REVIEW: Deep Purple – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (5 CD box set)

scan_20170123DEEP PURPLE – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (2014 Parlophone)

It’s fantastic that old mono recordings are getting the CD treatment.  The original mono mixes of the old Beatles albums were a revelation to those who had never heard them before.  The original mono versions of Deep Purple’s Shades Of and Book of Taliesyn are less surprising, but still a welcome addition for completists who want to hear it “as it was” in 1968.  Comparisons are difficult, but both albums sound like they were meant to be in stereo.  Unlike the Beatles pop rock compositions, Deep Purple’s featured a lot of solo work and even full-blown orchestral movements.  The stereo separation makes that easier to appreciate.  Only Purple’s third album, 1969’s self-titled Deep Purple, did not receive a mono mix.  It is presented here in stereo only.

Now, these three Purple albums all received the deluxe edition treatment (single discs) in the year 2000.  Those versions on Spitfire (links in above paragraph) are still excellent ways to get this early Deep Purple music.  They are fairly common, have great liner notes and pictures, and feature the stereo versions plus 14 bonus tracks combined between them.  There is also a compilation CD called The Early Years featuring more bonus tracks, including 2003 remixes and live takes.  Where Hard Road fails is in replacing these previous four CDs completely.  One would hope you would get  all the associated bonus tracks from this period in one handy-dandy box.  Sadly this box is not quite so dandy.  Here is a list of tracks missing from Hard Road that were on the remastered single discs:

  • “Kentucky Woman” (alternate take on The Early Years)
  • “Hard Road” (BBC session on The Early Years and The Book of Taliesyn remaster)
  • “Hush” (live from US TV)
  • “Hey Joe” (live BBC recording from the remastered Shades Of).
  • “It’s All Over” and “Hey Bop-a-Rebop” (unreleased songs, live BBC sessions from The Book of Taliesyn)

The live BBC songs above can also be found on the double CD BBC Sessions…except for “Hard Road”.

scan_20170123-4

Of course there is plenty of material on Hard Road that is not on those earlier discs, making things that much murkier.  In addition to the original mono versions, these include:

  • “Kentucky Woman” remixed in 2003
  • “Playground” in a non-remixed version
  • “River Deep, Mountain High” and “The Bird Has Flown” (single edits)
  • A fresh 2012 stereo mix of “Emmaretta”
  • The isolated single B-side version of “April (Part 1)”
  • An early instrumental version of “Why Didn’t Rosemary”

Irritating, yes.  But only to completists.  For just about anyone else, Hard Road will satisfy their need for pretty much all the Deep Purple Mark I they can handle.  It’s not as complete as the title would let on, what with that live “Hush” and alternate take of “Kentucky Woman” missing in action.  Instead you will receive a large booklet with plenty of notes and a new 2013 interview with producer Derek Lawrence.  He was on board early, before they were in Deep Purple.  He describes an early version of the band called “Roundabout” (with Bobby Woodman on drums and Chris Curtis on bass) as “bland”.  When Ian Paice and Nick Simper joined, they sounded better, but to Lawrence clearly Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice were the stars.

Each disc comes in its own LP-style sleeve.  It’s a gorgeous set.  It sounds fantastic, and was assembled with the usual care that goes into a Deep Purple album.  A few niggling missing tracks aside, this is highly recommended to those looking add the first three Purple to their collection.

4/5 stars

 

 

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18 comments

    1. I think with the inclusion of the mono mixes, Hard Road is the best way to get that early music. Unfortunately Purple don’t have any good general compilations that include all the Deep Purple Mk I songs that I think they should. The third album in particular is stronger than strong!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy these albums all over again when it came out but I do fancy the mono mixes. Seems a bit cheaper now than it used to be so I might pick this up soon. It is annoying that it didn’t just gather all the tracks in the one place though. No wonder we’re running out of space on our shelves!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As you may recall, I bought The Early Years at your urging a while back and I already have earlier releases of the albums, so I’ll likely take a pass on this box. That said, I love Deep Purple Mk I. I just listened to Deep Purple today spurred by this post and I cannot say enough good about it. As you note above, it’s “stronger than strong.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on, I’m glad you enjoyed that one. I think it’s really exceptional. They were on the trajectory to genius. I like to imagine what “Painter” would have sounded like if Ian Gillan sang it.

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  3. Sounds pretty nifty, Mike. I have a list of Deep Purple stuff I need to check out and I guess this’ll be added to that lot. Hopefully I get around to buying at least one or two this year.

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  4. Cool review

    just a little observation about this

    The live BBC songs above can also be found on the double CD BBC Sessions…except for “Hard Road”.

    That song is called Wring That Neck(live BBC) in this release (box) instead of Hard Road(live BBC) so I do think all BBC tracks are present.

    Liked by 1 person

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