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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

 

 

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Deep Purple (1969)

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DEEP PURPLE – Deep Purple (1969 EMI, 2000 The Original Deep Purple Collection)

I love when bands release a self-titled album as their third, perpetually (purpetually?) confusing fans who think it’s their first!  Maybe not so much in the Wikipedia age, but many of my customers thought that Deep Purple was the band’s debut.

This album is unbelievable. I know people, very particular music fans, who consider this to be the best Deep Purple album. I wouldn’t make that claim myself (I prefer Fireball) but I rank this one very high. Neither of the first two albums by Deep Purple Mk I did much for me.  I found them meandering and plodding.  Somehow, by the third record, the band had morphed into something different.  The singer was Rod Evans (Captain Beyond) and the bassist was Nicky Simper (Warhorse).  And of course more changes would come, since this would prove to be the last album for both men.

Side one, track one is an amazing opener called “Chasing Shadows” (not to be confused with a later Deep Purple song just called “Shadows”) that features a Paice-arranged drum orchestra throughout the whole song. “Blind” is second, which features Lord on harpsichord. How 1960’s! Great song though, slow and mournful with a wicked Blackmore solo.  This is followed by the Donovan cover “Lalena”. It is another sad sounding track in a row, but with a beautiful organ opening from Jon Lord. A brief instrumental called “Fault Line” is a crazy interlude, recorded backwards with the bass recorded forwards. That melds into a serious rocker called “Painter”, which ends side one. “Painter” to me is best remembered for Ian Paice’s inventive drumming and Blackmore’s excellent bluesy playing.

Side two began with “Why Didn’t Rosemary?”, a groovy blues rocker with the relentless rhythm section of Paice and Simper driving it. “Bird Has Flown” follows, but not the Beatles song. It verges on heavy metal with Blackmore leaning heavily on the wah-wah peddle. The final track, “April”, is a 12 minute tour-de-force and an obvious foreshadowing to the next Deep Purple album, Concerto For Group And Orchestra. It features a long opening in two movements. The first movement is mostly organ and classical guitar, with some electric guitar accents. The second is based entirely on classical instruments and sounds very medieval at times. (Foreshadowing Blackmore’s Night!)  Finally, the band kicks in with an intense rocker, Paice laying it down hard.  Rod Evans’ lead vocal is among his best, a fitting swan song, although he certainly didn’t know that at the time!

Indeed, even while Deep Purple were gigging with Rod Evans and Nick Simper in the band, they would soon secretly begin rehearsing and recording with their replacements, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover!

This excellent CD remaster comes with an extensive booklet and five bonus tracks. Some of these bonus tracks were completely previously unreleased. These are live BBC performances and non-album singles. Notably included are two cool, catchy and rare singles A-sides:  “Emmaretta” and “The Bird Has Flown” (an earlier version of “Bird Has Flown”).  Some of the BBC performances have since been released on compilation albums, but these are rare performances indeed.  In a short while, the band would write In Rock and drop most of the old songs from their set.

The only flaw with this CD, (and I’m talking the only flaw), is the cover. That awesome painting by Hieronymus Bosch is one of the coolest, creepiest, most interesting paintings I know. The original LP was a gatefold and you could fold the whole thing out and stare at it for years. The cover on this CD is so tiny, and doesn’t show the back part of the LP.  That’s a real shame.  For such a great cover, for it to be chopped and rendered down to about 2″ per side…it doesn’t make any sense.  What a blown opportunity.  The CD should have come with a small fold out poster, at least.

5/5 stars…but pick up an original LP if you can. I have a purple vinyl reissue, but it lacks the gatefold, and you really lose something without the gatefold.

An original LP is seen below.