live in paris

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Made in Europe has since been superseded by better releases.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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Part 271: The Stamp

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 271:  The Stamp

The year:  1997.

We had just started repairing scratched CDs via a GTA-based third party contractor.  They were able to remove a miniscule layer of plastic from the playing surface, rendering a smooth surface that would not deflect your CD player’s laser.  The result was a playable, sellable CD, with a clouded appearance on the CD itself.  The cloudy look was usually very minor, although it was sometimes enough to turn a customer off of buying the CD.

After repairing the scratched discs, they would be put in brand new CD cases and then on the shelves to sell.  But we also had to mark each disc as “repaired” somehow, so that if any were returned as defective, we would know they had been fixed.  We could then get the fee for fixing the disc credited back to us, or the contractor could try to fix it again and buff it deeper.  Either way, we needed to mark them, somehow.

The best way to fix a surface scratched CD

We agreed that the least problematic way was to stamp the inner (usually blank and hidden) sleeve of the CD, the part underneath the plastic tray.  We stamped it with our store logo.  For most discs at the time, nobody would ever notice the stamp unless they pulled the case apart.  The only problems were with discs that had inner picture sleeves under clear trays.  We were forced to put the stamp directly on the artwork in those cases, a process that killed me every time.  I hated defacing a CD.  It’s not something I would ever do to my own property.

IMG_00001317Around this time, AC/DC just released the luxurious Bonfire box set, a monolith of rock containing many separate additional treats:  A pick, a bottle opener/keychain, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo.  This was high on my priority list, so I put my name in our store’s computer reservation system for the first used copy that showed up.

It was only a few weeks before a used copy did show up.  One of the higher-ups decided to work in my store that day.  A man came to the counter with some CDs to sell, and the Bonfire box set.  It was mint, complete, everything intact.  However the higher-up didn’t consider the set as “mint” as I did; she determined that one of the CDs from the Let There Be Rock set was scratched.  It had a tiny nearly invisible mark on it not even the size of a hair, but not a scratch.  She dutifully stamped the inner tray and put the CD in the pile to be sent out and fixed.

I was disappointed that the tray had been defaced, but there was no way I was letting that disc get sent out and fixed.  It would look worse, with the cloudy finish.  I preferred the un-fixed finish with that tiny hairline mark that I could barely see.  I can see the scratch even less today with my aged eyesight!

I bought the set but that stamp is still there.  I covered it up with a white sticker, and was grateful that the box set didn’t have clear CD trays with artwork underneath.

That stamp still bugs me.  I still see it there, and it still bugs me!  How do you feel about things like this?  Defects in the physical musical product that you love?  I know I can’t be alone.

Postscript:  Years later some damn rat kid stole the stamper.  On my watch!!

REVIEW: AC/DC – Bonfire (5 CD box set with extras)

AC/DC – Bonfire (1997 EastWest)

Bonfire is less of an AC/DC box set, but more of a tribute to Bon Scott.  LeBrain readers know that Bon was the late great second AC/DC lead singer.  (They did one single, “Can I Get Close to You” / “Rocking in the Parlor” with original singer Dave Evans.)   In every other meaningful way, Bon Scott is the first and best lead singer. That’s not a slight against Brian Johnson because he’s proven himself and then some.  I don’t always listen to AC/DC, but when I do, I prefer Bon Scott.

Featuring four special albums spread over five CDs, Bonfire is largely live. Early versions of this box, which I am lucky enough to own, were loaded to the gills with extras. More on that later, but I highly recommend the original box set rather than the reissue that comes in a digipack book.  Still, the music is what most people will buy this for, and most of it is previously unreleased.

BONFIRE_0006Part 1 – Live at Atlantic Studios. This was an old live set once released as a promotional LP to radio stations. As much as possible was remastered from the original tapes, which were partially erased. The rest of the music was taken from an actual LP and spliced. Sounds as great as can be expected, and I love the sound of AC/DC playing away in a small venue. This disc is more proof that AC/DC could gel like no other.  This is really an outstanding disc.

BONFIRE_0008Part 2 – Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Spread out over 2 CDs, this is the complete concert. It is heavy, it is fast, and it is awesome. To hear the old band jam away on a 10 minute + version of “Rocker” is simply amazing.  It’s this kind of thing we’ll never hear again.  It’s a good thing they recorded it, and the audio on these discs is perfect.  The concert was recorded in France mere months before Bon’s death.  I would consider this set to be the definitive live AC/DC album.

BONFIRE_0010Part 3 – Volts. This was the disc I was most interested in, and it’s a little strange. It’s partly rare and demo material, with a couple album hits (“Ride On” and “It’s A Long Way”) sprinkled in. Obviously AC/DC cleared out their vaults of rare stuff with the Backtracks box last year, but this is a fun taster. I’m not sure how they arrived at this track listing, considering how much material they had to pick from, and the disc’s running time is fairly short. The end of the disc has hidden stuff, interviews with Bon himself.

As for the rarities, five are early AC/DC demos, some with alternate titles and lyrics.  Two are more tracks are live rarities. Among the demos, there are some songs here that I like better than the released versions — “Back Seat Confidential” is superior to “Beating Around ths Bush” to my ears.

BONFIRE_0012Part 4 – Back In Black. Including this disc on Bonfire, I have bought Back In Black on CD five times. (Original CD issue, first remaster, Bonfire, second remaster, dual disc.) I’m sure if you’re reading this, you own Back In Black too.  I believe this to be the same music tracks as the first Back In Black CD remaster. It comes in a little digipack, which is unique to this set, although similar to later releases. I’m not going to review Back In Black here. It’s a great album, albeit I’m bored to death with hearing most of these songs over and over today. I don’t think it’s as good as the early Bon stuff, but it was a remarkable comeback. It was included here as a tribute to Bon, as a final coda for this box set. I guess.  But seriously, what AC/DC fan was buying Bonfire that didn’t already have Back in Black?  This is completely redundant.  I think the set would have been better off if they didn’t include it.  Cheaper at least.

And, the box.  The first release of Bonfire was loaded with great fun extras. There’s a long and informative book full of photos. There’s a poster. A bottle opener/keychain thingy.  On used copies, this is almost always missing.  Most people kept the good stuff, and sold the box set assuming the kid at the CD store wouldn’t notice.  There was also a sticker, a rub-on tattoo, and a guitar pick. Be careful when buying this used and make sure all this stuff is present, particularly the ever-popular pick. If it’s not, ask the clerk for a discount.

4.5/5 stars