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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/27/02

Deep Purple: Perihelion
2002 (2002) - MCY Music World/Thames Records (Image Entertainment)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Deep Purple: Perihelion Program Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B+/C

Specs and Features

102 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, "behind the scenes" documentary, band interviews, film themed menu screens with sound, scene/song access (15 chapters - see track listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 & DD 2.0)

Smoke on the Water. How many of you have heard that song over the years? How many of you have sung it, or played it on your guitar, real or air? Smoke on the Water has gone into the annals of Rock as one of its signature songs, historically intact for all time. The creators of that song, and many more memorable ones, were Deep Purple. In their long and varied career as a defining rock band, typifying the 70s as the hotbed of maturing Rock n Roll music, Deep Purple has produced some of Rock's most enduring moments. As a youngster, I lived on a steady stream of DP's Machine Head, Live in Japan and Who Do We Think We Are?, with Smoke on the Water, Highway Star and Woman from Tokyo as the premier songs from those sets. DP went on, with many changes in their lineup (including the late guitar genius, Tommy Bolin), to create more wondrous music. Even David Coverdale and Joe Satriani had a stint with the band.

However, the Mark II lineup was Ritchie Blackmore (who eventually left to form and have success with Blackmore's Rainbow) as guitarist, Roger Glover as thunderous bass player, Jon Lord as signature keyboardist, Ian Paice's stylish drumming and the distinctive voice of Ian Gillam. We could turn this into a college course with the lineup changes that occurred after this, spanning as many as nine, maybe ten changes. But we came here to discuss the DVD release of Deep Purple: Perihelion.

Perihelion, which means the point in the path of a planet's orbit when it is nearest to the sun, may be a most accurate description of this attempt by Deep Purple to recapture the former glory of their stardom. The unfortunate thing here is that it looks as if Deep Purple's planet may be spinning dangerously out of control and is in the path of collision with the sun. Blasphemy? Maybe. But I don't think so. Let me explain. Delicately.

I've been to a few retro concerts in my day, and I believe that more than a lot of you will agree with me on this. Sometimes... the band should have just stayed at home and thought of other avenues to augment those royalty checks. Now don't get me wrong. As I've said before, I love Deep Purple. Among the first CDs I bought for my collection were Machine Head and Live in Japan, and they're still staples of any CD library. But when you have a visibly aged Rock band, with the pounds heavier front man (in this case, Ian Gillam) dressed in red leather pants and an armless vest, sporting grayed hair and with his dynamic vocal range noticeably diminished, it gets sad real fast.

But he's not the only problem. Roger Glover takes on a biker-like persona to reduce his aged appearance, while Jon Lord looks like a hipped-up granddaddy. Thankfully, Ian Paice is somewhat hidden behind his drum kit, even though you're afforded a frightful glance now and again. DP attempts to infuse this lineup with the guitar prowess and somewhat more youthful looks of journeyman Steve Morse, who used to play for the wondrous Dixie Dregs and who has appeared on numerous albums. But this makes for a stark contrast to the much older, sonically softer rest of the band.

Yes, DP has a decidedly softer sound. Gone are the hard edges of most of Deep Purple's material, as defined by their earlier live works. This is a disappointing aspect, at least for me. The coruscated aspects of DP that I grew up on have been dieted down to a mere shadow of their past accomplishments, musically and visually. To make up for this, DP resorts to bouts of Rock and Jazz fusion to fill in the seeming lack of ability (old age?) and to blow out the stacks. I actually had to visit a few Deep Purple fan sites to replace the image that this disc implanted in my mind. It amazed me that the band that I adored, who used to look so cool, now look like grandpas struggling to get back to that misplaced coolness. Then, when Ian Gillam comes out in a conservative set of Dockers and button-down shirt for Speed King, Hush and Highway Star... well, I'm done!

The songs, many from the long ago recordings and a few from more recent offerings, are presented with embarrassing results, more or less. As I have said before, Gillam's vocal range has degenerated. It's more painful for me to watch him attempt those highs than it is for him to sing them. 14 songs, 102 minutes, and a less than serviceable concert gives you a stunted trip back to the great years of Rock, DP style. An irony here - the core of the band was present for much of DP's tenure and lineup changes, but many of those songs outside of the Gillam years are absent. Even though the Gillam years are rich with extraordinary material, a sampling of the rest would have been a nicer touch. At least they look as if they're having loads of fun. But Blackmore was right to stay away.

The disc, visually, is good. The colors appear washed out at times and the blacks are not true blacks. To be fair, the stage lights could produce this effect, so this will not impair your enjoyment of the show. The disc offers DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and Dolby Stereo mixes that all sound great. The soundstage development is standard here, with the surround channels giving mostly audience sounds. The disc is presented in full frame video. And the rest of the DVD features a short, 13-minute "behind the scenes" piece (filmed using a camcorder), that shows the concert from audience lineup to sound checks to stage appearance. An amusing scene has Jon Lord mixing a cup of coffee... a FAR cry from the excesses of the past. Also included is a very interesting interview with the band members, that provide not only insights to DP, but also decent advice to would-be musicians. This ended up being my favorite element of the DVD.

If you're a moderate Deep Purple fan, I'd steer away from this reality-check showcase of what happens to unfulfilled, 'out to pasture' Rock stars. If you're not aware of DP, but know the songs because you've heard Dad play Machine Head, this disc may give you nightmares. You might even think that you got a bad disc. This disc is ONLY for hard core Deep Purple fans, that have followed the band all the way to this juncture. Seriously, don't say I didn't warn you.

Matt Rowe
Visit Matt Rowe's MusicTAP ------ Music Flows There!

Track Listing:

Woman from Tokyo
Ted the Mechanic
Mary Long
No One Came
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
Perfect Strangers
Hey Cisco
When a Blind Man Cries
Smoke on the Water
Speed King
Highway Star

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