History, Hits & Highlights '68 - '76 - DEEP PURPLE

You better be a DEEP PURPLE fan that can never get enough to make it through "History, Hits & Highlights '68 – '76", all 287 minutes of it! And that's not saying the product doesn't offer everything you ever wanted to know about the revered British group's first continuous era; only that it's one hell of a lot of PURPLE!

In fact, the two-disc set is very well done and offers a comprehensive look into a band that changed faces several times over the years and still ended up on top when it was all said and done, although one could argue that point with the MK IV period featuring guitarist Tommy Bolin. Ask the average rock fan whether they've heard the songs "Hush" and "Smoke on the Water". Then ask them if they realize the same band recorded those songs. Frequently, you'll get a look that involves a wrinkled forehead. Those varying shades of purples are what make "History…" such an interesting document of a band that was world-dominant in the '70s.

The story of DEEP PURPLE is told on Disc 1 through a multitude of performances, TV appearances, interview bits, and jam sessions (a chunk of which consists of rare and previously unreleased footage), the bulk of said performances coming from the MK II lineup (July 1968 to June 1973). Disc 2 ends up as more than a "bonus disc" though, dovetailing nicely with Disc 1 and including some excellent interview segments. Much of that is accomplished through discussions with the infinitely insightful organist Jon Lord who, together with drummer Ian Paice, have formed the band's backbone from the beginning, even as enigmatic guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was getting all the attention.

More than anything else, what the DVD accomplishes, perhaps unintentionally, is the portrait of DEEP PURPLE's revolving door membership. Aside from the dramatic changes in fashion sense from the late '60s (check out the Playboy TV segments; wow!) to the early/mid-'70s, one gets a bird's eye view into characters like the reclusive/surly Blackmore, the Paice/Lord journeymen duo, the energetic/affable Glenn Hughes (bass/vocals), the iconic Ian Gillan, and a young rising star named David Coverdale. It makes for some rich and entertaining viewing, and hardly any of it has anything to do with the stereotypical sex and drugs fare that go hand in hand with the rock 'n' roll part, at least that we're shown anyway. This is a band that took its craft seriously and wanted nothing less than to be the best in its chosen profession. That and a great deal of scorching live performances that often end up demonstrating the band's free-jam-meets-the-blues propensities make "History, Hits & Highlights '68 – '76" a must for those desiring deeper insight into DEEP PURPLE than what is gleaned from the seminal riff to "Smoke on the Water".

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