CD Review: Deep Purple “Total Abandon: Australia ‘99”

Deep Purple
“Total Abandon: Australia ‘99”
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Tracks: 12
Running Time: 73 minutes

Our Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I doubt I’d still be playing guitar if it wasn’t for “Smoke On the Water”.

As a young kid, I expected to pick up a Stratocaster and immediately rock. It didn’t work out that way, though, as my hands didn’t seem to want to merge with the singles in my mental jukebox.

But then Ritchie Blackmore came to my rescue. Armed with the four distinctive power chords that comprise the first 10 seconds of “Smoke on the Water”, I suddenly became the rock deity that I had dreamed of being. I went from being the kid who regularly got beaten up for his lunch money to being an absolute bad-ass that nobody would dare fuck with. The power of “Bom-bommm-bommmmm. Bom-bommm-b-bommmmm. Bom-bommm-bommmm-bom-b-bommmmm” would defeat all.

It’s very clear on “Total Abandon: Australia ‘99”, that Deep Purple knows full well that they created one of rock’s most sacred sonic icons that probably – along with the Ramones – launched hordes of dreamy youth into being legends in their own minds. Before “Smokin’” the Aussie crowd, guitarist Steve Morse – the fourth guitarist in the group’s history – takes them on an aural tour of some of the most well-known riffs in rock history (from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Beatles and the Kinks). And then, after a pregnant pause, he and the rest of the band – including lifer Ian Paice and long-time members Ian Gillan on vocals and bassist Roger Glover – deliver the chords. Indeed, rock and roll’s mothership has arrived to give us all some Close Encounters of the Violet Kind.

The rest of the disc – which is essentially a truncated one-disc edition of a 2CD set that was released in late 1999 that included the entire 116-minute live show – proves that Deep Purple is timeless. Despite the fact that they’d been going for a full 31 years prior to the performance this disc documents, they’d never been trapped by the flash-in-the-pan styles that would claim the musical souls of so many of hard rock’s greatest bands. While bands like Van Halen used the mid-80’s went to the dark side and dabbled with synthesizers and other trendy instrumentation, a reunited Deep Purple delivered some of the most hard-hitting songs of their career – ones that would simply refuse to age.

The only problem with “Total Abandon” is the absence of Ritchie Blackmore’s unique style that, despite its raw and sometimes fumbly nature, was always comprised of rapid-fire notes that pierced like daggers. Guitar wizard Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs joined Purple in 1994 shortly after Blackmore’s departure in 1993. While he definitely has the skills to pay the bills, he often exhibits too much pyrotechnic flash that’s saturated with blisteringly fast hammer-ons and ridiculous bends. It’s impressive fretwork to be sure but 18 years later it sounds rather dated and ready to be filed under “chronic guitar masturbators of 80’s and 90’s” with the likes of Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Despite Morse’s antics, “Total Abandon” shows that Purple could still bash out the goods more than three decades into their career. For 73 solid minutes, we get to explore the violet vaults and enjoy one of the best hard rock bands that the genre has ever spawned.