limited edition

#791 GUEST SHOT – The True Story of Thuss’s Vince Neil “Dragon Guitar” (by Thuss)

I get a lot of hits from people hoping to buy my stuff.  This one popped up recently in my search terms:

“vince neil dragon guitar for sale”

Several years ago, the Vince Neil “dragon guitar” by Washburn was on sale so I picked one up.  So did my buddy Thuss — except he did sell his.  This is his story of how it (eventually) went down.


 

GETTING MORE TALE #791:  The True Story of Thuss’s Vince Neil “Dragon Guitar”

BY THUSS

Lebrain and I had matching guitars for a while, that we both bought at the now defunct Future Shop.   They were on clearance and we got them for a really good price ($70 plus tax, originally $300 each, limited to 2500 pieces).  They were Washburn dragon guitars which were “autographed” by Vince Neil.  The only real autograph in the package was Vince Neil’s actual signature on the certificate of authenticity.  After a couple years I decided to sell mine as I never really played it anymore and had moved onto different hobbies.  

So I did what everyone else did, and put it up on Kijiji.  I wasn’t in a hurry to sell it so I put it up for more than double what I paid for it.  I had a few bites, but nothing serious until one guy from Toronto wanted it.  He was desperate for it!  But there was only one problem:  he didn’t drive.  First he came to me with an offer of triple what I paid for it if I delivered it to his house.  As I said I wasn’t in a hurry to sell it, so I answered no. 

I didn’t hear from him for a week or so.  Then he emailed back, and asked if I would meet him at the bus station downtown for what I was asking for it.  Again I said no, because I hate driving downtown and I didn’t want to pay for parking just to make a sale.

Again a week passed, and he emailed me back.  He said “OK”.  He’d take about six buses and meet me at my house and he will give me what I’m asking for it.  I said sure, and not surprisingly he never showed up. 

At this point I had another offer from a dad wanting to buy it for his son.  His offer was below what I was asking, but still well above what I paid for it.  I accepted, and when they came to pick it up, the son was so happy to have a guitar.  He was really excited to start playing, so I’m glad I sold it to someone who would appreciate it.  

I thought this was the end of the story but come a month later, the original guy emailed me and said one of his friends was going to drive out to my house so he could pick it up.  “Sorry,” I told him, “but I sold it to someone else.”

Guitar-guy immediately emailed me back, and he was pissed!  He told me he said he wanted it, and was going to pick it up, so why did I sell it to someone else?  I said it was almost two months since he first contacted me and I moved on and sold it to someone else.  Finally that got rid of him and I never heard from him again.  You meet some “interesting” people on Kijiji.  At least I didn’t tell him LeBrain had one too!

#723: A Tribute to James

GETTING MORE TALE #723: A Tribute to James

Anyone who reads these pages regularly knows what I’m talking about.  Good friends who also love music are crucial to an ever-growing CD collection.  When you have friends in different parts of the world, it’s even better.  Today we’re paying tribute to one such friend who has done so much for my music collection.  That man is Regina’s own James Kalyn.

Funny thing:  I’ve never met James.  I know James through mutual friend Aaron.  (Together, James and Aaron are The KMA.)  Aaron talked about this guy who loves Sloan and music in general, and figured we would get along.  Shit got serious when Sloan started releasing limited edition fanclub live albums and boxed sets.  James would pick up three copies each time:  One for him, one for Aaron and one for myself.  Thanks to James I’m a proud owner of things like the Twice Removed box set.

In addition to Sloan vinyl, James has also acquired for me a number of Record Store Day limited editions.  Sometimes I can’t, or just can’t be bothered, to go.  James has an “in” with his local record store guy, and often knows what they’ll be carrying and how many copies.  Last year he scored me Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes’ Live at Jones Beach.  I couldn’t find one locally, but his guy had it.  A few days later, I did too, packaged with care by James.

There are few things that James failed to find for me.  As a collector, I put a limited scope on what I’m hunting for.  If there is a release with exclusive music on a physical format by an artist I collect, then I want it.  In 2016, Alice Cooper released a very limited Record Store Day single called Live From the Astroturf.  This was a single from a special concert featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper group:  Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith.  Sitting in for the late Glen Buxton was Ryan Roxie from Cooper’s current band.  It was heartbreaking for me, but even James couldn’t get me a copy.  Prices on Discogs were insane.  I guess I would just have to do without it.

Unexpectedly, 2018 offered a surprise:  a full album release of Live From the Astroturf!  Not just two songs, but the full set!  I collect the music more than the releases, so I would be perfectly satisfied with this.  Guess what happened?

James came through!

It wasn’t cheap.  It was $80, but James tells me “there’s stuff inside” (a poster and a 16 page booklet).  Plus the record inside will be one of 12 random colours!  “Collect all 12,” says the ad on the front.  Let’s do the math on that.

12 x $80 = …holy shit.  $960 bones!  And that’s if the random inserted vinyl colours don’t happen to be the same.  You’d blow through a thousand bucks and more trying to collect all 12!  But somebody out there has done it, I’m sure.

I haven’t opened mine yet.  I’m just going to stare at it a while.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll open it.

Thanks James.  You are truly a man among men!

Recorded October 6 2015 at Good Records, Dallas

Tracklist:

  1. Caught in a Dream
  2. Be My Lover
  3. I’m Eighteen
  4. Is It My Body
  5. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  6. Under My Wheels
  7. School’s Out
  8. Elected

2018 Good Records

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Bronx Boy (2018 EP)

 

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 46: Ace Frehley solo

We’re doing this one out of order because it’s a brand new release.

ACE FREHLEY – Bronx Boy (2018 EOne EP)

Original  guitarist Ace Frehley has been more active in the studio than his former band of late.  In the last decade we’ve had some great Ace originals (Anomaly and Space Invader) and a much better than expected covers album (Origins Vol. 1).  This week, Ace finally announced the title of his next solo album:  Spaceman, due October 19.  Kiss hasn’t been interested in recording an album since 2012’s Monster.  At least Gene Simmons will be making a cameo on Spaceman.

Spaceman is preceded by the limited, numbered Bronx Boy EP.  This four track record spins one new song and three you may have missed.  “Bronx Boy” will be on the new album.  It’s a shorty (under 3:00) but it packs the signature Ace punch.  Killer riff, blazing solo, great chorus, and plenty of balls!  Lyrically it’s Ace revisiting his street punk persona from his youth.  “You better look out!”

Also on the A side, you will find an unreleased remix of “Reckless” from Space Invader.  It’s a little longer and more dynamic.  “Reckless” is a brilliant tune, probably better than “Bronx Boy” itself when it comes down to brass tacks.  It’s a little more unique, in that Ace way.  It is exclusive to this EP.

On the B-side are two of the best covers from Origins Vol. 1.  Cream’s “White Room” features drummer Scott Coogan helping out on backing vocals (singing that high part).  Really though, it is a showcase for the Ace’s incredible guitar work.  Thick, thick harmonies and plenty of wah-wah will make you drool in envy.  The old Kiss classic “Cold Gin” has Mike McCready from Pearl Jam on guest guitar.  Seems like just about everybody in Seattle was a Kiss fan at some point.*  Just as important though is having a studio version of “Cold Gin” with Ace singing — the guy who wrote it!

In the grand scheme of things, do you need to buy this?  To the practical fan, no.  The album will be out in October and most practical fans don’t care so much about rare versions or physical media.  What about the fans who do care about those things?  Do they need Bronx Boy?  The answer is fuck, yes!  Limited and numbered on grey marble vinyl, with an exclusive remix — these things matter.  It means the price will go up in the coming months.  Plus, you’ll just enjoy spinning it.  And there’s a free download card if you can’t spin the vinyl!

4/5 stars

For another great Bronx Boy review, check out 2loud2oldmusic!

* Nirvana covered “Do You Love Me”.  Alice In Chains have performed in Kiss makeup.  The Melvins had three Kiss-inspired solo albums.  Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) names Ace Frehley as one of his earliest inspirations to play guitar.

 

 

COMPLETE FREHLEY REVIEWS

ACE FREHLEY – 12 Picks (1997 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – ACE FREHLEY (KISS solo album) (1978 Casblanca)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2009 version)
ACE FREHLEY – Anomaly (2017 deluxe edition)
ACE FREHLEY – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996 Attic)
ACE FREHLEY – Frehley’s Comet (1987 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Live + 1 (1988 Megaforce Worldwide)
ACE FREHLEY – Loaded Deck (1998 Megaforce Worldwide)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Milwaukee Live ’87 (radio broadcast CD)
ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 1 (2016 eOne)
FREHLEY’S COMET – Second Sighting (1988 Megaforce Worldwide, 1998 reissue)
ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader (2014 E One/Victor Japan)
ACE FREHLEY – Trouble Walkin’ (1989 Megaforce Worldwide)
Return of the Comet – Tribute to ACE FREHLEY (1997 Shock Records)
Spacewalk – A Salute to ACE FREHLEY (1996 DeRock/Triage)

 

REVIEW: KISS – Greatest Live Hits (2015)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20151212 (2)KISS – Greatest Live Hits (2015 Concert Live limited edition)

“What’s this?”, you ask with scorn.  “Just another Kiss hits/live thing, is it?”

Yes and no.

Concert Live is a great company that records and releases “instant live” albums from major artists like Kiss and Alice Cooper among many.  You can buy them immediately after the concert, or online as I have.  Kiss have a lot of Concert Live releases.  I have three, all from the Sonic Boom tour:  Montreal, Saskatoon, and Atlanta.  They are live, not overdubbed, raw and real.  And expensive!  So when Concert Live announced they were releasing a Greatest Live Hits CD from these concerts, I clicked the “add to cart” button immediately.  The original order claimed there were only 200 copies available, but you can now get it from Concert Live as a part of a multi-album box set.

This 2 disc collection has all the classic hits (nothing more recent than ’83) from a variety shows from different nations.  There are three tracks of Kiss from the Download Festival, in 2008.  Paul’s voice is surprisingly strong, and the reason why is because they are from seven years ago.  There is no booklet with details, so only the location of the recordings is obvious from the packaging.  It is true that Eric Singer covers for Paul when his voice cracks or he cannot hit the note anymore.  Concert Live seemed to focus on the best versions they could find of these particular tracks, so you get a high ratio of good-to-bad Paul performances.

Below are the recording details, courtesy of rock journalist Mitch Lafon.  He suggests re-ordering the tunes to create an actual Kiss setlist.

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At this stage, with so many Kiss live packages on the market, there’s no point in discussing specifics.  The recordings sound as you have come to expect from Concert Live.  Warts and all, but with sonic care and clarity, these are true live albums.  When Gene has to suddenly sing in a lower key in “Rock and Roll all Night”, that’s in there.  This is the kind of thing that drives casual music fans up the wall.  I actually know people who can’t stand live music because of such realities.  I find it hard to understand because that is a real moment captured in time, and it’s just a moment.  The song does not derail and Gene soon returns to the original key.

Random observations:

1. When “Strutter” begins, the first second sounds uncannily like “Hide Your Heart” and it always takes me by surprise!

2. It’s nice to get “Rock and Roll all Night” out of the way early, but “I Love It Loud” as a closer?  That’s a weird way to end an album: on a sluggish, way overplayed note!

3. On “Let Me Go Rock and Roll”, Eric Singer tries to do his version of Peter Criss’s shtick, talking to the crowd in the cool-cat voice.  Unfortunately I find this to sound contrived and awkward for the new Cat Man, Eric.

4. Tommy Thayer haters can suck it.  He’s playing the style Paul and Gene want him to play, and he does his job perfectly.  This is the Kiss sound they have gone for, a classic Frehley guitar sound, and Tommy Thayer’s the man for that job so long as the Ace Man isn’t.

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of this disc.  A few more concert details would have been nice, and some of the edits between tracks aren’t so great, but this is a worthwhile buy for any fan of the present day Kiss!

 

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Criss – Cat #1 (1994)

CRISS CAT 1_0001CRISS – Cat #1 (1994 Tony Nicole Tony)

I am a Kiss fan, and I am also a Peter Criss fan. I like his first bunch of post-Kiss solo albums, Out of Control and Let Me Rock You just fine. They are not perfect but they have some good songs and are enjoyable, if dated, slices of the era.  I think most fans would grudgingly admit that Let Me Rock You isn’t bad.

Cat #1 (terrible title!) was supposed to be Peter’s comeback, after a decade of working with bands that went nowhere such as Balls Of Fire and The Keep (with Mark St. John). He later assembled the Criss band, which included Mike Stone (who would later end up in Queensryche). Cat #1 was also preceded by a mail order EP simply called Criss, with some exclusive songs.  That release was marred by an incompetent record company who took close to a year to mail out the orders.

Unfortunately, Peter did not need a record company to tank this release.  This CD tanked itself.  The problems with Cat #1 are three-fold:

1. No great songs.
2. Bland, uninspired performances and terrible singing by the backing band.
3. Bad production and plastic sounding drums.

The one good song is “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn”, the heartfelt ballad written for Peter’s mom who had passed away recently.  This song, though imperfect, justifies me having it my collection.  (Well, that and it’s Kiss related.)  Phil Naro co-wrote this one, and diehard fans know he’s a talented guy who has written some pretty good songs.  It’s just too bad that “Blue Moon Over Brooklyn” wasn’t fully realized by an ace band and producer.  Somebody to help Peter know when he’s singing flat, you know?

Naro wrote two tunes here, “Bad People Burn In Hell” is the other.  It’s not bad either.  It’s a fun rocker where Peter gets to sing in his Elvis voice for a bit. But that’s basically it. The rest of the songs sound like a hodge-podge of unrelated bits stuck together, and wouldn’t even pass as filler on the worst Kiss albums. You could probably Frankenstein bits and pieces from these songs to make one good song out of the bunch of them, but that’s all. For example, the chorus from “Strike” is decent, put that with the verses from “Bad Attitude”…you know what I mean?  Maybe you could make one good song out of them.   (“Bad Attitude” by the way seems to be about that homeless man who claimed to be Peter as documented on the Phil Donahue show. Remember that?)

CRISS CAT 1_0002The production though is terribly bland, and Peter’s drums sound like triggered samples.  They really sound terrible.  The drum sound alone robs Peter of the swing.  It’s distracting.  His singing is good in spots, and he actually wails pretty good on tracks like “Bad Attitude”.  “Bad Attitude” is vintage Kiss vocally, but shite musically.

Mike Stone sings lead on a couple tracks, and his voice is like…how do I describe this? He’s like Glenn Tipton meets an asthmatic Dave Mustaine or something. Not a good singer at all. When he takes the lead on tracks like “Show Me”, it sinks the song. Even when he backs Peter up on songs like “Bad Attitude”, it’s weak. A third voice is singing on “We Want You”, who I assume from the writing credits is Mike McLaughlin. His voice is even weaker, it’s like a raspy whisper.

Finally Peter recycled “Beth”, yet again.  It was great to finally have an unplugged acoustic version of the song, but he has really milked that one, hasn’t he?  It’s a good version, and it’s a slightly different mix from the one used on the earlier EP.

As marked on the cover art itself, Ace Frehley plays guitar on three songs: “Bad Attitude,” “Walk the Line,” and “Blue Moon over Brooklyn”. But you can’t really tell.   Let’s talk a moment about that cover art. Actually, let’s not: You can see it for yourself, so you decide what you think.  Challenge yourself to come up with one-word descriptions and post them in the comments.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Savatage – Poets and Madman (Limited edition)

A Savatage reunion gig has been announced for Wacken 2015!

SAVATAGE – Poets and Madman (2001 Steamhammer limited edition)

It is hard to believe that well over a decade have gone by since this, the final Sava-disc. Whether we’ll ever see another is unlikely, but this is a heck of a great album to go out on. Since the death of Criss Oliva, Savatage had become a much more operatic beast, culminating in the formation of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Here, there are many changes afoot. Guitarist Al Pitrelli departed for Megadeth, although some of his work is herein. Co-lead vocalist Zach Stevens is also gone, having formed the excellent Circle II Circle. This leaves The Mountain King himself, Jon Oliva, to handle all lead vocals for the first time since 1991’s Streets: A Rock Opera. (A new co-lead vocalist named Damond Jineva was hired for the tour.)

IMG_20140723_174816This is another dramatic rock opera, and as soon as the needle hits wax (or in this case, the laser hits 1’s and 0’s) you hear Oliva’s piano flourishes dominate the opening song, “Stay With Me Awhile”. Much like “Streets”, this song is simply an intro to the story which is about to unfold. This time, Oliva and producer Paul O’Neill weave a tale about an abandoned insane asylum and the ghosts within its walls. On a whole it is a much less satisfying concept than some previous Sava-operas, but it backs up the music just fine. And to be honest, that’s why we’re here — the music.

From heavy rockers like “There In The Silence” (backed by a fat synth riff) to slow dramatic ballads like “Back To A Reason”, this is a well-rounded Sava-disc. It is comparable to previous in quality and direction to rock operas such as The Wake of Magellan or Dead Winter Dead, just without Zach.

As with the aforementioned rock operas, there is always a centerpiece on the album. There had to be a counterpoint-vocal-laden masterwork to make your jaw drop in awe and hit that “reverse” button to hear it all again. This time it is a 10 minute epic called “Morphine Child”. With Zach gone, Oliva sings with multiple backing vocalists but the song is no weaker for it.  I’ll confess that even though I usually listen to albums from front to back, I usually play “Morphine Child” three times in a row.  It’s that incredible.

Other standouts include the single “Commissar” which is loaded with guitar flash, keyboards and riffage.  It also features Trans-Siberian-style backing vocals.  “I Seek Power” sounds like classic Savatage circa Gutter Ballet.  “Awaken” is another number that brings to mind that mid-period Savatage sound.  If some fans thought they had strayed way too far into rock opera, then songs like “Awaken” will appeal to their tastes.  I still like hearing Jon screaming a chorus.

I was underwhelmed a bit by the acoustic “Rumor”, but the song does take off fully electric after a few minutes.   Then there’s “Surrender” which feels like an outtake from Streets, but I didn’t find it as memorable.  So there are a couple duds, who cares?

This deluxe version comes with a sticker, a nice box, a bonus music video (1994’s “Handful of Rain” for some reason) and a bonus track (a live version of “Jesus Saves” with Zach singing…for some reason). There was also a poster, and little surprise that relates to the story that fell out of the booklet, but I won’t spoil it. Just a little extra to make the whole thing seem more real.

Poets and Madmen is an excellent album, and it fares well against the other rock operas that Savatage has done. Streets will always be the pinnacle, but Poets and Madmen can hold its own against The Wake of Magellan, and it easily out-does Dead Winter Dead.

4.5/5 stars

Also available was a CD single for “Commissar”.  The single contained two album tracks, as well as an exclusive instrumental called “Voyage”.  This acoustic piece was written and recorded by Al Pitrelli before his departure and it has not been reissued anywhere else.

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

NEW RELEASE: Part 3

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20140607_062755

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, I’m happy.

For the music:  5/5 stars

For the box overall:  4/5 stars

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

NEW RELEASE: Part 2

 

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

DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be concluded.

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

NEW RELEASE: Part 1

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

Giving you the kind of detailed review that you have come to expect from me is no mean feat when it comes to a massive set like this. This 5 disc (plus 7″ single) Made In Japan reissue was an epic undertaking to absorb. Just as much as reviewing Machine Head‘s 5 disc deluxe edition last year was a huge task, Made In Japan was its equal!

Because of this, I’ve decided to split the review into three: Today we’ll look at the first two CDs. Then the third and fourth CDs, the DVD, the 45, and everything else.  Enjoy this first installment.

Disc 1:  Osaka, August 15 1972.  “Good morning!” jokes Ian Gillan as the band arrive on stage.  A few moments of quiet as the band plug in and strum, and then…the opening drum beat to “Highway Star”.  The first of three shows has begun!

Gillan says he was suffering from bronchitis on this first night, and you can indeed hear a bit of extra rasp in the man’s voice.  Gillan says he hates these performances, but I think the extra rasp only adds to the furious “Highway Star”.  Both Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord are on fire, ripping through their parts with great aggression.  Blackmore makes a few mistakes during the solo, but who cares?  Right from this opening salvo, you can hear the nuances and details of this new remix.  Reading the liner notes, you realize that the biggest difficulty in remixing this album was that everything was bleeding through Gillan’s vocal mike.  I’ll be damned if it tarnishes the listening experience though.

Before you can catch a breath, “Highway Star” has ended and they’re into “Smoke on the Water”, which had yet to become the classic concert favourite that it is today.  Ritchie plays around a bit on the intro, as the crowd claps along.  Clearly, they know the song.  “Smoke” lacks the furious energy of “Highway Star”, but it is still an incredible performance.  Once again, Ian Gillan’s raw voice only adds to the experience (but it’s not even that bad).  “Smoke” is the only track from this show that was used on the final album Made In Japan.

Ian introduces “Child in Time” as a “sad story”, but nobody was mourning that night in Osaka.  One thing I enjoy about “Child in Time” is that it is never played the same twice.  Jon in particular changes up his opening melodies all the time, and this version is quite different from the one they debuted a mere three years prior at the Albert Hall.  Somehow, bronchitis and all, Gillan still manages to scream his way through this monster.  At times, Ritchie’s solo sounds like it’s drifting into “Lazy”.

IMG_20140607_062642According to Ian’s intro, “The Mule” is a song about Lucifer.  This track from Fireball is essentially an excuse for Ian Paice to do a five minute drum solo.  Nothing wrong with that; it’s Ian Paice after all.  Gillan’s voice is a bit shaky at times, but I think that only adds to it.  I enjoy that Allmusic refers to “The Mule” as an instrumental, proving once and for all that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s all long-bombers from there.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is extended with Ian and Ritchie’s usual interplay, and a gonzo guitar solo.  “Lazy” is never short, nor is “Space Truckin'” which exceeds 20 minutes (complete with flubbed lyrics).  They are all stellar.  I found the intro to “Lazy” quite enjoyable, because after a brief noisy organ bit, Jon teases the crowd by stopping.  It becomes dead silent  for long enough that you’ll wonder if the CD stopped.  That’s something you never hear on a live album these days; a silent crowd.  Before “Strange Kind of Woman”, Ian begs the audience for a few moments to tune up.  It pays off in the end, he says!  All this talk is preserved on the box set version of Made In Japan.

I found the remix on this disc to be great.  I love that I can hear every conga on “Space Truckin'”.  I haven’t played my old 3 CD remixed Live In Japan (1993) set in a few years, so I haven’t compared the two mixes, but this is so good, I don’t really have a reason to play Live In Japan anymore.

IMG_20140607_062555Disc 2:  Osaka, August 16 1972.  Once again, “Highway Star” gets the proceedings off to a bang.  Gillan’s voice is still raspy, but a new day has given it strength.  The band sound more confident, as if they lacked any in the first place.  It is, after all, the second Osaka show that made up the bulk of the original Made In Japan album.  Once again, the remix is a joy.  I believe in hanging on to an original mix of an album, that’s just the way I am.  The original Made In Japan might not sound “better”, but it is an historical document of the circumstances of its making.  It has its own sonic charm, and I think both can co-exist happily in my collection.  (The ’93 mix, I’m afraid, will be retired in favour of this new 2014 mix.  Interesting how they remix this album every 21 years.)

Once again, “Highway Star” is followed by “Smoke on the Water”.   Ritchie plays with the opening riff, but in a completely different way from the first concert.  Later on, there’s a couple bum notes, and perhaps that’s the reason they used the version from the day before on the original album.  The solo is a little loose too.

“Child in Time” is the adventure that it always is, and this version is familiar because it’s the one from the original Made in Japan.  The song is truly a rollercoaster; that word applies here as well as any other.  There are times it feels like it’s coming off the rails, but Glover and Paice keep it locked.  Uncle Meat tells me that the original Made in Japan is his favourite live album “of all time.”  (Perhaps it is also one of Dream Theater’s, since they did a song-for-song cover of the album.)  Meat also says this is the “greatest guitar solo of all time,” right here on “Child in Time”.

“The Mule” was not used on the album; instead the version from the next night (in Tokyo) was selected.  Same with “Lazy”.  “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Space Truckin'” from this concert were used on Made in Japan.  I couldn’t tell you why “The Mule” wasn’t used, it sounds great to me.

I very much enjoyed Ian’s “Strange Kind of Woman” intro.  After explaining the song’s inspirations Ian says, “Why I’m talking such a lot is ’cause, like, we gotta tune up again…’Cause there’s a big time change from England you see, and the guitars are still not recovered from it.”  After they are all tuned, Ian drops his famous line, “I have to announce that next week, we’re turning professional.”  Through to his ungodly ending scream, “Strange Kind of Woman” is a corker.

Lord’s organ intro to “Lazy” is different from the first night, but just as interesting.  “Space Truckin'” is the familiar version we know and love from the original Made In Japan, and it’s still astounding how this band could jam!  Who cares that Gillan’s “Yeah, yeah yeah yeah!” is flat.  That’s part of the action!

We’ll stop here for now, and pick up the rest tomorrow.  Already, it’s apparent why a comprehensive set like this one was necessary.  It’s because even if the setlist is the same, Deep Purple never play the exact same concert twice.  Some of Ian’s song intros are by rote, but that’s where the similarities end.  Deep Purple weren’t content to crank out the same jams and solos night after night, and that’s why a box set like Made In Japan is an important document of this band in their prime.

To be continued.

GALLERY: Deep Purple – Made In Japan Super Deluxe unboxing

Thanks to Amazon, this arrived today.  Only a week late, but for free shipping I won’t complain too much.  When a parcel comes packaged inside not one but two boxes, you know it’s big.  And this sucker is heavy.  5 discs, with two huge books inside.  I can’t wait to dig in.