History, Hits & Highlights ’68-’76
Despite the title, there’s really only about 20 minutes of “history” contained on this two-disc set, at least in terms of narrative. But hits and highlights abound, and the very good news is that there are mostly complete performances of dozens of classic Purple tunes, with few edits or interruptions, narrative or otherwise. Four different lineups are showcased— including the Mk. IV version in which Tommy Bolin takes over guitar duties from Ritchie Blackmore—underscoring the interpersonal volatility of the band’s early years. Fortunately, the majority of the performances are by the classic ’69-’73 Mk. II lineup of Blackmore, vocalist Ian Gillian, bassist Roger Glover, organist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice, drawing mostly from the Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head albums.
The performances range from early lipsynched promo clips to television spots— including a totally groovy live set with swinging dancers for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark show—to rock festival outings to mini European documentaries. Interviews with the band, while interesting at times, routinely veer off into inadvertent Spinal Tap-esque stoner self-parody—but hey, it was the ’70s, man. The important thing, of course, is Blackmore’s guitar playing, and he never disappoints. Whether wielding an ES-335 in the early days, or his trademark scalloped-fretboard Strat, the Dark One’s contributions are always intelligent, inventive, and passionate. Tommy Bolin fans will also dig his take on the band’s sound. Eagle Vision.