The latest release from the Darker Than Blue label features Deep Purple's
Birmingham show from
February 12, 1971. The show was previously available on CD in
Japan some years ago as
Birmingham 2.12.71 (DP013). The recording is a good audience source but unfortunately suffers overall from distortion. At best, it can be clear and enjoyable but when the band is at full volume the tape breaks up and sounds very brittle. The drums tend to get lost in places with the lead instruments dominating the mix. However, the recording still retains a certain intimate atmosphere with very little audience noise and with the exception of missing the opening song, "Speed King", and possibly the tail end of "Mandrake Root" this appears to be the entire show with no destructive cuts.
The tape starts with the second song of the night, "Strange Kind Of Woman". During Ian Gillan's introduction, he mentions "that was a thing called Speed King" confirming the track was played before this. "Strange Kind Of Woman" was released as a single around this time and replaces "Into The Fire" in the setlist tonight. It reached #8 on the
UK charts and although the song wasn't included on the
UK version of the Fireball LP, it was included on the
US and Japanese versions in place of "Demon's Eye". "Child In Time" is a devastating performance and showcases some great light and shade moments.
An interesting instrumental interpretation of The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" follows and contains the drum solo.
"Mandrake Root" is introduced as "a song about a girl who didn't wear any knickers" and goes on to last about 20 minutes with long improvisations by Lord and Blackmore over Roger Glover's steady driving bass line. After a complete breakdown and applause from the audience, the recording fades out while Ian Paice is heard picking up the beat again, perhaps missing the last few minutes. "Black Night" and "Lucille" are the usual set closers for this time period and help finish off a really good night.
Although this is a very good performance by the band the sound quality makes Mandrake Rock one of the weaker titles in the Darker Than Blue catalog and is better suited for the more serious Deep Purple collector. The title is packaged in a single jewel case with some commonly used photos from the label.