The headline in Austrian newspaper Neue Zeit said it all: ‘Deep Purple in Graz: Ein lauter Abschied [a loud farewell].’
On April 3, 1975 the Mk III line-up of Purple – guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, frontman David Coverdale, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, keyboard player Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice – played a concert at the Liebenauer ice rink, located on the outskirts of mountaincradled Graz, Austria’s second largest city after Vienna. Enthused by Purple’s arrival in town, the local press dubbed the concert ‘das Rockereignis des Jahres [the rock event of the year]’. And it was – in more ways than one.
After Graz, Purple would play just two more shows – in Saarbrücken, Germany and Paris, France – before a disenchanted and disgruntled Blackmore left to form his new band, Rainbow. The remaining Purple members would regroup quickly with American guitarist Tommy Bolin in tow, in place of Blackmore. But that’s another story...
In order to preserve Blackmore’s final run of Mk III concerts for posterity, Purple’s managers had brought the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio over to mainland Europe It was a difficult time for the band which would seem to indicate that Purple’s Graz performance was a duffer. A dull, flaccid affair with the band going through the motions and a sense of total disconnect between the five members. Wrong of all counts. Graz 1975 is absolutely electrifying. Indeed, it has long been regarded as the holy grail of concert recordings among Mk III connoisseurs. A performance that has never been available in its entirety until now.
As soon as you feast your ears on opening track “Burn” (surely the best version of this song, ever) you know you’re in for a wild ride. And so it proves. Blackmore plays with controlled brutality – if he’s pissed off, it doesn’t show; if he’s angry, it most certainly does. The vocal interplay between Coverdale and Hughes has never sounded so good. And, of course, stalwarts Lord and Paice give it a good kicking – and then some. The tracklisting, naturally, is weighted heavily in favour of Mk III recordings, with just two songs from Purple’s previous incarnation with Ian Gillan on vocals and Roger Glover on bass: the iconic “Smoke On The Water” and the almost-as-iconic “Space Truckin’”. Still, it’s true to say that, from beginning to end, Graz 1975 showcases Purple Mk III at the absolute top – and also, ironically, at the end – of their game.
As Neue Zeit quite rightly reported in April ’75: ‘Deep Purple gaben sich wirklich Mühe ihr „Abschiedskonzert“ zu einem grandiosen Erlebnis zu steigern [Deep Purple really did make an effort to increase their “farewell concert” to a terrific experience]’.