machine head

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.

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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

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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.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Shades 1968-1998 (box set)

DEEP PURPLE – Shades 1968-1998 (Rhino 1999 box set)

I was really excited about this 1999 box set when it came out, but what it came down to was this: I paid “x” amount of dollars for just two songs that I didn’t have on other recent Deep Purple CDs. One song, “Slow Down Sister”  by Deep Purple Mk 5 was only available here. It’s since been reissued on the Slaves and Masters deluxe edition.  The other is a very rare and very great 1971 live version of “No No No” from a compilation called Ritchie Blackmore/Rock Profile Vol. 1. So there’s your bait.

Unfortunately, the booklet and discography is loaded with errors. This was disappointing. The packaging is nice, with that sheet metal looking embossed cover. It opens kind of awkwardly though, making it hard to handle. And man, there are so many Deep Purple box sets out there now! I have Listen, Learn, Read On which is six CDs dedicated entirely to just 1968-1976. Obviously you can’t squeeze Deep Purple’s career onto just four discs. This set covers 1968-1998, which is a huge chunk.  It’s almost the entire Jon Lord tenure.  It skimps in some places and confounds me in others. Usually, Rhino do such a great job, but I felt this one didn’t live up to their other products.

SHADES_0003Disc one covers 1968 to 1971 (Shades Of to Fireball). The tracks listed here as demos or rarities are from the Deep Purple remastered CDs, all except for the aforementioned “No No No” which really is awesome. If you have the great Singles A’s & B’s and the Deep Purple remasters, you have all this stuff. Except maybe the edit version of “”River Deep, Mountain High”, I’m not certain about that one. You get a good smattering of favourites on here, like “Kentucky Woman”, “Speed King”, “Child In Time” and so on, but it’s not really sequenced all that well. The slow-ish Deep Purple Mk I material fits awkwardly with the Mk II.  Other songs of note include non-album singles and B-sides such as “Hallelujah” (first recording with Ian Gillan) and “The Bird Has Flown”.  The version of “Speed King” included is the full UK cut, with the crazy noise intro.

Disc two is 1971 to 1972: more Fireball, and Machine Head. All these tracks can be found on Deep Purple remasters. There  are some excellent tracks here, such as the rare “Painted Horse” and “Freedom”. “Painted Horse”, a personal favourite, has been available for decades on an album called Power House. I guess Blackmore didn’t like them at the time, so they languished until the band broke up before the record label released them. “I’m Alone” was rare for a long time, and “Slow Train” was completely undiscovered until the Fireball remaster. I like that “Anyone’s Daughter” is on here, a very underrated song.  Of course you will hear all the big hits on this disc: The studio versions of “Smoke on the Water”, “Fireball”, Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'”. This will be many people’s favourite disc.

The third CD continues with Mk II.  It starts off with the Made In Japan live version of “Smoke” which is fine, but now you’ve heard it twice.  Soon, it’s  “Woman From To-kay-yo”, “Mary Long”, and the scathing “Smooth Dancer”.  Then Gillan and Glover are out, and in comes Coverdale and Hughes  One rarity on this disc is the instrumental “Coronarias Redig”, which dates from the Burn period. It also includes some of Mk III’s most impressive work, including two of the best tunes from Come Taste The Band. Conspicuous by their absence is the epic “You Keep On Moving”, and Blackmore-era fave “Gypsy”. You will, however get “Burn”, and “Stormbringer” from Stormbringer itself.

SHADES_0005The fourth CD is the one that ticks me off the most. This covers the reunion era, from 1984 to the then-most recent album Abandon in 1998. The hits are here, “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking’ On Your Back Door”, as well as some singles from the Joe Lynn Turner era. What ticks me off here is the song selection. “Fire In The Basement”? What? That song kind of sucks, why not “The Cut Runs Deep”? Only one song from The Battle Rages On is included, only one from the excellent Purpendicular, and only one from the recent Abandon? And not even the best songs? That makes no sense.

To short-change the later era of Deep Purple only serves to short-change the listener.  The band were revitalized and rejuventated by Steve Morse, and made some really good, well received music. I saw them live with Morse in 1996.

From The House of Blue Light era, a single edit of “Bad Attitude” is included, which is probably rare.  What you won’t get is the full, 10 minute + version of the instrumental “Son Of Aleric”. This is one of the best lesser known tunes from the reunion era. Instead, you get the truncated 7″ single version. That makes the 10 minute version frustratingly hard to get. It was originally released on a 12″ single, which you may be able to find. You might have better luck finding it on the European version of Knocking at Your Back Door: The Best of Deep Purple in the 80’s. It was included there, replacing “Child In Time” from the US version. I managed to get it thanks to my mom & dad who bought it for me at an HMV store in Edinburgh (along with Restless Heart by Whitesnake).

SHADES_0004Mick Wall’s liner notes offer the Morse years a mere mention, and end on a nostalgia note of “bring back Blackmore.”  Come on. Let’s focus on the present of a band that shows no signs of slowing down, shall we? But this box set short changes the present, and by picking it up you won’t hear such awesome later songs as “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” or “Fingers to the Bone”.

I know many reviews of this set are glowing, and each reviewer has their own reasons for doing so. I can’t. This band is too important, too vital, and dammit, still alive! This box set simply doesn’t do them justice. I was ticked off when I bought it and realized I owned almost all the “rare and unreleased” material. Collectors won’t find much here worth the coin spent, and rock fans who just want a great box set of Deep Purple won’t get to hear enough Morse.

Somebody dropped the ball on this one! 2/5 stars.

SHADES_0002

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Battle Rages On… (1993)

TBRO FRONT

DEEP PURPLE – The Battle Rages On… (1993 BMG)

After the ill-fated (but personally enjoyed) Slaves and Masters, Deep Purple realized the only way forward was with Mk II screamer Ian Gillan back at the mike. With a full album’s worth of material already written with former singer Joe Lynn Turner, all Gillan had to do was turn up and re-write the melody and lyrics. Much to Blackmore’s chagrin! Blackmore had no qualms telling Gillan that he preferred the original lyric and melody to “Time To Kill”.

Much heavier than Slaves and Masters, The Battles Rages On is much more in line with albums such as Fireball, Perfect Strangers and Machine Head. Lord’s Hammond organ is much more in the forefront. However, a vintage sound does not a great album make. The Battle Rages On has 10 tracks, 5 of which are good and 5 of which are filler. This was disappointing for me personally, but some (M.E.A.T. Magazine and Martin Popoff included) have rated this album very high.  Joe Lynn Turner derisively calls this album The Cattle Grazes On.

The five tunes I like: “The Battle Rages On”, “Anya”, “Time To Kill”, “Ramshackle Man”, “Solitaire”.

The title track is absolutely monstrous. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, “Bloody well right!” Big beefy riff, angry lyrics!

“Annihilation, kill ’em all. Capitulation, watch the mighty fall. The road to glory is lined in red, and though the reason now is gone…The Battle Rages On!”  (Always wondered if this was about Gillan and Blackmore.)

The song is a Purple epic, along the lines of “Perfect Strangers” or “Knockin’ At Your Back Door”. Just an awesome track.  I understand that in 2013 they have actually returned it to the set.

“Anya” is a keyboard driven rocker, Jon Lord style, lots of drama. “Time To Kill” is sort of a heavy pop rocker with Gillan trying to get philosophical with the lyrics, which Blackmore hated. “Ramshackle Man” is blues rock, pure and simple as Purple have specialized in. “Solitaire” is mournful, sad, kind of unlike anything Purple had really done before.  Gillan’s droning melody seals the deal.

The rest of the songs just do nothing for me. Some, like “One Man’s Meat” have decent riffs and parts, but weak melodies and lyrics.  As songs, they don’t add up to a satisfying listen.  It is a shame, given the strength of the good songs on the album.

Blackmore left in the middle of the tour.  Joe Satriani filled in, and there was talk that he wouldn’t mind joining Purple full time.  His time proved to be temporary, and Steve Morse has been in the band almost 20 years now. When Joe Satriani was in the band, they did an awesome version of “Ramshackle Man”, which I have on a video bootleg from the European tour.  There was an official live album with Blackmore from the tour, called Come Hell Or High Water.  As well, you could buy official bootlegs with both Morse and Blackmore in a box set called Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  And let’s not forget the Come Hell Or High Water video, with Blackmore throwing that water bottle in Gillan’s general direction…

Check out Satriani’s outro solo starting at about 7:07…smokin’!

To me, Purple’s true comeback was 1996’s Purpendicular. Having said that, the five good songs on The Battle Rages On are worth the purchase at a reasonable price. And hey, maybe Popoff was right, and I’m just not getting it. You decide.

3/5 stars

And check out these cool supplementary releases, all of which deserve their own individual reviews.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, vinyl, In Concert ’72 vinyl)

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Live at Inglewood 1968Deep Purple (1969), Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl), Perks and Tit (Live in San Diego 1974), Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition), Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition), Power House (1977), The Battle Rages On (1993), Shades 1968-1998, Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD), Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD), Rapture of the Deep (2 CD Special Edition), “All the Time in the World” (2013 CD single), NOW What?! (2013) Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996), ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions.

DEEP PURPLE – Machine Head (EMI 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, vinyl, In Concert ’72 vinyl)

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For the record, Machine Head is not the perfect Deep Purple album.  I find both In Rock and Fireball to be superior.  Machine Head is, however, the best known Deep Purple album, and I guess that’s why it’s gotten such a grand reissue while the other two have to be content with simple single-disc reissues from the 1990’s.

For the 40th anniversary, there have been a number of reissues made available.  First, there is the lovely 180 gram vinyl reissue, which includes a lyric sheet and a bonus 7″ of the first single, “Never Before” / “When A Blind Man Cries”.  Then, Peter Mew remixed the 1980 release In Concert ’72 at Abbey Road, which was re-released on purple vinyl.  This too came with a bonus 7″ single (also purple), “Lucille” and an unreleased rehearsal of “Maybe I’m A Leo”.

Finally, the crown jewel release is the five disc 40th Anniversary box set.  This includes all the stuff you got with the previous 1997 25th Anniversary edition, and more.  Packed inside is a lush 64 page hardbound booklet (including Roger Glover’s 1997 liner notes).  As an added surprise, even the CDs are printed in purple plastic.  I hope this is the last time I ever need to buy Machine Head!

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Disc One:  the 2012 remaster

Hey, I found the 1997 remaster just fine to my ears.  Is this one better?  Marginally, yes.  I imagine this sounds closer to the way it originally sounded if you bought a brand-new vinyl copy back in 1972.

Machine Head is a mere seven tracks, but almost all are winners.  The album kicks off with the adrenalized “Highway Star” (written and often performed during the Fireball tour), which is one of my personal favourites.  I still marvel today at Jon and Ritchie’s unison solos, like something out of a rock n’ roll speed race.  Gillan screams that nobody’s gonna take his car, and you believe him.  “Highway Star” is Deep Purple the way I often think of them:  fast, intricate, with banshee screams.

“Maybe I’m A Leo” takes the pace to a groove, with Ian Paice and Roger Glover holding it down.  This track is quite unlike anything from the previous two Deep Purple albums (except maybe “No No No”), featuring a more relaxed, comfortable band.   It is radio-ready hit material, and a concert staple.  But in case you too were getting comfortable, Ian Paice’s pounding intro to “Pictures Of Home” will wake you up.  This is clearly the most “heavy metal” of all the new songs, and that drum intro is reminiscent of Ian’s work on “Fireball”.  Gillan’s lyrics describe the “eagles and snow” of the Swiss scenery in which they recorded the album.

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In case you didn’t know, Machine Head was recorded at a hotel in Switzerland, by the Rolling Stones Mobile and Martin Birch.  The band occupied several suites, and managed to extract an incredible sonic quality from them.  According to the liner notes, it was simply too much work for the band members to walk through the various suites (needing to go outside onto balconies to do so, due to blocked doorways) down to the mobile to hear playback.  Instead, the band simply plowed through without hearing many of the playbacks, and the result is a spontaneous sounding album.

The first single “Never Before” is next, closing side one.  This is the one predicted to be the hit, only it wasn’t.  It’s not particularly a standout Purple track.  It’s short, simple and sweet but not nearly as powerful or memorable as the other six album tracks.SAM_2369

Side two opened with a track thought to be a mere throwaway, “Smoke on the Water”.  Completed after the infamous Frank Zappa gig at the local casino which resulted in the place burning down, Glover coined the title.  The rest of the band initially balked:  “Sounds like a drug song.”  Of course we know the song and title were the perfect match for each other.  This riff is the riff, the mother of all guitar riffs, never to be topped nor equaled by anybody, including Deep Purple.

“Lazy” was the band’s jam song, a sprawling seven minute stretch, greatly expanded upon live.  It begins with Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore playing off each other, a fun blues, until Gillan enters.  Ritchie’s solos are sublime, not to understate the greatness of Jon’s.

Side two closed with “Space Truckin'”, another song which was greatly extended live.  This is not one of my personal favourite album songs, but one cannot deny its importance.  It is an extended concert staple, but in its studio version it isn’t even a full 5 minutes long.

The disc ends with a bonus track, the sublime B-side “When A Blind Man Cries”.  This is a slow, mournful blues featuring some of Ritchie’s incredible six-string feel.  You can see why it wasn’t included on the album proper, as it is unlike anything else on Machine Head.  Restored to the CD as a bonus track, it is now a highlight.  Ian Gillan deserves special praise for his emotive delivery.

SAM_2348Disc two:  the 1997 Roger Glover remix

For the 25th Anniversary CD, Roger went back into the studio with the master tapes and built an alternate, remixed Machine Head.  This was done to provide added value, since no outtakes from the album existed.  This remix is not radically different.  What it is, is a fresh take on an album that I (and perhaps you) have played hundreds of times.  Glover incorporated alternate solos and unheard takes into the songs, making them sound new again.  In fact, this is my “go-to” version of “Smoke on the Water”, with my preferred alternate guitar solo and Ian’s “Break a leg, Frank!” restored to the end.  I tire of the original; this version sounds fresh to me.

Like the 1997 issued version, this also includes Roger’s remix of the B-side “When A Blind Man Cries”.  Missing are the Quad mixes of “Lazy” and “Maybe I’m A Leo” from the ’97 version, but they are included on another disc in the 40th Anniversary version.

SAM_2349Disc three:  Quad SQ stereo mix

Like many hit albums in the 1970’s, Machine Head was mixed in quadraphonic and released on a special LP.  Of course, nobody really has a quad setup at home anymore.  The interesting thing about many quad mixes, Machine Head included, is that it featured a very different mix, including alternate solos.  This version of the album has been mixed down to stereo and included for the sake of completion and historical value.

There are two bonus tracks on this CD, single edits of “Lazy” from a Japanese 7″, and a US edit of “Smoke on the Water”.  The Japanese reduced “Lazy” from almost 7 minutes to a mere 2:30!  I believe both single edits have been made available on box sets and compilations before, but they are included here to make this version of Machine Head the most complete ever assembled.

SAM_2350Disc four:  In Concert ’72, the 2012 remix

This album was previously available on CD, in a compilation that included BBC sessions from 1970 and 1972.  This set collects and remixes the 1972 recordings, complete, and restored to the correct running order.  Previously, “Smoke on the Water” was pushed to second-last in light of its later success.

This is a stunning live album, with clear sonic quality, and a powerful band playing almost all of Machine Head a month before its release!  “Pictures Of Home” is excluded, a song Ritchie did not want to perform live, and it is replaced by “Strange Kind of Woman”.

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Highlights for me include the aforementioned “Strange Kind of Woman”, complete with Ian and Ritchie’s interplay.  Lazy is quite a tour-de-force, and “Space Truckin'” is over 20 minutes long.  It is the full jam that folks would later come to know and love, with ample guitar, keyboard and drum solos.

The band were known to close their sets with Little Richard’s “Lucille” at the time, and it closes this BBC session as well.  There are a few versions of “Lucille” out there, this one is tame by comparison with some of them.  That’s not to say it’s inferior, as Ritchie’s solos are incredible, almost out-of-control, and Ian’s screams as powerful as ever.

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As I mentioned, the vinyl version of In Concert ’72 includes a bonus 7″ single.  This single is the only place you can get the previously unreleased “Maybe I’m A Leo” rehearsal.  It fades in on what seems like a bum note on Jon’s keys, and is a bit more laid back than the one that they played during the proper set.  Ian noticeably takes it a bit easier on the vocal, presumably saving his voice.  Ritchie plays a different solo.

For me, speaking as a collector, having this one rare track on such a cool looking colour single made it worth re-buying In Concert ’72 on vinyl like this.

SAM_2351Disc five:  Original quad mix, 96/24 LPCM stereo version, bonus 5.1 mixes

For a lot of people, this DVD is the main reason to buy this box set.  For audiophiles, there’s a high resolution version of the stereo mix.  For completists and history buffs like myself, you can finally hear the quad mix like people heard it in the 1970’s.  The album has been converted to 4.1 surround so you can play it on your home theatre system.   I very much enjoyed hearing the album in this way, as opposed to the stereo version available on disc three.  The cool thing is, Peter Mew did the original 1972 quad mix, and here he helmed its transfer to 4.1!

The quad is interesting not only because it differs noticeably from the original, but also because of the instrument separation.  You obviously can’t judge a mix like this and compare it to a 5.1 mix of today.  It’s not as full, or powerful.  But it’s also an historical piece.

It’s cool to hear the quad version’s guitar solo on “Highway Star”, Blackmore making his guitar rev like an engine through the front speakers.  I like the way Gillan’s voice multiplies in the mix during “Maybe I’m A Leo”, and the alternate guitar solo on the same song is also cool.  Jon’s keys come from behind, a bit gimmicky by today’s standard, but probably astounding back then.  “Pictures of Home” features Ritchie’s guitar tracks split between different corners, allowing one to hear the separate parts clearly.  The separation of instruments on “Lazy” allow you to hear clearly each member’s playing as well.

As an added bonus, they remixed three songs in 5.1:  “When A Blind Man Cries”, “Maybe I’m A Leo”, and “Lazy”.  I’m sure a lot of people will complain that they didn’t do the entire album in 5.1.  Me, I’m sure they’ll save it for the 50th anniversary.  “Blind Man” is absolutely stunning; it shimmers.  New nuances can be detected.  “Maybe I’m a Leo” shakes the Earth with stomp, its clarity outstanding.  Blackmore’s solo sounds as if he is in the room.  Finally, “Lazy” is spacious and warm.  The different tones of Lord’s organ are incredible.

Conclusion:

I’m very satisfied with this box set.  As if all that music wasn’t enough, the booklet will keep you going for hours with its full-colour photos, liner notes and essays.  Yes, it can be a bit much, having four versions of one album in a single box set.  However, twice I listened to the whole thing in order, and didn’t find myself bored.  You know why?

It’s because Machine Head is a great album.

5/5 (highway) stars

R.I.P. Jon.

REVIEW: Miscellaneous Maiden – Maiden Heaven / “Space Truckin'”

Part 41 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!  This time, we’ll talk about the Kerrang! exclusive tribute album Maiden Heaven, and a cover tune that didn’t make it onto the B-sides for A Matter of Life and Death.

This will be the last Maiden review of this series before Christmas.  After the holiday we’ll reconvene so be sure to check back!  

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TRIBUTE TO IRON MAIDEN – Maiden Heaven (2008)

A little bit out of continuity, I wanted to get this release out of the way before we get into the next Maiden studio album.  Maiden Heaven was a Kerrang! exclusive tribute album, probably out of print.  I received this from my bud Dan Slessor who writes for the mag.  It was especially interesting to me for the exclusive Metallica and Dream Theater tracks!  Thus far, neither of these tracks have been reissued on releases by either band!

“Remember Tomorrow” by Metallica is friggin’ amazing.  It sounds exactly as you would expect, retaining the hard/soft vibe of the original, but with Kirk’s slippery soloing and Lars’ machine gun snare fills.  James nails the vocal with his trademark growl.  I would consider this among the very best covers that Metallica have recorded.  As James says, “Yeeeahh-yah!”  Unfortunately, there are no producer credits.

Dream Theater had the guts to cover “To Tame A Land”, one of my personal favourite tracks from Piece of Mind.  Dream Theater have been nothing but courageous their entire career, so it is only suitable that they would tackle one of the lesser-appreciated Maiden epics, and one of the rhythmically most challenging.  Mike Portnoy was still the drummer at this time.  It’s interesting to hear the song performed with keyboards since the original was so sparse and dry (reflecting the planet Dune itself).  But the keyboards lend a more exotic middle-eastern flavour.  It is also interesting hearing anyone but Steve Harris playing the bass line since it is such an integral part of the song.  Nothing against James Myung, the man is an absolute master of his instrument, but any time anybody covers Maiden, the bass always sticks out like a sore thumb because nobody sounds like Steve.  James LaBrie has no problem tackling the challenging vocal, high notes and all.

Other bands that appear on the disc include Coheed and Cambria (“The Trooper”), Avenged Sevenfold (“Flash of the Blade”…woo!), Trivium (“Iron Maiden”) and Machine Head (“Hallowed Be Thy Name”).  Most of the rest of the bands I have never heard of, but I also liked this soft acoustic n’ keys version of “Brave New World” by a band called Ghostline.   One that I definitely hated was “Run To The Hills” by some band called Sign.  It’s just…weird.  Unique, but just wrong.

Overall, an interesting listen but I really only need it for Metallica and Dream Theater.

3/5 stars

And second, from the brand new Deep Purple tribute album…

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IRON MAIDEN – “Space Truckin'” from the Deep Purple tribute album Re-Machined (2012)

Although this came out in 2012, the Maiden track “Space Truckin'” was recorded during the A Matter of Life and Death sessions for use as a B-side. Last time, I talked about the other cover they recorded, “Hocus Pocus” (by Focus!) which made it to the “Different World” single.  “Space Truckin'” went unreleased, until now.

Sonically, it is very raw, sounding live off the floor.  Some fans were underwhelmed by the track.  I think it’s obvious that Bruce is thrilled to be covering his idol, Ian Gillan.  He throws in lots of those little Gillan idiosyncrasies.  “Eee-hoo-hoo!”  While I think Maiden did a fine job on the track (especially considering they don’t have a keyboard player), this is not one of the great Maiden covers.  It’s no “I’ve Got The Fire” or “Massacre”.  It’s still a total treat to hear Maiden gleefully ripping through this classic.  If this was actually live in front of an audience, I think it would have been better received.

3/5 stars

More More New Arrivals!

I’m still absorbing all my new music from Record Store Excursion 2012, but here we go again!

Martin Popoff & Ioannis – Fade To Black

Look at the size of that thing!

 

Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension!

I don’t always go to Walmart.  But when I do, I buy music.

Blue Rodeo – 1987-1993

Listened to the whole thing once now, hope to review it.

 

Deep Purple – Machine Head 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

4 of the 5 discs are Machine Head.  That’s a lot of Machine Head for one sitting, so I’m listening to it in spurts.