Abandon

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Abandon (1998)

DEEP PURPLE – Abandon (1998 BMG)

19 years ago, Deep Purple released their final studio album with Jon Lord.  We didn’t know that at the time of course.  Jon’s departure happened a few years later, when touring wore him down.  He capped it off properly with a Purple tour of live performances of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra.  However, there is always a certain sense of…incompletion.  Lord’s last studio album wasn’t the kind you want to go out on.

Purple had a huge comeback with the masterpiece Purpendicular in 1996.  It was a beautiful, quirky and intelligent record.  Its followup Abandon was an effort to “get heavy”, but with hindsight even the band admitted it missed the mark.  Sure, it was heavier with more riffs, but Steve Morse isn’t particularly a riffy player.  Abandon lacked the feeling, and the level of songwriting was not there.

Lead track “Any Fule Kno That” works on a heavy groove, and it’s one of the songs that does click.  There are two particularly memorable songs on Abandon:  “Any Fule Kno That” and the laid back “Fingers to the Bone”.  “Fingers” is based on a celtic Steve Morse guitar lick, with a passionate Ian Gillan vocal on top.  Almost up there with them is “Seventh Heaven”, which could be the heaviest Purple song ever.  Paicey’s drums are relentless.  You can also count “Bludsucker” among the best material, but it’s a re-recording of “Bloodsucker” from In Rock.  Unfortunately this serves to underline how many years have passed, in regards to the vocal cords of Mr. Gillan.

All the other tunes have something to them of interest, but just not enough.  “Almost Human” for example has a nice shuffle beat.  “’69” has cool lyrics and a hell of a tempo.  There is a killer slow blues called “Don’t Make Me Happy” that just needs a better chorus.  The magic sauce just isn’t there.  Few of these songs were played live, and when they were, they tended to have more life than the album.

One must wonder, if the lacklustre Abandon is the reason Deep Purple haven’t self produced an album since.  Every record since then was either produced with Michael Bradford or Bob Ezrin.  Every record since has been better overall.  Something about Abandon just doesn’t hit the bar.  Maybe it’s the oddly obtrusive double-tracked vocals.  Whatever the cause, it’s hard to recommend Abandon when there are so many awesome Purple albums to enjoy ahead of it.

3/5 stars

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.

SHADES_0002

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD)

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DEEP PURPLE – Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (2000 Thames Thompson, Australia only, 12 CD set)

There are two (!) 12 CD Deep Purple bootleg collections; this is the first and best of them.  Although Deep Purple’s career is chock full of live albums chronicling this period, this set does feature many treats that are hard to find or not available on official live albums.  These really are bootlegs; the band decided to release their own versions of pre-existing audience bootleg albums!  All artwork, errors included, are copied from the original bootleg releases.

Before you get too excited I will state right off the bat:  There’s no Deep Purple Mk V or VI.  No Joe Lynn Turner, or Joe Satriani.  There is, however, a show from 1995 with Steve Morse, previewing tracks from the yet-to-be recorded Purpendicular album.  This transitional period is very cool.  You get to hear Morse perform “Anyone’s Daughter”, which was dropped from the set not long after.  Since Morse and Blackmore’s styles are vastly different, it’s a cool take on a track that you don’t hear often as it is.  In addition, you’ll hear Morse reinvent “Woman From Tokyo” on a bootleg from 2000.

BOOTLEGS FRONTThe Bootleg Series also contains my favourite version of “The Battle Rages On” ever released.  1995, Ft. Lauderdale Florida, Ian Gillan tore the roof off with that song.  In my mind I always imagined his screams directed towards Blackmore, even though he was probably furthest from Gillan’s mind.  It’s a magical version, you can hear the electricity and the emotion.  Just awesome.

Also a treat is a revisiting of the old In Rock classic, “Into the Fire” from 2000.  This version crushes!  Unfortunately, a stiff and slow version of “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” follows it.  Deep Purple are that kind of band, usually they just kill it.  But their history does contain rare stumbles, and this take of “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” is nothing stacked up against other versions available.  On the other hand, Purple just smoke the Abandon track “’69” immediately afterwards!  They extend this concise rocker to include an extended jam with a nod and wink to “Paint It, Black”.

Other highlights:  Blackmore’s solo spot “Difficult to Cure”.  Rarely heard 80’s-era tracks such as “Under the Gun”, “A Gypsy’s Kiss”, “Nobody’s Home”, “The Unwritten Law”, “Bad Attitude”, “Hard Lovin’ Woman”, and “Dead or Alive”.  You can’t buy a live version of “The Unwritten Law” anywhere else.  “Fools”, a rarely played track from Fireball, simply crushes.  Holy Ian Paice, Batman!  Steve puts his own slant on the guitar part in “Fools”, but it is his solo spot on “Cascades” that is truly intoxicating.

These being bootlegs, don’t expect sound quality or packaging or liner notes, unfortunately.  The sound quality does improve as you go from the oldest discs to the most recent.   The oldest shows have a lot of crowd noise, and poor sounding drums.  By the time you get the Japan 2000 show, things sound much better although can still stray towards muddy at times.  Packaging-wise, what you see is what you get:  A box, six jewel cases, front covers and back covers.

This was an Australia-only release.  I have no idea what it’s worth today.  I haven’t seen one in years.

4/5 stars

Bootlegs:

Highway Stars (Adelaide Australia, 11/30/1984)

Third Night (Sweden, 06/16/1985)

Hungary Days (Budapest Hungary, 01/28/1987)

In Your Trousers (Stockholm Sweden, 11/13/1993)

Purple Sunshine (Ft. Lauderdale Florida, 03/04/1995)

Made In Japan 2000 (Osaka Japan 04/01/2000)

I decided that there’s no point rating these bootlegs individually.  For one, it’s a set, and when it came down to splitting hairs, I like them equally.  And that speaks volumes as to the consistency of this band.