Purple - 'Kneel & Pray' Live In Montreux '69
The set starts with the extended swell of Hammer horror-esque Hammond, ebbing and flowing for nigh on 45 seconds until the familiar lurching intro of what we now know as Speed King kicks in...
Some of the lyrical structures are familiar, as is the music (the references to Miss Molly, Lucille etc are there) but there's no "chorus" as such lyrically, and the break after the chorus is much more deft, rolling away with none of the crashing power that later developed to carry the chorus into the following verses. Gillan screams through much of the second verse (no lyrics), then the middle section is upon us, "you've got to kneel down, turn around, tell me what you found" being a familiar strain to those owners of the Paradiso `69 boots floating around. (check www.purplemash.demon.co.uk for details of known vinyl and CD bootleg titles from the era) . Much of the construction is closer to the BBC studios version, still way off from the final brutal onslaught of the In Rock version but the ending is an exercise in controlled power; tight and to the point. Ian Gillan actually credits the track as Kneel And Pray after the embryonic song, still developing into the fully-fledged bruiser which the band are still kicking about thirty years after this was laid down onto copper oxide.
In terms of sound, I'm immediately thinking of "Space Vol1 & 2" (also available on Purple Records right now), or any of the Aachen `70 boot titles, with everything up there (but crisper and cleaner given the official nature of this recording) and an overloaded vocal which strains at the speakers in more intense moments. Instrumentally, though, there are no such issues.
Wring That Neck was, by this time a well established and lengthy staple of the Deep Purple set, never perfunctory but certainly way more polished than the opener. Blackmore and Lord (as ever in those days) spar for supremacy and in turn vying to outdo each other, flicking the switch between effortless jazz chords, particularly Ritchie's simple rhythmic work here, and then disappearing off with stratospheric roaring solos. You can only guess at the excitement at being witness first hand to this, the recording eerily laying bare the band without the intrusion of an audience to which those of us who explore the Purple legacy through the bootleg medium have come to become accustomed. At just under 6 minutes in the track, everybody backs off and Paicey's shuffle and Roger's throbbing basswork underpin some nice noodling from Ritchie before the accelerator (or should that be volume pedal?) is applied again, some truly electrifying guitar work building to one of the many crescendos of the song. My fingers hurt just imagining how this sort of stuff can be played by one set of hands alone.
Eventually though, Blackmore backs off and it's Jon's turn to work, unaccompanied on one of his classically inspired outings, darting metaphorically off all over the place while tying together the loose ends with various musical themes with the occasional assistance of Roger and little Ian, before the reigns are handed back to the man in black for his solo spot. It's reminiscent of his work for the band's pre Concerto set, which had taken place just a couple of weeks or so prior to this set. None of the nervous picking here though. Free of the pressures of TV cameras, Ritchie winds it up all the way before the band crash out in a frenetic, full-on finale to the track.
Next up, some light relief from the musical bombardment as the band launch into Hush, attacked with some more vigour than their attempt at the abovementioned Concerto. Jon and Ritchie again spar, as little Ian tackles a hypnotic drum backing to the instrumental section, drawn out and again featuring some excellent keyboard work which seems to go on and on, Ritchie's chopping guitar accompaniment again ranging from measured picking to almost hacking in intensity, as Jon's lengthy solo rises to it's intense peak before the song is closed out by the re-entry of Ian Gillan.
"Let that man out immediately" cries Gillan in response to something I can't quite make out from elsewhere on the stage as the band slow things down for Child In Time, again sound fresh, crisp and assured. As the song has been played and played over the years, some of the dynamics and atmosphere on display here have sadly been lost in favour of a more obvious suckerpunch, but back in `69 Gillan could still scream and the dynamics were controlled rather than overwhelmingly elevated by the use of overloaded guitars and sheer brute force volume. Here we have what could be considered definitive Deep Purple, displaying on the one hand a measured calm and confidence towards their music and then that "teetering on the precipice" sensation as they pound away at the middle section of the song, crackling with energy until the familiar run of triplets heralds the abrupt termination and return to near-silence, Jon continuing almost as if in a world of his own for a few bars after everyone else has stopped, before switching gear down to begin the final section of the song.
Paint It Black starts off with some gusto, I don't know why, but the sound of this recording lends itself much more to allowing the ear to concentrate on each of the instruments in turn. The brief nod in the direction of the Stones original melody is quickly blown away as Paicey bashes the skins for nigh-on eight minutes before reprising the riff, Jon carrying the tune while Ritchie abuses the trem with little or no regard for it's well-being.
Closing out the main body of the set is the second lengthy (mainly!) instrumental Mandrake Root, again similar in feel to many of the known bootlegs from the `69/'70 period. Once established, the song changed little until it metamorphosed into the instrumental sections of Space Truckin in 1972 but here, again, there's a freshness to the bobbling bass and drum work, with parts of Jon's keyboard work nodding a hint of The Mule and Grabsplatter... or is it just my imagination. This one just keeps going and going, freeform work held up on an at times imponderably thin and subtle layer of rhythm work, Ritchie idly picking away in the background while Jon doodles away with seemingly no desire to stop before taking the volume (but not energy) level down a few bars, everyone winding off the volume to take the song into a more deliberated direction, before pumping up the volume to allow for Mr B. to take centre stage for some further trem abuse. His use of eastern sounding (as in Egypt, not Cromer) scales takes things up a further notch. I know the triplet I'm expecting here, but Ritchie teases and teases, returning time and time again to inflict the sort of abuse on his poor guitar that leaves my ears not able to believe the noises generated from the groaning Marshalls without the guitar having been broken into a thousand pieces. Eventually he relents and Jon takes over briefly, presumably the guitar having been kicked about around the floor and now requiring to be returned around it's owner's neck for the final few seconds of the song and then that's it, "thank you very much and good night", all over bar the obligatory curtain call.
But what's this, it says Kentucky Woman is the encore. Nah?? Bloody hell, it really IS Kentucky Woman! Close to the original album version, the vocals here are particularly overloaded, and instrumentally Jon is all over his keyboard as everyone else pounds away relentlessly. Ritchie's solo is an especially fine example of guitar strangulation, not quite the bizarrely off-kilter affair of the studio take, but sticking to the spirit. Jon's keyboard solo has, I'm quite sure, been used by him to introduce Lazy on their more recent tours, where it comes from I cannot claim to know, but the musical familiarity doesn't last long as his hands slide ever onward up the keys to give the familiar swell before we're back into the final verse and chorus. Fun, interesting and historically important, the first (and probably last) known take of this song featuring Roger and Ian G.
I know that I welcome every Sonic Zoom release with more superlatives and unconditional acceptance, but this one is new to all of us. There's no full set from this era already available, and the inclusion of this elsewhere unavailable mk2 encore merely makes this an essential set. No excuses!
review: Martin Ashberry