Music film review: California Jam (1974)

Deep Purple’s appearance at the California Jam on 6th April 1974 was the fiery finale to an open-air concert that also included Earth Wind and Fire, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, and Emerson Lake and Palmer (who has the misfortune of going on after their co-headliners had raised havoc).

It was the first American show for the new line-up of Purple, who now had a new singer from Redcar, David Coverdale, and a new bassist/singer from the Midlands, Glenn Hughes.  Coverdale at 22 years old was a raw talent with a rich bluesy voice and in this show he really stands out – the highlight being ‘Mistreated’, a blistering song of lost love that he co-wrote with the band’s guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore.

The DVD we have today comes from the live broadcast on the ABC network, although a version released to laserdisc and VHS in the 1980s had different camera angles and a far more satisfying view of Blackmore demolishing one of the cameras that got too close.  However the most recent release has included ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, missing from the 1980s releases, and has an alternate cut of ‘Burn’.

In their 117 minute prime, Deep Purple show themselves to be a vibrant and passionate band, totally focused on delivering the best of their catalogue to a huge and enthusiastic audience.  Coverdale in embryo before all the Whitesnake silliness is a delight, and Hughes’ soul vibrato rounds out the new sound.  After two albums, though, Blackmore walked from the band to join and rename Elf, which became Rainbow, and another chapter of music history was born.

Deep Purple – Live in California ’74 is available on DVD from Amazon and all other online retailers.  The print isn’t that great, and where the laserdisc had stereo sound, the DVD is mono … but it is still terrific, and their version of Smoke on the Water here can raise a goosebump or two.

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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