Deep Purple
Live At The California Jam,
Ontario Speedway
[click on the red song titles in the review to play mp3 clips]

Deep Purple's 1974 US tour promoting the Burn album climaxed with this show at the Ontario Motor Speedway in California. The band were well into their stride, they were the highest selling artist in the US in 1973 and were enjoying the rewards and the lifestyle that went with it.

Anyway, Deep Purple co-headlined with ELP. The show has gone down as their most infamous largely due to Ritchie's attempt to burn his hair off. It has been available on video for ages now. The new Sonic Zoom edition sound mix is a vast improvement on the previous effort which to be frank was dreadful. Not only is the sound improved but we also get to hear a 'new' track for the very first time. So what's the craic?

The CD starts with Ritchie's strat feeding back before cranking into the Burn riff. It takes a while to get the sound levels right and as a consequence Ritchie's solo is a little down in the mix. He has developed his playing style since Mk 2 with a much faster right hand evident here and elsewhere on this disc. (In my opinion, Ritchie was at the start of his peak in 1974, lasting into Rising ).

Might Just Take Your Life follows and whilst not an obvious live choice it contains some excellent playing by Jon. It's great to hear the band hitting a groove and just jamming.

Lay Down, Stay Down is the missing track. Until recently the only clue to its existence was the suspicious change in daylight levels on the video. There had to be something chopped out! Worth the wait? Of course! Any new live track from 68-76 is. There is a bit of an aimless preamble from Jon, then they're off, with Paicey all over the kit throughout the song. Ritchie's solo features the fast plectrum work but perhaps lacks real drive or the manic beauty of the Perks version. Still I'm splitting hairs. It's great!

Better still is the underrated take of Mistreated. Without the visuals the track comes to life. Big Dave is on good form throughout and the mix is kinder to him during the climatic screaming bit, aided by Glenn, with some amazing fluid playing from Ritchie. Cool.

Smoke On The Water has a nice little intro from Ritchie before that riff kicks in. It's a good performance again, with the band blasting along, and Jon soloing over the top before Glenn does his thang.

You Fool No One is the highlight of the show with Jon's Lazy intro, Paicey setting up the groove as Ritchie riffs then Glenn join in... you know the score. Great vocals from Dave and Glenn. Fantastic first solo from Ritchie, while the second shows off his repertoire with some heavy neck wringing, lightning runs, a beautiful quiet blues, and the funky grooves he sets up. Paicey's solo is quite straightforward - for him that is, before a wonderful Mule ending.

Space Truckin', as was the way with Mk3's take on the number, is a bit stop start but features some beautiful playing from all of the band. The vocals are a bit ropey at times, it's not really their style. Glenn plays the Dance to the Rock and Roll riff, so we can forgive him his "I don't want to see anybody sitting down" line, a little unnecessary as everybody is stood in a field! Ritchie plays an unbelievably quiet Greensleeves prior to hitting the volume and some more amazing playing before the mayhem begins - although unless you are some kind of pervert (Hi Andy) Ritchie's full demolition of everything he owned on the night is a bit taxing without the visuals.

The only edits on the disc appear to be during some of the between song chat - so we lose "I keep swallowing flies up here", but we do gain Glenn's comment about Paicey "...sweating his tit's off..." so it's not all bad news! All in all though, and under the circumstances, a fine show - 8 out of 10.

review: Mike Galway asked Sonic Zoom about the missing chat bit.
"We had a timing dilemma. To leave every snippet of between song stuff on would have taken the disc 90 seconds over the absolute maximum length for a single CD. We couldn't justify making this a double CD just to accommodate 90 seconds worth of material so the engineers just pruned it enough to shoe-horn it on to one disc".

Purple Records' official "Sonic Zoom" series makes available live recordings of Deep Purple between 1968 and 1976 to the collector. The CDs are available to everyone, but only via mail-order. The Deep Purple Appreciation Society is the official outlet through dpas online and their mail-order catalogue. DPAS members are also eligible for a discount. The California Jam CD is on general retail release in Japan, on VAP Records.

Deep Purple live at the California Jam, Ontario Speedway, Los Angeles, April 6th 1974.
This new version is taken direct from the audio track of the pristine 2" video masters, unearthed in 2002. Although there remain some balance problems (the guitar is a little too far back in the mix at the start), it is a far better recording, and with digital mastering and restortion, the end result is also much louder and clearer than the previous edition.

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