jon lord

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.

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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

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The House of Blue Light (1987)

The Deep Purple Project continues!  Join me for the next week (plus?) and see more rock majesty than you can shake a purple stick at!

Scan_20160129 (4)DEEP PURPLE – The House of Blue Light (1987 Polygram)

The Deep Purple reunion was the success beyond what anybody hoped for.  The band had revitalized after many acrimonious years apart.  They were fresh and rejuvenated, and the resultant album Perfect Strangers was the proof.   If the live recordings are anything to go by, then the tour was also dynamite.   Obviously the next thing to do would have to be a second reunion album.

According to Ian Gillan’s autobiography Child in Time, things went south very fast.  He found Ritchie Blackmore increasingly difficult to work with, refusing even to record guitar for one song.  Gillan admits he was no treat either, so it was the band that suffered.  Ian compared Deep Purple to a beautiful meal, a plate full of gourmet perfection — that’s Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Jon Lord.  Ian and Ritchie were the fork and knife on either side.

The House of Blue Light (title taken from Little Richard via Purple’s own “Speed King”) was not a fun album for anyone to make.  Some hold it in high esteem today, such as renowned writer Martin Popoff, who rated it 10/10 in Riff Kills Man (as he did Perfect Strangers).  While I believe Perfect Strangers is easily a 10, I don’t find The House of Blue Light to be its equal.  The band may agree; none of its songs have been performed live since this tour.  That also just could be residual hard feelings.

There is no mistaking the organ of Jon Lord on “Bad Attitude”.  What an opening statement this is.  Just as strong as the best songs on Strangers, “Bad Attitude” rules.  It’s all about the spaces between, but Ritchie ensures there is a catchy trademark Deep Purple riff involved.  His solos are exotic delight.  Even in 1987, Purple weren’t afraid to load their single down with solos!  Jon Lord’s synths are perhaps more prominent than they were in ’84.  This is not a bad thing, because Jon Lord makes synth sound good.  Synth and electronics take center stage on “The Unwritten Law”, powerful both because of and in spite of it.  The pulse and beats give it a dramatic chase-like feel.  Its drum outro is very reminiscent of “Chasing Shadows” from album #3 in 1969!  It’s also the only Ian Paice co-write.  In the 80’s, instead of splitting the writing credits five ways as they always had, Purple changed to awarding individual credits (and royalties).  This led to petty squabbles and infighting.

“Call of the Wild” was a single and (pretty terrible) music video, and didn’t really make much of an impact.  Too bad.  It’s one of Purple’s more pop songs, but that’s just fine by me.  Purple have occasionally forayed into commercial songwriting, but have always done so with class.  This one sounds like a Rainbow song circa the Joe Lynn Turner years.  “Mad Dog” blows away all three of the previous songs.  With a killer, choppy Blackmore riff right up front, it sounds vintage.  Gillan gets to play some bluesy harmonica on “Black & White”, a good mid-paced groove but not an outstanding one.  Something like this needs a timeless Blackmore solo to drive it home, but the fire fails to light.

There’s a natural split between side one and side two, which still comes across on CD.  “Hard Lovin’ Woman” (supposedly a sequel to “Hard Lovin’ Man” from In Rock) is one of the few songs that was played live, probably because of its energy.  It has the pace of an old-school Purple rocker, but not the timelessness.  It’s largely forgettable and really only notable because it’s on the live album Nobody’s Perfect.  Back to regal sounding Deep Purple, “The Spanish Archer” could really have been something had they bothered to play it in concert.  It has a drama to it that is one of Purple’s strengths, but a lot of its strength is sapped by 80’s production values.  Glover’s bass doesn’t have enough meat to it, and there is a hint of electronic effects on the drums.

Onto “Strangeways”, the only long song (7:35).  Its vibe is very much in tune with “Hungry Daze” from the previous album.  The lyrics are unusually topical for Gillan and Glover.  “Have you seen the headlines?  Princess engaged.  Three million out of work, but that’s on the second page.”  Its length is taken up by some of Ritchie’s most subtle playing, but if you listen carefully, you can hear Ian Gillan on the congas.  Just like old times.  “Mitzi Dupri” is the one that Blackmore refused to record.  The guitar you hear on the album track is taken from the original demo.  Once Ian came up with the lyrics, Blackmore proclaimed he did not like it and would not participate in recording it for the record.  I think he found the words a bit dirty.  Closing the record is “Dead or Alive”, speedy Purple in the classic fashion.  If only the production of this album were a bit tougher, that song would be mercilessly heavy.

The House of Blue Light is not the equal of its predecessor.  Given some better production and perhaps one or two different songs, it could have been.  Someone in Purple (I think it was Glover) said that every other Purple album was “difficult”.  Perhaps there’s a smidgen to truth to that, because The House of Blue Light does not sound like the same confident band that recorded Perfect Strangers.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made in Europe (1976)

Scan_20160114DEEP PURPLE – Made in Europe (1976 EMI)

In 1976, Deep Purple ended with a thud.

With no desire to carry on, the band split in 1976 after the ill-received addition of Tommy Bolin on lead guitar.  David Coverdale was eager to start a solo career where he could sing, and not “scream his balls off”.  Everybody else was just plain tired of it all.  Dutifully, the record company trotted out live albums and compilations, to keep the cash flowing.  Made in Europe, intended as a followup to Made in Japan, came first.  It was followed by Power House, When We Rock We Rock, Deepest Purple, Last Concert in Japan, Live in London, and many more.  The goal was not to provide fans with good quality unreleased music for them to enjoy.  The purpose was to make more money.

Made in Europe has since been superseded by better releases.  MkIII: The Final Concerts expanded and remixed this material, sourced from their last shows with Ritchie Blackmore.  He had already made the decision to quit, unbeknownst to his bandmates.  More recently, the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series released full shows of two concerts, Graz and Paris.  It is always preferable to have the full show, rather than a song here or there sloppy edited and mixed into a live album.  Don’t you agree?

With only five songs, Made in Europe was hardly representative of Purple’s set at the time, but it seems a single LP was all that EMI were willing to invest in.  Producer Martin Birch was unable to get the same heavy, crisp sound that he got on Made in Japan.  This one is heavy, but that crisp sound is muffled under a blanket.

“Burn” is an apt opener, and both David and Glenn Hughes were in fine form that night.  Blackmore, Paice and Lord always are.  Yet Deep Purple sound almost…bored?  Playing by rote?  Blackmore’s guitar is also too buried in the mix.  The first of two jams is up next: “Mistreated (Interpolating ‘Rock Me Baby’)”.  While no one questions that this is one of the greatest songs in the Deep Purple MkIII catalogue, the live jam has always dragged.  Ritchie’s playing is still a delight, but they could have trimmed two or three minutes from the song.   That’s followed by a frantic “Lady Double Dealer”, never one of Purple’s finest.  Birch applies an irritating echo to the chorus, but that’s all for the first side.

The second side is dominated by 16 minutes of “You Fool No One”, the second jam.  Jon Lord takes center stage for the organ solo intro, but if you dig cowbell, this song is for you!  Could Ian Paice be the #1 cowbell player on the planet?  “You Fool No One” testifies to that.  He is absolutely the MVP on this track (for his drumming, too)!  Finally, the full gale force of “Stormbringer” brings the proceedings to an end, easily the best track on the disc.

What, no “Smoke on the Water”?  No “Highway Star”?  It appears EMI wanted to avoid song overlap with Made in Japan, so you get MkIII material and only MkIII material!  That the drawback to a set such as this which is really only about half of a proper Deep Purple concert.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Copenhagen 1972 (2013)

Scan_20160103DEEP PURPLE – Copenhagen 1972 (2013 Edel)

How many live albums are there from the Machine Head tour in ’72?  I lost count, and I don’t really care.  I’ll buy ’em all!  Copenhagen 1972 represents Purple at their best, in their prime, playing their best songs.  The difference is (there always is a difference) is that this is a particularly pummelling Purple potluck.  As awesome as they were in ’72, it’s rare to hear them play as ferociously as you will here!  This set was previously released by Sonic Zoom as Live in Denmark ’72 in 2002, but technology is constantly improving and it has been given a subtle sonic upgrade.  With restored master tapes, the 2013 release is the definitive one, not to mention it has four bonus tracks over the previous Live in Denmark ’72.  These Sonic Zoom discs seem to be re-released periodically, but these versions from the Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series are in all cases the ones to own.

“We got the telly here tonight, so we got to be good.”  That explains how this show was recorded so well.  The clown prince Ian Gillan is a dry unorthodox frontman when it comes to banter, and that’s why we love him so.  “Highway Star” herein is one of the best versions of the song you will ever find.  The non-album single “Strange Kind of Woman” follows, extended with Blackmore and Gillan’s interplay.  Behind them, a constant presence, is the growl of Jon Lord’s Hammond.  What a beast!  Lord always tended to improvise on his intro to “Child In Time”, lending it different flavours every time it was played.  The Copenhagen ’72 version has its own personality.  There is a delightful quieter middle section where Jon gets to have some jazzy fun.  Drummer Ian Paice gets his moment on “The Mule”, one of Purple’s most progressive rock moments from 1971’s Fireball.  Paice, being outstanding through the whole concert, dominates this one into submission.  It is remarkable how well recorded these drums are.  Glover’s bass too, which has a shining spot in the mix.  “Lazy” smokes just as hot, but it is “Space Truckin'” that has the honour of being stretched out for over 20 minutes.  With the many live versions of “Space Truckin'” out there, I wonder how many sheer hours of this song that I own?  This one is unique in its own right.

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The show continues on CD 2, with “a little bit of fun” called “Fireball”.  With an extended intro I haven’t heard anywhere else before, this version of “Fireball” kills it.  It’s immediately followed by “Lucille” which was a periodic Deep Purple encore back then.  Simply incendiary, over the top, and blazing fast.  The last song of the show is the old single “Black Night”:  that’s right, no “Smoke on the Water”!  I guess they just didn’t play it that night.  Machine Head wouldn’t be out for another three weeks.

CD 2 has four bonus tracks on top of this.  The aforementioned “Smoke” along with more versions of “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Space Truckin'” are included, from New York in ’73.  This version of “Strange Kind of Woman” is unusually funky; more like the Deep Purple Mk III that would emerge in 1974.  “Smoke” is still fresh, but “Space Truckin'” surprises by being only half the length of the version on CD 1.  It’s interesting to hear how the songs evolve from year to year.

The final bonus track is a brief 1971 interview done in Australia.  There is not much here; it’s just an add-on.  It’s fun to hear them talking about the forthcoming new album, Machine Head.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Live in Stockholm 1970 (2 CD/1 DVD)

EPIC REVIEW TIME!


DEEP PURPLE – Live in Stockholm 1970 (2014 Edel, 2 CD 1 DVD set)

This is the second time I’ve bought this live album.  Hopefully, this edition from the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series, with its bonus tracks and DVD represents the last time I need to shell out.  The first was a cheap looking 2 CD set called Live and Rare (1992).  There was also a more official version called Scandinavian Nights.  They’re all pretty much the same, a set of early long long bombers by Deep Purple recorded for radio in 1970.  This remixed (from the master tapes) edition has the set list restored to the correct order, and two bonus tracks from Paris the same year.  It also has a Jon Lord interview and a DVD for a TV special called Doing Their Thing.

The TV broadcast weirdly begins right in the middle of “Speed King”.  Full colour and in stereo, this is some fantastic footage.   It’s shot and edited for excitement.  Ritchie Blackmore assaults his weapon, but with precision.  For a guy who is so technically capable, it’s amazing how physical and visual he gets.  “Child in Time” gives Ian Gillan a chance to both sing and scream.  Strangely there are two small bored looking boys in the audience, right by Roger Glover, and they couldn’t look any less thrilled to be at this taping.  Who are they?  Why are they there?   Who knows!  This is the full unedited “Child in Time” complete with solos.

You get ample closeups on Jon, Ritchie and Roger and it’s amazing to see them play so fast, so perfectly.  You can study Jon’s hands and try to figure out what he’s doing.  Ian Paice is in the back, tiny frame creating a huge sound.  The instrumental “Wring that Neck” is soloriffic, and Blackmore is surprisingly friendly with the cameras.  This is very rare for the man in black.  The audience politely clap at his playful solo, and he keeps them guessing to the end.  A rare delight, to see him in such a good mood on stage.  The final track on the DVD is “Mandrake Root”, another song that was really only in the set for them to jam to.   They are in sync, and being able to watch Deep Purple at their peak jamming in this clarity, well that’s really something.  Too bad most of the songs are edited down.

As for the 2 CD set, it has always been a bit of a slog to get to the end.   There are two tracks at 30 minutes a piece.  There is one at 18.  There are three in the 10-12 minute range.  Of all the Deep Purple live albums out there, Stockholm is probably the one that requires the most patience.  This is, however, my first time hearing it freshly mixed and restored for today.

Set commencing with “Speed King” again, this time it’s the full-on 12 minute jam.  Barely hanging together, Purple blast it out with extra heavy energy.  Gillan sounds as if he’s about to burst a blood vessel in his neck.  The audio has more depth than previously releases, but Ian’s voice sounds a bit too low in the mix.  “Do you know what a Speed King is?  A Speed King is somebody who sing at a hundred miles an hour,” sings Ian, not really enlightening us.  “Everybody’s a Speed King when you wanna be,” he adds, confusing things more.  Things quiet down, turn jazzy, and then explode once more.  Not the greatest version of “Speed King” ever recorded, but definitely one of the most frantic.

“Into the Fire” is a rare shot of brevity.   Assailing the skull nonetheless, after “Into the Fire” the band take it back a bit with “Child in Time”.  This full-on 18 minute version is far longer than the better known one from Made in Japan.  The cool thing about Purple is that no two versions of any song are exactly the same, and if you’ve heard “Child in Time” before…you still haven’t heard the 18 minute version from Stockholm.  With all due respect to the Japan version, this one has its own diamonds of brilliance.  How the hell do they keep playing with that rapidity?

Better pee now, because a jazzy “Wring that Neck” is next, over 30 minutes.  Loaded with playing that’ll stop your heart, but not as interesting as the definitive version on Concerto for Group and Orchestra.  This contains a showcase for Jon Lord’s keyboard solos.  Ritchie’s playing is always sublime, and so is Jon’s, but…30 minutes…that’s a lot of jamming.  Like too much crème brûlée.  Ritchie again plays with the audience, teasing out melodies from songs such as “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”. If that wasn’t enough, Deep Purple’s 10 minute cover of the Stones’ “Paint it, Black” is really just an excuse for a long drum solo by Ian Paice!  Gillan took off, making the song an instrumental, which they only stick to for a minute before letting Paice go nuts.

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Flip over to CD 2, and get ready for another 30 minute long bomber.  “A thing you can jump around to,” says Ian.  It’s “Mandrake Root” and it’s bouncy.  This is a well-known version of the song, and it even appears on Deep Purple comprehensive box set Listen, Learn, Read On in its complete length.  You can clearly hear Gillan on the congas during the long instrumental break.  You can also hear them quoting the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me Now”.  This jam generates more interest than “Wring that Neck”, but it’s still a chore to finish.  And you get to hear “Mandrake Root” and “Wring that Neck” three times each in this package.

The final song (of a mere seven!) for Stockholm is a reasonably brief one:  “Black Night”.  After so much jammin’ it’s nice to have a single, with a set structure, and more than just occasional lead vocals!  It raises the energy a bit after a very draining concert set.  But you’d better refuel with some coffee, because you’re not finished yet.

The two bonus tracks from Paris sound as if they were recorded in a smaller venue.  They are sonically superior to the Stockholm recordings, but damn, I am all jammed out!  Thankfully, this version of “Wring that Neck” is delightful and unique.  It’s hotter and way, way jazzier.  Blackmore also teases out a bit of a preview of a forthcoming song.  You can hear a teeny bit of the guitar melody to 1971’s “The Mule” in his solo.  He even plays a bit of “God Saves the Queen”, in Paris!  Then on to “Mandrake Root” again, 14 minutes this time, half the length of the last one.  Jon’s solo is incredible, but aren’t they all?  This one has some nice rhythmic choppy bits that are so fun to air-keyboard along to.  The track eventually descends into chaos and noise, as all good Deep Purple jams do.

Finally we have the 1971 Jon Lord interview.  This 11 minute track discusses how Jon joined the band, the early days, the Concerto, and In Rock. The title is misleading however, since the track also contains a few bits with Ian Gillan.  Fun stuff but ultimately nothing here that the fan doesn’t already know.

3/5 stars, simply because I know from experience that this set won’t get much repeat play in your home.

3.5/5 stars when you take the bonus DVD into consideration.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Long Beach 1971 (2015)

DEEP PURPLE – Long Beach 1971 (2015 Edel)

This CD is over 70 minutes long.  It has four tracks.  The shortest one is 11:05.  The longest is 27:18.  We just needed to be upfront with you, about what you are about to read, in case you felt like turning back now.  This would be the time to do so.

Still with us?  Great!

This live album was recorded during a period in Deep Purple where their setlist was in a state of flux.  Their first heavy rock album and first serious bonafide smash hit, Deep Purple In Rock, was still dominating the set.  The mid-term single, “Strange King of Woman”, had been included on the new album Fireball in the US, but it’s the only new song here.  Even though the show was well recorded for radio, this set has never been released before officially.

A energetically ragged “Speed King” opens affairs.  “A Speed King is somebody who moves very quickly from one place to another, and always gets there first,” says Ian Gillan during the long middle solo section.  When it’s Blackmore’s turn to play, he’s smooth with just enough rough edges.  Everybody shines; live in 1971, Deep Purple were a well-oiled machine running on the fuel of pure creativity.  Ian and the others liked to have a drink now and then, but they were never a drug band until other members joined and brought their troubles with them.  When a band as talented and unfettered and uninhibited by chemicals hit the stage, this is what can happen.  “Speed King” is a mind-breakingly enjoyable version, both in spite of and because of its length!

The new single goes down a storm, and Blackmore’s solo is inspired.  Then “Child in Time”, the old standby since late ’69, begins delicately with Ian in prime voice.  Deep Purple at full power doing “Child in Time” complete with screams?  Jazzy shuffle right in the middle?  Always nice to have.  The last half-hour of the set is dedicated to “Mandrake Root”, an unremarkable song from the first LP that operated in concert as the forum for their “big” jam, the one that descends into madness and chaos by the end.  Brilliant stuff, but a bit much for those who just wanna rock.

If four songs loaded with solos are not your cup of java, that’s fine.  There are plenty more Deep Purple live albums to be had.  In the 80’s, the soloing was de-emphasized in favour of playing more songs.  Those albums, featuring the exact same lineup, may be more your speed if this doesn’t sound like your kinda deal.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Bombay Calling – Bombay Live ’95

BOMBAYDEEP PURPLE – Bombay Calling – Bombay Live ’95 (2003 iTunes)

There are very rare circumstances under which I will pay for a download from iTunes.  I’ve made my case for physical product here over the years many, many times.  When it’s a band that I obsessively collect, like Deep Purple, I make an exception.  Bombay Calling is an interesting live release.  It says “Official Bootleg” right there on the cover art, but I’m not really sure what constitutes an official bootleg anymore.  I look at this as the soundtrack to a DVD that Deep Purple released in 2000, also called Bombay Calling.  That’s essentially what this is — the audio to Bombay Calling, the DVD.  In contains the entire show.

This concert was recorded on April 18 1995, which eagle-eyed fans will realize is well before the Purpendicular album.  Bombay Calling was recorded not long after “the banjo player took a hike” and Purple carried on without Ritchie Blackmore.  Joe Satriani stepped in for a short while, but it was Dixie Dregs guitar maestro Steve Morse that took the Man in Black’s place permanently.  This concert was recorded at the very start of Morse’s tenure, and features a few songs they would drop from the set a year or two later.  It also features a brand new tune they were working on called “Perpendicular Waltz”, later changed to “The Purpendicular Waltz” on the album.

There is one earlier concert available from this period, which is Purple Sunshine in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, exactly two weeks prior.  That one is truly is an official bootleg, taken from audience sources and released on the 12 CD box set Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  The setlists are slightly different.  When they hit India for this concert, a new song called “Ken the Mechanic” (retitled “Ted the Mechanic”) was dropped, as was “Anyone’s Daughter”.  They were replaced by long time favourites “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Space Truckin'” from Machine Head.

Special treats for the ears on Bombay Calling include Steve Morse’s incendiary soloing on “Anya” (which would be dropped from the set in 1996).  His feature solo leading into “Lazy” is also excellent, and of course very different from what Ritchie used to do.  Jon Lord’s keyboard solo is among the best I’ve heard, and even features a segue into “Soldier of Fortune” from Stormbringer.  The solo segments that Deep Purple did often allowed them to play snippets from songs from the David Coverdale period of the band, and this one was unexpected and brilliant.

I love a good, raw live performance captured on tape, and Deep Purple don’t muck around.  This one is kind of special, coming from that transitional period when Steve Morse was just getting his feet wet.  Considering how different he is from Ritchie Blackmore, this smooth switcheroo is quite remarkable.  The band had changed, but into something just as good.  How many other groups can make that claim?

3.5/5 stars

Since you can’t take a picture of a non-physical product, here are pictures of the 2 CD set that I burned from the iTunes download!

REVIEW: Deep Purple – 24 Carat Purple (1975)

DEEP PURPLE – 24 Carat Purple (1975 EMI)

I can’t resist reviewing this golden oldie, the first compilation released by Purple Records in 1975.  Purple had not yet broken up  — that wouldn’t happen for another year — but most of the members on this record had left the band.  It’s rarely a good sign when a band in their final death throes release a compilation album.

This CD is extraordinarily rare in these parts.  When I first started managing the Record Store at which I spent most of my years, I put my name in “reserve” for any used copies that may come in.  That was April 1996.  Here we are in June 2015, and I only just got it on CD.  I did get it on vinyl in the late 90’s, even though I have all the songs, because I enjoy having significant greatest hits albums in my collection.  (See point 4, “Historical significance”, in Getting More Tale #367.)  Unfortunately, as was the case with many CD issues from the late 80’s, the cover art isn’t even near the same colour as the original golden LP.  The CD renders it to a dark, pee-stain yellow.

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Saucy Aaron, from the KeepsMeAlive, texted me last month from Toronto, in Sonic Boom on Spadina.  “Cool Purple comp,” he texted.  “Very short though.”  He sent me a pic with a $7.99 price tag, and I told him to snag it!  That’s the kind of guy he is.  He saw a Purple compilation CD and texted me a photo, unsure if I’d even care, on the off-chance that he’d be helping out a fellow collector.  And he did!  All it needed was a new jewel case.

Because I have all the songs elsewhere, I haven’t played 24 Carat Purple in a long time.  It’s interesting that this, their first kinda-official hits album, only focuses on the Ian Gillan years, even though another version of Purple was currently functioning.  I suppose that makes sense, from a contemporary point of view.

“Woman From Tokyo” is a great track to get the party started.  I’ve only seen Purple once, on the Purpendicular tour.  I recall that this was tune that really got the dudes in their mid-40’s bouncing.  Now I’m in my mid-40’s, and I’m still bouncing to it.  It’s a nice, safe Purple single.  Jon Lord’s piano solo is, well, bouncy!  I defy you to sit perfectly still with this song playing.

More to my taste is the accelerated blast through the clouds that is “Fireball”.  To me, this track has it all — the perfect Purple mixture of adrenaline, speed, musicianship and that organ!  The live “Strange Kind of Woman” brings things back to a moderate pace.  Most of the time, I would be opposed to a live track substituting a studio version on a “hits” set, but Made in Japan was more popular than many of their studio albums!  This live take, complete with Ian laughing through some of the lines, is probably my favourite anyway.  Because Purple were as much a live act as an album band, one can easily make arguments for including live tracks of this stature.

“Never Before”, on the other hand, may have been a single but it’s nobody’s favourite Purple song.  Of all their singles, perhaps it is the most ordinary.  But at 4:00, it was about the right length to squeeze in before “Black Night” on a side of vinyl.  “Black Night” was the real treat for fans in 1975, since this was the live version released only as a B-side before.  This electric version is a must-own for its ferocity.  It was recorded at the final show of the three that were taped for Made in Japan.  Feedback-laden and ragged, this version of “Black Night” kills the others.

Side two of the record was devoted to long bombers, with “Speed King” coming in shortest at 5:50.  That means this is the full-on version of “Speed King” complete with intro, which was edited off American copies of Deep Purple In Rock.  For some listeners, this intro (purely 50 seconds of instrumental guitar-fucking and drum-wailing, followed by a mellow organ passage) would be completely new to them.  Normally you would expect a record label to plop on an edited single version.

Made in Japan is the source for the last two tracks, “Smoke on the Water” and “Child in Time”.  The mathematically inclined have probably already calculated that this means 24 Carat Purple is actually 57% live!  I think that’s OK in the long run.  Consider: “Smoke on the Water” in its live incarnation was released as a successful single.  The live “Child in Time” contains, according to my friend Uncle Meat, “the greatest guitar solo of all time.”  Since he said it, it must be true, and therefore inclusion of these two live versions is forgiven.

I feel like giving this long-deleted album a number rating is kind of meaningless.  Yes it was a great listen, but it’s just a compilation from a band that most people agree are an albums band.

3/5 stars