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Wanna see stuff from my collection? All you have to do is ask. This week the request was “Let’s see your favourite box sets”. I’ve rounded up a few for show & tell. I will go live on Facebook April 25 at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. (If you missed last week’s live stream, Rare Box Sets, you can watch it here.)
The subject matter this week is My Favourite Box Sets. Most of these you have seen on my site already but we are about to take a closer look. I’ll be live for roughly an hour with these awesome box sets. Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound will be going live after I’m done so I’ll be jumping over to catch his show!
Join me tonight at 7 PM E.S.T. for some rock and roll shenanigans! Facebook: Michael Ladano
I hope you’ve been enjoying these Facebook live streams! I sure have been. This week’s stream will be Saturday April 18 at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. The idea behind changing days and times is to give different people an opportunity to watch. (If you missed last week’s live stream, The Judas Priest Discography, you can watch it here.)
The subject matter this week is: Rare Box Sets! I have an armful dusted off to show off to you. Some you may have seen on my site before, and some you might not even know existed. I’ll throw in a rare album or two as time permits. I plan on going for roughly an hour. Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound will be going live after I’m done so I’ll be jumping over to catch his show!
No crazy stunts this time, but I will be trying out a new feature. Whether it’s a bomb or not, we’ll see. It’s called What the Hell is Mike’s Dad Watching on TV.
Join me tomorrow at 7 PM E.S.T. for some rock and roll shenanigans! Facebook: Michael Ladano
Disclaimer: There will be NO half-moons this time. I swear. Deke is still blind, and according to doctors, may never regain his eyesight.
Sometimes the chuckles to come to me and I don’t have to do any work! Last week, sometimes-contributor Thuss sent me an email titled “Don’t read while listening to music.” In Getting More Tale #819: Early to Rise, I expounded on the benefits of being an early riser. “I’ll do laundry or I’ll review a box set,” I wrote.
GETTING MORE TALE #749: Do You Wanna Get Rocked?
Def Leppard Box Set Volume Two announcement
In October of 2017 I was contacted by a gentleman who is involved with box set releases. A long time reader, he said! Flattery will get you everywhere with me. He was working on an interesting box set project, and he asked for a favour.
Normally I say “no” to any request to share music from my personal collection. This, however, was different. For historical interest, he asked me if he could have the 11 official live songs that Def Leppard released in 2000 and 2001. These were offered for free from the official Def Leppard website at that time. Rare stuff like “Demolition Man” and “Paper Sun”. They disappeared online shortly after. None of these versions have been released anywhere else…until now.
Coming June 21 2019 is the Def Leppard box set called Volume Two. Included in the set are seven of these tracks, from my own personal collection! The band themselves didn’t have them anymore, but fortunately I did. They selected the ones they wanted on the upcoming box set.
I’m told I’ll be thanked in the credits. This is an absolute thrill for me — the biggest release I’ve ever been thanked in. (See Brent Doerner for the other “thank you”.)
Since then I’ve chatted on and off with the gentleman about all sorts of upcoming releases, and wishful thinking. I’m pleased to report that there are some people out there involved with these box sets who still have the passion for the music. He too has the fire! For that reason I had to send him the songs. Now almost two years later they’ll be released officially again, this time permanently. I’m proud to be a part of that. Like he said, it’s historical. Hystoria!
The songs of mine that are included are:
See below for the full track list from this incredible box set. Pre-order yours today.
CD ONE – ADRENALIZE
Let’s Get Rocked
Make Love Like A Man
Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?
I Wanna Touch U
Tear It Down
CD TWO – RETRO ACTIVE
Two Steps Behind (Acoustic Version)
She’s Too Tough
Miss You in A Heartbeat
Only After Dark
Ride into The Sun
From the Inside
Ring of Fire
I Wanna Be Your Hero
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Electric Version)
Two Steps Behind (Electric Version)
CD THREE – SLANG
Turn to Dust
All I Want Is Everything
Work It Out
Breathe A Sigh
Gift of Flesh
Blood Runs Cold
Where Does Love Go When It Dies
Pearl of Euphoria
CD FOUR – EUPHORIA
Back in Your Face
It’s Only Love
21st Century Sha La La La Girl
To Be Alive
Day After Day
Kings of Oblivion
CD FIVE – RARITIES VOL 2
Tonight (Demo Version 2)
When Love and Hate Collide (Original Demo)
From the Inside – B-Side
Two Steps Behind (Acoustic) – B-Side
She’s Too Tough (Joe’s Demo) – B-Side
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Phil’s Demo) -B-Side
Tonight (Acoustic – Sun Studios Version) – B-Side
S.M.C. – B-Side
Hysteria (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Photograph (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Pour Some Sugar on Me (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Let’s Get Rocked (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
CD SIX – RARITIES VOL 3
Armageddon It (Live in Singapore)
Two Steps Behind (Live in Singapore)
From the Inside (Live in Singapore)
Animal (Live in Singapore)
When Love and Hate Collide (Live in Singapore)
Pour Some Sugar on Me (Live in Singapore)
When Love and Hate Collide – B-Side
Can’t Keep Away from The Flame – B-Side
Truth – Original Version
Move with Me Slowly – B-Side
Work It Out (Original Demo Version) – B-Side
CD SEVEN – RARITIES VOL 4
Bringin’ On the Heartbreak (Live in Montreal)
Switch 625 (Live in Montreal)
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Live in Montreal)
Work It Out (Live in Montreal)
Deliver Me (Live in Montreal)
When Saturday Comes – B-Side
Jimmy’s Theme – B-Side
Burnout – B-Side
Immortal – B-Side
World Collide – B-Side
I Am Your Child – bonus track
Demolition Man – Denver
When Love and Hate Collide – Tokyo
Paper Sun – Tokyo
Goodbye – Tokyo
Just Listening to…Whitesnake – Unzipped
Acoustic Adventures – Unplugged in the Studio and Live on Stage 1997-2015
I thought this was going to be a boring listen. 5 CDs and a DVD of acoustic Whitesnake? The same songs over and over? It sounds pretty dull on paper, but in practice it’s another story. So far, Unzipped has been a blast!
It turns out, a lot of my favourite Whitesnake songs are acoustic. “Sailing Ships” is a fine example. When David Coverdale is in a philosophical mood and busts out the acoustic guitar, he has the ability to make magic happen. (But damn, he sure does like to re-use lyrics and imagery. “Circle ’round the sun” again!) Other tunes, such as and “Summer Rain” are less intellectual, but still leave a lasting impression. Then you have acoustic arrangements of old familiar songs. Whitesnake, Deep Purple, and even Coverdale-Page are revisited, and not just the hits. These are songs to warmly enjoy when in a laid back mood.
The discs also include a remixed and expanded version of the first acoustic live Whitesnake album, Starkers in Tokyo. The differences are audible; the album finally comes alive. As a bonus, there is a off the cuff version of David’s solo song “Only My Soul” done a-cappella. There is also a disc of “unreleased acoustic demo ideas”. They are very raw — one track even begins with David calling it a “very rough idea”. Some are written on the piano. It’s hard to say if any of these ideas could have been made into hits, but they’re not bad. Points must be awarded for the best song title: “Another Lick While the Missus is Busy in the Kitchen”, a swampy blues riff.
Man, this one’s gonna take a long time to review!
For a fully detailed review, check out this one by John Snow!
RUSH – A Farewell to Kings (2017 Anthem 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition, originally 1977)
And the men who hold high places,
Must be the ones who start,
To mold a new reality,
Closer to the heart,
Closer to the heart.
Today’s rock fans have a new reality of their own: a market flood of “anniversary” or “deluxe” reissues far and wide. The floodwaters are murkier when multiple editions of the same reissue are available, or when reissues are deleted in favour of new reissues!
2017 represents 40 years of Rush’s fine sixth album A Farewell to Kings. An anniversary edition was guaranteed, but choose wisely. For those who need the brilliant new 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson, you will have to save up for the 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition. Only that massive box set contains the Blu-ray disc with Wilson’s mix.
To frustrate fans even further, A Farewell to Kings had a 5.1 reissue back in 2011, as part of the Sector 2 box set. That 5.1 mix (by Andy VanDette) has received heavy scrutiny from audiophiles. Steven Wilson, however, is well known for his work in the 5.1 field, and his work on the 40th anniversary mix lives up to his reputation. His crisp mix is deep but unobtrusive. It is occasionally surprising but always stunning, and over seemingly way too soon. The separation of instruments is done with care, and without robbing the music of its power. Rush albums were fairly sparse back then but Wilson managed to make a full-sounding mix out of it.
Powerful is A Farewell to Kings indeed. Though the title track opens with gentle classical picking, before long you’re in the craggy peaks of Mount Lifeson, with heavy shards of guitar coming down. Young Geddy’s range and vibrato are remarkable, though for some this is the peak of Geddy’s “nails on a chalkboard” period.
11 minutes of “Xanadu” follows the trail of Kublai Khan. “For I have dined on honeydew, and drunk the milk of paradise!” Neil Peart’s lyrics rarely go down typical roads, and “Xanadu” surely must be listed with Rush’s most cherished epics. Volume swells of guitar soon break into new sections unfolding as the minutes tick by.
“Closer to the Heart” is the most commercial track, never dull, never getting old, never ceasing to amaze. “Woah-oh! You can be the captain and I will draw the chart!” Poetry in motion. “Closer to the Heart” may be the most timeless of all Rush songs.
“Cinderella Man” and “Madrigal” live in the shadow of “Closer to the Heart”, always there but not always remembered. (Ironically enough, both these tracks were covered by other artists in the bonus tracks.) “Madrigal” acts as a calm before the storm: a cosmic tempest called “Cygnus X-1”. Another great space epic by Rush cannot be quantified in language. As it swirls around (even better in 5.1), you’re transported across the universe by the black hole Cygnus X-1. Peart hammers away as Lifeson and Geddy riff you senseless.
The blacksmith and the artist,
Reflect it in their art,
They forge their creativity,
Closer to the heart,
Yes closer to the heart.
Next, Rush forged their creativity on the road. They recorded their London show on February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Previously, 11 songs from this show were released as a bonus CD on the live Rush album Different Stages. This newly mixed version adds intro music, the missing three songs and the drum solo. (The missing songs were “Lakeside Park”, “Closer to the Heart”, and all 20 minutes of “2112”.) Because this set has all the songs in the correct order, the old Different Stages version is obsolete.
Opening with “Bastille Day”, the London crowd is into the show from the start. They cheer for the familiar “Lakeside Park”, which is followed by “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”. This early Rush material is as squealy as Geddy has ever sounded. He’s pretty shrill but Rush are tight. It gets more adventurous when “Xanadu” begins, and from there into “A Farewell to Kings”. Hearing Rush do all this live helps drive home just how talented they are. The powerful set rarely lets up, as it relentlessly works its way through early Rush cornerstones. “Working Man”, “Fly By Night” and “In the Mood” are played in quick succession, but is “2112” that is the real treasure here. Anthems of the heart and anthems of the mind; classics all.
Philosophers and plowmen,
Each must know his part,
To sow a new mentality,
Closer to the heart,
Yes, closer to the heart.
What about bonus tracks? You got ’em. As they did for 2112, Rush invited guests to contribute bonus covers, and each does their part. Headlining these are progressive metal heroes Dream Theater with their own version of “Xanadu”. Dream Theater really don’t do anything small, so why not an 11 minute cover? Mike Mangini is one of the few drummers who could do justice to such a song — well done! Big Wreck do a surprisingly decent take on “Closer to the Heart”. Not “surprisingly” because of Big Wreck, but “surprisingly” because you don’t associate Big Wreck with a sound like that. Ian Thornley ads a little banjo and heavy guitars to “Wreck” it up a bit. His guitar solo is shredder’s heaven. The Trews’ take on “Cinderella Man” is pretty authentic. Did you know singer Colin MacDonald could hit those high notes? He does! Alain Johannes goes last with “Madrigal”, rendering it as a somber tribute to the kings.
The last of the bonus tracks is a snippet of sound called “Cygnus X-2 Eh”. This is an extended and isolated track of the ambient space sounds in “Cygnus X-1”. Steven Wilson speculated it might have been intended for a longer version of the song.
You can be the captain,
And I will draw the chart,
Sailing into destiny,
Closer to the heart.
Box sets like this always come with bonus goodies. The three CDs are packaged in a standard digipack with extensive liner notes and photos. Four 180 gram LPs are housed in an upsized version of this, with the same booklet in massive 12″ x 12″ glory. The LP package alone is 3/4″ thick!
A reproduction of the 1977 tour program is here in full glossy glory. This contains an essay called “A Condensed Rush Primer” by Neil. Additionally, all three members have their own autobiographical essay and equipment breakdown. Alex Lifeson’s is, not surprisingly, pretty funny. Things like this make a tour program more valuable and as a bonus, this is a great addition to a box set. Digging further, there are two prints of Hugh Syme pencil sketches. These works in progress are interesting but it’s unlikely you’ll look at them often. The turntable mat is also just a novelty. Perhaps the goofiest inclusion is a little black bag containing a necklace with a Rush “king’s ring” attached to it. Wear it to work next casual Friday!
Whatever edition of A Farewell to Kings you decide to own (the most logical is the simple 3 CD anniversary set), you can rest assured you are buying one of the finest early Rush albums. If you have the wherewithall to own the super deluxe with 5.1 Steven Wilson mix, then let the photo gallery below tempt you.
ALICE COOPER – The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper (1999 Rhino 4 CD set)
With the benefit of hindsight, 1999 was way too early for Alice Cooper to be looking back with a comprehensive box set. His new album Paranormal will be out this month. He’s been consistently touring and recording. The picture was different in 1999 though, since Alice had been quietly under the radar for much of the decade and there was no sign of new music coming.
This Rhino box set is pretty comprehensive. Though there are plenty more rarities out there to get on singles and elsewhere, Rhino served up a very generous selection of them. Starting in 1966 with singles by The Spiders and The Nazz, Alice’s sound begins to evolve. Those early bands were 4/5 of the original Alice Cooper group: only drummer Neal Smith had yet to join. The early singles are unfocused compared to what Alice was going to do in a couple years. “Don’t Blow Your Mind” and “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye” (sometimes known as “I’ve Written Home to Mother”) are sloppy psychedelia. “Hitch Hike” is like rockabilly. “Why Don’t You Love Me” is late 60s style rock and roll with a nice harmonica part. It sounds influenced by the Beatles.
A demo version of “Nobody Likes Me” is the first “official” Alice Cooper Group track and it sees the sound veer closer to where they were headed. It has a sing-song melody that recalls “School’s Out” later on. A few tracks from Alice’s first two albums (Pretties For You and Easy Action) demonstrate a work in progress. “Reflected” is an early version of something that would be re-written as “Elected”. The band was still very psychedelic and not as tight as they would become.
There is a sudden shift, and Alice Cooper emerges as the classic artist we know and love when he hooked up with producer extraordinaire Bob Ezrin. “Caught in a Dream” (a single edit) and a number of essential tracks from Love It to Death kick the box set right in the ass and it suddenly becomes a very engaging listen, when before it was just…interesting. A quintet of songs from the next album Killer are just as special, though including “Halo of Flies” would have been appropriate too.
Before heading into the School’s Out material there is a rare demo entitled “Call it Evil”. A small portion of the music would make it into the the classic West Side Story tribute “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets” (also included), but this is its own song and otherwise unreleased. The single version of “School’s Out” is an obvious inclusion, but these two are the only tracks from School’s Out, a baffling set of omissions. Granted, “School’s Out” plays like a concept album and is tricky to split up for a box set, but it is under-represented here, period.
Billion Dollar Babies is considered a peak of this period, and gets five tracks of its own, all brilliant. “Elected” is the single version. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a highlight of Alice’s entire career and it still sounds fresh. Another rarity ensues which is “Slick Black Limousine”, a UK exclusive flexi-disc release. It sounds more like early Alice Cooper group material, with Alice doing his best Elvis. The end of the original group was nigh, unfortunately, and Alice’s next album Muscle of Love was noticeably lacking something. Maybe it’s because Bob Ezrin didn’t produce it, but the band was also on the verge of splitting. Addictions were hurting them. They were still making great rock and roll, just not…as great. “Respect for the Sleepers” is a demo version of “Muscle of Love”, an unreleased track with lyrics inspired by Alice’s “dead drunk friends” (Jimi, Janis, Jim). There are more songs from Muscle of Love included than there were for School’s Out, which is odd but alright.
At this point, Alice split from the original band. Then there are a pair of rarities featuring Alice from an obscure rock opera called Flash Fearless Vs. the Zorg Women, Pts. 5 & 6. Before Queen, there was this Flash Gordon album and Alice’s tracks feature players like John Entwistle, Kenney Jones, Nicky Hopkins, Bill Bruford and Keith Moon as “Long John Silver”. “I’m Flash” and “Space Pirates” are mere curiosities, but it’s stuff like this that makes buying a box set so much more worth it. Where else would you hear these tracks? Both feature Alice’s delicious trademark sneer.
Alice’s solo career really began with 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare. He and Bob Ezrin went all-in with an elaborate horror rock concept album featuring a number of classics. “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “Only Women Bleed” are single versions, and it’s fantastic that the blazing “Escape” was included. Another concept album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, was not as strong. Only two tracks are included, but both were singles. “Go to Hell” is a must-have.
The third CD in this box set commences a murky period. Alice was making albums frequently, but they weren’t as well received and many dwell in obscurity. Lace and Whiskey was pretty good, and “It’s Hot Tonight” is a great track to start the disc. Meanwhile, original band members Michael Bruce, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway formed the Billion Dollar Babies. They made one album called Battle Axe, and their cool rock track “I Miss You” is included. That’s a nice touch, because for the first seven albums those guys were as important as Vincent Furnier (aka Alice Cooper). Michael Bruce sings, but lead guitarist Glen Buxton was more or less incapacitated by addiction and wasn’t invited. “Battle Axe” sounds like a natural continuation of the Muscle of Love sound. A bunch more rarities are incoming: a torch ballad called “No Time for Tears” (unreleased) and “Because”, the Beatles cover featuring the Bee Gees. This was from that pretty mediocre Sgt. Peppers tribute album from 1978, so it’s great to be able to get it in a box set. Alice’s interpretation is creepy, and the Bee Gees are immaculate.
Moving on to his next solo album, Alice changed direction on From the Inside. He had just gotten out of rehab (an actual mental hospital) and made a concept album with David Foster and Bernie Taupin about the experience. The title track is included as a single version, and you also get the beautifully campy ballad “How You Gonna See Me Now”. It was a single too, and its B-side “No Tricks” is also included. It is a duet with soul singer Betty Wright. Disc three is generous in rarities. Another one called “Road Rats” (produced by Todd Rundgren) is a decent rocker from a movie called Roadies.
Alice moved into the 1980s on Flush the Fashion which employed some new wave and punk influences. Its two best songs, “Clones (We’re All)” and “Pain” are included. 1981 brought Special Forces and more rarities. “Who Do You Think We Are” is a single version, and “Look at You Over There, Ripping the Sawdust from My Teddy Bear” is a synthy unreleased song pulled last minute from the album. Then there is “For Britain Only”, the stripped-back rocker from the EP of the same name. “I Am the Future” is a single version originally from 1982’s Zipper Catches Skin. Completing this era (sometimes called Alice’s “blackout period”) are a pair of tracks from DaDa (1983). Alice had moved as far as he would go into the high-tech synthesizer direction, and he soon cleaned up for good. A couple odds and ends tidy up the tracks from this era. “Identity Crisises” and “See Me in the Mirror” are previously unreleased songs from the Monster Dog movie (1984) which starred Alice. These are very low-fi tracks, but “Identity Crisises” is actually pretty cool.
The final track on the third disc is the first one from Alice’s big comeback period. “Hard Rock Summer” is a fun heavy metal rocker from the Jason Lives soundtrack. It’s cheesy but also previously unavailable. The fourth and final CD picks up there, with two more rarities from the same movie. “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” is included in demo and movie mix versions. Onto 1986’s Constrictor LP, you get the enjoyable “Teenage Frankenstein”. By 1987 Alice was telling us to Raise Your Fist and Yell on “Freedom”. The excellent “Prince of Darkness” is also from that album, but then there are two more rarities. Alice cut a re-recording of “Under My Wheels” with Axl Rose, Slash and Izzy Stradlin for the movie The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years. Unlike many re-recordings, this one is well worth it because hey, it’s Guns N’ fuckin’ Roses.
Alice’s sound got slicker moving into the late 80s. “I Got a Line on You” is a Spirit cover from the movie Iron Eagle II. There is a notable shift towards mainstream hard rock, and this spilled over onto the next album Trash (1989). This box set has three songs from Trash, but one is the irritatingly bad title track featuring Jon Bon Jovi. His sound got a little tougher on Hey Stoopid (1991) from which you get a single version of the title track, and “Feed My Frankenstein” (also from Wayne’s World). The Hendrix cover “Fire” is the last song from this period, which was a B-side. Unfortunately another B-side called “It Rained All Night” is a superior song, but not included.
Alice took another short break between albums before emerging in 1994 with another critically acclaimed concept album, The Last Temptation. Alice shed the trappings of the 80s and the album is held in high esteem today as a diverse combination of the 70s and 90s. Three tracks represent it, but it’s hard not to wish “Side Show” was also included.
The Last Temptation was Alice’s last studio album when this box was released in 1999. In the meantime, Alice made friends with Rob Zombie who was obviously influenced by the Coop. They collaborated on a song called “Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn)” for an X-Files CD. This box set has the unreleased “Spookshow 2000 Mix”. The track points in the direction of Alice’s next album Brutal Planet.
This box set is quite an epic journey, with many facets and side roads. A trip like this needs an appropriate closing, and Rhino did something interesting to do that. They broke the chronological format they used for the majority of the set, and slid in the acoustic rocker “Is Anyone Home?”. This was a studio track included on Alice’s 1997 live album A Fistful of Alice. This serves as the climax, and “Stolen Prayer” from The Last Temptation is the finale. “Stolen Prayer” is a powerful duet with the late Chris Cornell. It was always a perfect closer, but now it’s…also sad.
It should be obvious now that The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper is a worthwhile box set even for fans who own every album. The wealth of rarities are just a taste, but they certainly scratch a lot of track off of collector’s lists. Many remain exclusive to this box set. On top of that, it is simply a good listen, bumpy start aside.
The Deep Purple Project continues! Here is one big solid chunk of rock majesty.
DEEP PURPLE – The Soundboard Series – Australasian Tour 2001 (2001 Thames 12 CD box set)
One day in spring of 2002, I wandered into Encore Records in Kitchener. I spied this lovely box o’ rock up front in their glass case, where they stored similarly awesome boxes of rock.
“What’s that?!” I asked, and was promptly handed 12 CDs of live Purple. A quick glance, and “I’ll take it.” Only a short while before, I bought yet another 12 CD live Deep Purple box set. When I first noticed this box under the glass, I was hoping it was just a reissue of the same thing; something I already had that I could safely pass on. It only took one close look to realize that this was a whole other animal completely. Rather than a collection of bootlegs from the 80’s and up, like the one I had, this box chronicled Deep Purple’s 2001 tour of Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. What special concerts those must have been. Read on and you’ll discover why.
Each concert presented in this box is complete, and mixed from the 8-track soundboard DAT tapes. No audience recordings in this bad boy, which is a good thing, since Purple were touring with numerous extra musicians and accoutrements that require sonic clarity. Of the six concerts included, four are largely the same. A lot of Ian Gillan’s song intros are the same from night to night, and the setlists are by and large the same. Of course where Deep Purple are concerned, that means very little. Their solos are never the same, and each performance is its own experience. Steve Morse has never really repeated himself night after night, nor did Jon Lord.
There are some cool surprises in the sets. One of the best tracks, and one of the most rarely played, is “Mary Long” from Who Do We Think We Are. This rhythmic monster goes down smashingly well, and it’s a wonder that Purple never tried it any earlier. There are some true buried gems on those early Purple albums, especially Fireball and Who Do We Think We Are, that were never given a fair shake in their day. Deep Purple today are able to have more fun with their setlists than they were in the 70’s. Another such track is “No One Came”, one of the strangest songs in the catalogue. It benefits greatly from a three piece horn section (the Side Door Johnny’s). There are versions with horns on some other live albums as well, such as Live at the Olympia ’96, so while horns are not unheard of in Deep Purple, they are rare. “No One Came” and “Fools” (both from Fireball) are quite a treat any time you get to hear them live, which you didn’t get to do in the 70’s. They also play the classic B-side “When a Blind Man Cries”, a blues that deserves the spotlight.
Of course Deep Purple always play new material, but what’s really surprising is that they only played one song from their last studio album (1998’s Abandon), and only one time, during the first four concerts! At the first show, in Melbourne, they played “’69”. Then it was dropped and the set slightly shuffled. “Smoke on the Water” was moved from the middle to the second half of the set. Speaking of “Smoke”, fans familiar with the Steve Morse version of Deep Purple are aware that he really likes to have fun with the intro. He teases out several classic rock riffs, all instantly recognizable, as he tries to remember which riff is the one he’s supposed to be playing (or so it seems). AC/DC’s “Back in Black” is the one that really stands out, and it’s remarkable how well it works with Deep Purple. There are lots more, including “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heartbreaker” and “Stairway to Heaven”, that one normally does not associate with Deep Purple! Other favourite riffs include “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Little Wing”, and even a Van Halen inspired version of “You Really Got Me”, but the one that surprised me the most was “To Be With You”, by Mr. Big. Don’t forget, Mr. Big are absolutely huge in Japan, so when they played that little bit in Tokyo, I’m sure everybody knew it.
Also of note, Jimmy Barnes came out for “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water” for a couple Australian shows. Sharp-minded readers will remember that Barnes was one of many singers who auditioned for Deep Purple in the late 80’s before they hired on Joe Lynn Turner. He seems to have a blast screaming his way through “Highway Star”! Must be like a dream come true. Gillan’s in great voice too, by the way!
For more thrills with special guests, we must go to the last two shows, in Japan. Australia surely had a treat with the Side Door Johnny’s and Jimmy Barnes, but what Japan got was even better. Fresh off their well-received Live at the Royal Albert Hall album from 2000, conductor Paul Mann joined Purple for two nights in Tokyo. That meant a full performance of the legendary and almost never performed Concerto for Group and Orchestra, all three movements. Mann and the New Japan Select Orchestra joined Purple on a number of their songs as well, including “Watching the Sky” from Abandon, but it was only played on the first night. All that said, there was no greater thrill than the presence of Ronnie James Dio. As he did on the Albert Hall album, Ronnie sang lead on two songs from the Purple solo catalogue. He performs Roger Glover’s “Sitting in a Dream” and the delightfully bouncy hippy anthem “Love is All”. Ian Gillan, meanwhile takes the lead on Jon Lord’s “Pictured Within”. Dio also returns for “Smoke on the Water”, trading with Gillan, but what’s really special is that Purple actually performed two Dio songs at these shows. Though Dio and Purple are two very different bands, Purple adapt and do great versions of “Fever Dreams” and “Rainbow in the Dark”. The drum and keyboard parts are the most different, but nobody’s complaining! It’s great that they did “Fever Dreams” from Dio’s Magica, a great album that deserved the recognition. “Fever Dreams” is one of Dio’s best tunes from the latter period.
“Wring that Neck” and “Pictures of Home” were brought out of mothballs for the Tokyo concerts. “Wring that Neck” is a jazzy version with the horns coming in strong, just like it was on the Albert Hall CD. Undoubtedly though, the centerpiece is the Concerto itself. Even though it put Purple on the map in 1969, it wasn’t particularly well liked by the members of the band (Jon Lord aside, obviously, since it was his creation.) With Steve Morse in the band instead of Ritchie Blackmore, feelings softened and ideas like resurrecting the Concerto were possible. The music however was lost. It took Dutch composer Marco de Goeij years to re-create it, but once Lord helped him finish, it could be performed once again. It’s incredible to think that they were able to take it to Japan and play it for those lucky fans, both nights. You can absolutely tell the difference from the London version. It’s fortunate that it was recorded so well (not perfect but damn well good enough!), and released for you to be able to own forever.
There is no point in breaking this down for a disc-by-disc rating. If the box set could be faulted for anything, it is that there is so much repeat between the first four concerts. For me, box sets tend to work best in the car. I put this on a flash drive and took about three weeks to listen to the whole thing in sequence. In that environment, I don’t bore of the songs. Instead I enjoyed the slight differences. “Oh, this is a little different than the way they introduced it, when I heard it a couple days ago.” Obviously, only a true Deep Purple lover needs to own this. But every Deep Purple lover should own it.
Discs 1 & 2 – Melbourne, March 9 2001
Discs 3 & 4 – Wollongong, March 13 2001
Discs 5 & 6 – Newcastle, March 14 2001
Discs 7 & 8 – Hong Kong, March 20 2001
Discs 9 & 10 – Tokyo, March 24 2001
Discs 11 & 12 – Tokyo, March 25 2001