Lyon 1973 (Darker Than Blue 131)
Palais Des Sports, Lyon, France – 16th March 1973
CD (50:11): 1. Highway Star, 2. Smoke on the Water, 3. Strange Kind of Woman, 4. Mary Long, 5. Lazy, 6. Drum Solo, 7. The Mule
The Deep Purple tour for the “Who Do We Think We Are” album was bitter sweet for the band and fans alike as lead singer Ian Gillan, tired of dealing with the power struggles and Ritchie Blackmore’s mood swings, handed in his letter of resignation after a gig in Dayton, Ohio in May of 1972. Being the professional he is Gillan agreed to stay on until the finish of the tour in Japan in June of 1973. To the bands credit they did not let Gillan’s resignation affect them as some of the best Mk II band performances happened during the last 12 months of the bands existence.
On this Darker Than Blue label single CD release the band played at the 4500 seat Lyon Palais Des Sports Arena and luckily for us fans Radio Luxembourg recorded and broadcast most of the show which some enterprising fan recorded off of the AM radio broadcast for our enjoyment.
As part of his excellent efforts to find and release rare Deep Purple live archive concerts Simon Robinson, of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society (DPAS), contacted Radio Luxembourg to see if the master tapes for the broadcast might still be available in their archives only to be told that all tapes had either been lost or destroyed. So unless somebody from the station is hoarding copies of the masters this is most likely as good as this recording gets quality wise.
Considering the quality of this tape it’s surprising how few silver disc releases there have been for this concert. As far as I can tell the only other silver disc release of this show is an old no label title called “Mary Long”. Since I do not have a copy of this older title I can’t do a direct comparison but there is a complete recording on YouTube claiming to be sourced from a title called “Mary Lyon” on the Aviator label (CDR?), which is 23 seconds shorter than the DTB title, that sounds pretty much identical to DTB title except maybe a little duller so it could be from a slightly higher gen tape?
With the total time of the recording just over 50 minutes long it is obvious that this is not the complete show. Based on the set lists of other dates before and after this concert it is most likely that “Highway Star” and possibly the “Black Night” encore have been cut from the Radio Luxembourg recording to fit within the allotted broadcast time slot.
Darker Than Blue uses a surprisingly VG+ mono AM radio recording which, while clear, does have a slightly muted top end. This is especially evident on Ian Gillan’s vocals which have an almost audience recording quality to them. As can be expected being mono, and due to the bandwidth limitations of the AM radio format, the recording shows compression but all the instruments are fairly well balanced with the vocals slightly dominant in the mix. There is a nice mid frequency warmth which makes it very easy on the ears.
The recording is not without its warts as you do get a slight adjacent radio station bleed where you can faintly hear someone talking in the background of the music at times. There is also occasional static, balance shifts, and momentary station fades, which is not surprising considering the era it was recorded and the Lo-fi nature of AM radio back then, but these are so short in duration I did not find any of these other flaws to be too distracting to the point where is impacted my enjoyment of the music.
One other annoying thing about the Radio Luxembourg broadcast is the French speaking announcer talks over the in between song comments from Ian Gillan but luckily this does not intrude into the music. There are also cuts between each song, to eliminate station break commercials (?), but no music is lost as a result.
The radio broadcast recording cuts in abruptly with the announcer talking over the band tuning up. It then jumps into “Highway Star” midsong, just before Ritchie’s solo, leaving only a 3 minute fragment of the end of the song.
Gillan tells the crowd that the song they just played was “Highway Star” and just as he was going into an explanation of what the song was about the tape cuts to his intro of “Smoke on the Water”. As he often did during the 1973 shows Ritchie Blackmore drives the start of the song with a bluesy improv intro before kicking into the classic riff every aspiring guitar player knows by heart.
Ritchie and the band start “Strange Kind of Woman” with a funky guitar vamp before the band launches into the song which features the standard call and response between Gillan and Blackmore. While this is pretty much standard fare for this song Ritchie always manages to add little noodling licks to this midsection which makes every version unique.
The band then kicks into the only known professional live recording of Mary Long from the new album which, while a staple of this tour, was never again played by the Mk II band after this tour.
Lazy begins with the classic Jon Lord organ solo improv which always includes snippets of classical, show tunes and other types of music and in this case includes the French National Anthem much to the delight and cheers of the crowd. During the organ solo intro we can again hear the unwelcome inter station crosstalk with someone speaking in French but luckily this is not very audible once the song picks up in volume. As the song picks up steam Ritchie is the star as he weaves his guitar magic in between Jon Lord’s driving manic Hammond organ riffs.
After a fast flurry from Ritchie the song transitions into the traditional seven minute drum solo by, one of the most underrated drummers in rock, Ian Paice, followed by a short two minute snippet of “The Mule”. At the conclusion of the song we get a short announcement by the French DJ before the tape abruptly ends before any encores.
As mentioned above the shows from 1973 were some of the best of the MKII band and this show is no exception. The band is on fire this night and Ritchie’s and the band’s playing is truly inspired. IMHO I think it compares favorably with the legendary “Made in Japan” performances which came to define the band as one of the great live bands in rock history.
The packaging is the typical Darker Than Blue 2CD jewel case with glossy inserts. With the rarity of professional recordings of the MkII band from the 72-73 tour we are extremely lucky that some fan was able to record this show off of the radio in such good quality and as such it is an essential release for any Deep Purple fans collection. While this is not a new release it seems to be readily available from several of the Japanese vendors I deal with so get it while you can!