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Any time I have a chance to see or hear footage of a band that has
meant a lot to me over the years, I grab it. A perfect case in point
is “Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 1996.”

This concert was particularly interesting to me, because it was the
first time I could observe Steve Morse playing with the band. He
joined Deep Purple in 1994. As many fans of the band are aware,
longtime guitarist and founding member, Ritchie Blackmore, left the
band during their 1993 tour. Joe Satriani was recruited to fill
Blackmore’s spot for the remainder of the tour; however, for his
own reasons, he chose not to stay with the band.

I remember being surprised to hear that Steve Morse was playing
with Deep Purple, when I considered the music I’d heard him play
with the Dixie Dregs, among others. During the late 1980’s, I saw a live
performance of his own band, “The Steve Morse Band.” Their music
was progressive with liberal doses of bluegrass, jazz and whatnot.
In the early 1980’s, Morse won numerous “best all-around guitarist”
polls; therefore, I suppose that joining Deep Purple was a new
adventure for him. I guess that he liked it. He’s been with them
ever since!

It goes without saying that when a guitarist with Blackmore’s
reputation quits a group like this one, and the band doesn’t break
up, his replacement had better be “pretty damn good.” Steve Morse
is just that, and he needn’t have worried about technically filling
Blackmore’s shoes. For me, whether or not Morse was “better”
than Blackmore was beside the point.  In many ways, he may
be a better player. What mattered to me was how he sounded
when playing the older Deep Purple songs, written or cowritten
by Blackmore, “back in the day.” Technically, Morse can play
those old riffs and licks in his sleep.

This 82-minute concert consisted of 11 songs, three of which
were from their 1996 album entitled, “Purpendicular.” It was
nice to hear the old songs that fortunately weren’t played much
in the 1970’s, being played “circa 1996.” I say “fortunately,”
because I’ve heard many recordings of their older sets, and
knew that the songs, such as “Pictures of Home,” “Fireball” and
“No One Came” were not regular staples. I’d never heard the
newer songs and they were nice to hear, because I was
unconcerned with how Morse’s guitar sound “stacked up”
against Blackmore’s performances.

Apart from a brief stint when Joe Lynn Turner replaced Ian
Gillan, the other four band members consisted of the classic
“Mark II” lineup: Ian Paice, Jon Lord, Ian Gillan, and Roger
Glover. All of them were in fine form; however, Gillan’s voice
clearly wasn’t what it was, when he was in his mid twenties.
He resorted to certain tricks of the trade used by rock vocalists,
in order to get through the evening. I’m glad that they didn’t
try to do “Child in Time,” with him! Surprisingly, he did seem to
sound better than he did on the 1993 DVD, “Come Hell Or High
Water,” that I’ve discussed earlier.

Steve Morse wisely didn’t attempt to duplicate Blackmore’s guitar
tone in the older songs. He simply played them his way, and
made them his own. On many occasions, he was given ample
time to display his prowess, with impressive results. It was
particularly nice to watch him trade riffs with Jon Lord, on his
Hammond organ. The band members appeared to truly enjoy

The bonus feature on this DVD is five songs from the Deep Purple
performance at Montreux in 2000. This 38-minute set of songs
included “69,” “Perfect Strangers,” “When a Blind Man Cries,”
“Lazy,” and concluded with “Highway Star.” Considering the
circumstances and the ages of the players, these songs sounded
fairly good. However, Gillan really had to conserve his voice,
and didn’t sound too great on “Highway Star.” In addition,
the recorded sound of the bonus feature wasn’t as good as it
was on the remainder of the DVD.

To sum up, I’d like to say that, no, apart from the newer songs,
Deep Purple doesn’t sound as good without Blackmore, but that’s
not to disparage Morse’s playing, in any way. I just have vivid
memories of how the older songs sounded, when Blackmore
was in the band. Nevertheless, from what I’ve heard about
Blackmore’s occasional behavior, I’m sure that the rest of the
band is much happier now!

“Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 1996,” is on the Eagle Eye Media
label. It is recommended for fans and anyone else who is
interested in hearing the Deep Purple sound, “post-Blackmore.”