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Deep Purple (Rock): Live at Long Beach Arena 1976

Album Notes

One of the more intriguing Purple eras from over the years was their "Mark IV" lineup, which was comprised of David Coverdale (vocals), Glenn Hughes (vocals, bass), Tommy Bolin (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), and Ian Paice (drums). The reason being that there was no Ritchie Blackmore in their ranks, and this lineup only managed a single studio album, the oft-overlooked Come Taste the Band, and a year after disbanding in 1976, a subpar live album, Last Concert in Japan. Due to an arm injury to Bolin, his guitar playing is not even close to what he would sound like at full-strength on the aforementioned Last Concert in Japan. But this problem was justified once and for all with the arrival of 2009's Live at Long Beach 76. Originally recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, this double-disc set has been issued several times over the years (including under such titles as On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat, among others), but far surpasses the aforementioned Last Concert in Japan. The most obvious reason for the "improvement" being Bolin's improved playing, and a far lengthier set list. Reflecting the era when arena rock was at its most indulgent and bombastic, quite a few of the tracks here feature mind-numbingly long solos or jams; case in point, extended renditions of such Purple classics as "Smoke on the Water" and "Highway Star." But the biggest culprit here is an over-20-minute version of "Lazy," which manages to incorporate parts of the solo Bolin track "Homeward Strut" (which was often incorrectly listed as "The Grind" on previously released versions of this show). And while this non-Ritchie Blackmore lineup was able to pull off the expected nuggets admirably, it's the renditions of the rarely performed Come Taste the Band material that will be of interest to longtime fans, including "Lady Luck," "Love Child," "This Time Around," and "Gettin' Tighter," the latter of which falls victim once more to the "extended jam virus." Behind Made in Japan (considered one of hard rock's finest live albums of all time), Live at Long Beach 76 is certainly one of Purple's finest live sets. ~ Greg Prato


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