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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Nobody’s Perfect (1988, 1999 reissue)

“I’ve been drunk from nine o’clock in the morning, ’til nine o’clock in the morning, because you’ve all been buying me drinks.  You are sensational!”  — Ian Gillan to the audience in Oslo

DEEP PURPLE – Nobody’s Perfect (originally 1988, 1999 Mercury 2 CD reissue)

Deep Purple are more than just a band, they are a legend.  And as such we must judge them a little more stringently than the average band.

In 1988 Deep Purple were celebrating their 20th anniversary, but they were actually broken up for eight of those 20 years.  And as it turns out, they celebrated their 20th by firing lead singer Ian Gillan!  They also released this live album, which failed to excite the general public.  Nobody’s Perfect is little more than a sub-Made in Japan.

It’s important to note, if you’re going to buy Nobody’s Perfect, there is no point in getting anything other than the 1999 2CD Mercury reissue.  Originally, in order to get all the tracks, you had to buy the album on LP and cassette.  The cassette had one exclusive track, “Dead or Alive”, a rarity from The House of Blue Light.  The double LP had its own exclusive, “Bad Attitude”, another rarity from the same album.  Meanwhile the single disc CD release was missing both these tracks and “Space Truckin'” as well.  In other words, definitely do not buy the original single CD release which is the most incomplete of them all.

The big critique levelled at Nobody’s Perfect, then and now, is that the setlist was too safe and a repeat of stuff already released in live form.  Ian Gillan himself was one who voiced that opinion.  The cassette and LP bonus tracks go a long way to add value, since those songs were dropped after this tour.  The only other place you can find live versions of “Bad Attitude” and “Dead or Alive” is the very expensive and out of print Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  Otherwise, Nobody’s Perfect consists of all the same songs as Made in Japan minus “The Mule” and with a small handful of newer songs.  The album is also sourced from many concerts around the world and completely lacks the flow that Made in Japan had (even though it was taken from three concerts itself).

The Deep Purple of 1987-1988 may have had the same members, but they still sounded very different from the Purple of 1972.  Ian Gillan’s voice aged as all human voices do, and is the most notably different.  Just as importantly though, Deep Purple had drastically cut down the soloing.  That’s not a bad thing, but a lot of the shorter jams and solos sounded by rote in the 80s.  One new highlight though is a bit of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the middle of the “Strange Kind of Woman” solo section.  Gillan was, of course, the original Jesus on the Jesus Christ Superstar album.

Whatever negatives may be applicable, when they rock they rock and when they roll they roll.  “Dead Or Alive”, a new song, smokes the stage.  “Child in Time” is probably the last decent version of the song released.  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” were fresh and haven’t worn out their welcomes.

Finally there is a “Hush”, a re-recording of Deep Purple’s original 1968 single, captured live in a jam.  This reimagining of the track has been dismissed as unnecessary but that is an unfair assessment.  Ian Gillan and Roger Glover didn’t play on the original, so it’s actually cool to get a nice version with them.  “Hush” in 1988 was a heavier track than “Hush” in 1968, but it’s still playful rock and roll.

As Purple approaches their 50th, Nobody’s Perfect has faded into the backdrop.  As an official live album, it has its place in the discography.  With so many superior official and semi-official live releases since, it is hardly an essential listen.

3/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978)

DEEP PURPLE – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978 Warner)

When Deep Purple broke up in 1976, their back catalog was ripe for exploitation for compilation by record labels.  One by one, out trickled Deepest Purple, Singles A’s and B’s, and When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll.  1978’s When We Rock is the least necessary of them all.

The only thing that When We Rock really has going for it is that did feature all the Deep Purple singers to date.  Ian Gillan sings the majority of tracks, Rod Evans has two (“Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”) and Coverdale/Hughes have one (“Burn”).  The shoddy package had no involvement from any ex-members of the band, and even has an incorrect track listing on the back.  “Woman From Tokyo” isn’t live, but “Smoke on the Water” is (from Made in Japan).

If music shoppers in 1978 were just looking for a handy-dandy single record set of all Purple’s radio hits, then When We Rock almost fits the bill.  “Hard Road (Wring That Neck)” is conspicuous by its inclusion, being a semi-obscure instrumental from 1969’s The Book of Taliesyn.  Swap that one out for “Strange King of Woman” and you could have had a serviceable hits set, even considering the live tracks.  After all, Made in Japan helped establish the live album as a viable hitmaker.

The only reason to own When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll is the cover art, which admittedly is pretty nifty.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – InFinite (2017 deluxe box) Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of a double-sized Deep Purple deluxe InFinite box set review!  For Part 1, click here.

DEEP PURPLE – InFinite (2017 Edel deluxe box set edition)

When we last met, we took a solid look at Deep Purple’s fine new album, InFinite.  Because the year is 2017, InFinite is available in multiple editions.  The most logical to buy is the deluxe box set.  This includes:

  • InFinite on CD
  • From Here to InFinite – a full length documentary DVD
  • InFinite on a 2 LP set in its own double gatefold
  • The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2 – an exclusive live album included on three 10″ records
  • A T-shirt
  • A poster
  • Five lovely photo cards
  • A sticker

That’s a lot of goodies for a reasonable price, and it all comes housed in a sturdy box.

The included DVD is a very intimate look at the creation of InFinite from writing to overdubs.  Narrated by Rick Wakeman (you read that correctly), it also looks at the moments that Steve Morse and Don Airey joined the band.  Much attention is given to the shocking departure of Ritchie Blackmore in 1993, and the acquisition of Joe Satriani (who is interviewed for the DVD). However, Joe had commitments and couldn’t stay long.  Deep Purple couldn’t wait for him, so they had to look for someone else.  They had a list, and the first name on it was Steve Morse.  Almost instantly they found themselves rediscovering the joy of music.  The atmosphere and attitude of the band did a complete 180.   When Jon Lord’s passing is discussed, there are a few teary eyes and sincere words.  Moving on to InFinite, it is remarkable to watch the band pluck ideas from the air and mold them into songs.  Bob Ezrin is a huge part of the process, with his own ideas and preferences.  His reputation as a taskmaster is reinforced by the band, but it seems like a very easy collaboration.  They have the same goals and desires, and trust each other’s musical instincts.  There is also a shockingly frank discussion with Steve Morse, about the osteoarthritis in his picking hand.  His technique has, over the years, worn out his wrist to the point that there is bone-on-bone contact.  The pain has grown so severe that playing the guitar required him to completely change his picking technique, while wearing a wrist brace.  Meanwhile Don Airey gets 20 “Cool Points” for wearing both a Rival Sons T-shirt, and a Winnipeg Jets sweater.  Canucks will also be pleased to know that Ian Gillan recorded his vocals at Bob Ezrin’s studio in Toronto.

The DVD can be had in a CD/DVD set, so the real reason for fans to choose this box set is The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2.  Vol. 1 was included on the “gold” reissue of their last album Now What?!  Vol. 2 is, as it states on the sleeve, “100% live!  100% unreleased!”  There are some obscure tracks on here, making this live album very enticing indeed.  You don’t have to sit through more versions of “Smoke on the Water” or “Black Night”.  Even better, or perhaps best of all to the vinyl nerds, are the lovely records that comprise The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2.  Three 10″ records, each in their own coloured sleeve, and each on coloured vinyl!  White, clear, and clear blue.

“Après Vous” (from London) commences the proceedings.  This newby from Now What?! has a lot of life on stage, and the long instrumental section sounds kinda like the old days.  Then an oldie:  “Into the Fire” (Milan) from 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock.  Ian really strains his voice on this one, but somehow pulls it off with style.  Back to London for “The Mule”, a song featuring Ian Paice’s busiest drum work.  No problems from Paicey.  Indeed, on the DVD Paicey says he hasn’t experienced much physical difficulty in continuing to play the way he wants to.

The second record starts with Purple’s recent “Green Onions”/”Hush” medley (Gaevle, Sweden), a cool way to inject new life into one of Purple’s earliest singles.  The interplay between the four musicians during the jam section is remarkable.  Even though most of the originals are long gone, it sounds sorta like Purple circa 1969.  Another medley showcasing Steve Morse (“The captain of the skies, the Aviator”, says Gillan) occupies side two.  “Contact Lost” (London) is Morse’s short instrumental tribute to the crew of STS-107, known to most as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.  This merges into Purple’s majestic song for Jon Lord, “Uncommon Man” and finally Steve’s instrumental “The Well-Dressed Guitar”.

One more record to go.  The excellent single “All the Time in the World” from Now What?! comes from Aalborg, Denmark.  It’s a slick and laid back jazzy rock groove.  Purple always seem to find a great groove, and “All the Time in the World” is unlike previous ones.  “Highway Star” (London) is like a polar opposite.  Though you know they will hold it all together, “Highway Star” still sounds so fast that it could come off the tracks at any time.  1971’s “Strange Kind of Woman” (Aalborg) is a long-time favourite with fun vocal-guitar interplay.  Back to London for the last track, “Space Truckin'”.  What can you say about “Space Truckin'”?  Not much except that Ian Paice still kicks it, and hard!

Purple fanatics who still love what the band is doing today will need this box set.  It will be indispensable to them.  Wear your T-shirts with pride!  For the casual Purple fan who just wants to check out the CD and DVD, that edition will suffice.

To InFinite and beyond!

4/5 stars

 

Further reading on more Deep Purple InFinite related releases:

DEEP PURPLE – Time For Bedlam (2017 Edel EP)

DEEP PURPLE – All I Got is You (2017 Edel EP)

DEEP PURPLE – Limitless (2017 exclusive CD included with Classic Rock #234, April 2017)

DEEP PURPLE – InFinite (2017 Edel)

REVIEW: Deep Purple – In Rock (Anniversary edition)

In collaboration with 1001albumsin10years

DEEP PURPLE – In Rock (1970, 1995 EMI anniversary edition)

Deep Purple In Rock:  The title speaks mountains about the music.  They didn’t want there to be any question regarding what kind of band Deep Purple were.  The first version of the band, Deep Purple Mk I, made three psychedelic but still clearly rock and roll albums.  Wanting to rock harder, they ditched singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper, and brought aboard Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  However the first album released by Deep Purple Mk II was…Concerto for Group and Orchestra?  There was also a wishy-washy gospel rock single called “Hallelujah” that went nowhere.  Indeed, there was some confusion in terms of public perception.  In Rock was designed from the start to reaffirm.

With In Rock, producer Martin Birch commenced a long and fruitful relationship with Deep Purple.  The single was a track called “Black Night” which, oddly enough, wasn’t on the album.  It was a response to a record label request for a single, so the band nicked the bassline from Gershwin and wrote a simple rock track with nonsensical lyrics.  It was an immediate hit.  Appropriately, the original single version of “Black Night” is included on this 25th anniversary edition of In Rock.

The B-side to “Black Night” was an edited version of opening album track, “Speed King”.  The full length version was even edited down for some releases of the In Rock album, except in the UK.  Almost a minute of noisy instrumental freakout explosively starts the full enchilada.  This leads to a calming, light Jon Lord organ, misleading you into thinking the onslaught is over.  Think again.

“Speed King” is a quintessential Deep Purple track, cementing their instrumental prowess and lyrical credentials.  The sheer velocity of the track alone packs a whallop, but the sonics are just as powerful.  “Speed King” has a deep, gut-punching heaviness.  There is also a long instrumental section, custom built for the jam-loving audiences of the era.  The words are cut and pasted from classic rock and roll hits in one stream of consciousness.  The best word for “Speed King” is “exhausting”.  Listening through feels like you just finished a sprint.  The band were trying to capture the same vibe as Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, but overdid it just a smidge!

And what of that new singer?  Ian Gillan didn’t get to do much screaming in his previous band (with Glover), Episode Six.  In Deep Purple, his unmistakable wail sets world records for pitch and volume.  Without Ian Gillan, there would be no Bruce Dickinson, and therefore Iron Maiden could never have existed as we know it today.  In Rock features Ian at his peak powers.   Nobody can touch In Rock, not even Bruce in his prime.

“Bloodsucker” is a vintage, grinding organ-based groove.  In Rock has a very bass-heavy mix, but clear and defined.  This helps the low growling Hammond combine with Roger Glover’s pulsing bass to form a wave of sound.  Ride that wave on “Bloodsucker”, with a cool double-tracked Gillan vocal that keeps the thing slightly off-balance.  Drummer Ian Paice can never be underappreciated, and in 1970 he was one of the hardest hitters on the field.  “Bloodsucker” leaves  massive Yeti footprints because  of that beat.

One of the most important songs in the Deep Purple canon is “Child in Time”, a 10 minute composition of light and shade that transforms as you listen.  As it begins gently, Ian Gillan gets to utilize the soothing side of his voice.  “Child in Time” is almost a lullaby…until it is not.  Wait for the ricochet.  This album is called Deep Purple In Rock after all.  Not Deep Purple In Bed or Deep Purple At Church.

In 1970, this would have been the moment you get up and flip the record.  To do that, you would have to peel yourself from the floor.

The second side of In Rock features lesser played tracks, but no less impressive.  “Flight of the Rat” takes off amidst a Blackmore guitar rocket riff.  Though fast, it is a step off the pedal from “Speed King” and with enough vocal melody to keep one hanging on.  Lord and Blackmore both solo, fighting to be champion but with no clear winner.  All the while, Glover and Paice keep the pulse going through the time changes.  Then it is “Into the Fire”, a rarely played unsung classic that the band resurrected on tour in 2000 and 2014.  Bopping heavily along, “Into the Fire” will burn if you let it.  Then the drums of “Living Wreck” fade in, with a incredibly deep natural echo that you feel in the bones.  The snare sound rings sharp.  “Living Wreck” was actually one of the first tracks taped, and just listen to Ritchie Blackmore’s tone on the lead solo!  This is truly a triumph of studio recordings.

Finally “Hard Loving Man” closes In Rock with one of the heaviest Purple riffs in their history.  Deep Purple invented the heavy metal chug on “Hard Loving Man”.  Meanwhile Jon Lord contributes to the sludge by hitting as many keys simultaneously as he seemingly can!  What a track, and much like “Speed King” at the start, it leaves you beaten and out of breath.

No Deep Purple album has come close to In Rock for brute strength.  The band and Martin Birch truly captured something special in the studio, back when that meant finding the right amp for the right instrument in the right room.  It’s much like alchemy, only real.  In Rock is an artifact of the way they used to do it, and evidence of why it can’t seem to be repeated.  The monument on the album cover was an apt indicator of what the new Deep Purple sounded like.

The 25th anniversary edition contains a wealth of bonus material, interspersed with amusing studio chat, such as:

Jon Lord (singing):  “I smashed the microphooooone.”

Martin Birch:  “Are you going to hit it again?”

Jon Lord:  “I don’t think so.”

In addition to the original single “Black Night”, there is a fascinating alternate take of “Speed King”.  The band were toying with a version featuring piano instead of organ, which completely changed its character.  This version was recorded and accidentally released on a single instead of the proper one.  Here it is as a bonus track, showing you a work in progress and what could have been.

Then we have a Roger Glover remix of “Cry Free”, one of the earliest songs recorded (30 takes total) but ultimately rejected.  It was first released on the 1977 posthumous Deep Purple album Power House, one of many releases that EMI put out during the period the band were broken up.  Glover oversaw remixes of many of Deep Purple’s reissues beginning here.  The differences are subtle but not unnoticeable.  Glover also remixed “Black Night” (more on that later), “Flight of the Rat” and “Speed King” (including intro) for these bonus tracks.  They might be described as “fuller sounding”.  “Black Night” was expanded to include a previously unheard outro.  Then there is “Jam Stew”, an instrumental with a chicken-pickin’ lick that has been all but forgotten.  It was played for the BBC once with improvised vocals; that version can be found on BBC Sessions 1968-1970.  Ritchie used the riff later in 1970 for a side project album called Green Bullfrog.

With these bonus tracks, the In Rock anniversary edition is expanded from 43 to 78 minutes.  For fans that needed every last morsel, there was still one more release to be found.  To coincide with the anniversary edition in 1995, EMI released a limited and numbered CD single of “Black Night”.  (How many made?  I don’t know, but I have #2908.)  This three track single has two versions not on the In Rock CD:  a single edit of the “Black Night” Glover remix, and a “matching mix” by Glover of “Speed King”.  This “matching mix” seems to be an edited remix without the noisy intro.  They’re not essential except to the collector.

To date, this 1995 anniversary edition is still the only expanded edition of In Rock.  With the rare photos and expansive Simon Robinson essay inside, it is the obvious definitive edition, 22 years reigning strong.  They even tried to get Ritchie Blackmore involved with the reissue.  He offered one quote for the booklet:  “This is my favourite LP along with Machine Head.”  Be very careful if seeking out a mint condition copy of this CD.  The jewel case itself is very special.  The autographs and notes on the front cover are not on the front cover.  They are etched into the plastic of the jewel case.  Mine is safely enclosed in a scratch proof plastic sleeve, but finding an original jewel case intact will not be an easy task on the second hand market.

6/5 stars

Yes, 6/5 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: Deep Purple – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001)

scan_20160925DEEP PURPLE – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001 EMI)

This shouldn’t have been the “last concert in Japan”!

Many of the old, post-breakup-issued Deep Purple live albums are virtually impossible to find today on CD. One of those is Last Concert In Japan, which was originally released only in that country. It featured the Mk IV lineup of Deep Purple: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and the late Tommy Bolin on lead guitar. As a matter of historical releases for my collection, I also own the original Last Concert in Japan on both LP and CD.

The tragic story goes that while some members of Purple were rejuvinated with the fresh blood that Bolin donated, others were dead tired of it all.  Reviews were spotty and word was spreading that Deep Purple were over.  Both Bolin and Hughes were in the throes of serious drug habits.  On the night of the recording of Last Concert in Japan, Bolin was shooting up and caused his arm to go numb.  Frantic attempts to get him stageworthy worked and he managed to barely play the show.  Guitar parts are sloppy and that’s what people remember because it went on LP.  The original one-record set from the show has now been expanded to two lengthy CDs, 17 tracks. It’s been remixed and remastered. Production was supervised by Purple expert Simon Robinson, so you know that the quality level is about as good as it could be.  Because of the fully expanded tracklist, some of the finer live Deep Purple moments have been restored to this album, such as a 16 minute “Gettin’ Tighter” which was too long to include on a single record.

Some flaws do remain of course. Tommy’s guitar is now barely audible in the “Burn” riff as opposed to non-existent.  However the overall experience is very listenable.  It’s a darkly interesting album to own, because within months Purple disbanded, and a year later Tommy Bolin would be dead.

If you already own Last Concert In Japan, this purchase gives you over an hour more of unreleased music. Even so, all of it has been remixed, so you are still in for a fresh listen with open ears. If you already own dozens of Deep Purple live albums (believe me, it’s possible), this one has five songs that you can’t get elsewhere in live versions.  It’s even a better listen than In Concert/King Biscuit Flower Hour (aka, On The Wings Of A Russian Foxbat) with stronger vocals. Plus you get Tommy singing on “Wild Dogs”.  Worth the double-dip.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Aachen 1970)

DEEP PURPLE – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Live in Aachen 1970) (2001 Sonic Zoom)

Over the course of the decades, Deep Purple and their official Appreciation Society have found numerous interesting live recordings to release for the fans.  From significant moments to obscure gigs, each disc has had their own points of interest.  It doesn’t hurt that Deep Purple never did the exact same thing twice.

This German gig from 1970 wasn’t well documented or reported on.  Purple were on a large bill including Pink Floyd, Free, Traffic and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  It’s possible but not known for certain that Kraftwerk may have also played that day.  Bootleggers made sure that at least some of it was recorded.  The released bootleg H-Bomb was one of the earliest Deep Purple live recordings available, and has been available in bootleg form since it taped.  According to organist Jon Lord, he heard that the bootleggers sneaked in an eight track mixer inside a Volkswagon, hidden under the stage.  When they had the chance to hear the recordings on LP, the band were actually impressed with the overall quality.

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In 2001, Sonic Zoom released the show on CD and called it Space Vol 1 & 2.  Since the original tapes were long lost, Sonic Zoom went back to the earliest vinyl pressings, and cleaned them up, using the best sounding versions of each track.

What you get here is only four longs, but quite a long set, being well over an hour long.  Purple opened with their instrumental “Wring That Neck”, stretched out to include lots of solos and jams.  They tease out recognizable melodies such as “Hall of the Mountain King”, “Jingle Bells”, and a jazzy “Three Blind Mice”, disguised on rock instruments.  Vocals were scarce that evening, perhaps because Ian Gillan was suffering from a sore throat.  As such his vocals don’t come through as well, but they also often sound as if he’s singing into a tin can.  Though most everything else is well recorded enough, when the vocals do happen such as on “Black Night”, they are very rough and tumble.  Jon Lord was also known to be very hard on his Hammond, and like electric whip cracks you often hear the instrument yelping away in the background.

AACHEN

The Stones cover “Paint It, Black” is mostly another excuse to jam on something.  11 minutes of equipment-destroying guitar, drums, bass and organ madness is a lot for anyone to digest.  If you dig drum solos, Ian Paice will keep you mesmerized for many minutes of straight high-velocity rhythmic instructional.  You’ll know it’s over when the other guys finally come back!  That’s nothing, though.  Half an hour of “Mandrake Root” awaits, one of the longest versions known.  Ian spends a lot of it screaming, but when it’s jam time you can hear him on the congas.  The first half of the jam is loose but at least structured.  Lord considered this his best keyboard work that had been captured so far.  Interestingly, part of this jam resembles a future song called “Highway Star”.  Then, the second half descends into pure madness.   Atonal noise, feedback and electric pain dominate these 10 minutes.  It is an endurance challenge to be sure.

It is not known for certain if any other songs were played that day, but because it was a festival it seems likely that Purple played for this hour and nothing more.  According to the only written account of the day, Purple won over the festival crowd by powering over them.  That much is clear from this recording.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Gemini Suite – Live (1970/93)

The Deep Purple Project goes on with a flashback to 1970.

Scan_20160212DEEP PURPLE and the orchestra of the LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY – The Gemini Suite – Live (recorded in 1970, released 1993 EMI)
Conducted by Malcolm Arnold

Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra put Deep Purple on the map.  An original concerto in three movements written specifically for an orchestra and a rock group together had never been accomplished before.  Headlines and offers to bring the Concerto over to America helped cement Deep Purple’s name in the public consciousness.  The only problem was, public perception was that this was a band who always played with orchestras.  They were not:  Deep Purple wanted to be a heavy rock band.  They did not want to be cornered into playing with orchestras for their career.  There may also have been some internal friction because Lord was being singled out as the band’s leader in the press.  Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan were united in their insistence that the orchestral work cease.  Worse, some in the band suggested that Lord was using the Concerto as a potential launch pad to other projects.  These were accusations of petty youthful jealousy of course, but it led to Lord announcing his intention to leave Deep Purple.

Scan_20160212 (3)Management arranged a sit-down and peace was kept.  They collectively agreed that the way forward was with rock music, not classical hybrids.  There was just one catch, which was that Jon Lord had already been contracted to write a second classical/rock piece for Deep Purple to perform.  This project had to go forward, it was too late to do otherwise, but the band insisted that it was publicized as little as possible.  The new piece was played live by the band, but a Deep Purple album release of the final product, the Gemini Suite, would not happen until 1993!  Instead, Jon Lord recorded and released a studio version of it with other guests and musicians.

Perhaps to assuage some bruised egos, Lord decided to compose his next work around the five members of Deep Purple.  Each movement had time for a member of Deep Purple to shine on his own.  The first goes to Ritchie Blackmore.  The year was 1970, and Deep Purple were working on the Fireball LP.  The quiet moment in Blackmore’s movement is tonally similar to Ritchie’s solo in Purple’s “Fools”.   According to the liner notes, this is one of the last occasions that Ritchie played a Gibson on stage.  Jon Lord goes next with an organ piece (though on the back cover it’s incorrectly listed as the vocal movement).  There are some very cool atonal parts here.  You have to admire the man for his ambition and vision, but as technically brilliant as this is, it doesn’t have the level of impact of the Concerto nor is it as well recorded.  The are fewer memorable themes and instrumental moments, and the end result is that these two movements take some patience to absorb.

It was noted that Ian Gillan had not written the lyrics to his movement until the night of the show.  The lyrics are not really important; what counts is that you’ve never heard Ian Gillan sing like this before.  With an exaggerated falsetto, and an unusual psychedelic melody, Ian really knocked it out of the park.  Halfway through, this gives way to standard Gillan howling.   It’s hard to make out all the words, but this is Ian Gillan in peak voice, totally in control and at the top of his game, backed by a friggin’ orchestra.  What more do you want?  This vocal movement is the highlight of the entire Gemini Suite.  Roger Glover goes next with his bass spotlight.  It’s about as interesting as you imagine a bass spotlight to be, but the orchestra plays it busy in the background.  There’s some great oboe on this movement, which ends on a sudden, awkward note.

Ian Paice goes last.  With military precision, Paice marches forward, leading the orchestra and percussion section.  They answer his drums in interesting ways, making this movement another solid highlight.  The crowd clearly loved it.  Then, there is a long finale (10 minutes) with everybody playing together.  It attempts to tie together the previous movements, but without memorable themes, this is difficult.  The Suite lacks cohesion overall.  There are some absolutely mindblowing moments of musical precision and dexterity, as well as rock thrills (most of them concentrated in the finale).  It is probably well enough that they did not release an LP of this at the time, for it would most definitely have lived in the shadow of its superior predecessor.

3/5 stars

Look at that backstage photo.  Looks like nobody wanted to be there that night, particularly Ian Gillan.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Soundboard Series – Australasian Tour 2001 (12 CD box set)

The Deep Purple Project continues!  Here is one big solid chunk of rock majesty.

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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!

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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

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Live at Montreux 1996 (2006)

The Deep Purple Project continues, from Blackmore to Morse!

Scan_20160128DEEP PURPLE – Live at Montreux 1996 (2006 Eagle)

One of the lovely things about collecting Deep Purple is how much the setlists change over the years.  “Fireball” was rarely played with Blackmore in the band, but with Morse, it opened much of the Purpendicular tour.  It did in Montreux in ’96.  Ian Gillan sounds ragged, but Ian Paice on the double bass drums kicks as much ass as he did in 1971.  This version lacks some of the fire (pardon the pun) of past renditions, mostly because Gillan sounds like he’s struggling a bit.  Roger Glover takes a slightly extended fuzz bass solo, always a treat, but it is Jon Lord on the keys who sets the place alight.  As it often does, “Fireball” ends with a brief snip of “Into the Fire” from In Rock.  Apropos, no?

“Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic” is one of Purple’s greatest triumphs of the Steve Morse era.  Typically for Ian Gillan, it’s about a character he met in a bar.  Followers of the choppy riffing that Steve Morse is known for will dig it, as the rest of us wonder just how the hell he does it.  “Ted the Mechanic” is just fun, so get up and dance.  You won’t have the chance to dance on “Pictures of Home”, one of the heaviest tracks from Machine Head.  Ian can’t hit the screams, but the band is on point.  Listen to Ian Paice swing!  Morse has no trouble welding one of his trademark solos onto this classic.  Another golden oldie, the single “Black Night” is reliable.  Morse and Paice are securely in the drivers seat, but there is no way a modern rendition of “Black Night” will have the adrenaline of the Made in Japan B-side version.  Just sayin’ — and that’s not a knock on Deep Purple today.  Just an observation.  Morse actually takes a very nice jazzy guitar solo that’s a little more laid back.

“Woman From Tokyo” continues the hit parade.  It’s never been Deep Purple’s most remarkable song, but you’d probably miss it if it were not in the setlist.  Gillan’s voice is shredded, probably from givin’ ‘er all night the day before!  I don’t necessarily mean on stage.  A Deep Purple collector will appreciate a live CD with the singer a little more rough than usual, but certainly a first time buyer wouldn’t.  The hit parade comes to a momentary halt, with some deep cuts.  “No One Came” is a treat.  It’s almost spoken word, so it doesn’t matter that Ian was having voice issues.  In fact they enhance the song.  It’s hard to find a live version of “No One Came” without the horn section they sometimes used.  This is the way I remember hearing it when I saw them in Toronto.  Raw, heavy, bouncy, slightly funky and fucking cool!  “When a Blind Man Cries”, the blues B-side of “Never Before”, is the next rare track.  They started playing this one when Morse joined the band, and what is remarkable is how the song is transformed by his hands.  He does not play like Ritchie Blackmore, yet both guys did amazing versions of this song.  Morse plays it spacey, with volume swells and heavenly tones.  The solo is unique to this version, and it’s one of a kind.  This extended take features a long Jon Lord keyboard intro.

Before they got back to playing the greatest hits, Purple performed the newbie “Hey Cisco”.  According to another live set I have (The 12 CD Soundboard Series which you will be reading about soon), it’s a song about Clayton Moore, who played the Lone Ranger.  An elderly Moore was legally barred from doing public appearances as the Lone Ranger, which Ian Gillan was quite upset about, but he couldn’t find the right words to go with “Lone Ranger”!  He changed the character to the Cisco Kid, but the story is the same.  “Can’t open no more supermarkets.”

“Speed King” is always a blast.  Jon and Steve have a beautiful play-off together.  Predictably the set ends with “Smoke on the Water”.   I’m quite fond of Steve Morse versions of this song.   Since it’s a tune they’ve played 3 billion times, it’s loose and free.   Later on, Steve started teasing out classic rock riffs such as “Whole Lotta Love” and “Crosstown Traffic” before “Smoke”, but not on this CD.  Interestingly, Gillan flubs the words!  “When it all was over, h-h-how could I refuse?  Swiss time was runnin’ out, see if we would lose the blues.”

The CD is slightly edited.   Played that night, but not on the disc, was “Cascades: I’m Not Your Lover Now”.  I’m sure between-song banter has also been edited.  Ian is known for his humorous song intros, and there aren’t many here.  Instead of the unedited show, they tossed on two bonus tracks from a 2000 Montreux show.  These are the incredible “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming”, and the rarely played “Fools” from Fireball.  These are both long bombers, a combined 16+ minutes of bonus music.  Ian was in smoother voice in 2000, and this live version of “Screaming” has to be one of the best.  Then: “Fools”, one of the most impressive Deep Purple deep cuts.  Long, progressive and heavy, “Fools” represents Deep Purple at their very best.  Both Ians are in prime shape, with Paice winning the MVP award for his menacingly perfect rhythms.

3.5/5 stars