Eyeballin': Deep Purple: History, Hits and Highlights 1968-76

[Ed. Note: Throughout the holiday season, Rocks Off will be bringing you our picks for recent DVDs, CDs and other musical wares that might be just the ticket to help fill out that pesky shopping list. Enjoy.]

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Though they never achieved the popularity of Zeppelin or Sabbath, and are still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Deep Purple belongs in that group as a band that helped create hard rock and heavy metal. This generous 2-DVD set is a treasure trove of goodies from the band's best years, concentrating on the fan favorite "Mk II" lineup of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice.

The footage here comes from a variety of sources: live concerts, staged videos, documentaries, news reports and appearances on the always-interesting European music shows of the day, whose trippiness proved that producers over there were smoking much stronger shit than their American counterparts.

Check out "Speed King," which finds the band pumping through the number amidst heavily made-up European dancers, a car crash stage set and French Revolution tableau. For comparison, there's the original lineup playing "Hush" for Hugh Hefner's Playboy TV show, in which the black-suited, pipe-smoking Bunny Wrangler tells singer Rod Evans it would "really groove the kids."

Most of the hits ("Smoke on the Water," "Black Night," "Highway Star," "Strange Kind of Woman") and plenty of obscurities are here. What strikes the viewer immediately is the intensity of Ian Gillan at the mike, as well as the better-than-you'd-think turn of his replacement, David Coverdale (later to front Whitesnake with much more pouffy hair).

Some of the extended jams do overstay their welcome ("Wring that Neck"), but overall it's a pleasure to have so much footage of Purp in its prime in one collection, meant to be played at 11 on the volume knob.

Eagle Rock, 287 minutes, $24.98.

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