DEEP PURPLE – 24 Carat Purple (1975 EMI)
I can’t resist reviewing this golden oldie, the first compilation released by Purple Records in 1975. Purple had not yet broken up — that wouldn’t happen for another year — but most of the members on this record had left the band. It’s rarely a good sign when a band in their final death throes release a compilation album.
This CD is extraordinarily rare in these parts. When I first started managing the Record Store at which I spent most of my years, I put my name in “reserve” for any used copies that may come in. That was April 1996. Here we are in June 2015, and I only just got it on CD. I did get it on vinyl in the late 90’s, even though I have all the songs, because I enjoy having significant greatest hits albums in my collection. (See point 4, “Historical significance”, in Getting More Tale #367.) Unfortunately, as was the case with many CD issues from the late 80’s, the cover art isn’t even near the same colour as the original golden LP. The CD renders it to a dark, pee-stain yellow.
Saucy Aaron, from the KeepsMeAlive, texted me last month from Toronto, in Sonic Boom on Spadina. “Cool Purple comp,” he texted. “Very short though.” He sent me a pic with a $7.99 price tag, and I told him to snag it! That’s the kind of guy he is. He saw a Purple compilation CD and texted me a photo, unsure if I’d even care, on the off-chance that he’d be helping out a fellow collector. And he did! All it needed was a new jewel case.
Because I have all the songs elsewhere, I haven’t played 24 Carat Purple in a long time. It’s interesting that this, their first kinda-official hits album, only focuses on the Ian Gillan years, even though another version of Purple was currently functioning. I suppose that makes sense, from a contemporary point of view.
“Woman From Tokyo” is a great track to get the party started. I’ve only seen Purple once, on the Purpendicular tour. I recall that this was tune that really got the dudes in their mid-40’s bouncing. Now I’m in my mid-40’s, and I’m still bouncing to it. It’s a nice, safe Purple single. Jon Lord’s piano solo is, well, bouncy! I defy you to sit perfectly still with this song playing.
More to my taste is the accelerated blast through the clouds that is “Fireball”. To me, this track has it all — the perfect Purple mixture of adrenaline, speed, musicianship and that organ! The live “Strange Kind of Woman” brings things back to a moderate pace. Most of the time, I would be opposed to a live track substituting a studio version on a “hits” set, but Made in Japan was more popular than many of their studio albums! This live take, complete with Ian laughing through some of the lines, is probably my favourite anyway. Because Purple were as much a live act as an album band, one can easily make arguments for including live tracks of this stature.
“Never Before”, on the other hand, may have been a single but it’s nobody’s favourite Purple song. Of all their singles, perhaps it is the most ordinary. But at 4:00, it was about the right length to squeeze in before “Black Night” on a side of vinyl. “Black Night” was the real treat for fans in 1975, since this was the live version released only as a B-side before. This electric version is a must-own for its ferocity. It was recorded at the final show of the three that were taped for Made in Japan. Feedback-laden and ragged, this version of “Black Night” kills the others.
Side two of the record was devoted to long bombers, with “Speed King” coming in shortest at 5:50. That means this is the full-on version of “Speed King” complete with intro, which was edited off American copies of Deep Purple In Rock. For some listeners, this intro (purely 50 seconds of instrumental guitar-fucking and drum-wailing, followed by a mellow organ passage) would be completely new to them. Normally you would expect a record label to plop on an edited single version.
Made in Japan is the source for the last two tracks, “Smoke on the Water” and “Child in Time”. The mathematically inclined have probably already calculated that this means 24 Carat Purple is actually 57% live! I think that’s OK in the long run. Consider: “Smoke on the Water” in its live incarnation was released as a successful single. The live “Child in Time” contains, according to my friend Uncle Meat, “the greatest guitar solo of all time.” Since he said it, it must be true, and therefore inclusion of these two live versions is forgiven.
I feel like giving this long-deleted album a number rating is kind of meaningless. Yes it was a great listen, but it’s just a compilation from a band that most people agree are an albums band.