martin birch

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The Dio Years (2007)

BLACK SABBATH – The Dio Years (2007 Rhino)

Compilations are always fun to quibble about. Fans like to complain about which songs are missing, and which songs they’d replace. I won’t spend too much time talking about that. Most reviewers have already pointed out that “Sign Of The Southern Cross” and “Time Machine” are missing from the 2007 Dio-era Black Sabbath compilation, The Dio Years.

It’s very important to remember two things. One, this album contained the first new Black Sabbath music released in nine years. Nine years! This is a band that used to release an album every year, up until the point that Ozzy Osbourne rejoined the band. Since then (and before the new album 13), the band released exactly two new songs (both with the Ozzman singing) and started to stagnate. Since The Dio Years represented the first new Sabbath material in almost a decade, it bears a listen.

The second point of note: this set was originally supposed to be a 2-CD boxed set. As such I’m sure a lot of songs were dropped along the way, Yes, “Southern Cross” is missing. However, this reviewer’s only real quibble is “Southern Cross”. I mean, hey — “Lonely is the Word” is on here!  I would have replaced “Lady Evil” with “Southern Cross” myself (I never liked “Lady Evil” much), but perhaps the fine folks at Rhino felt that one 7+ minute epic was enough for a single disc. I can understand that logic. Besides, I, like every Sabbath fan worth his or her own salt, already own Mob Rules.

SABBATH DIO YEARS_0006

This disc was freshly remastered. I should point out that this remastering session was not the same one that produced the series of Sabbath Castle remasters in the late 90’s, but one that occurred in 2006/7. As such the sound is even heavier (louder). I found that I had to roll down the bass a bit, as my normal settings made the bass just too heavy. This was also the first time that the material from Dehumanizer (15 years young!) had been remastered.  The running order is a little weird, though.  “Heaven and Hell” as the third song on an album?  A live “Children of the Sea” following “I”?  The flow is lacking in cohesion.

The liner notes are excellent, very detailed, with lots of facts that casual Sabbath fans didn’t know (like the fact that Craig Gruber from Rainbow, and Sabbath keyboard man Geoff Nicholls were brought in to play some bass when Geezer briefly left the band in 1980). There are a bunch of cool pictures and artwork as well, which fit in nicely with the Sabbath vibe.

Every Dio-era album get a look-in, even the controversial Live Evil via a great version of “Children Of The Sea”, almost as memorable as its studio counterpart. No rarities. What you get instead are the aforementioned three new songs. That’s one more than Ozzy gave you on the Sabbath Reunion CD, by the way!

When Dio was with Sabbath he tended to talk about his songs in terms of tempo. As such, you get one “fast one” (“Ear In The Wall”), one “slow one” (“Shadow Of The Wind”) and one mid-tempo song (the single “The Devil Cried”). I almost always prefer the fast Sabbath stuff, so obviously “Ear In The Wall” is my favourite. Sound-wise, these three new songs pick up where Dehumanizer left off, and foreshadow The Devil You Know.

Geezer, unfortunately, was not involved in the writing.  Iommi and Dio also did the production themselves. This might have something to do with the fact that I can’t hear nearly enough of Geezer’s trademark slinky bass lines–something I identify with the Sabbath sound more than any singer they’ve ever had. Iommi’s playing some good riffs and some scorching solos here, although I have found his guitar tone over the last decade to be too modern and distorted. I much prefer it when he gets a nice amp-driven sound rather than something so processed. However, bottom line is, these three new songs are good, albeit not essential, parts of the Sabbath catalogue.

Thankfully these three new songs were not the last gasp of Black Sabbath. Before his untimely death, Ronnie James Dio recorded The Devil You Know, under the name Heaven & Hell. And of course after that, the original Black Sabbath finally delivered the unforgettable 13.

As for The Dio Years?

4/5 stars

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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

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: Rainbow – Rising (2011 Deluxe Edition)

“There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard, See how he glides, Why he’s lighter than air”

RAINBOW RISING_0001RAINBOW – Rising (2011 deluxe edition)

I believe I’m well on record for being a connoisseur of deluxe editions.  I love to collect all the extra music, check out the liner notes, and feast on unreleased tracks.  The problem with Rainbow Rising is that no extra unreleased songs or demos survived. So, what you’ll get is three different and complete versions of Rainbow Rising, plus a tour rehearsal version of the quintessential Rainbow song, “Stargazer”. If you don’t want to hear the whole album three times in a row, plus a fourth version of “Stargazer”, then don’t buy this disc. Just stick with the regular CD.

The three versions of the album inside include a previously unreleased rough mix. This one is especially interesting because a lot of these song versions run slightly longer than the original album versions. Therefore, you will hear some valuable performance stuff that you haven’t heard before. The other two versions of the album include the “LA Mix” and “New York Mix”. The liner notes don’t go into detail here, but the original LP and CD versions of Rising had different mixes, and now they’re both here in one place. The differences are subtle, but those intimate with the album will recognize slightly different keyboard, vocal, and guitar parts. Previous to this, I had only owned the original CD edition, which was the “LA Mix”. Later CD editions had the “New York Mix” which I haven’t heard until now.RAINBOW RISING_0006

Lastly there is a tour rehearsal version of “Stargazer” from Pirate Sound, where Deep Purple rehearsed Come Taste the Band. It is surprisingly lo-fi considering where it was recorded. It sounds like somebody taped it on a hand held cassette deck. Not very listenable unfortunately, and kind of baffling why something this lo-fi would have been included at all. You can barely hear Dio at all at some points.  Still, there was room for it and why waste plastic, right?

This album itself is probably Rainbow’s best. That’s just my opinion. The renowned Martin Popoff ranked Down to Earth higher, but he did rank Rising highest of the Dio-era. I think five of these six songs are incredible. The only one I’m not especially fond of is “Do You Close Your Eyes”, which I just find doesn’t fit the overall darker direction of the album.  It would have sounded better on Blackmore’s Rainbow.  “Tarot Woman”, the album opener, is one of the most incredible songs Dio’s ever done. It’s absolutely a highlight of his storied career.  Cozy’s drum pounding is monumental throughout. “Light In The Black” is just furious jamming throughout. Incredible playing. And of course “Stargazer” is purely epic. The lyrics are cool and the keyboards just take the whole thing to another level. If I could only play one Rainbow song for the rest of my life, it would be “Stargazer”.

RAINBOW RISING_0004

The liner notes don’t the mention any sources or history about the three different mixes at all, and I don’t really know anything about it. There is, however, a great interview with keyboardist Tony Carey, supplemented by an old one with Cozy Powell. The packaging, including cover art from Ken Kelly (Kiss Destroyer), looks amazing in digipack form.

While normally Rainbow Rising would be a 5 star winner, hands down, I left this deluxe edition feeling slightly disappointed. It is what it is, but I think I would have preferred some different bonus material. Maybe some live stuff. If no outtakes or extra songs exist in the vaults, there’s only so much you can include I guess.

5/5 stars for Rising

4/5 stars for Deluxe Edition

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition)

DEEP PURPLE – Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition, 2010 originally 1975, EMI)

For those keeping score, now every single album from the original run of Deep Purple 1968-1976 has been remastered with some sort of deluxe edition. Come Taste The Band is the final album of this series. Deep Purple imploded shortly after and the band was no more until Perfect Strangers in 1983.

Personally I have always liked Come Taste The Band right from first listen. However, I never heard the album until 1996 so the idea of a great Purple album without Richie Blackmore was not foreign to me. With open ears you can really appreciate what Deep Purple were up to on this powerfully rocking album. It has a solid groove, a much harder sound than Stormbringer and some greasy unconventional guitar playing from Tommy Bolin. Everybody is playing amazingly, even the coked-out Glenn Hughes who just rips it to shreds on “Gettin’ Tighter”, my favourite track. Paicey is awesome on said breakneck track.

Really though there are no losers on Come Taste The Band. Every song is incredible right from the opener of the ferocious “Comin’ Home” to the philosophical “You Keep On Movin'”. Another personal favourite is the sliding groover “Dealer”, a tale of warning from David Coverdale to Glenn Hughes about his habit. Bolin takes his first and only studio Deep Purple lead vocal on the bridge.

IMG_00000713As with all previous special editions, the liner notes are excellent, revealing, and loaded with pictures. One fact I didn’t know: The band were going to kick out Hughes if he didn’t kick the coke.

Bonus material is present. The single edit of “You Keep On Movin'” is tacked on to the end of disc one, but this is previously available on such albums as Singles A’s and B’s. The second disc contains the entire album remixed by Kevin Shirley. Shirley is truly a great mixer. It’s hard to discern what he did differently here, except the songs are a bit more punchy. Some now continue on past their original fade points, revealing never before heard playing from the band, right to the end of the song. This was done on previous remasters such as Machine Head and I like this touch a lot.

Two previously unreleased tracks are included. These tracks will be worth the price of purchase alone to Purple collectors. “Same In L.A.” is a nearly complete song with lead vocals and lyrics. If it had been included on the original album, it would easily have been the most pop, it sounds more suited to Stormbringer material. “Bolin Paice Jam” is also unreleased — not even heard before on Days May Come and Days May Go or the limited edition 1420 Beachwood Drive albums. This is a massive, fiery jam capturing the best of both players. Difficult to understand why this was not included on the aforementioned two compilations, but it’s just awesome and I’m glad it’s out.

Once again, Simon Robinson has outdone himself with the final Deep Purple remaster of this series. These albums, while expensive and difficult to obtain (mine took almost two months to ship) are well worth it to the faithful.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Power House (1977 Japanese import)

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DEEP PURPLE – Power House (1977  Warner Bros, Japanese import)

I have always loved listening to the Power House album, featuring the classic Deep Purple Mk II era. After Purple broke up in ’76, the market was inundated with compilations and live albums. This one, and others like Last Concert in Japan, and When We Rock We Rock… were snapped up by fans who wanted more Purple. All of these albums have been rendered redundant by superior, current Deep Purple remasters.  If you’re the kind of fan who collects all of those 70’s posthumous Hendrix albums, then you’ll dig Power House, a brief but enjoyable romp through less familiar Purple. You’ll even get the original liner notes by Simon Robinson.

Power House consisted of 6 then-unreleased tracks. Here’s your complete track list:

1. “Painted Horse”.  This is an outtake from the Who Do We Think We Are sessions in July 1972.  This is the track that Blackmore “didn’t like”.  He hated what Gillan did with the vocal, and demanded it be changed.  Gillan refused, and the result was a great, unique Deep Purple rocker that remained unreleased until after the band was defunct.

2. “Hush”
3. “Wring That Neck”
4. “Child In Time”
From the Concerto for Group and Orchestra program in September 1969.  The original hit LP release of the Concerto had just the three movements of that piece.  Deep Purple played a standard three song set before the Concerto, and here it was released on Power House.  These three versions remain among my favourite performances of these songs.  “Child In Time” had yet to be recorded on album, and Jon Lord’s melodies are experimental and in development.  Very cool.  It’s “Hush” that really smokes, a definitive version of this cover.  Gillan made it his own right there.

Today the Concerto is available remixed on two discs, with the full piece, the Deep Purple set, and the Royal Philharmonic’s rendition of Malcolm Arnold’s “Symphony No. 6”, which was also performed that night.

5. “Black Night”.  Another nearly definitive version in my books!  This is a B-side, recorded at the Made in Japan dates in August 1972.  This is widely available today on various extended versions of the Japan shows, the Singles A’s and B’s, 24 Carat Purple, and many others.

6. “Cry Free”.  Outtake from the Deep Purple In Rock sessions in January 1970.  It is incredible how fertile the band were in the early 1970’s.  As if In Rock wasn’t amazing enough, this kind of song doesn’t even make the album?  Amazing that Deep Purple’s outtakes were so impressive.  That they could throw this away speaks volumes of their confidence at the time.

Regardless of Power House being superseded in recent years by better packages, I still enjoy this album, in this sequence.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition)

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DEEP PURPLE – Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition, 2009 EMI, originally 1974)

Stormbringer, now available in the gloriously remastered series of Deep Purple special editions, is one of my favourite Purple platters. Now augmented with bonus material, it has finally been given the treatment it deserved. It’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, but Stormbringer has earned some begrudging fans over the years.  I for one find it a more enjoyable listen cover to cover than 1974’s Burn.

A lot of fans did not like the funkier, softer direction of the band. You can understand this, of course. A fan who loved In Rock, one of the heaviest records of any decade, could easily be turned off by the radio-ready soul funk of “Hold On”.  Blackmore himself decried the funky direction of the band.

Here’s the good news: Whatever Deep Purple set their minds to, they could do. And they could do it well.

STORMBRINGER CDBlackmore may not have liked the album, and he did take a step back in the mix, (you can barely hear any guitar on “Hold On”).  He could stilll adapt to and play any style. His playing here, while sparse, is sublime. Ian Paice takes to the funky rhythms very comfortably, laying down some excellent grooves. Jon Lord steps up to the forefront, supplying some excellent, funky keys.

There are a few songs that harken back to the past: “Stormbringer”, the title track, sounds as solid as any epic the band had ever composed. It could have been on Burn as easily as this record. In fact, it stands out as being out of place: As the opening track, fans must have been shocked and surprised when the rest of the album was so different.

Another song that has shades of older Purple is “The Gypsy”.   It’s a slow mournful piece, perhaps akin to “Mistreated” from the previous album.  The lyrics are uncharacteristically bleak.

One track showed an interesting glimpse of the future. “Soldier Of Fortune” is an acoustic track which forshadowed much of the music Blackmore would do with Rainbow, and even now with Blackmore’s Night. David Coverdale has performed it live with Whitesnake.  I think it’s one of Richie Blackmore’s finest compositions.

Of the other tunes, “Love Don’t Mean A Thing” is one of the funkiest, and one of the most entertaining.  It’s just fun to listen to.  David and Glenn co-sing this one.  Ritchie’s solo is very understated, but appropriate.  Glenn takes his first solo lead vocal with Deep Purple on “Holy Man”, a soulful ballad.  “You Can’t Do It Right” features probably the funkiest guitar work of Blackmore’s career.  It’s fascinating to listen to, and the band really cooks on this one.  It’s one of the most extreme experiments of this funky Purple period.

As with all the Purple reissues, this has been lovingly remastered. Finally you can discard your original CD, mastered for digital ages ago, but never really letting the subtleties of the music shine. Stormbringer, of all the Deep Purple albums, perhaps has more subtleties to hear due to the quieter nature of the music.

STORMBRINGER DVDBonus material?  Oh yeah, there’s bonus material, in this case four remixes by Glenn Hughes. These remixes don’t replace the original songs, but they do act as a companion piece of sorts. Fresh light is shed on alternate takes incorporated into the mixes, and “Love Don’t Mean A Thing” is extended by over half a minute. “High Ball Shooter” is presented in an early instrumental form as well.

As an added bonus, a second disc has been included. The second disc, exclusive to this edition, is a DVD containing the original 1975 quadrophonic mix of Stormbringer! Nice. Apparently, this disc is to be a limited edition so get yours while you can. I liked quite a bit, myself. As with many quad mixes from the 70’s, the songs often bear noticeable differences from the originals.  Quad was a gimmicky fad, by today’s standards, but listening to it with the benefit of hindsight is quite enjoyable.

Lastly, I must acknowledge the great liner notes. The most entertaining story included is in regards to “Love Don’t Mean A Thing.”  While in Chicago, Ritchie ran across a street busker, who was snapping his fingers singing a song about money.  Blackmore invited him onto Purple’s plane, collected Coverdale and Hughes, and jammed for 20 minutes with this guy who taught them the song and the lyrics.  The band finished the song that became “Love Don’t Mean A Thing”, credited to the entire quintet, because nobody ever bothered to get the busker’s name.

Pick up Stormbringer in this 25th Anniversary Edition, and finally you can feel comfortable discarding your original.

5/5 stars for both the music, and the reissue!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Maiden England ’88 (2013 CD reissue)

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IRON MAIDEN – Maiden England ’88 (2013 CD reissue)

It only took 25 years, but Iron Maiden have finally released a complete 2 CD edition of their legendary Maiden England recording.  A video was released in 1989, and a truncated CD version in 1994.  These were great, but less than 100% satisfying.

The first thing you notice is the striking cover art.  This is by somebody named Hervé Monjeaud.  It resembles Derek Riggs’ Eddies enough to fit in fairly seemlessly with the 1988 era.  I wish they used the original motorcycle cover art by Derek Riggs, but at least they credit him inside as the original artist.

Also checking the credits, I was pleased to find that the audio was not remixed.  This is the same mix that Martin Birch produced at the time.  The three unreleased songs are freshly mixed by Kevin Shirley, but there’s no tampering.  This is the authentic Maiden England.

Last year when I reviewed every Maiden release in a row, I discussed Maiden England.  Please check that review out if you’re looking for a more comprehensive review of the songs and content. Back then, I gave it 4/5 stars.  I found the sound a tad muddy, I complained about the brief running time, and I didn’t like that the CD did not include every song from the VHS version.  The missing songs were “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Can I Play With Madness”.  This edition restores them to the running order, and even adds three more songs that were cut completely from the original release!  So right there, two of my beefs have been addressed.

What about the sound?  Bloody great!  Whatever it was about the first CD release, the flatness of it, is gone.  It’s like when you take your car to the wash, how it shines.  Maiden England ’88 sounds so much better than the original CD.  And of course there’s a nice substantial booklet with photos and lyrics.  No notes from Steve or anybody else, disappointingly.  I always like those “producer’s notes” or what have you.  But that’s window dressing, this is really such a pleasure to listen to, I assure you.  As I wrote these words, Dave Murray was wheedly-wheedly-ing in my ears.  And I liked it.

With the added material and fresh sound, Maiden England ’88 takes its place alongside other Maiden classics such as Live at Donington or Rock In Rio.  Of course it cannot usurp Live After Death, nothing ever will.  Maiden England ’88 has some really awesome Maiden material that didn’t make Live After Death, such as “Still Life”, which remains dramatic and stunning.  “Killers” and “Sanctuary” are two other songs that were not on Live After Death.  Not to mention, by 1988 Maiden had two more albums to draw from.  That means you’ll also hear “Wasted Years” and “The Clairvoyant”, songs that stand strong among the old stalwarts.

The three unreleased songs are “Run To The Hills”, “Running Free” and “Sanctuary”.  These were the encores.  They are not mixed onto the end of the show, but follow a pause and have a noticeably different sound.  It’s hard to describe how the sound differs, but you can hear a change.  I’m not sure why these weren’t included on the original VHS.  Surely not for quality reasons.  The running time of the original video was 95 minutes.  Would another 15 have bumped them into a higher, tax, uhh, you know?  (120 minute tapes were common back then too.)

There’s a DVD too, but I don’t have that yet.  One thing at a time!  Send me a copy, EMI, and I’ll be happy to review it!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Snakebite (album)

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WHITESNAKE – Snakebite (1978, released as both album and EP)

You gotta give David Coverdale some kind of credit for name-dropping two of his old Deep Purple Stormbringer classics right there in the first song on this album/EP, “Come On”.

“I’m just a SOLDIER OF FORTUNE,
Must be the GYPSY in me…”

Maybe David just wanted to remind people who he was, that this was not just some “new” band.  Either way, it’s a very solid outing, considerably more enjoyable than David’s first two albums as a solo artist.

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Snakebite was originally a 4 song EP, under the name Whitesnake.  Over here in Canada, I knew it as a full album .  North America stuck on four of the better tunes from David’s solo album, Northwinds, and released it as an LP.

The EP, or side one of the album, was helmed by Purple producer Martin Birch.  He ensured a solid sound, and Coverdale & Whitesnake provided four solid tunes.

The aforementioned “Come On” sounds like a smoove Paul Rodgers prowl, and features three players who would stay through most of Whitesnake’s history: Neil Murray (bass), Bernie Marsden (guitar) and Mickey Moody (guitar). Track two, “Bloody Mary” is driven by a boogie piano, one of the best songs on the album.  My personal favourite of the album, anyway.  It’s just impossible not to move to this one.  David’s as naughty as ever in the lyrics:

“You know that Madam Palm and her five sweet daughters”
Couldn’t give her man what the doctor ordered”

Then Coverdale gets bluesy. “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”, previously a hit for Bobby “Blue” Bland, ended up becoming Whitesnake’s live centerpiece.  On the original EP, it is the last track, its position swapped with “Steal Away”.  “Steal Away” is a another highlight.  Moody’s slide guitar is just pure awesome sauce.  The only thing I dislike is some really cheesy sounding electronic toms.

NORTHWINDSSide two of the LP had the earlier Northwinds material, produced by ex-Purple bassist Roger Glover. Although Mickey Moody plays on these songs, he’s the only future Whitesnake member present. The tunes are decent enough.  “Keep On Giving Me Love” was funky, like the kind of stuff Glenn Hughes was always trying to push on Deep Purple.  It’s not really outstanding until you get to the chorus.  “Only My Soul” however is a stand out. Coverdale has often done these incredible soul-searching pieces, such as Purple’s “Soldier Of Fortune”, and Whitesnake’s later “Sailing Ships”. This time out we’re treated to some very appropriate violin, and Glover on synth.  The side is rounded out by “Queen of Hearts” and “Breakdown”, the raucious rocker written about the final demise of Deep Purple.

Although David Coverdale seemed to still be searching for direction after leaving Purple, the Snakebite album (or EP, whatever you happen to own) is an enjoyable listen from front to back. Some material really showed what David was capable of, and he certainly would deliver in full in the future. Whitesnake diehards should not do without Snakebite, as it provides an interesting set of snapshots as to what Coverdale was up to, between his bouts of fame and glory.

TROUBLEThere are numerous options today to get this music.  Not only is the Snakebite album still in print on CD in North America, but you can now also find the tunes remastered.  The Snakebite EP has been added as bonus tracks to Whitesnake’s debut album, Trouble.  You can also get David’s solo album, Northwinds, remastered with bonus tracks.  Or you could just get ’em on original vinyl!  The choice is yours, but I think any Whitesnake fan would enjoy this Snakebite.

4/5 stars