Deep Purple – Springfield 1976 (Darker Than Blue DTB 325/326)

Springfield 1976 (Darker Than Blue DTB 325/326)

Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA, USA – January 26, 1976

Disc 1 (68:41) Intro, Burn, Lady Luck, Gettin’ Tighter, Smoke On The Water, Georgia On My Mind, Keyboard Solo, Lazy, Drum Solo, Homeward Strut

Disc 2 (52:49) Tuning, This Time Around, Owed To “G”, Guitar Solo, Drifter, Stormbringer, Going Down, Highway Star

Fans of Deep Purple Mark IV period know of the Springfield 76 recording through three official releases, In Concert (King Biscuit Flower Hour Records 70710-88002-2), On The Wings Of A Russian Foxbat (Connoisseur DRVSOP CD 217), and Live At Long Beach (Sonic Zoom PUR 356), all featuring three tracks from this concert as bonus material, Smoke On The Water / Georgia On My Mind, Going Down, Highway Star. The recording is culled from the archives of the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a syndicated radio show which featured live recordings of a who’s who of Rock acts. King Biscuit had recorded Deep Purple in Springfield on January 26, 1976, there were issues with the recording and the tapes were shelved, a second attempt to record Purple on February 27, 1976 in Long Beach, California was successful. The KBFH broadcast of the Long Beach concert would originally be released on a bootleg LP, On The Wings Of A Russian Foxbat (The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label For The Working Man TKRWM 1808) in the late 70’s, the full recording would be released in 1995. 

For fans of the Mark IV version of Purple, this new release from the Darker Than Blue label is very exciting as it features the complete Springfield recording in all its glory, and we can assess the recording itself and the performance of the band, who at the time were rather hit or miss in concert. The departure of founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left a huge gap in the band, a seemingly impossible part to replace. The band made the decision to soldier on, auditions were plenty before the group decided on North American virtuoso Tommy Bolin, a versatile guitarist whose work with such acts as Zephyr and the James Gang made him know to Rock fans. Bolin was also very influenced by the Jazz Rock fusion scene, his playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum and Alphonse Mouzon’s Mind Transplant LP’s were heralded by critics and fellow musicians worldwide, certainly David Coverdale and Jon Lord both knew and appreciated Bolin’s playing on these essential albums.

When one listens to the rehearsal recordings released as Days May Come (Purple Records PUR 303) and 1420 Beachwood Drive (Purple Records 201), it becomes clear that there was an instant connection between the existing members of Purple and Bolin, his fiery playing works perfectly with the band, much of the music has the spontaneity of improvisational jams and shows why Tommy was the perfect fit for the group at the time. Most know the story, Bolin had a drug problem that would ultimately claim his life at the age of just 25, this combined with Glenn Hughes drug problems led to a divide within the Purple camp and many sub par concerts which caused the others to dissolve the band at the tour’s conclusion, leaving a legacy of one incredible album, Come Taste The Band, and one piecemeal live LP, Last Concert In Japan. Thankfully the Deep Purple legacy team (Cheers Simon!) behind Purple Records has given fans the excellent releases noted above, all essential releases for fans of this era.

So now we finally have the complete Springfield recording and what an incredible concert it is, recording warts and all. This is an excellent soundboard recording that is pretty bare bones when comparing to the Long Beach recording a month later. You can hear the crowd, just not as prominent. There are balance issues, certainly the reason the tape was deemed unusable. There is a very small amount of tape hiss and the sound level is a tad low, that being said this is a Mark IV fans dream. Turn this sucker up and prepare to Rock Out! The recording begins with a bit of pre show warm ups, David C greets the crowd…”How Are Ya!….give us a couple seconds to get the tuning together, and we’ll give you some Rock and Roll”. The band begins with a perfect opener, Burn, as high energy as it gets. The balance floats a bit, bass, drums, keyboards all in great balance, if anything the bass is a bit high in the mix. David’s vocals are clear, Glenn’s are very low in the mix, interesting is with his bass clear you can really hear his playing and it is superb, very nice to be able to hear it so clearly, much respect. Tommy’s guitar is low in the mix, keen ears can pick up his guitar and he is playing very well, certainly on par with Long Beach, hitting the riffs and playing legit leads, off to a good start musically.

David greets the audience giving them an idea on what to expect set list wise and does the cliche “lady who sells herself for money…(sigh)”, no change in the mix, if anything the mix is becoming more even, you can hear the guitar solo better and the energy is well conveyed. Love Child is more dynamic than Lady Luck, Glenn’s bass is fat and heavy and Ian Paice’s drums are powerful. This song featuring Jon Lord playing synthesizer, strangely it works, the man could play a cheap Casio and make it sound like a Steinway. Mark IV has their doubters but when they lock in, it’s damn good, Love Child is proof positive. Tommy begins Gettin’ Tighter with a short solo, he is primed for this tune. Expanded in the Funk feel featured on Stormbringer and on full display on Come Taste The Band, Tighter is a simple boogie by master musicians. Glenn’s vocals have been figured out in time for him to take lead duties and Tommy’s guitar is rising in volume, by the time the band stretch out in the middle we are at near perfect balance, albeit Glenn’s bass still a tad high (not complaining!). The interplay between the four instrumentalists is excellent, Bolin and Lord go back and forth while Glenn and Ian colour the mix. The band jam fueled song ends with a reprise during which Glenn’s vocals sink down again.

Tommy has guitar trouble at the beginning of Smoke On The Water, the band carry on and he soon comes in not missing a beat. Smoke seems to be one of the songs which Bolin never warmed too, he does a solid job on this version, Lord’s organ is a bit low in places and it gives a rather flat sound, he is back in the mix for the last couple minutes and raises the bar leading the others in a solid jam which (sadly) segues into a Glenn spot where he sings the Ray Charles classic Georgia On My Mind in a certain cocaine haze. Curious the band do a Smoke reprise which sounds like The Doors meet Black Sabbath. The band do another from Machine Head which is also the vehicle for an excellent Ian Paice drum solo, Lazy. This is a song that lends itself to a jam, certainly the reason both Purple and “Themaninblack” himself kept it in the set after their split. Beginning with Jon, sounding like he is playing in a cathedral on Sunday with a bit of wild flair for his Rock and Roll parishioners, it quickly goes into standard Lord territory, man he had the gift. Once the band kick into Lazy proper it’s really good, David takes some lyrical liberties…”Your Lazy you stay in dead…If you got a good woman you’re doing the right thing there”, he trades verses with Glenn but quickly they delve back into a jam, Tommy noodles then rips into a slide solo with theband on his heels pushing faster….good stuff. The jam evolves into an Ian Paice drum solo, certainly one of the 70’s drummers that does not get his due, his solo is about five minutes and has some electronic sounds floating around a bit.

Drum solo ends and the band break into Homeward Strut, a solo Tommy Bolin track from the excellent Teaser album which was released in November 1975, competing with Purple in record shops everywhere. The band get into a good jam with Jon Lord playing synthesizer followed by some really tasty organ, Glenn Hughes even gets a few bombs in, Tommy’s playing is superb certainly making a good showing for this Hard Rock Funk jam. Glenn introduces the next couple of songs, This Time Around written for his good friend, Stevie Wonder, certainly fueled by drugs, his singing is really good, his wails can be piercing at times, he noted in many interviews during this period his love for Funk and R & B. Ian and Tommy come in towards the end and it segues into Owed To “G”, the heavy and moody instrumental inspired by composer George Gershwin. Tommy gets his solo spot next, he spends much of it noodling and trying out his various effects, Paice comes in about 7 minutes in for a bit of a riff jam that gets the crowd on their feet and clapping, his use of delay and echoplex on display. You can here some guy yell “C’mon let’s go” ten minutes in, Tommy actually gets into the leads finally ripping into them, three minutes of killer Bolin guitar.

The solo leads right into the killer song Drifter from the Come Taste The Band album, this song was played a few nights before at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, this version is the better and in excellent sound quality. The beginning of Stormbringer sounds awkward, Bolin is having guitar issues, once remedied the band kick into gear and hammer out a strong version of the song which ends the set, Coverdale thanks the audience for braving “God awful weather” to catch the show, cold outside but definitely hot inside. Curiously much of the encore cheering is left intact, the band return to do “a couple of Rock And Roll songs for ya” and the band get into a bit of a loose jam with David getting a bit soulful and Glenn being slightly obnoxious before going into a very strong version of Don Nix’s Going Down that retains a bit of looseness. As they wind the song down they get ready for Highway Star, Glenn is again obnoxious certainly having “indulged” during the Bolin’s solo spot, shot out a cannon indeed. Tommy’s leads during Highway Star are great and the band hammer in a superb version to end the concert.

The packaging is excellent, the cover is a take on the Come Taste The Band LP artwork, the rest of the inserts are covered with both live and posed pictures. The CD’s have a group posed shot, this same image is used for the numbered sticker. This came out of nowhere and was an instantaneous buy, I love Mark IV and to have this unreleased gem after so many years is a treat. The sound quality and performance are excellent and show that when this line up was on, they were ON. An essential release.  

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  1. "infamous" track?

    Deep Purple SUCKS! Can’t we get reviewers who have better taste in music?!….umm, just kidding…just joking. Seriously, thanks very much for this great review, but I’m seriously wondering about what one of our popular sources said in an e-mail a few weeks ago…..

    “The infamous “Springfield” track, featured as a bonus on the official “LIVE AT LONG BEACH 1976″ album, has finally arrived in full soundboard glory after years of speculation.”

    Infamous? What’s infamous about it? What are they referring to? Sorry about my ignorance, but any helpful reply from anybody would be appreciated…thanks.


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