Deep Purple – Köln 1970 (Darker Than Blue 143/144)

Köln 1970 (Darker Than Blue 143/144)

Mulheim Stadthalle, Köln, Germany – April 4th, 1970 

Disc 1 (52:23) Speed King, Mumbling Thing Blues, Wring That Neck, Paint It Black / Drum Solo 

Mandrake Root inc. Bloodsucker. Stadhalle, Offenbach Germany April 10, 1971; Blsck Night, Lucille 

Deep Purple circa early 1970 were in a transitional period, they had two new members and were focusing on writing new music while sustaining themselves through touring. The record company that had released their first three records had went out of business and they were now on the Warner Brothers label. They were still living in the shadow of the Concerto project and Ian Gillan had a bit of solo success with the Jesus Christ Superstar record.

Getting back to the new music, Blackmore had wanted to focus the writing on hard rock music, to build their foundation on heavy music that was popular due to bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and to quote the Man In Black from this time period “If Its Not Dramatic or exciting, Then it doesn’t have a place on on this album”. The album that would eventually be released was the landmark In Rock and would cement the bands place in just such genre of music and would forge Blackmore’s musical identity for the remainder of the 70’s.

The source used for this release is a fair to good mono audience recording, There is a slight bit of hiss present but does not interfere as I had my stereo cranked to get the full effect. All instruments can be here but certainly the guitar, organ, and vocals are most prevalent. The show has had a couple prior releases on compact disc, Koln 4.4.70 (DP007) and Progressive 1970 (Bondage 298/299), I own neither of those so I cannot compare the sound quality.

Speed King starts off a little rough sounding and but soon clears and for the age is a very powerful sounding show, the band truly shines and the evening is devoted to a wealth of improvisation build upon a foundation of incredible musicianship. The opener is fast and furious and I am sure the German audience was in awe of what they heard, interestingly at the 6:34 mark an explosion of some sort can be heard and for what I am guessing from Ian’s comments that it was electrical as Speed King ends “Its one of those nights…one moment lets get things straightened up” that is followed by a cut in the tape.

After the cut he introduces Mumbling Thing Blues, a nine and half minute jam based around the keyboards and bass, a fast kind of swing meets boogie piece with some improvised (?) lyrics from Gillan, After a couple minutes Blackmore enters into the mix but does not push his presence instead letting Jon Lord do his thing. Gillan runs out of lyrics and even starts quoting “Who Do You Love” and just a few seconds after the six minute mark Blackmore comes out of his forced solitude and the intensity goes up a notch.

There is a cut at the songs conclusion and Ian goes to introducing the next song as a complicated one and “if you listen to the words it will explain everything”. They never play the intended song aka the “anti climax song” and instead go into Wring That Neck, clocking it a over 20 minutes is a huge vehicle for improvisation. The song, from the bands second record, is a true fusion of a variety of styles, from boogie to classical to Jazz it covers the musical soundscape in brilliant fashion.

For much of the song Roger Glover keeps a solid backbone of boogie styled bass that would have a perfect home on a ZZ Top song and together with Piace’s drumming is the foundation for Blackmore and Lord to solo over, the former seems to take the first half of the song before the song settles down and Lord, to great applause, solos as only he can with a wide palette of sounds and proves he is the perfect sparring partner for Blackmore. It seemed his passing here in America was rather quiet outside the hard rock and metal community for one of such incredible talent and who certainly changed the perception of what an organist can do with such music, such an inventive and well structure piece from a true master of his art.

17 minutes in and Blackmore explodes in a furry of notes that would blow Malmsteens hair black before stopping and going into a bit of Greensleeves, some five years before he would use the music as a basis for the classic Sixteenth Century Greensleves song. He then goes into a German sounding piece that gets the audience clapping along into a white Christmas snippet and finally a bit of god Save The Queen before leading the group into Wring That Neck’s coda. The song garners a huge ovation for the group, certainly well deserved.

Ian Piace gets his solo spot next and the paint use an instrumental version of the Rolling Stones Classic Paint It Black as his vehicle. The song has a much more dramatic feel, with Lord providing almost haunting organ and feedback to the piece before Paice takes over. Certainly the most unsung member of the band Ian is simply a monster of the drums, his solo is incredible and certainly appreciated by the audience.

The second disc begins with a 27 minute take on the early classic Mandrake Root, again a vehicle of improvisation whose center theme would eventually be used to expand the classic onstage versions of Space Truckin. There is a brief hold up of the proceedings and apparently someone has approached the stage in some form of undress, the person is dispatched and the song starts, Blackmores guitar sounds heavy and nasty as he uses distortion and controlled feedback before launching into the fast chattering section that’s serves as the songs canvas that Lord and Blackmore will paint their musical picture.

15 minute in Lord plays not super spaced out notes that has one feel as though you are hurling through space and eventually leads into a embryonic version of Bloodsucker from the In Rock record. Mandrake Root builds in intensity and evolves into a psychedelic metal trip on distortion in a most brilliant way thanks to the incredible playing of one Ritchie Blackmore. The band receives a huge ovation at songs conclusion and Gillan thanks the crowd and mentions the city by name, and incredible performance !

There are to more tracks that serve as encores for the performance and are source from Offenbach Germany April 10, 1971 and have been available on such titles as German Explosion (he Godfather Record. GR 556/557) and Live In Germany (Darker Than Blue 068/069/070). The quality is similar to those titles and I thought they should have used the available space with tracks from a date closer to early / mid 1970 versus these well used songs from a year later, just my two cents.

The packaging is typical DTB, great color sleeves in the shade of red and nice graphics to accent them all housed in a slim line jewel case. The recording is essential for Deep Purple fans and since I do not own a previous version of this show and have been in a Purple mood lately this is easily recommended release.

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