By Patrick Prince
Total Abandon: Australia ’99
Eagle Records (ER202582)
With the exception of 2011’s “With Orchestra,” Eagle Rock has released some fantastic live Deep Purple product in the last few years (special attention needs to be brought to the reissues of “Scandinavian Nights” and “Deep Purple in Concert”). Now, thankfully, comes the reissue of the great “Total Abandon: Australia ’99,” which was recorded at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, on April 20, 1999.
It’s hard to believe that Steve Morse has been in Deep Purple’s ranks longer than the legendary Ritchie Blackmore. Morse reinvigorated the Purple brand after the depressing loss of Blackmore in the 1990s. And Morse truly plays as the album’s title implies, with total abandon — a cross between a hard-blues guitar style and an all-out shredder. Every solo is played astoundingly and with such grand personality. He introduces “Smoke on the Water” with a montage of all-time great riffs and then goes on to master the Purple classic. It’s hard not to prefer Blackmore’s guitar presence on any Deep Purple classic, but there’s no getting around it: Morse is extraordinary. The rest of the band members, although aging, are no slouches either — the song “Fireball” is evidence of this — but it is Morse who helps them kick it up a notch, from 10 to 11.
If you missed the chance to pick up “Total Abandon” in 1999, don’t miss the opportunity now. It’s first class, and proof that there’s life after Blackmore.