box set

REVIEW: Queen – On Air (6 CD box set)

QUEEN – On Air – The Radio Collection (2016 BBC 6 CD box set)

Go big or go home.  Why buy the 2 CD version of Queen On Air when you can go for the 6 CD smorgasbord?  If you love Queen, it is the only way to do it.  Having said that, if you only “like” Queen and wouldn’t give your own blood to buy a box set, then the simple 2 disc standard edition will probably suffice.  The first two discs in this set are the same as the standard edition.  Everything else is a bonus.

The contents of the first two discs are The Complete BBC Sessions, 24 songs in total plus some disc jockey chit chat.  Because these tracks come from multiple BBC appearances, some songs are played more than once, such as “Keep Yourself Alive”, “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the epic “Liar”.  Most of the recordings are from the very early 70s — 1973 and 1974.  Queen were a rough and ready beast back then, but these versions are really not too far off from the original album tracks.  Because it’s the BBC, the recordings and fidelity are excellent.  This is a treasure trove of early Queen, all the best tracks, captured perfectly.  Any fan of the first three Queen albums will be more than satisfied with these discs.  Then, there’s a gap.  After the Sheer Heart Attack (1974) era, there is nothing until 1977’s News of the World.  That album is represented by four of the best tracks:  the fast and guitar-heavy version of “We Will Rock You”, plus “It’s Late”, “My Melancholy Blues”, and “Spread Your Wings”.

According to the liner notes, even though they were a new band, Queen were afforded unusual leeway at the BBC.  Everyone knew they were talented and capable, and so when Freddie Mercury demanded very high standards and everything just so, he was accommodated.  The pay off is that these recordings are stunningly good, and rival the official album versions for quality.  Apparently the BBC sessions were heavily bootlegged, and you will understand why.

Disc 3 contains portions of three concerts.  Shame it’s not the full shows.  I’m sure those will come one day.  In the meantime, enjoy this CD.  You will hear highlights from concerts in 1973, 1981 and 1986, again recorded by the BBC.  This makes for a diverse listen, including guitar solos and covers.  The 1981 recording from Sao Paulo, Brazil is the weakest in terms of sound, but still perfectly listenable.  The 1986 material from Germany is fabulous.  Freddie dropped an “F” bomb in “Under Pressure” as he was being recorded for radio!

This might be where most listeners have to check out.  The final three CDs are interviews with all four members of Queen — 210 minutes of interviews.  Did you know Freddie Mercury could speak Japanese?  Full concerts would be better than interviews, but here they are.  Also among the interviews is a chat with producer Roy Thomas Baker.  The interviews range from 1976 to 1992 and the tribute concert.  Queen never reveal too much, but the timeline of interviews provides a lot of detail surrounding Queen’s most celebrated albums.

The problem with the interviews isn’t so much the quality, but a matter of “when am I going to listen to all this” and “how often”.  The music is the meat of it.  This box set can be found affordably, so be aware of what’s inside and don’t pay too much.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Max Webster – The Party (2017 box set)

MAX WEBSTER – The Party (2017 Anthem 8 CD box set)

Normally when we review box sets like this, we prefer to review each album individually.  Three of the eight discs have already been covered here:  Max Webster (their debut), High Class in Borrowed Shoes, and Universal Juveniles (their final album).  The rest of the Max Webster albums will be reviewed in due time, so for now we will take a general look at their brand new CD box set, The Party.

The Max Webster catalogue (and to a lesser extent, the solo Kim Mitchell discography) has been well overdue for a remastering.  The original Anthem CDs are thin and tinny.  Rock Candy did a fantastic remaster of the first three albums with better sound and a generous booklet, but what about the rest?  I first heard about this project via Uncle Meat this past summer at Sausagefest.  It was one of those “know a guy who knows a guy” stories, but the bottom line was, Max Webster’s catalogue was being remastered.  And now we have The Party in hand as proof!

The contents include all five original Max studio albums, their concert opus Live Magnetic Air, Kim Mitchell’s very rare solo EP, and a bonus disc of rarities called The Bootleg.  Those who buy the forthcoming vinyl version will also receive a booklet with rare photos and other goodies.  The CD version has no booklet, but it does have nice gatefold packaging for each album.  It’s affordably priced, so we forgive the lack of a booklet on the CD edition. Vinyl owners can look at it as a bonus for buying vinyl.

If improved audio is what you are longing for, then you should be very satisfied with The Party.  It’s not overdriven, but it sounds fuller and deep.  They didn’t go for loudness.  This is all very good.  You can safely ditch your old CD versions, rendered obsolete by this box.

The Bootleg will be the main draw for many.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, it intrigues, because it teases that there is more.  Unreleased demos are listed as “Contraband” — reports suggest this refers to a collection of unreleased material still in the vault.

Max Webster apparently recorded their 2007 reunion show, or at least “Let Go the Line”.  It sounds brilliant and makes you pray for a live album of the show.  Terry Watkinson’s classic ballad sounds a little older, a little wiser, but just as brilliant as ever.  Other live stuff from 1979 was recorded in Oshawa.  “Oh War” simply smokes, and was not included on Live Magnetic Air.  Then there’s the crazy jam centred on “Research (At Beach Resorts)”.  These insane live sessions really show why Max Webster is held in such high esteem, almost like a second coming of Frank Zappa himself.

The unreleased demos include some songs that didn’t make Max’s albums.  Fans know “Deep Dive” from Kim Mitchell’s solo live album, I Am A Wild Party.  Max’s original 1982 demo is completely different.  Same melody, same words, but a vastly different arrangement.  It’s like rock and roll bluegrass, fast as possible, and insanely good.  It was likely deemed too different to be on the Universal Juveniles LP, but there’s no doubt it’s awesome and the highlight of this box set.

Another standouts from the batch of demos is a version of “Battle Scar” without Rush; just Max!  It’s a revelation; an interesting work in progress.  There are also two songs you’ve never heard before, “Walden 5” and “Better”, both from 1979.  Let’s just say that the quality of these unreleased Max songs is album level.  “Walden 5” just needed some editing.  A demo version of “In the World of Giants” from 1979 has way more guitar soloing.  Kim fans will love it!  Oh — and stay tuned for a surprise unlisted bonus track.

The box itself is just a cardboard sleeve, but at least an attractively packaged one.  Yes, a booklet would have been appreciated.  In lieu of that, we recommend Martin Popoff’s brilliantly detailed book Live Magnetic Air: The Unlikely Saga of the Superlative Max Webster to accompany this otherwise perfect set.

Oh, one last thing:  The two “new” songs that were included on the hits compilation Diamonds Diamonds are not in this box set.  So, to be a completist, you’d still need to track that one down.  Vinyl is recommended; and then you’d own “Hot Spots” and “Overnight Sensation” to complete the picture.  Just a word to the wise.

4.5/5 stars

 

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”.

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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

 

 

REVIEW: Journey – Time3 (1992 box set)

scan_20161015-2JOURNEY – Time3 (1992 Sony 3 CD box set)

Very few box sets satisfy the way that Journey’s Time3 satisfies.  When it was released in 1992, Journey wasn’t even a functioning entity anymore.  Sony’s box set still represents the kind of care and attention to detail that makes for an extraordinary listen.  It is arranged (mostly) chronologically with ample rare and unreleased material.  What is most remarkable is how great this rare and unreleased material is.  Aerosmith did a similar looking box set in 1992 as well (Pandora’s Box), but their set isn’t as steady a listen as Time3 is.  Time3‘s ample wealth of worthwhile rarities rank it easily as the superior set.

From start to bitter 80’s breakup, every Journey member from 1975 to 1986 is included.  George Tickner, Aynsley Dunbar, Robert Fleischman, Randy Jackson, Mike Baird and anybody else you may not have known were in Journey are represented in this box.  There are ample liner notes and photos explaining the roots and branches.  (Humorously the notes claim the early Journey instrumental “Nickel & Dime” may have been the prototype that Rush ripped off for “Tom Sawyer”.)  Valuable early rarities include the unreleased jazz rock number “Cookie Duster” and an excellent vocal track called “For You” recorded  with Robert Fleischman singing.  Fleischman might be best known as the original singer for Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion a decade later, but in Journey he turned in a pretty powerful pop rock song.  This was just before Steve Perry joined the band as its first full-time lead singer.  Keyboardist Gregg Rolie took care of the vocals before Perry joined, in addition to performing several smoking organ solos included herein.

There is a distinct change between the early progressive jam rock tracks and “For You”.  When they hired on a lead singer, it was with the intention to get a big break, and Steve Perry was the final ingredient.  With Perry they recorded brilliant classics such as “Patiently”, “Anytime” and the unforgettable “Wheel in the Sky”, which unfortunately is only included here as a live version.  Indeed, the Journey box set’s only weakness is a substitution of (non-rare) live versions for studio originals.  “Lights” is another such substitution.

Just as the band were making this prog-to-pop transition, drummer Aynsley Dunbar left.  His style was more progressive and frankly too highbrow for the direction Journey were going.  He was replaced by another total pro, the feel-oriented Steve Smith, a jazzbo at heart who can play R&B like nobody’s business.  “Too Late” from 1979’s Evolution is a perfect example of what he did to the Journey sound, as things simplified.

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With Smith behind the kit, the hits kept pouring in.  “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” (also included live), “Any Way You Want It”, “Line of Fire” and many more burned up speakers across America.  The band very quickly went from “point A” to “point B”, but also with several exceptional looks backward.  Some of these lesser known gems include “Little Girl” from a rare Journey soundtrack album called Dream, After Dream done for the Japanese market.  There is also the live “Dixie Highway” from Captured that shows off some serious instrumental chops.  A rare highlight is the soulful and unreleased cover of “Good Times”, with full-on horn section, from 1978.  It’s one of the songs that make it worth buying a box set like this.

Rolie left after Dream, After Dream and did not appear on the one new Journey song on Captured:  “The Party’s Over (Hopelessly in Love)”.  This brilliant pop rocker pointed the way towards the next era of Journey.  From The Babys came new keyboardist (and sometimes guitarist and singer) Jonathan Cain.  Cain forever brought Journey into the 1980’s, with modern keyboard accompaniment and serious writing abilities.  He has since become an indisposable member of the band, as important as founding guitarist Neal Schon himself.  Jon Cain’s first was the Escape album, which has sold nine million copies to date.  Not a bad little debut.  With “Don’t Stop Believin'” , “Stone in Love” and the smash ballad “Open Arms”, Journey ascended to the top of the mountain.  These tracks are all included as their studio originals.

There are a number of notable and great rarities from this period included in Time3.  “Natural Thing” was the soul-laden B-side to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, but feast your ears upon “La Raza Del Sol”, which snuck out as the progressive flipside of “Still They Ride”.  This blazingly recalls the arrangements of the early years with an unusually contemoplative lyric.  Check out Schon’s flamenco guitar solo.  There is the understated and brilliant rocker “Only Solutions”, from the 1982 Tron soundtrack.  These are valuable songs, that any Journey fan should enjoy completely.  Moving forward, “All That Really Matters” is a synthy demo with Jon Cain on lead vocals.  It doesn’t sound like Journey, but Cain fans will find it interesting.  Two more soundtrack songs are indispensable:  “Only the Young” from Vision Quest, and “Ask the Lonely” from Two of a Kind (both 1983).  Each song was significant enough to include on 1988’s Greatest Hits, so fans are well acquainted with both.  It’s incredible to think that Journey had songs of this quality to give to soundtracks.

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Towards the end, as bands often do, Journey began falling apart.  Steve Perry had a hit solo debut Street Talk (1984) and he returned to Journey more confident, imposing a soul/R&B direction upon the band.  Steve Smith and founding bassist Ross Valory were out.  Randy Jackson and Mike Baird were in.  Raised on Radio took forever to record and underwhelmed fans upon reception.  A live version of “I’ll Be Alright Without You” with the new members indicates that Journey had sanded off the rough edges.

Even at the end, there were still interesting happenings.  The liner notes reveal that even as the band was ending, they were winning awards.  Journey performed at the 1987 Bay Area Music Awards with a different singer — Michael Bolton.  One has to wonder where that could have gone.  The last music on this set chronologically comes in the shape of two unreleased instrumentals called “With a Tear” and “Into Your Arms”.  They were recorded in 1986 but not used for Raised on Radio, and so they were finished in 1992 by Schon and Cain for this box set.  Sadly these instrumentals are better than most of the tracks on Raised on Radio.  One is a ballad, and one is a rocker, but both are exceptional.  Journey started life with instrumentals, and so it’s fitting that Schon and Cain polished off the box set with a couple as well.

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This box set was reissued a number of times, but for the money you can’t beat the original 1992 printing with the long box and large booklet.  The liner notes are ample but the rare photos may even top them.  From the earliest days there are pictures of the band with original guitarist George Tickner and drummer Prairie Prince.  Prince was invited to join permanently, but chose to join the Tubes instead, a band he found more creative.  He was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar who recorded the first LP.  Also pictured within are some truly impressive hair styles, clothes, and moustaches.

With tracks this strong from start to finish, great packaging, and such a wealth of rare material, it seems Time3 should be an easy 5/5 stars.  However, that niggling issue of live tracks (particularly “Wheel in the Sky”) replacing studio cuts is really devious.  It’s unnecessary.  It all but forces casual buyers to also own Greatest Hits for the studio versions.  It seems very calculated.

Otherwise, proceed.

4.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: KISS – Kiss Rocks Vegas (3 CD/1 Blu-ray Japanese import)

Two reviews for the price of none! For Deke’s review of Kiss Rocks Vegas, click here!

NEW RELEASE

KISS – Kiss Rocks Vegas (3 CD/1 Blu-ray Japanese import, 2016 Eagle Rock)

Kiss put on a hell of a show for their nine gig run in Las Vegas.  You could argue that spectacle is 50% of the Kiss experience.  That said, the audio has to hold up, and it does.  I gave it two spins before review: one at home and one in the car, and only after that did I put on the Blu-ray.  As expected, Paul Stanley’s voice is the chink in the armour.  But it is the only one.  This is one of the most musically capable versions of Kiss ever, and vocally they can’t be touched.  When Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, and Gene Simmons start to harmonize together, it becomes a far stronger beast.  This is how Kiss have adapted to Paul’s current vocal shortcomings, and on a whole it works.  Check out “Tears Are Falling” for a version of a song that gets a serious boost thanks to these guys singing backup.  Now get ready to rock for the next 80 minutes.  Of note, some of Paul’s stage raps are trimmed for time on the CD version, as is Gene’s “bass solo”/blood spitting/flying.  The video has the whole enchilada.

The audio is clear; Gene’s bass nicely audible and in the pocket.  With the 5.1 surround sound cranked, let’s dive into the Kiss Blu-ray, a fine shining example of hi-def rock video.  You can try to count the sparkles on Paul’s guitar, when they open with “Detroit Rock City”.  Their stage looks like a cross between the Creatures-era tank stage and a Dalek.  Giant screens ensure everybody gets a good view, which is a good thing since there is so much going on.  From “Detroit” into “Creatures” itself,  and then “Psycho Circus”, Kiss started the show with three of their classic openers from three different eras!  On screen it’s clear Paul Stanley is still in excellent physical shape.  He doesn’t look like someone who’s had a double hip replacement.   He hops around a bit, plays guitar between his legs, and dances up a storm as always.

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Kudos must be given to Tommy Thayer, who takes many of the flashier solos from 80’s Kiss and adapts them to the style of the 70’s that Kiss tend to ply most.  Tommy’s re-imagining of guitar solos and giving them a Frehley-like vibe is one reason to check out new live versions of these Kiss classics.  Never to be underrated is Eric Singer, a talent to be reckoned with in this band.  His beats are always perfect, but so is his voice.  As usual, he sings “Black Diamond” towards the end of the show, with respect and class.

Other setlist highlights:

Gene’s “War Machine” from Creatures (Gene blows fire at the end).  Paul’s “Tears are Falling” from Asylum (“Some of you weren’t born in 1985!” says Paul, accurately observing his audience).   “Lick It Up”, featuring Kiss’ sometimes-segue into “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  “Hell or Hallelujah”, from Monster.  “God of Thunder” with its flying Gene, and playing way up high on a tiny little platform.  Paul running out to sing on a catwalk suspended over the crowd on “Love Gun”.  All of this is served up with lights, lasers, explosions, levitating platforms and larger-than-life sparkle.  Kiss still deliver it.

Admittedly, when there is so much great live Kiss from the past out there, it’s hard to get excited about a new one.  (Why watch a 2016 live version of “War Machine” when you can watch one from 1983, 1984, 1988 or 2004?)  The added bonus that makes the whole thing hard to say no to is a seven song acoustic set.  This is a makeup-free event in a packed conference room.  A few more rarities are served up here, such as “Love Her All I Can”.  The loose atmosphere is refreshing.  They goof around a bit on “Christine Sixteen” (in harmony!) and Paul helps with some forgotten words on “Goin’ Blind”.  Just don’t go and compare these with the acoustic ones on MTV Unplugged.  That was 20 years ago.  Controversially, Eric sings “Beth”.  The mitigating factor is that this is a small event for fans and not part of the main Vegas concert.  It’s worthwhile to get a version of this release that contains the acoustic portion on the bonus CD.

The Japanese release is an interesting one.  Instead of one CD, the Vegas concert is split over two.  This is probably because the concert is close to the 80 minimum maximum that a CD can hold, and the Japanese usually adhere to a higher manufacturing standard.  They also included a nice T-shirt in a shiny, embossed box.

As usual, any time Kiss release new product, fans will bitch that they’re over the hill.  They’ll complain that there are only two original members left, and that Paul’s voice is but a shadow of what it once was.  While these things are indeed true, Kiss have found a way to continue on with two talented members helping Paul out with the vocal burden.  If you don’t like it, fair play.  But let the rest of us continue to enjoy Kiss without your negativity.

3.5/5 stars

CD 1
1. “Detroit Rock City”
2. “Creatures of the Night”
3. “Psycho Circus”
4. “Parasite”
5. “War Machine”
6. “Tears are Falling”
7. “Deuce”
8. “Lick it Up”
9. “I Love it Loud”

CD 2
1. “Hell or Hallelujah”
2. Tommy guitar solo
3. “God of Thunder”
4. “Do You Love Me?”
5. “Love Gun”
6. “Black Diamond”
7. “Shout it Out Loud”
8. “Rock and Roll All Night”

CD 3 – Kiss Acoustic
1. “Comin’ Home”
2. “Plaster Caster”
3. “Hard Luck Woman”
4. “Christine Sixteen”
5. “Goin’ Blind”
6. “Love Her All I Can”
7. “Beth”

 

#341: Led Zeppelin vs. New Kids on the Block

ZOSO

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#341: Led Zeppelin vs. New Kids on the Block

Fall, 1990.

Led Zeppelin had just released their first monster box set to great excitement and fanfare. Long time Zeppelin fans eagerly investigated the new remastered tracks (a novelty at the time), and the four unreleased treasures. It seems amusing from today’s perspective that only four unreleased tracks (well, only three – “Hey Hey What Can I Do” was a B-side) sent fandom into a frenzy. Today we have entire bonus CDs for each album. Back then, all we got was four songs.  How times have changed!  In Zeppelin’s case, more is always better, but in 1990 just four unheard songs seemed to shake the Earth.

I mean, it was Zeppelin!

Promotion went into overdrive with two brand new Zeppelin music videos. The first one was for the slippery, slide-guitar infested “Travelling Riverside Blues” recorded in 1969. What an incredible song. Hearing it, I knew right away that I needed to get some Zeppelin my collection, and that box set would be the perfect place to start. Especially since I really wanted “Travelling Riverside Blues”. Such an amazing electric blues performance.

On Canada’s MuchMusic, New Kids on the Block still dominated the video charts. In addition to their weekly countdown, Much introduced a new show called Combat Des Clips. On Combat Des Clips, one music video would be put up against another, and battle for viewers’ votes. The champion would return the following week to take on a new challenger. New Kids’ clip for “Tonight” (which, I’m embarrassed to say, my mom thought was a cover of a Beatles song) had dominated against all comers, for nine weeks straight. Now, it was Zeppelin’s turn to take them down.


One Direction

I hadn’t really paid much attention to the show before, but now it was a must. The opportunity for Zeppelin to take on New Kids was an epic battle that hit home. My own sister had fallen for the evil New Kids, while I was finding myself enamored with older authentic rock like Zeppelin. This was more than a battle between two bands. For me, this was personal!

Much played the clips from both challenger and champion, and I phoned in my vote. One vote for Zeppelin. As the hour dragged on (you had to sit through plenty more videos as the show went on) the votes for both artists climbed. It was close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. For the first time ever, someone had knocked New Kids off the pedestal, and it was Led Zeppelin. Yes, that’s correct: the first band ever to dethrone New Kids off Combat Des Clips was Led Zeppelin. It was a joyous victory, as I taunted my sister over it. She didn’t even want to know. They played “Riverside” one more time at the end of the show; this time as champion.

MuchMusic took a few calls and faxes (no email back then!) from disgruntled New Kids fans. “I can’t believe the awesome New Kids were beaten by a bunch of old men!” read one.

Zeppelin did not have long to rest on their laurels. A week later, a new challenger rose to take on the sitting champions. This new challenger wasn’t even a real person. It was a yellow-skinned cartoon character named Bart Simpson, who had just scored his first hit with the video for “Do the Bartman”. I am sad to report that Bart Simpson succeeded in knocking Zeppelin off the pedestal. It wasn’t even really close.

Even though their reign only lasted a week, Led Zeppelin should be proud to know that their “Travelling Riverside Blues” – not even a proper album track, but only a forgotten BBC recording – knocked down the evil New Kids.

Their work was done.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made In Japan (4CD/1 DVD box set) Part 3

NEW RELEASE: Part 3

This box set is so massive, I needed to review it in three installments.  The first two can be found here:
DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 1
DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 2

DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan (2014 limited edition Super Deluxe box set)

“Smoke on the Water” Japanese 7″ promo.  This is a reproduction of a rare Japanese promo single from 1972, sleeve and all.  It is pressed on heavy 70 gram vinyl, a treat indeed.  It features the promotional single edit of the studio version, and an edit of the Made In Japan version on the other side.   The studio edit is available on plenty of releases, such as Singles A’s and B’s.  The live edit is one that I don’t think I owned prior to this.  I actually enjoy something like this; it’s interesting to see where and how they did the edits, from a technical point of view.

Including a 7″ single in a box set of this size is something I wholeheartedly support.  Not only do I love the vinyl format, but when you spend this much money ($115 Canadian) in one place, you deserve something extra.  A lot of the stuff included in box sets these days, even in this box set, amounts to nothing more than paper.  Music trumps packaging, so I’ll always take something like a bonus vinyl, especially when it has an exclusive track on it.

Interestingly, on this printing, the times for the two tracks are reversed.  The live version is the longer, not the shorter as the label suggests.


LORDDVD:  Made In Japan: The Rise of Deep Purple MKII and more.

This hour-long documentary consists of new and archival footage and interviews, assembled into a narrative.  Old footage of Deep Purple MKI begins our story.  The shortcomings of this lineup led the core members of Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Ritchie Blackmore to seek new bandmates.  They had gone as far as they could musically with Nick Simper (bass) and Rod Evans (vocals).  In stepped Roger Glover and rock’s greatest screamer, Ian Gillan.  Then, the big albums:  In Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head.

Strangely, it was a tax loophole that led to Machine Head. It was expected that the fortunes of the band would only rise, but British tax laws would keep them all paupers.  If they became tax exiles, and wrote and recorded in mainland Europe, they would not be taxed.  This led them to Montreux, Switzerland.  According to Claude Nobs, they were planning on recording an album called Made In Switzerland.  Nobs invited them to record at the local casino, and the circumstances of this have been well documented.  A Frank Zappa concert that night was attended by Deep Purple and Nobs.  Someone fired a flare gun into the bamboo ceiling, and the place went up in smoke.  This DVD has the audio of Zappa asking the audience to leave!

The place did indeed burn to the ground.  Luckily Deep Purple had not yet moved in their gear, or it too would be gone.  Next they tried recording in a small theater, but noise complaints caused them to move again.  It took almost a week to find the Grand Hotel, which was closed for the winter.  Perfect.  The results speak for themselves.  Machine Head is the classic Deep Purple album.  But according to Blackmore, it was Made In Japan that made them a phenomenon.  It was a live album that they didn’t want to do, but could not have regretted doing.

Bruce Dickinson, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and more show up to discuss the impact of Made In Japan on themselves.  Dickinson points out that the remarkable thing is that Made In Japan is 100% live.  There are no overdubs.  Martin Birch managed to capture it raw.  There’s a lot of great footage here; live footage, showing the interplay of the band.

IMG_20140607_062755

Next, the band headed to Rome to record the difficult Who Do We Think We Are.  Made In Japan had not even been released in America yet, only Japan, until mass importing of the record forced the label to release it.  Unfortunately at the height of their powers, Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore had a massive falling out.  Ian resigned.  Blackmore and Paice almost formed a trio with Phil Lynott.  Glover was fired, which was a condition Blackmore set to stay in Deep Purple.  A final Japanese tour was the last commitment of the band.  Glover describes a cold atmosphere, and the tension in the air.

Glenn Hughes appears next, remembering a Trapeze gig attended by members of Deep Purple.  He sussed out the reason for their attendance.  Still, he did not expect to be asked to join.  It was an emotional time for Glover.  He saw his Deep Purple albums on top of the charts, yet with magazines printing pictures of their new lineup featuring David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes.  Hughes reveals he was mistakenly sent awards for albums like Who Do We Think We Are.  Glover felt deeply hurt but strove to be a professional.

As a Deep Purple fan who owns a lot of Deep Purple on video, I enjoyed this documentary.  Although it has some footage that I had before, it also had a lot that I didn’t, such as interviews that were new to me.  Footage from Japan is a highlight.  “Smoke on the Water” is presented almost in full (from the 17th), though it is very lo-fi.

Extras include a music video for “Smoke on the Water”, made up of footage from the documentary.  “The Revolution” is a short film about rock music and counter-culture, focusing on Deep Purple while at Montreux in 1971.  Much of this footage is in the main documentary.  A bearded Gillan rips his way through “Speed King”, and the band are interviewed.  There’s also a short German documentary from 1972, subtitled of course.  I enjoyed the description of their stage attire:  “intentionally scruffy hippie uniforms”.  Finally, there is a 1973 performance of “Smoke”, but now I’ve really heard the song too many times.  It’s the best footage though: full colour, pro-shot.  Roger is wearing bright red platform shoes.

This DVD was adequate.  The main documentary feature was re-watchable.  “The Revolution” and the German doc, not so much.  It’s too bad that the video content is only tangendentally related to Made In Japan.  The DVD is really not much more than a supplement to the main feature.

IMG_20140603_173713Final words:  The box set is rounded out by an excellent booklet, a reproduction of the Japanese tour program, a family tree, and a reproduction press release.  Ultimately these things are just pieces of paper.  Nobody would go out of their way to buy a reproduction of a press release.

As a boxed set of music, Made In Japan is a home run.  This is the way they should have released it back in ’93, instead of the incomplete Live In Japan.  I’ll hang onto my old 2 CD anniversary edition of Made In Japan, because I believe in keeping the original mix of something.  It’s an historic piece, not to be discarded.  When I want a briefer Deep Purple live experience, I’ll play that version of Made In Japan.  When I want the full Monty, I’m listening to this box set.  Not only is it the best release sonically, but it is the only complete release of all three Japanese shows.

As a celebratory boxed edition of a classic, I’m less satisfied.  The DVD and the papers inside are things I will get less enjoyment from.  If the DVD had included a feature on the making and remixing of this edition, I would have been more interested.

Still, I’m happy.

For the music:  5/5 stars

For the box overall:  4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made In Japan (4CD/1 DVD box set) Part 2

NEW RELEASE: Part 2

 

This box set is so massive, I needed to review it in three instalments.  The first one can be found here:

DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 1

IMG_20140607_062429DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan (2014 limited edition Super Deluxe box set)

Disc 3:  Tokyo, August 17 1972.  Finally we arrive at the third night.  The band were comfortable by the time they hit Tokyo, but the sound from the venue wasn’t as desirable as the two nights in Osaka.  That’s the main reason that most of the Tokyo show was not used on Made in Japan originally.  Yes, sonically this is not as crisp nor clear.  It seems like a noisier mix, with Gillan’s voice more difficult to make out.  However, we have heard plenty of Deep Purple recordings worse than this, and this is still Deep Purple MkII at the top of their game.

The band tune up and say hello before “Highway Star”, a quaint reminder of the way concerts used to be compared to today.  Like the other two renditions of “Highway Star”, this is an electric performance.  Jon’s organ solo was the highlight for me, Ritchie’s blistering frets notwithstanding.  Gillan tells the crowd that the song is about somebody named “Fat Larry” and his automobile.

“Smoke on the Water” begins with Ritchie teasing a bit of “God Save the Queen”.  Jon and Ritchie fall out of sync a bit in the beginning of the song, but they quickly lock back into place.  Of the three, this is my favourite version of “Smoke on the Water”, just because it is different.  The band are looser and willing to play around a bit more.  Blackmore’s solo is a highlight as he travels all over the musical landscape.

Always epic, “Child in Time” is greeted by polite applause, a true show of Japanese appreciation.  While the August 16 Osaka version may well be Uncle Meat’s favourite because of the guitar solo, I think this one is pretty special due to Jon’s keys.  Either way, we’re splitting hairs here.  It’s “Child in Time” performed live in Japan in 1972!  To talk about favourites at this point is to be speaking in nanometers.

IMG_20140603_173412“The Mule” has an entertaining intro; Ian Gillan tells the monitor guy, “Can we have everything louder than everything else?”  This is the version from the original Made In Japan.  The intro was so legendary that Lemmy paid homage on the live Motorhead album, Everything Louder Than Everyone Else.  The song goes absolutely mental at the 2:20 point, before Ian Paice breaks into his drum solo.  Not a lot of drummers are interesting to listen to soloing for five minutes.  Paicey is.

“Strange Kind of Woman” is another track that is never exactly the same twice.  Gillan and Ritchie improvise together, a reminder of a day and age when they (mostly) got along.  It’s hard not to smile.  According to Ian, this song is about “Terrible Ted” and his “awful lady”.

Diving into newer material from Machine Head comes “Lazy”; always interesting since it too relies on a lot of improvisation.  This is the version used on Made in Japan originally, and Jon’s solo (dipping into “Louie Louie”) is familiar and fun.  That Hammond howls, and then Blackmore enters.  This is one more Deep Purple long bomber.  The vocal doesn’t even start until six minutes in!

Finally, “Space Truckin'”.  One more amusing song intro:  Ian says that this song is about what would happen if space travel and rock and roll ever met, which has not happened.  Therefore, this song does not exist.  But it sure does slam!  The crowd clap along, obviously into it.  I love every pick scrape, every drum roll, and every scream.  Deep Purple can simply do no wrong at this point.  The only flaw is distracting audience (or perhaps crew) noise.  You can hear people speaking Japanese around the 13:00 mark.

IMG_20140603_174039Disc 4: Encores.  This CD comprises all the encores from all three shows.  “Black Night” was played first, at all three shows.  “Speed King” was played twice, on the 1st and 3rd nights.  On the 2nd night the band played Little Richard’s “Lucille” at absolutely breakneck pace.  For many years, these encores were largely unavailable.  “Black Night” from the 3rd night in Tokyo was released (edited) as a B-side, and then re-released on many compilations such as Power House (1977).  The other encores didn’t receive release until the 90’s or later.  Now, finally, all the tracks from Japan are collected in one set.  I could barely keep track of where to find all the songs from the Japan shows, spread as they were over multiple releases.  Now it’s all in one place, as it should be.

After tuning up, Blackmore noodles for a bit.  Then “Black Night” crashes to a start.  This song is almost a respite for the audience, after a track like “Space Truckin'”.  If you remember from Part 1 of this review, Gillan had a case of bronchitis that he was recovering from.  He couldn’t stand his performance on the 15th, but you’ll be hard pressed to tell on “Black Night”.

Ian says “good luck, good night,” but it’s just a clever ruse.  Much applause results in a return and a noisy take of “Speed King”.  There’s quite a bit of feedback, sour notes and noise coming from the guitar.  Blackmore was either struggling with it, or abusing it.  A knackered Ian Gillan is out of breath at times.

MIJThe second version of “Black Night”, from the 16th, is quite different.  It’s quite ragged and feedback-laden, and this version reveals human errors that, to me, only add to the live experience.  Deep Purple were taking things over the top at these concerts, and sometimes things fall apart.  It’s rock and roll.

Once again, the applause of the audience brings Deep Purple back to the stage.  Their insane cover of “Lucille” was a pleasant surprise.  Deep Purple had been playing this for ages, since Gillan first joined the band.  Another version (from London) can be heard on In Concert ’72.  That is probably the superior version, though this is no slouch.  Almost half of it is just intro!  It is stretched over eight minutes.  It keeps getting faster and faster, until they’re playing at Ludicrous Speed.

The final show in Tokyo is sonically different, as mentioned at the start of this review.  That’s most obvious on this CD when you go straight from Osaka to Tokyo.  This time, Deep Purple are introduced in Japanese, before Ian asks for the monitors to be turned down.  This is the version used on B-sides and compilations numerous times before, and it is my favourite, probably due to familiarity.  This mix allows Jon’s organ to shine a lot better.  It is also unedited, which of course is a bonus.

And finally the journey ends with “Speed King”.  The band tune up for the last time in Japan, and dive in.  Once again, they’re off the rails.  I don’t know where Gillan got the energy.  Even though he’s tired, he’s still wailing.  Jon Lord’s solo is especially enjoyable.  I’m exhausted by the end of it.  This has been a lot of Deep Purple to digest.  But we’re not done yet.

To be concluded.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made In Japan (4CD/1 DVD box set) Part 1

NEW RELEASE: Part 1

IMG_20140607_062032DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan (2014 limited edition Super Deluxe box set)

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”.

IMG_20140607_062642According 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.

IMG_20140607_062555Disc 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.

To be continued.

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – 13 (deluxe, Best Buy, all 5 bonus tracks)

BLACK SABBATH – 13 (2013 Universal deluxe, Best Buy, and Spotify editions)

Last year, Uncle Meat gave us his detailed review of Black Sabbath’s 13.  (His rating:  3.25/5 stars.  Check out his full review for the scoop on the first CD of this metal monolith.)  Having had almost a year to live with it myself, I think it’s time I got around to reviewing the songs he didn’t:  the bonus tracks!

The deluxe and Best Buy editions have “Methademic,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Pariah.”  “Methademic” is cool for being a fast-paced heavy rocker, something I associate more with a Dio kind of sound.  It’s a good track, good enough that Sabbath play it live.  Geezer’s got a serious groove going on with the bass part, and Brad Wilk is playing with furious drive.  You wouldn’t consider this song to be as good as any on the first CD of 13, but it’s a great bonus track.

“Peace of Mind” is of equal quality to “Methademic.”  This time Sabbath have gone back to doomy, but Ozzy’s vocal melody takes it to a special place.   All it’s missing is that looseness that only Bill Ward could provide.  It sounds so authentically Black Sabbath, but if you concentrate on the beat, you can hear that the loose swing of old is not there.  Having said that I enjoy “Peace of Mind” very much, especially when it picks up after the 2:15 mark.

My favourite of this trio of songs is “Pariah.”  It occupies a mid-paced groove which chugs along nicely.  Tony has a couple cool riffs in it, but once again Ozzy’s vocal seals the deal.  Tony’s guitar solo is icing on the cake.  I love when he has a chance to slow down and play bluesy, as he does here.

Japanese fans, and Best Buy shoppers have their own exclusive bonus track, and it’s the one with the best title:  “Naïveté in Black.”  You have to love that.  This smoker is similar to “Time Machine,” from Dehumanizer.  I don’t know why a song this good was left to Best Buy, because it’s better than the other three.  It’s definitely unique among the 13 songs for sounding more like Dio-Sabbath than Ozzy-Sabbath; perhaps that’s the primary reason.  Count me as a big fan of “Naïveté in Black.”

Finally even Spotify have a bonus track, which is “Dirty Women,” live.  This is with Tommy Clueftos on drums, from the same show as the recent Gathered In Their Masses live DVD (but not the CD).  I am fortunate enough to have an excellent quality copy of the song burned to a CD, the perfect final bonus track to 13.

But that’s not all folks.  With the deluxe box set edition, there’s a DVD as well.  There is a brief documentary about the reunion and recording of the new album.  There are quite a few humorous moments, but I do not consider this to be much of a bonus.  All this stuff is available for free on youtube.  I don’t value a physical copy of something like this as much as I value a physical copy of a song.

Best moment:

Fan – “I came all the way from Croatia!”

Ozzy – “Where the fuck is that?”

The deluxe set is large and very nice to look at, but I considered it sparse in terms of worthwhile goodies.  There are lots of large glossy photos, but they’re not up to handling repeatedly.  There’s a print of the “God Is Dead?” single art, a 2 CD set (minus “Naïveté in Black”), and 13 on double 180 gram vinyl LPs.  Everything is lovely and fragile.  There’s also far too much room in the box itself for everything, so things move around inside.  That’s a bit of a design flaw just to save on some extra cardboard packaging.

The Best Buy set came with a T-shirt, which I have kept in-package.  You can find pictures of both versions below.

4.5/5 stars (for 13 as a whole)

Best Buy:

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Deluxe: