The question may be asked why anyone would own a double disc live album from a band whose only widely recognizable tune is “Smoke on the Water.” For me, the answer is probably because my dad had it and it had “Smoke on the Water” on it.
But here I am about halfway through the twelve minute second track “Child in Time,” and it’s nothing that “Smoke on the Water” has prepared me for. There have been prog-friendly tempo and meter changes, Cream style multi-minute solos, Led Zeppelin-does-hair-metal vocal wails, and some of the grooviest down-tempo sections hard rock has ever seen. And of course, “Smoke on the Water” is not the only riff-heavy song on here (see also: the twenty minute “Space Truckin’”).
Some Wikipedia searching informs me that Deep Purple was best known for the interplay between the lead guitarist and the organist. That is very much evident here in the solo sections, although the rest of the bands don’t let them do all the talking. “The Mule” features a minutes long drum solo much like Cream’s “Toad,” although more rock than jazz. And what the bassist lacks in solo time, he makes up in the previously mentioned grooves he lays down in the quieter sections, which effectively rebut the ignorant claim some make that it doesn’t take talent to play bass in a rock band. And as a whole, the album showcases the entire band as entirely talented individuals at the top of their game, making for an ultimately satisfying, if not time consuming, listen.