a drug dealer who carried a guitar case filled with coke. The various addictions and untoward behaviors ultimately required that each band member had a personal manager or “minder” on the coming tour. After a great stint in New Zealand, it is in Jakarta, Indonesia that the scariest, most unfortunate, outcome of these misadventures manifested in the death of Patsy Collins. The insulated world of the 70’s rock god had clashed fatally with reality in a foreign land where there were heavier heavies then they. Lord and Hughes give their unvarnished view that Collins’ death was no accident; a murder. Based on the disclaimer in the end credits we can surmise David Coverdale disagrees.

By summer of 1976 it was over, Mark IV managed to record one misunderstood album, “Come Taste The Band”, that in retrospect exhibits a cool funky evolution but is to this day viewed by Jon Lord as an excellent Bolin, Hughes, Coverdale album that “just happens” to have two musicians from Deep Purple on it. Bolin pursued his career with a second solo album (“Private Eyes”) but died of an overdose before the end of the year.

Downsides of the “Phoenix Rising” package include no contemporary words from Paice or Coverdale and the unfortunate fact that Bolin was nowhere near top of his game for the Budokan filming. Those qualms aside, I can easily give my highest recommendation to “Phoenix Rising” based on the excellent documentary and revelatory interviews, the historical value of the Japan footage, the remastered Long Beach tracks on the included CD and a beautifully designed package with two booklets loaded with photos and more information. With a street price under $20, there is no imaginable reason not to add this to your collection.

Track Listing:
1. Burn
2. Love Child
3. Smoke On The Water
4. You Keep On Coming
5. Highway Star

Official Website: http://www.deep-purple.com

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