Deep Purple • Perfect Strangers Live 1984
What do Deep Purple fans dream about? I only raise the point as the back cover of this new archive release assures us that the package is our “dream come true”. Twice. I do occasionally dream about DP I must admit, and once or twice have woken up terrified at the power of the human imagination having stood through a set of unrecorded Mk 2 originals (how does that work? Neurology experts please explain!), but haven’t lain abed fretting about the lack of early reunion recordings.1984 saw the long-awaited reunion of the classic Deep Purple Mark II line-up of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. The Perfect Strangers tour began with shows in Australia and New Zealand and the band did three nights in Sydney and three in Melbourne. This recording is from Sydney Dec 12th (not from one of the Melbourne shows as the label release notes stated) and mixes new tracks from the Perfect Strangers album with old favourites. The full track list is:
CD1 1) Highway Star 2) Nobody’s Home 3) Strange Kind Of Woman 4) A Gypsy’s Kiss 5) Perfect Strangers 6) Under The Gun 7) Knocking At Your Back Door 8) Lazy (inc Ian Paice Drum Solo). CD2 1) Child In Time 2) Difficult To Cure 3) Jon Lord Keyboard Solo 4) Space Truckin’ (inc Ritchie Blackmore Guitar Solo) 5) Black Night 6) Speed King 7) Smoke On The Water.
This package is basically a DVD, but with two special limited editions. The first includes the DVD plus audio off the concert on a 2CD set (in a CD size package), the other adds 2LP vinyl pressing (along with the CD and DVD). There is no stand-alone CD option.
DVD run time is 141 mins approx. Format: NTSC Region 0. Sound options: DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1, Dolby 2.0.
Anyhow, a quick blast through this certainly brings back memories. The heady days of 1985, dashing down to record fairs to find the latest double bootlegs from the start of the reunion tour, swopping new title info with other fans and compiling lists for Darker Than Blue. Should we now sling them all away? Well I suspect for most people this set will be enough to be going on with, and as a historical record of how those early shows sounded, it certainly does the job.
The performance is pretty much subject to the same scrutiny we were all giving it back then; driving drums and bass, cutting edge guitar work which sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, then Ian Gillan riding it all as if his life depended on it. Struggling in a few places, coping manfully in others and sounding wonderful on Lazy, his was perhaps the hardest job of all. Indeed the strangest thing is the between song chit-chat, where the hall ambience and echo make him sound almost exactly like he did on Made In Japan a decade before. Similarities end there by and large; this is a much harder edged band and with Blackmore consciously steering away from the old solos, needs to be taken at face value.
What about Jon Lord you ask? Well I would have mentioned him except it isn’t really until Perfect Strangers that you can confidently say he’s on stage at all. This was a massive disappointment at the time (the issue, which began on Whitesnake days, was raised over and over) and is a cause for huge regret nearly thirty years on. He does get a bit more of the limelight on Lazy and elsewhere but by and large, forget it. I assume this is how the audio was mixed for the video at the time and of course there’s very little anyone can do to rectify the imbalance now, but do be prepared.
I say ‘assume’ as there is absolutely no information about the audio source, who or where the reissue work was done, nor who remastered it. All we do know is it’s LOUD, and sadly this does make it hard to listen to it in one go, as the head starts to react against the peaks after twenty minutes or so. I appreciate young kids like this sort of thing but most older people (surely the prime market) like a little more subtlety, and are perfectly capable of operating a volume switch. Mind you it did mean I could skip Child In Time (which I’ll try later, IG did suffer in that at some shows) and the grim Difficult To Cure with a clear conscience!
Nor do we get to find out exactly when and where it was taped, as the packaging ignores what might be thought of as this very basic detail altogether (though we can confirm Australia as Ritchie throws in his nice little rendition of Waltzing Matilda!).
So, label hyperbole aside, this is an interesting release and fills a gap. I really enjoyed Perfect Strangers, though they did make this a lot more powerful as time went on, and also funnily enough Strange Kind Of Woman (though I swear Ritchie is testing Ian out to see what he could and couldn’t hit). Being so early on in the reunion does leave room for later shows, perhaps when nerves had settled, missed cues were less obvious, and everyone could relax and have a bit more fun on stage. And when whoever was operating Ian’s vocal echo in Perfect Strangers could exercise a little more care when selecting the setting! This era hasn’t been well represented beyond the now quite vintage Knebworth release (which I personally think edges this on group performance and certainly on presentation, though Ritchie might be better on Sydney) and seems an area worth exploring given the obvious unjamming of previous problems in releasing tapes from the reunion.
I’ve not got around to watching the video yet, but for those who asked the small print suggests region 9 and NTSC. Quite how they could achieve a meaningful 5.1 off this is beyond me, but also irrelevant as we don’t have the kit. Simon Robinson.
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All formats available (while stock of the limited editions lasts) at DTB Online store.
Great first impression Simon! I’ll offer my own perspective, if I may. I got this as a Japanese import – didn’t want to wait and wanted the Japanese only bonus material! The gig is definitely from December 12th in Sydney. Also I have to note, I’ll probably never listen to the CD’s because the sound on the DVD is better. It’s the same mix as the audio discs of course but listening it on a decent 5.1 system (even on DVD stereo) it sounds much better. Clearer, more dynamic, the vocals and keyboards are a bit more prominent and Ritchie’s guitar sound is less ”rough” – although this is quite a guitar heavy mix – Ritchie fans will be pleased!
As for the performance, I agree with Simon’s assessment for the most part. I do think this is a superior document to Knebworth though, in part because that one (the ”In The Absence of Pink” release) lacks two highlights, ”Under The Gun” and ”Child in Time” and also has ”Lazy” from what sounds like a bootleg recording, but mostly because Ritchie Blackmore’s sound and performance (for the most part) are absolutely atrocious. In my view, naturally. I was likewise never impressed with the sound on that release. There were much better shows on that tour and I hope they see the light of day sometimes.
Going back to Sydney, you can definitely tell in places that this is one of the first gigs back together again, or as they say a ”warm up” part of the tour. Missed beats, songs not yet fully developed and perhaps a slightly reserved performance compared to some powerhouse displays on a few Japanese, European and USA dates in mid-1985. Though this is something that only we fans will notice.
I was also surprised by it though. I will not be sacrilegious and claim that this is on par with MIJ, as that is an overall more polished and focused document with everyone in top form at the time – unlike in Sydney where they are not quite at the top they would be yet – but there were moments on this DVD that I felt matched the power, intensity and sound of a band in their prime. Close your eyes and you won’t know if it’s 73 or 84 in a few places.
Overall I would place this release as the second best live release of the reunion are available thus far (a point behind Stuttgart) and definitely as the best live DVD from 1984-today.
I had a blast through nearly the whole two hours, Gillan – despite not being in a rare top form he sometimes displayed on this tour, performs like a champ even belting out some screams n’ shouts you’ll not hear on any other post 84 release (and his tone is still somewhat preserved so he sounds great even if he doesn’t sing great in places), Ritchie surprised me with a rather good guitar tone and some fabulous playing (compared to Knebworth) – although he does let his showmanship get in the way of the playing a few times and the rest the guys perform as you’d expect them too. There are some good highlights but I’ll let the viewers/listeners discover the song performances themselves instead of ruining it!
True about Lord though. Even in 5.1 he’s still often buried in the mix and the camera rarely shows him too, with no cameras behind him. Seems like they had 1 camera for Gillan, 1 for Blackmore and 1 for the rest/whole stage. But this is definitely a show to be viewed AND listened to, rather than just listened. I initially listened to the cd’s in my car and then on the laptop with headphones and was a bit disappointed. The video brings it to life though.
It’s not a perfect show, rough around the edges as Simon mentioned, heck, it’s not even the best of the Sydney or Australian shows, but hey, live rock and roll isn’t supposed to be perfect, right? Rusty.
Thanks for that Rusty, a good read. I do not yet have full details of the Japanese edition which was also issued as a monster box set. Interesting about the 5.1; it sounds like it was engineered for the DVD and then that version was just folded down for the stereo CD rather than tackled specially which it needed to be.
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