This is something of a forgotten gem from 1989, originally recorded to raise funds to aid the victims of the Armenian earthquake of December 1988 that killed tens of thousands & made hundreds of thousands homeless. While re-interpreting a classic track is a tricky proposition, the calibre of the musicians involved ensures an end result which, while of course not able to replace the Deep Purple original, stands up in its own right. While it stays true to the original arrangement, the many artists involved ad their own embellishments which are interesting, yet do not overwhelm the song.
The lead vocals on the three verses are split between original vocalist & lyric writer Ian Gillan, Bruce Dickinson & Paul Rodgers, with Bryan Adams assisting on backing vocals. The man behind the riff, Ritchie Blackmore, is one of the featured guitarists, along with Tony Iommi, Brain May, David Gilmour, Alex Lifeson of Rush & session ace Geoff Beauchamp. The rhythm section features Yes man Chris Squire on bass & Queen's Roger Taylor on drums, and Keith Emerson & Geoff Downes contribute keyboards.
What you get on the CD are 4 mixes of the track: the 1989 original, the radio mix (an interesting alternative version, but edits out the Paul Rodgers verse), an early version which features a complete vocal from Ian Gillan, plus a new mix which helps to highlight some of the performances that were somewhat lost in the original mix.
Perhaps the real gem of this package is the DVD element, which features the 40-minute `making of' documentary (previously issued on VHS), which tells the story of the 5 sessions over which the song was cut. It features interviews with many of the featured artists, plus great footage of each of them recording their contributions & some fun jamming between takes.
If you are a fan of the song or the artists involved, I highly recommend this release. If you have not heard this version of `Smoke on the Water', the original video can be found on YouTube (it is also on the DVD, although with the 2010 remix audio). The re-release will also continue to benefit the Armenian people, the aim being to raise funds to rebuild a children's music school that was destroyed by the earthquake.