Oldenburg 1971 (Darker Than Blue 055)
Wesser Ems Halle, Oldenburg, Germany – April 7, 1971
Introduction, Speed King, Strange Kind Of Woman, Child In Time, Into The Fire, Mandrake Root
Darker Than Blue’s Oldenburg 1971 is their second consecutive release from Deep Purple’s 1971 spring tour of Europe. This tape was used before on Oldenburg ’71 (Black Suede BS-11) several years ago. It is a very clear tape that begins well and improves to very good by the second song. The drums are buried deep in the mix and there are numerous, non-intrusive cuts between songs. Present on this source is the main set but the encores, most commonly “Black Night” and “Lucille,” were not taped and don’t appear on this title. Oldenburg displays Deep Purple in transition as they are phasing out the MKI songs and are replacing them with the MKII numbers. And like the Denmark show, Ritchie Blackmore is at a peak of improvisational powers with the songs taking on unique structures.
One collector writes: “One of the transitional shows from the period as the older MkI numbers were being phased out and replaced by newer material. ‘Speed King’ is very energetic, but the sound doesn’t really clear up until SKOW. Paicey’s drums never really come up in the mix, but for a bootleg the sound is pretty good. Mandrake seems to have a couple of small breaks in it, but overall a very good show. Ritchie is having a good night, and is just amazing in places. Even though the setlist was unchanging, the band managed to make the songs sound completely different night to night. Back to back listens to the April/May European tour boots show the band making the songs fresh, exciting and new each time they play them.”
The tape begins with the mc introducing the band by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen. The biggest rock act in the world: DEEP PURPLE.” The catchy “Yodel,” which opened many of the gigs in this period, is omitted and the band begin the show with “Speed King.” The band stops playing about two and a half minutes into the song, maybe because of problems with the power or equipment. But they continue and produce an interesting solo in the song. “This next one is a new record out…our new single and it’s a thing called ‘Strange Kind Of Woman.'” This version is more than seven minutes long and includes the Gillan-Blackmore call and response section before its conclusion.
After some tuning the next song is introduced as something off the “last album and is a bit slower.” “Child In Time” must qualify as a Deep Purple ballad, but of course nothing is ever so cleanly delineated for them live. This version is more than sixteen minutes in duration and Gillan gives a melodramatic reading of the opening verses. After the first solos the drums and bass become more audible and lay down a subtle groove over which both Lord and Blackmore take turns soloing. With the change of styles from jazz to baroque to atonal Arnold Schönberg figures, one can’t figure of if there is some underlying unity or if they are just bored. But this turns out to be one of the more unusual versions of the classic song and contains enough twists and turns to keep one’s interest.
“Into The Fire” is five minutes long and cuts out at the very end. Blackmore is out of tune and misses some cues and is the lone weak point in an otherwise great show. Gillan introduces “Mandrake Root” as a “dirty, filthy song” and this version lasts well over twenty minutes. After the first verses Gillan gets out of the way and says, “move over, Rover. The Lord’s taking over.” Lord begins the improvisations with small snatches of classical pieces but mostly carries a brooding Hammond theme over the chugging rhythm section. Blackmore follows with his cacophony and produces Middle Eastern sounding riffs that forces him in the role of Scheherazade to Lord’s Shahryār. The song picks up again with the familiar theme and the tape ends with Gillan’s goodnights to the audience.
Oldenburg is a fascinating performance by a great but ultimately frustrating band. There are times when their improvisational genius and individual talent is on full display. But the long passages in this show are desultory and gives the impression the individuals do not want to bruise the others egos and step on their toes. Nevertheless Oldenburg 1971 is a great, one disc title on the strong Darker Than Blue label. The inserts are printed on thick glossy paper and the label uses era appropriate photographs on the design. Like all of their titles, this is limited to only three hundred copies worldwide. It is a very good sounding tape of an interesting show and unless a longer tape source were to surface with the missing encores, this stands at the definitve version of this show.