Deep Purple: Come Hell Or High Water

Deep Purple: Come Hell Or High Water (2001)
Cast: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Extras: Interviews, Lyrics, Biographies

For the longest time I have been a Deep Purple listener and follower of the band, although I have to admit that I always found the constant antics and personal battles within the group a major distraction from the fact that they created some incredible music that was way ahead of its time. Even after their reunion, at a time when you would think the boys have grown up to be men, the rants and vendettas continued. "Come Hell Or High Water" is sadly a testament to this fragile and explosive entity that was Deep Purple, so much so that only minutes into the DVD I had to ask myself, "Do they have no shame?"

The DVD shows us the last concert of Deep Purple in their legendary Mark II line-up on their 1993 world tour. Ritchie Blackmore had just announced that after this particular concert he will leave the band – once again – and the tension that emanates from the footage is unbelievable. As a result, "Come Hell Or High Water" is worthless from a musical standpoint, as it shows us Deep Purple at their very worst. Unless anyone is interested in listening to a shoddy mix of a band whose members continuously play out of key, sing out of tune and drop out altogether in their play, this concert may be a revelation, but for anyone who had hoped to get some crowning moments of one of Rock’n Roll’s most defining bands will be sorely disappointed.

Obviously that was the intent of the release, however. Interspersed with interview segments with the four remaining band members, "Come Hell Or High Water" is basically payback time to Ritchie Blackmore. Now, it is a well-known fact that Blackmore is eccentric to say the very least and that his mind does not work like ordinary peoples’ – maybe a trait that comes with his creativity. On the other hand, he is an exceptional guitar player who defined rock guitar to a larger degree and has been able to accumulate a huge cult following of his own. I am not sure, though, how interested music fans are in the remaining band members taking their fights public and doing their dirty laundry in front of a rolling camera. I know, I for one am not and I was very disappointed with the content on "Come Hell Or High Water" because as I said before, as a concert, this recording is worthless and has only historic value to document the physical and psychological break-up of the band. If you’ve come to hear Ian Gillan’s powerful vocals, you won’t get them here. Without energy, he unenthusiastically drags himself through the songs, hardly singing at times. If you were hoping for blistering and sweeping Blackmore solos, forget it. The man is either too lazy to play or methodically running through his scales as if he were practicing fast-runs rather than playing real songs. Frequent drop-outs and disappearances from the spotlight altogether do not make for much coolness. If it weren’t for Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Pace who desperately try to hold the musical foundation together, there would be nothing left of the glory that once was.

"Come Hell Or High Water" presents us with a non-<$16x9,anamorphic> letterbox presentation in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that is clean and clear. Recorded on video, the source is good-looking and mostly free of artifacts, such as bleeding or <$chroma,chroma noise>. The image is extremely soft however, and lacks the crispiness found especially in newer high definition video recordings. Color reproduction is strong and bold, bringing out all the nuances of the atmospheric stage lighting the band had set up for the show. Blacks are always deep and well rendered, giving the image good depth. The compression is without problems either and free of compression artifacts, such as <$pixelation,pixelation>.

From a technical standpoint, the audio on the disc is superb. Thunderous and powerful, the track has a wide frequency response and adds quite a bit of punch to the mix, especially in the <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix. The track is free of distortion and makes good use of the surround channels to create an enveloping sound field that is rich and captivating. The stereo mix on the other hand is comparably weak on the chest and reveals sonic gaps in the spectrum that are nicely bolstered out in the multi-channel mix.

The DVD contains a few supplements, such as interviews with the band members. These are the same segments that are found in-between the songs, but are accessible separately in the Bonus Material section. Here you will also find Biographies of the band members in the Mark II line-up. Another section on the disc contains the lyrics from all the songs in the set list of this concert, which is a nice addition. One would have wished, the lyrics were included as subtitles in the DVD as well, but sadly this addition is missing from the release. Last but not least, the DVD manages to shed some light on the vast number of different line-ups Deep Purple has gone through with a member listing of all line-ups form the beginning to this date.

I am not sure, exactly what the reasoning was behind releasing a sub-par concert recording other than paying back Ritchie Blackmore and publicly throwing mud in his face – which is sadly lacking the maturity you would expect from such an aged rock band. I was disappointed and saddened at the same time, because one thing is clear. Deep Purple used to be among the best. The very best.