REVIEW: Deep Purple – Shades 1968-1998 (box set)

DEEP PURPLE – Shades 1968-1998 (Rhino 1999 box set)

I was really excited about this 1999 box set when it came out, but what it came down to was this: I paid “x” amount of dollars for just two songs that I didn’t have on other recent Deep Purple CDs. One song, “Slow Down Sister”  by Deep Purple Mk 5 was only available here. It’s since been reissued on the Slaves and Masters deluxe edition.  The other is a very rare and very great 1971 live version of “No No No” from a compilation called Ritchie Blackmore/Rock Profile Vol. 1. So there’s your bait.

Unfortunately, the booklet and discography is loaded with errors. This was disappointing. The packaging is nice, with that sheet metal looking embossed cover. It opens kind of awkwardly though, making it hard to handle. And man, there are so many Deep Purple box sets out there now! I have Listen, Learn, Read On which is six CDs dedicated entirely to just 1968-1976. Obviously you can’t squeeze Deep Purple’s career onto just four discs. This set covers 1968-1998, which is a huge chunk.  It’s almost the entire Jon Lord tenure.  It skimps in some places and confounds me in others. Usually, Rhino do such a great job, but I felt this one didn’t live up to their other products.

SHADES_0003Disc one covers 1968 to 1971 (Shades Of to Fireball). The tracks listed here as demos or rarities are from the Deep Purple remastered CDs, all except for the aforementioned “No No No” which really is awesome. If you have the great Singles A’s & B’s and the Deep Purple remasters, you have all this stuff. Except maybe the edit version of “”River Deep, Mountain High”, I’m not certain about that one. You get a good smattering of favourites on here, like “Kentucky Woman”, “Speed King”, “Child In Time” and so on, but it’s not really sequenced all that well. The slow-ish Deep Purple Mk I material fits awkwardly with the Mk II.  Other songs of note include non-album singles and B-sides such as “Hallelujah” (first recording with Ian Gillan) and “The Bird Has Flown”.  The version of “Speed King” included is the full UK cut, with the crazy noise intro.

Disc two is 1971 to 1972: more Fireball, and Machine Head. All these tracks can be found on Deep Purple remasters. There  are some excellent tracks here, such as the rare “Painted Horse” and “Freedom”. “Painted Horse”, a personal favourite, has been available for decades on an album called Power House. I guess Blackmore didn’t like them at the time, so they languished until the band broke up before the record label released them. “I’m Alone” was rare for a long time, and “Slow Train” was completely undiscovered until the Fireball remaster. I like that “Anyone’s Daughter” is on here, a very underrated song.  Of course you will hear all the big hits on this disc: The studio versions of “Smoke on the Water”, “Fireball”, Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'”. This will be many people’s favourite disc.

The third CD continues with Mk II.  It starts off with the Made In Japan live version of “Smoke” which is fine, but now you’ve heard it twice.  Soon, it’s  “Woman From To-kay-yo”, “Mary Long”, and the scathing “Smooth Dancer”.  Then Gillan and Glover are out, and in comes Coverdale and Hughes  One rarity on this disc is the instrumental “Coronarias Redig”, which dates from the Burn period. It also includes some of Mk III’s most impressive work, including two of the best tunes from Come Taste The Band. Conspicuous by their absence is the epic “You Keep On Moving”, and Blackmore-era fave “Gypsy”. You will, however get “Burn”, and “Stormbringer” from Stormbringer itself.

SHADES_0005The fourth CD is the one that ticks me off the most. This covers the reunion era, from 1984 to the then-most recent album Abandon in 1998. The hits are here, “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking’ On Your Back Door”, as well as some singles from the Joe Lynn Turner era. What ticks me off here is the song selection. “Fire In The Basement”? What? That song kind of sucks, why not “The Cut Runs Deep”? Only one song from The Battle Rages On is included, only one from the excellent Purpendicular, and only one from the recent Abandon? And not even the best songs? That makes no sense.

To short-change the later era of Deep Purple only serves to short-change the listener.  The band were revitalized and rejuventated by Steve Morse, and made some really good, well received music. I saw them live with Morse in 1996.

From The House of Blue Light era, a single edit of “Bad Attitude” is included, which is probably rare.  What you won’t get is the full, 10 minute + version of the instrumental “Son Of Aleric”. This is one of the best lesser known tunes from the reunion era. Instead, you get the truncated 7″ single version. That makes the 10 minute version frustratingly hard to get. It was originally released on a 12″ single, which you may be able to find. You might have better luck finding it on the European version of Knocking at Your Back Door: The Best of Deep Purple in the 80’s. It was included there, replacing “Child In Time” from the US version. I managed to get it thanks to my mom & dad who bought it for me at an HMV store in Edinburgh (along with Restless Heart by Whitesnake).

SHADES_0004Mick Wall’s liner notes offer the Morse years a mere mention, and end on a nostalgia note of “bring back Blackmore.”  Come on. Let’s focus on the present of a band that shows no signs of slowing down, shall we? But this box set short changes the present, and by picking it up you won’t hear such awesome later songs as “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” or “Fingers to the Bone”.

I know many reviews of this set are glowing, and each reviewer has their own reasons for doing so. I can’t. This band is too important, too vital, and dammit, still alive! This box set simply doesn’t do them justice. I was ticked off when I bought it and realized I owned almost all the “rare and unreleased” material. Collectors won’t find much here worth the coin spent, and rock fans who just want a great box set of Deep Purple won’t get to hear enough Morse.

Somebody dropped the ball on this one! 2/5 stars.



  1. I read lukewarm reviews of this in a DPAS mag so I just avoided it. The lack of new material is annoying, especially when they picked such odd selections. I’ve no idea why they would ever have chosen those 2 tracks from Purpendicular and Abandon over the ones you mentioned.


  2. It’s one thing to sloppily assemble a single greatest hits cd, for people looking for an introduction to the band that may briefly glance at the liner notes.
    The 4-disc box sets however are going to be purchased by fans – fans that have ‘the classics’ already and are looking for hidden gems. Not that I condone errors in Greatest hits booklets, but if you’re going to do shoddy research/proofreading, don’t do it in a box set!


      1. If LeBrain were involved, you know it would be the only one worth buying! Mike, you gotta get yourself into a position where people need your opinion on this stuff. Music fans worldwide need you! New job! Go! ;)


  3. Hmmm yeah sounds like half assed job to me….I dunno I’m looking forward to the Perfect Strangers live DVD in October as that album has stood the test of time for me!
    Bring it on…but yeah for Mike to give it 2/5 and him being the huge Purple Head that he is must be saying sumthin!…so I would avoid buying this as well….


    1. I have plenty of live stuff from that period so I’m not putting that DVD high on my list. I prefer CD over DVD anyway. But it will be an important release anyway.

      To do a full Purple career spanning set, you need at least 5 discs. Probably 6.


        1. Very close indeed. One song I’m missing, that we’ve discussed, is on a rare Pavorotti & Friends CD. And there might be another tune on the Blackmore compilation I mentioned too.


  4. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but for years the only DP albums I owned were the “Deepest Purple” compilation and “Perfect Strangers,” both on LP. A friend who worked at Warner Music Group got me this box set when it came out, and a year later I got the expanded versions of the first few albums. These are still the only DP physical products I own. I did, however, make digital copies of a friend’s complete CD collection about 6-7 years ago, so I’ve heard all the albums, but one of these days I need to remedy this oversight & get some deluxe editions of at least the classic years.

    So with all of this in mind, I really like the “Shades” box set even though the layout of the packaging is annoying (there’s no way to display the spine without it jutting out from even the most oversize shelf), and the embossed metallic panel has been coming loose for years. That being said, while it may not be a bonanza for DP collectors, it’s perfect for someone who doesn’t own much else. Eventually I hope to make it obsolete by getting the individual albums.

    Thanks for another great write-up.


    1. I’m with you on all of this, except you’re ahead of me – I don’t own any Purple. Gasp! I know! But this review… This is the kind of stuff we have come to expect (and always receive) here at Mike’s site. He loves the music, and isn’t afraid to say when something is good or not. And it inspires us to get moving and fill the gaps in collections. Or in my case, with Purple, it isn’t a gap. More like a gorge.


      1. A “deep” gorge, of course. I’ve been thinking about expanding my Purple collection for a while, but the money always goes to something else, and I’ve got the box set and my digital copies of the albums if I want to hear them. I still (and will most likely always) need physical product, and with an artist as seminal as Deep Purple it’s wrong that I don’t own more. The same goes for Thin Lizzy. I own the 4-CD box set and digital copies of every studio album (copied from the same friend). Thanks to Mike, my bank account will be shrinking soon. I’ll let my wife know who’s to blame.


        1. A deep gorge lit by a purple sunset, of course.

          The only Lizzy I have came to me courtesy of, of course, Mr. Mike. And it is awesome stuff. Definitely made me wanna hear more.

          The thought has crossed my mind before, actually, that Mike oughta put a warning in his site’s header, that he cannot be held responsible for our bank accounts if he inspires us to go crazy in the shops. At some point soon (I’m hoping) we’re headed for a second edition of Mike And Aaron Go to Toronto, and already my list of stuff to find while there is way bigger than if it was just me making it up, thanks to Mike.

          I maintain that what we all need is independent wealth. This would free up our time to listen to everything we want to hear, and allow us to add to the collection as needed. I’m fresh out of ideas as to how to achieve this, though, so get on it, wouldja? :)


        2. Well dude, we WILL do Toronto (although now it’s gonna be fall, but let’s make it early fall) and if you want I can guide you to all your Purple needs. You can’t do badly with Deepest Purple as a starter, but there’s so much more there!


        3. Thanks Rich! I had to do the same with Jon Wilmenius, my wife will be speaking to him about my spending problems :)

          I can see how this would be a useful set to own for you. The thing is, cheap Deep Purple studio albums CAN be had. If you don’t want or care about the bonus tracks, most of their classic albums can be had in the $5 range!


        4. By the way, I forgot that I also own Deep Purple’s “Knocking At Your Back Door” CD, the compilation of their ’80s reunion albums.

          I do like bonus tracks when they’re chosen well and expanded packaging when it’s done well. I’ve noticed that a lot of the DP expanded editions come with Roger Glover remixes and not many studio outtakes, demos, etc. Do you know if those $5 CDs have any kind of worthwhile packaging? I’d like to at least have all of the info included in the original LP.


        5. No, those cheap discs have cheap, crappy packaging. No liner notes or anything else good.

          The reason for things like the Glover mixes is that DP left behind very few outtakes or alternate versions. I believe Fireball was the only album without any remixes, they had enough bonus material without them. For Machine Head, it was all Glover remixes because there wasn’t anything else in the vault.


        6. Good to know. I got a few of those budget reissues of Alice Cooper albums because that’s all I could find at a reasonable price to fill in the gaps in my collection. I seem to remember you writing mostly glowing reviews of the Purple deluxe editions, right? At the very least I should get In Rock, Machine Head, Fireball & Burn. I just need to find them for the right price.


        7. I’ve reviewed a couple of them. I did the 1969 self-titled album, the 5 disc Machine Head, and…that might have been it so far! And don’t forget Who Do We Think We Are! I think it’s about as good as Burn. It’s underrated for sure. Great tunes on there like To-kay-o, Rat Bat Blue, and Mary Long.


        8. Those are huge, huge questions! I’ll do my best to answer:

          Packaging – incredible. Long essays, lots of photos, articles, facts, figures, and dates. These are definitive liner notes. All done by the DPAS.

          The remixes are not better (how could you improve on Machine Head?) but worthwhile to listen to. Because there are slight differences, like maybe an alternative vocal take, or alternate keyboard solo, they sound fresh. You’ll notice differences but that may or may not be to your liking.

          The sound of all of them is perfectly fine to me. Especially Machine Head!


  5. Man I gotta get the cd copy of that for sure!
    What a great setlist ! I love the Knebworth copy….but sumthin pro should be much better…


    1. I decided to pre order the CD DVD LP set, even though they don’t have a price posted yet. Heh!

      There’s also the bootleg box set that I reviewed a couple months ago, that has two shows from this period. This should be pretty good quality though.


        1. You could supplement that box set with a single disc compilation of the 80’s albums called Knockin’ At Your Back Door. I like that one a lot. Bonus if you can get the UK version with the full 10 minute version of Son of Aleric.

          As for the more recent years with Steve Morse, I don’t think there is any sort of compilation, outside of live albums.


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