NICK SIMPER & NASTY HABITS – ‘Live At Szene, Vienna’ (Angel Air)
Everything has to start somewhere, and in April 1968 Deep Purple Mk1 (or ‘Deep Purple’ as they were known back then) made their live debut. Fifteen months, three albums and about 100 shows later the band appeared at the Speakeasy in London, but sitting at home that night were singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper, their places on stage being occupied by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. Purple, of course, soon released ‘In Rock’ and went stratospheric, and the material written by the first line-up was squeezed out of the set. So, aside from one rather patchy live recording of those early days (‘Live In California 18/10/68’, an official bootleg from Sonic Zoom records), it seemed unlikely that any of it would ever be heard with the adrenaline rush of an on-stage performance; until, that is, the guys from Austrian band Nasty Habits, fan-boys to a man, turned up in the UK in August 2005 to see a Nick Simper gig.
Forty years after Simper’s sacking, in 2009, Nasty Habits first took to the stage with the bassist in their ranks to play a set of songs from those first three Purple albums. European shows in 2010 were recorded and put out on CD under the title of ‘The Deep Purple Mk1 Songbook’, and now a 2011 show from Vienna has been made available through Angel Air as a CD/DVD set. The songs are pretty much the same as the 2010 CD (aside from ‘Roadhouse Blues’ which was issued as a single, and one new track ‘Slinky’, more of which later) which in one way robs the album of its impact, but this time around of course there’s the attraction of watching the performance and seeing Simper grinning like a piggy in the poo while Christian Schmid (vocals), Helmut Puschacher (keyboards), Christian Heissenberger (guitar) and Peter Brkusic (drums) help him bring the songs to live once more. Generally, the set calls on the heavier material like ‘Chasing Shadows’ and ‘Mandrake Root’, although the ballad ‘Lalena’ works well live and gives everyone a breather before hitting the gas once more with ‘Wring That Neck’. Things round off with the two hit singles of the time, the mis-titled ‘Kentucky Women’ – hell, they even make that sound good! – and a final romp through ‘Hush’.
Of the non-Purple material, ‘Roadhouse Blues’ (apparently one of Simper’s favourite songs) is handled with a degree of panache; but a song called ‘Slinky’ is unlikely to be any good and this one doesn’t buck the trend. Coming over as a Talking Heads out-take, it’s a synth-driven pop toon, crudely at odds with the rest of the material played on the night. But don’t get too hooked up about that, just enjoy the obvious passion these guys have for the songs: little things like the snippet of ‘Help’ (covered on Purple’s first album) during Puschacher’s keyboard solo, and the booklet notes by Brkusic, whose seemingly innocuous idea to try and see all the remaining members of Deep Purple proved to be the catalyst for the whole shebang. Driven by a bunch of talented musicians who are fans first and foremost, this is a true tribute album.
© John Tucker May 2012