Deep Purple – California Jam 1974 Reel To Reel Soundboard Recording (Darker Than Blue DTB 297/298)

California Jam 1974 Reel To Reel Soundboard Recording (Darker Than Blue DTB 297/298) 

California Jam I, Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA, USA – April 6, 1974 

Disc 1 (40:27) Intro, Burn, Might Just Take Your Life, Lay Down Stay Down, Mistreated, Band Introductions, Smoke On The Water 

Disc 2 (45:23) Keyboard Solo incl. Lazy, You Fool No One, Guitar Solo, Blues, You Fool No One (reprise), Drum Solo, The Mule, Space Truckin’, Announcement 

My first taste of Deep Purple’s famous performance at the first California Jam in spring 1974 was on the Live At The California Jam title from Mausoleum Classix Records. The audio for this title, while being a soundboard, was taken from the video tape and to my ears suffered from Blackmore’s guitar being somewhat low in the mix. This title was also issued by EMI as California Jamming. These early releases were not the complete show as Might Just Take Your Life was missing. In 2003 Deep Purple’s bootleg series issued Just Might Take Your Life on their Sonic Zoom label, boasting improved sound taken from the 2″ master tape, and for the first time included the missing track Might Just Take Your Life. Since the performance was not multi tracked, the mix could not be dealt with but the better sound quality showcased the power of the band. Two years later the complete performance became available on video as Live In California 1974 from EMI? What could be better? Both video and audio in excellent quality. 

Earlier this year three recordings appeared on a couple of well known trackers of Rare Earth, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple’s performance at the California Jam. Here is the information from the Deep Purple recording:

This is a First Generation copy of a Reel to Reel Soundboard recorded with microphones placed at the stage amps. The equipment is unknown. This is NOT from the TV Broadcast or from a soundboard that the band may possess. It is an independent soundboard. I received this in early 1977. This is the last tape I can find from this event. Hopefully, the other three sets can be found. The ELP set has been released with liner notes from Alan of Cal Jam’s web site. I remember Jon Lord’s playing on Space Truckin’ being extraordinarily good. I figured it was necessary since Keith Emerson’s band would follow. 

Well this peaked my interested and certainly many others. As the number of downloads increased there were theories as to what this recording actually is. Most believe it is from the same microphones as the official source was but split and sent to an alternate reel to reel recording device, video evidence does not support additional microphones being present. This recording is not complete as there was a tape issue during You Fool No One specifically the drum solo from .50 to 2:48, Darker Than Blue has used the official version to fill the missing portion, the cut is seamless and only by careful listening will one even notice this. 

The sound quality in this new release is excellent, all instruments and vocals are well defined in the mix. There is virtually no tape hiss and just a hint of distortion at times in the the upper frequencies. If anything the bottom end is just a bit thin. This alternate mix is a vast improvement over the official version as Blackmore’s guitar is (finally) front and center and extremely powerful in the mix. The massive audience is extremely low in the mix and many times this hinders the atmosphere, you will not find that with this recording. For those who are familiar with the official titles, this new mix will blow your socks off, it gives the entire performance an edge and, in my opinion, gives a completely different perspective to this concert. Perhaps the best way to describe this recording is stunningly glorious and RAW, it demands to be played at high volumes. 

The recording begins with the band taking the stage and tuning up and taking in the massive crowd, Ritchie noodles on the Blues as David sings “Sometimes I get so lonely babe…lookin for my babe…”, more tuning and he comments “Are you all smiling? You look fucking great from here”. The band are ready and the intro jam to Burn hits you like a wave, this is everything you want it to be, Blackmore’s guitar is howling, Coverdale’s vocals are great and the band is firing on all cylinders. Another bonus of this recording is that it has all the between song chatter that was edited out of the official version, David and Glenn seem generally in awe of the massive crowd. 

Jon Lord shines on Might Just Take Your Life, his organ playing is front and center, Glenn begins to get a bit funky while Blackmore focuses on the riff. Glen introduces Lay Down Stay Down as a “Rude song…a funky Rock and Roller”, it’s certainly funkier than the previous one. David and Glenn alternating vocals is excellent, they both sing the chorus, the deep and the high in harmony. This song is punctuated by Ian Paice’s superb drumming, he plays a bit of everything on this song, sometimes laying a foundation, sometimes pushing, always guiding the ship. Ritchie plays an excellent solo to boot. 

Perhaps the showcase of this gig is the stunning version of Mistreated, Coverdale gives a superb vocal performance perhaps only equaled by Blackmore’s incredible playing, not a note out of place. After three straight forward Rock and Roll songs, Blackmore’s unique version of English electrified blues is a stunning example of his talent and just how good Deep Purple are as a band. Jon Lord does the band introductions, giving the new guys a proper introduction that leads into Ritchie doing a noodling introduction to Smoke On The Water. You’ll be hard pressed to find a heavier version of the classic riff than this version here, stunningly raw it levels the joint. Most certainly this is the song many were waiting for and Purple do not disappoint, I much prefer this early Mark III version to what it would become. Save for Glenn’s Soul vocal section, this is a rather straight forward version, nice and ‘eavy. 

A jam on Lazy leads into a Jon Lord jam into the excellent You Fool No One. It’s a long version with lots of jamming and an Ian Paice drum solo that finishes with a reprise of The Mule. Love the super chunky riff made even heavier by Ian and Glenn. The band is “Sweating our tits off” as they get into Space Truckin’. The playing is devastating, Glenn gets into a funky jam that would eventually become Dance To The Rock and Roll in future versions. This is followed by a Jon Lord solo that leads the band into the Mandrake Root jam, once Ritchie enters the fray he simply takes over, his lead runs are brilliant rising up to the occasion with part showman, part virtuoso. 18 minutes it begins to turn into a beautiful chaos of feedback and intermittent disconnections all while the Lord, Hughes, and Paice rhythm section hammer the main theme…beautiful noise. “Thank you very much for Deep Purple…There’s no way to follow that show”, the closing remarks sum up this performance perfectly. 

The packaging is fitting for this excellent performance, the front cover shot of the stage at dusk is dramatic. All the photos used for the artwork and CD’s are from the concert, some color some black and white. This release has been in my player for the past week and I have listened to it daily, it’s an excellent performance and this new mix allows you to enjoy it like never before. 

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Showing 3 reviews
  1. California Jam Revisited
    • Pros
    • Superb new tape and mix
    • Cons
    • None.

    Awesome review, Relayer67. You really nail this Darker Than Blue reissue! ‘Raw’ is definitely the word here, and the phenomenal energy of this show is much better captured in this mix than on the official version. Blackmore’s incredible guitar is definitely front and centre here. The net effect is like being at the gig and standing directly in front of his speaker stacks! Basically, his playing blows your head off!! The rest of the band is cooking too …. A great show, finally with the audio quality to do it justice.

  2. Deep Purple 'California Jam 1974: Reel To Reel Master'
    • Pros
    • Longer intro. Different mix, with Blackmore nicely to the fore. Most definitely a new source.
    • Cons
    • Minor - due to tape-issues they had to use the official version of 'You Fool No One'. I wouldn't have known had I not been told, however.

    Here below I’ve C&P my comments on the January 25th 2022 announcements page, made when some were unsure whether this was worth getting, in view of previous official releases.
    A correction to relayer’s excellent review if I may: ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’ had been the errant track.
    (NB Alas, the sister title Black Sabbath ‘California Jam 1974: Reel to Reel Soundboard’ [Zodiac 494] is not as great a departure from previous versions as is this DP title. )

    March 2, 2022, 11:07 am
    Deep Purple ‘California Jam 1974: Reel To Reel Master’
    Longer intro. Different mix, with Blackmore nicely to the fore. Most definitely a new source.

    Minor – due to tape-issues they had to use the official version of ‘You Fool No One’. I wouldn’t have known had I not been told, however.

    This is not from the mixing-desk, no, but from a mic placed in front of the PA, recording onto a reel-to-reel. This gives it that SB feel of the crowd low in the mix, but it is a different sound to the official CD releases. On that topic, ‘California Jamming – Live 1974’ (PRMUCD2, 1996) was missing ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, as was the official video release. This track was found when the original 2-inch video-master of the show was discovered in 2002, the audio-track of which was used for ‘Just Might Take Your Life’ (Sonic Zoom PUR 208, 2003)’. This also greatly improved the SQ compared to ‘California Jamming – Live 1974’.

    This new title, whilst not essential to many, offers much to the hardcore DP fan, in my opinion.”

  3. Confusion over
    • Pros
    • Now I know
    • Cons
    • Not a lot

    When I saw this in pre release news stating the first time for a soundboard, I was a little confused as I already had a SB copy of this show in my collection for some considerable time. I even have a cassette copy of the original vinyl release from the mid 70s, Perks and Tit, which is probably recorded from the broadcast video feed, so technically a SB as well.
    However, thanks to this great review all has become clear. I ordered this tonight and looking forward to stress testing my windows.

    • I think you’re still confused to be honest, because ‘Perks and Tit’ was recorded three days later at San Diego Sports Arena on 9th April. Deep Purple’s ‘Sonic Zoom’ series included official releases of both ‘Perks and Tit’ and ‘California Jam’.


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