NEW RELEASE: Part 1
Giving you the kind of detailed review that you have come to expect from me is no mean feat when it comes to a massive set like this. This 5 disc (plus 7″ single) Made In Japan reissue was an epic undertaking to absorb. Just as much as reviewing Machine Head‘s 5 disc deluxe edition last year was a huge task, Made In Japan was its equal!
Because of this, I’ve decided to split the review into three: Today we’ll look at the first two CDs. Then the third and fourth CDs, the DVD, the 45, and everything else. Enjoy this first installment.
Disc 1: Osaka, August 15 1972. “Good morning!” jokes Ian Gillan as the band arrive on stage. A few moments of quiet as the band plug in and strum, and then…the opening drum beat to “Highway Star”. The first of three shows has begun!
Gillan says he was suffering from bronchitis on this first night, and you can indeed hear a bit of extra rasp in the man’s voice. Gillan says he hates these performances, but I think the extra rasp only adds to the furious “Highway Star”. Both Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord are on fire, ripping through their parts with great aggression. Blackmore makes a few mistakes during the solo, but who cares? Right from this opening salvo, you can hear the nuances and details of this new remix. Reading the liner notes, you realize that the biggest difficulty in remixing this album was that everything was bleeding through Gillan’s vocal mike. I’ll be damned if it tarnishes the listening experience though.
Before you can catch a breath, “Highway Star” has ended and they’re into “Smoke on the Water”, which had yet to become the classic concert favourite that it is today. Ritchie plays around a bit on the intro, as the crowd claps along. Clearly, they know the song. “Smoke” lacks the furious energy of “Highway Star”, but it is still an incredible performance. Once again, Ian Gillan’s raw voice only adds to the experience (but it’s not even that bad). “Smoke” is the only track from this show that was used on the final album Made In Japan.
Ian introduces “Child in Time” as a “sad story”, but nobody was mourning that night in Osaka. One thing I enjoy about “Child in Time” is that it is never played the same twice. Jon in particular changes up his opening melodies all the time, and this version is quite different from the one they debuted a mere three years prior at the Albert Hall. Somehow, bronchitis and all, Gillan still manages to scream his way through this monster. At times, Ritchie’s solo sounds like it’s drifting into “Lazy”.
According to Ian’s intro, “The Mule” is a song about Lucifer. This track from Fireball is essentially an excuse for Ian Paice to do a five minute drum solo. Nothing wrong with that; it’s Ian Paice after all. Gillan’s voice is a bit shaky at times, but I think that only adds to it. I enjoy that Allmusic refers to “The Mule” as an instrumental, proving once and for all that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
It’s all long-bombers from there. “Strange Kind of Woman” is extended with Ian and Ritchie’s usual interplay, and a gonzo guitar solo. “Lazy” is never short, nor is “Space Truckin'” which exceeds 20 minutes (complete with flubbed lyrics). They are all stellar. I found the intro to “Lazy” quite enjoyable, because after a brief noisy organ bit, Jon teases the crowd by stopping. It becomes dead silent for long enough that you’ll wonder if the CD stopped. That’s something you never hear on a live album these days; a silent crowd. Before “Strange Kind of Woman”, Ian begs the audience for a few moments to tune up. It pays off in the end, he says! All this talk is preserved on the box set version of Made In Japan.
I found the remix on this disc to be great. I love that I can hear every conga on “Space Truckin'”. I haven’t played my old 3 CD remixed Live In Japan (1993) set in a few years, so I haven’t compared the two mixes, but this is so good, I don’t really have a reason to play Live In Japan anymore.
Disc 2: Osaka, August 16 1972. Once again, “Highway Star” gets the proceedings off to a bang. Gillan’s voice is still raspy, but a new day has given it strength. The band sound more confident, as if they lacked any in the first place. It is, after all, the second Osaka show that made up the bulk of the original Made In Japan album. Once again, the remix is a joy. I believe in hanging on to an original mix of an album, that’s just the way I am. The original Made In Japan might not sound “better”, but it is an historical document of the circumstances of its making. It has its own sonic charm, and I think both can co-exist happily in my collection. (The ’93 mix, I’m afraid, will be retired in favour of this new 2014 mix. Interesting how they remix this album every 21 years.)
Once again, “Highway Star” is followed by “Smoke on the Water”. Ritchie plays with the opening riff, but in a completely different way from the first concert. Later on, there’s a couple bum notes, and perhaps that’s the reason they used the version from the day before on the original album. The solo is a little loose too.
“Child in Time” is the adventure that it always is, and this version is familiar because it’s the one from the original Made in Japan. The song is truly a rollercoaster; that word applies here as well as any other. There are times it feels like it’s coming off the rails, but Glover and Paice keep it locked. Uncle Meat tells me that the original Made in Japan is his favourite live album “of all time.” (Perhaps it is also one of Dream Theater’s, since they did a song-for-song cover of the album.) Meat also says this is the “greatest guitar solo of all time,” right here on “Child in Time”.
“The Mule” was not used on the album; instead the version from the next night (in Tokyo) was selected. Same with “Lazy”. “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Space Truckin'” from this concert were used on Made in Japan. I couldn’t tell you why “The Mule” wasn’t used, it sounds great to me.
I very much enjoyed Ian’s “Strange Kind of Woman” intro. After explaining the song’s inspirations Ian says, “Why I’m talking such a lot is ’cause, like, we gotta tune up again…’Cause there’s a big time change from England you see, and the guitars are still not recovered from it.” After they are all tuned, Ian drops his famous line, “I have to announce that next week, we’re turning professional.” Through to his ungodly ending scream, “Strange Kind of Woman” is a corker.
Lord’s organ intro to “Lazy” is different from the first night, but just as interesting. “Space Truckin'” is the familiar version we know and love from the original Made In Japan, and it’s still astounding how this band could jam! Who cares that Gillan’s “Yeah, yeah yeah yeah!” is flat. That’s part of the action!
We’ll stop here for now, and pick up the rest tomorrow. Already, it’s apparent why a comprehensive set like this one was necessary. It’s because even if the setlist is the same, Deep Purple never play the exact same concert twice. Some of Ian’s song intros are by rote, but that’s where the similarities end. Deep Purple weren’t content to crank out the same jams and solos night after night, and that’s why a box set like Made In Japan is an important document of this band in their prime.