psychedelic rock

R.I.P. Roky Erickson (1947-2019)

He didn’t have an easy life, so we hope he will rest in peace.  Roky Erickson was a songwriter extraordinaire, an innovator, and an influencer.   He impacted a young Dave Grohl and befriended ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.  He was a founder of the psychedelic rock movement with the 13th Floor Elevators.  He also suffered from schizophrenia and endured horrific electro-shock therapy.

Roky Erickson eventually got the right treatment and made a return to recording and touring.  Yet it’s his 60s and 70s material that remains immortal.

Recommended listening:  The Evil One on CD, which is essentially two albums combined into one.  Every single song is amazing, but here’s “Mine Mine Mind” (produced by Stu Cook of CCR).  You can tell he was haunted.  Rest in peace, Roky.

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (5 CD box set)

scan_20170123DEEP PURPLE – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (2014 Parlophone)

It’s fantastic that old mono recordings are getting the CD treatment.  The original mono mixes of the old Beatles albums were a revelation to those who had never heard them before.  The original mono versions of Deep Purple’s Shades Of and Book of Taliesyn are less surprising, but still a welcome addition for completists who want to hear it “as it was” in 1968.  Comparisons are difficult, but both albums sound like they were meant to be in stereo.  Unlike the Beatles pop rock compositions, Deep Purple’s featured a lot of solo work and even full-blown orchestral movements.  The stereo separation makes that easier to appreciate.  Only Purple’s third album, 1969’s self-titled Deep Purple, did not receive a mono mix.  It is presented here in stereo only.

Now, these three Purple albums all received the deluxe edition treatment (single discs) in the year 2000.  Those versions on Spitfire (links in above paragraph) are still excellent ways to get this early Deep Purple music.  They are fairly common, have great liner notes and pictures, and feature the stereo versions plus 14 bonus tracks combined between them.  There is also a compilation CD called The Early Years featuring more bonus tracks, including 2003 remixes and live takes.  Where Hard Road fails is in replacing these previous four CDs completely.  One would hope you would get  all the associated bonus tracks from this period in one handy-dandy box.  Sadly this box is not quite so dandy.  Here is a list of tracks missing from Hard Road that were on the remastered single discs:

  • “Kentucky Woman” (alternate take on The Early Years)
  • “Hard Road” (BBC session on The Early Years and The Book of Taliesyn remaster)
  • “Hush” (live from US TV)
  • “Hey Joe” (live BBC recording from the remastered Shades Of).
  • “It’s All Over” and “Hey Bop-a-Rebop” (unreleased songs, live BBC sessions from The Book of Taliesyn)

The live BBC songs above can also be found on the double CD BBC Sessions…except for “Hard Road”.

scan_20170123-4

Of course there is plenty of material on Hard Road that is not on those earlier discs, making things that much murkier.  In addition to the original mono versions, these include:

  • “Kentucky Woman” remixed in 2003
  • “Playground” in a non-remixed version
  • “River Deep, Mountain High” and “The Bird Has Flown” (single edits)
  • A fresh 2012 stereo mix of “Emmaretta”
  • The isolated single B-side version of “April (Part 1)”
  • An early instrumental version of “Why Didn’t Rosemary”

Irritating, yes.  But only to completists.  For just about anyone else, Hard Road will satisfy their need for pretty much all the Deep Purple Mark I they can handle.  It’s not as complete as the title would let on, what with that live “Hush” and alternate take of “Kentucky Woman” missing in action.  Instead you will receive a large booklet with plenty of notes and a new 2013 interview with producer Derek Lawrence.  He was on board early, before they were in Deep Purple.  He describes an early version of the band called “Roundabout” (with Bobby Woodman on drums and Chris Curtis on bass) as “bland”.  When Ian Paice and Nick Simper joined, they sounded better, but to Lawrence clearly Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice were the stars.

Each disc comes in its own LP-style sleeve.  It’s a gorgeous set.  It sounds fantastic, and was assembled with the usual care that goes into a Deep Purple album.  A few niggling missing tracks aside, this is highly recommended to those looking add the first three Purple to their collection.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Scorpions – Lonesome Crow (1972)


Scan_20150722SCORPIONS – Lonesome Crow
(1972 Metronome)

What an odd album this is, considering where the Scorpions went a decade later. Young kids from West Germany finding their musical feet, Scorpions seemed to be a psychedelic band at the start. Their major asset was the 17 year old guitar prodigy Michael Schenker. Throughout Lonesome Crow, it is Schenker’s sparing solos that hint that Scorpions may in fact be a rock band. Throwing down the wah-wah hard, Schenker hadn’t found his direction yet either, but the talent was clear.

Also obviously gifted was 24 year old singer Klaus Meine. Although his thick accent probably didn’t help gaining international appeal, he sure could wail. The one single scream on opening track “I’m Going Mad” revealed that perhaps there was a rock star here in cocoon form.

Some fans have developed great love for Lonesome Crow over the years. When I first found the album in 1990 (a cassette reissue at a Zellers store), I thought at the time that it was perhaps the worst album I had ever bought. My stance has softened considerably over the years, as I’ve managed to penetrate its foggy haze. I have friends who have offered great praise to Lonesome Crow after ingesting certain intoxicants.

There are indeed some stellar musical moments. The song “Action” for example boats a jazzy walking bassline and some stellar playing. Bassist Lothar Heimberg only ever appeared on this one Scorpions album, and the bass is one of the biggest noticeable differences to later Scorpions records. You just don’t hear busy, walking basslines like this on the rest of their catalogue. Drummer Wolfgang Dziony (also on his only Scorpions album) accompanies him appropriately.


Klaus should grow this beard back.

The factor that makes Lonesome Crow difficult to penetrate is the tendency towards long, meandering (often directionless) psychedelic rock jams. “I’m Going Mad” (though it has no vocals for almost 2 1/2 minutes) is pretty instant, and “In Search of the Peace of Mind” has its moments too. Other songs like “Inheritance” are head-scratchers. One of the most interesting (but also difficult to penetrate) songs is the 13 minute title track. I’m sure a more seasoned band could have trimmed the fat a bit. In general, the album has several flashes of brilliance, but you have to slog through long meandering slow jams to get there.  Producer Conny Plank, he of many Krautrock releases, allows the Scorpions to run wild with their imaginations.

Lonesome Crow isn’t a bad album. One reason it’s unlike other Scorpions records is that they broke up shortly after. When a new Scorpions formed, the only members remaining from this album were Klaus and rhythm guitarist Rudolph Schenker. Michael Schenker was noticed by UFO, who snagged him from the fledgling Scorpions. When the band folded, Klaus and Rudolph joined Dawn Road featuring another smokingly talented guitarist named Uli Jon Roth. Dawn Road was then renamed Scorpions, and together the new lineup began embarking on a harder rock and roll journey. With Roth’s help, and a growing songwriting duo of Klaus and Rudolph, great things were ahead.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Roky Erickson and the Aliens – The Evil One (15 tracks)

ROKY_0002ROKY ERICKSON and the ALIENS – The Evil One (originally 1980, 2013 Light in the Attic)

I first became aware of the 13th Floor Elevators via ZZ Top, but it wasn’t until Dave Grohl’s excellent Sonic Highways (full review coming soon) that I was enlightened to the genius of Roky Erickson.  I’m not a huge fan of the psychedelic rock of which Roky was one of the founding fathers.  I do however love the pure guitar-based rock that he later played with the Aliens.  Having heard “Two Headed Dog” in Sonic Highways, I took the plunge and bought a deluxe reissue of The Evil One.

Roky’s story is a long and tragic one marked by mental illness, LSD, bad recording contracts, injustice and years of neglect.  The huge (48 page) CD booklet has liner notes with the story, and I won’t re-tell the tale for this one album review. Thankfully there is the documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me if you’re intrigued. The good news is that Roky has since gotten the help he needs and has financial and medical support today, and a whole new generation of fans (like me) discovering his genius.  “The talent behind Roky’s voice,” said ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, “is the mystery factor that no one could touch.”  His powerful rock and roll screams and moans are hooks in themselves.  Erickson cited James Brown as a major vocal influence.

This excellent CD reissue compiles all 15 tracks that were released over the course of two overlapping albums, The Evil One and Five Symbols. The albums were produced by ex-CCR bassist Stu Cook, who captured a vibrant droney guitar sound here. Roky’s voice had lost nothing, and perhaps only gained power over the years.

The incredible thing to me is how excellent every single track is!  I went into this only knowing “Two Headed Dog”.  I came out knowing and loving 15 different songs, each special in their own way.  The factors they have in common are Roky’s incredible voice, bizarre lyrics of paranoia and monsters and demons and aliens, and that unique and beautiful guitar.  It’s not psychedelic rock, it’s just rock and roll.  A song like “I Walked  With  a Zombie” emulates a slow dance from a late 1950’s highschool prom.  Meanwhile “Night of the Vampire” sounds more like Alice Cooper.

I cannot say enough good things about this CD.  I am beyond happy with this purchase.  I do truly love every song, already, but it’s not too hard to pick out my favourites.  “Mine Mine Mind” is irresistible no matter who you are.  “Sputnik”, “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators”, “I Think of Demons”, “Bloody Hammer”, “Creature With the Atom Brain”, “Two Headed Dog” and “If You Have Ghosts” round out the songs I don’t want to live without ever again.  The vocal and guitar hooks are incessant.  There are even guitar fragments that sound like classic Thin Lizzy!  Most fall within the 3-4 minute range and none overstay their welcome.

I am very happy to have started my Roky Erickson collection with this reissue from Light in the Attic records.  I understand that Roky’s royalty woes have since been fixed and he does get paid from releases such as this.  Buy with clear conscience.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica (1969)

“My smile is stuck; I cannot go back t’yer frownland.” – Don Van Vliet

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND – Trout Mask Replica (1969 Reprise)

Produced by Frank Zappa, written by Don Van Vliet.

I’m no professional musician — not even close.  I can’t speak that language, so I can’t explain to you why Trout Mask Replica is pure genius. I can tell you that it is not for everybody. Frank Zappa once said, regarding the public’s attitude towards popular music: “Give me something that sounds exactly like something that I already like.” With that sarcastic comment, Zappa hit the nail on the head. Most listeners want music in standard (4/4) time, with familiar tones, and based on familiar scales. If you fall into that majority, do not buy Trout Mask Replica.

I’ll give you an example of the weirdness within, right out of the liner notes.  “Captain Beefheart plays tenor and soprano saxophone simultaneously on ‘Ant Man Bee’.”  [My emphasis]

TROUT MASK_0003Those who have studied music, particularly free improvisation, find Trout Mask Replica to be utterly brilliant. It is an ugly duckling of an album, something that seems stark and unforgiving on first listen, but revealing more depth and beauty the more you hear it. There is much to be enjoyed here. The drumming (by Drumbo aka John French) shatters preconceived notions about tempo and timekeeping in a rock/blues context. Bass clarinet is present, a rare instrument these days to be sure, and not an easy instrument to appreciate. The guitar and horns are harsh and difficult for the average listener to digest coming across as nothing more than a cacophony. Often, it sounds as if all six musicians are playing different songs at the same time, and that is not too far off the mark. Yet, these conflicting parts mesh and intersect at key moments, creating an overall effect of, “It sounds wrong, but right.” With repeated listens, it begins to sound more right than wrong. Bits and pieces gradually coalesce, and suddenly it clicks. There are hooks here, catchy guitar parts that reveal themselves slowly.  The howling moans of Don Van Vliet are always enticing.  I love his “old man” voice on the scratchy “The Dust Blows Forwards ‘N the Dust Blows Back”.

The music is playful (“Ella Garu” for example). Captain Beefheart plays homage to Americana on “Moonlight on Vermont”.  “Pachuco Cadaver”, the most immediate piece here, is catchy and pop-like in its structure. Yet Trout Mask Replica‘s prime influence in the blues, both at its most ancient and futuristic simultaneously. If that’s even possible, then Beefheart did it right here. Then again, “Hair Pie: Bake 2” is just pure jazz.

TROUT MASK_0006If you gave it a shot and you didn’t like Trout Mask Replica, then that is a question of personal taste and you are not wrong. However, nobody can say that this is “not music”, or that this is the work of “amateurs”. It takes years for musicians to be able to compose and play music of this stature. If you don’t appreciate it, that’s fine. AC/DC are still making records. A lot of people can’t appreciate Edgard Varese or Ligeti either. Yet their music continues to live on years after their deaths. So will it be for Don Van Vliet & his Magic Band.

After repeated spins, I believe that even the most jaded of listeners can find something to enjoy if they try. Whether it be Van Vliet’s gutteral blues howling or the loud and aggressive slide guitar, there is much to be loved on Trout Mask Replica. If by chance you are a Beefheart fan already, or are slowly becoming one, there are some interesting companion pieces to be had:  The one I want is Grow Fins: Rarities 1965-1982.   It’s a 5-CD box set containing two entire discs of Trout Mask outtakes and sessions.

Buy this if you like experimental Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Mike Patton, the works of Edgard Varese, early (Easy Action and Pretties For You) Alice Cooper, or free improv.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Sheepdogs – Learn and Burn (2011 bonus tracks)

SHEEPDOGS AND LEBRAIN

Ewen, Leot, LeBrain, Sam & Ryan

THE SHEEPDOGS – Learn and Burn (2011 Warner reissue, originally 2010)

SHEEPDOGS_0002Like many of you, I first heard The Sheepdogs via the excellent single “I Don’t Know”, a rollicking journey through territory pioneered by The Guess Who and Neil Young. And what a cool Canadian success story, what with that Rolling Stone cover and all.

A few months after falling in love with “I Don’t Know”, I was invited to a private acoustic session with the Sheepdogs. There were about 40 people in the room tops, including myself and my co-worker Bart who was my “+ 1”. I remember them playing “How Late, How Long” and an older tune. They were great, friendly and gracious.  They did a short meet & greet after the show, and I appreciated it when Ewen said to me, “I really like your Beatles shirt.  That’s my favourite period of John Lennon.”  I told him I specifically picked that shirt because I hoped they’d dig it!  The beards, you know?

I’m going to coin a new genre here:  “Beard Rock”.

Before seeing the band, I bought the album based on “I Don’t Know”.  That was sometime in fall of 2010; I remember listening to it on a cold, cold night at the cottage.   My impressions?  It’s a really cool mellow rock album. It sounds as if it came right out of 1969. It sounds very authentic to the period, even sonically.  Very different from their current work with Patrick Carney of the Black Keys.  I am impressed. I really like it.  Admittedly though, it’s a bit too derivative.  SHEEPDOGS_0006

Highlights for me included:

  • “Please Don’t Lead Me On”, which was very Beatles-y.  It’s jaunty, I like it.
  • “I Don’t Get By” which has a very country (or even Led Zep III) vibe.
  • “Right On” and its fat saxophone solo.
  • “Southern Dreaming” which reminds me of the Allmans, CCR and The Band
  • “Soldier Boy”,  probably the most rocking song on the album.
  • “Catfish 2 Boogaloo” kind of reminds me of a laid back version of Cream.

And, the whole Medley. These four mini-songs all meld together seamlessly, but are distinct sections.  It’s a gimmick similar to Abbey Road side two, but in miniature form.

The only song that does nothing for me is the title track “Learn and Burn”. Not into the vocal hook at all. Sorry.  I also didn’t dig the lyric referencing “Facebook invitations”, it just doesn’t vibe with the vintage 1971 sound of the song.

The two bonus tracks on the remastered edition are “Birthday” and “Slim Pickens”.  Yes, I re-bought the album to get two more songs.  You knew I would.  “Birthday” is worth it, a lovely 60’s sounding pop rock tune, with twang and banjo.  I wasn’t expecting “Slim Pickens” to rock as hard as it does, but it does!  This is a smokin’ little electric guitar bluegrass boogie instrumental.

Good album though, and a band to watch. Their work with Patrick Carney on their 2012 self-titled record expanded on their sound.  I expect them to continue to grow.

3.5/5 stars

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Lost in Space” / Wax Fang – “Majestic”

AMERICAN DAD – “Lost in Space” (Episode 18, season 9)
WAX FANG – “Majestic” (from the album La La Land)

I’ve been sick the last couple days.  Stuck home, hurting and with no energy, at least I had my American Dad re-runs.   It seems to be a show I turn to when I’m sick at home, and it does the trick.  I love the adsurbity of the alien character, Roger — how all he needs is a wig to “disguise” himself and nobody* can tell he’s an alien.   The other day one of my favourite episodes was on:  “Lost in Space”; or “the one that shows what happens to Jeff Fischer once he’s taken to space by Roger’s species.”

This episode was a real risk taker.  It is almost entirely about a secondary character, that of stoner Jeff (husband to Hayley Smith). Aside from an opening recap, only one main character appears in a surprise cameo.  When we last saw Jeff Fischer, Roger tricked him into being sucked up by an alien spaceship.  While I expected him to be written off, he has returned, with his new sidekick Sinbad.

SINBADLet me say that again.  With new sidekick Sinbad.

In “Lost in Space”, Jeff is used as slave labor at the local Shawarma Hut in the alien spaceship’s massive food court.  Emperor Zing (Michael McKean) has created a shopping mall spaceship, which he rules with an iron fist.  The only way off is if a slave can prove he or she was in true love, and must be set free.  Jeff decides to take a chance and prove his love for Hayley was real, at the risk of losing his genitals as the price of failure.

This sets up a musical number involving a rock band called Wax Fang.  I won’t be all cool and pretend I knew who Wax Fang were before seeing this episode.  I dig the vintage operatic bombast of “Majestic”, which appears in the episode all but whole.  The song itself inspired large parts of the episode, and the character of the Majestic as well.  As to the song, it has Queen-like qualities and a simply irresistible lead vocal.   On top of that is a lovely guitar solo, classic rock in quality.  I will definitely be checking out more by Wax Fang.

For both the episode, and the song:

5/5 stars

*Toshi can.

ADLIS

REVIEW: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (2010 7″ single)

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2!  Yesterday we took a look at Dream Theater’s “Lie” — click here if you missed it.

 

JIMI HENDRIX – “Valleys of Neptune” (2010 Experience Hendrix, Record Store Day release)

I’m just a casual fan, certainly not an expert on the labyrinthine Hendrix back catalog of songs. There are so many takes both released and “previously unreleased” of so many songs. Anyway, bottom line, here is “Valleys of Neptune”, a previously unreleased 40-year old take of a Hendrix song, the title track to the 2010 album it comes from. This is via the official Hendrix-family-approved reissue program. It’s a pretty cool looking single, with suitably 60’s cover art suiting the title, and painted by Jimi himself. The tune itself is a catchy toe-tapping Hendrix rocker performed with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox.  It’s pieced together from recording sessions in 1969 and 1970.

The B-side is a previously unreleased version of “Cat Talking To Me”.  This one was not made available on Valleys of Neptune, not even as a digital download bonus track.  You can only get it on this single.  Jimi cut this one with the Experience in 1967, but Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding returned to the studio in 1987 to add the bass and drums.  Why it wasn’t released in ’87, I don’t know.  I like this one better than the A-side.  It has a good little groove going, at times anticipating where Aerosmith would take American rock and roll in the 1970’s.  The lead vocal is by Mitchell.

For something cool to add to your collection, you can’t go wrong with “Valleys of Neptune”. It looks neat, it sounds great, and the cover art and rare track are sure to make this a collectible.

4/5 stars

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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 – Deep Purple (1969)

DP FRNT

DEEP PURPLE – Deep Purple (1969 EMI, 2000 The Original Deep Purple Collection)

I love when bands release a self-titled album as their third, perpetually (purpetually?) confusing fans who think it’s their first!  Maybe not so much in the Wikipedia age, but many of my customers thought that Deep Purple was the band’s debut.

This album is unbelievable. I know people, very particular music fans, who consider this to be the best Deep Purple album. I wouldn’t make that claim myself (I prefer Fireball) but I rank this one very high. Neither of the first two albums by Deep Purple Mk I did much for me.  I found them meandering and plodding.  Somehow, by the third record, the band had morphed into something different.  The singer was Rod Evans (Captain Beyond) and the bassist was Nicky Simper (Warhorse).  And of course more changes would come, since this would prove to be the last album for both men.

Side one, track one is an amazing opener called “Chasing Shadows” (not to be confused with a later Deep Purple song just called “Shadows”) that features a Paice-arranged drum orchestra throughout the whole song. “Blind” is second, which features Lord on harpsichord. How 1960’s! Great song though, slow and mournful with a wicked Blackmore solo.  This is followed by the Donovan cover “Lalena”. It is another sad sounding track in a row, but with a beautiful organ opening from Jon Lord. A brief instrumental called “Fault Line” is a crazy interlude, recorded backwards with the bass recorded forwards. That melds into a serious rocker called “Painter”, which ends side one. “Painter” to me is best remembered for Ian Paice’s inventive drumming and Blackmore’s excellent bluesy playing.

Side two began with “Why Didn’t Rosemary?”, a groovy blues rocker with the relentless rhythm section of Paice and Simper driving it. “Bird Has Flown” follows, but not the Beatles song. It verges on heavy metal with Blackmore leaning heavily on the wah-wah peddle. The final track, “April”, is a 12 minute tour-de-force and an obvious foreshadowing to the next Deep Purple album, Concerto For Group And Orchestra. It features a long opening in two movements. The first movement is mostly organ and classical guitar, with some electric guitar accents. The second is based entirely on classical instruments and sounds very medieval at times. (Foreshadowing Blackmore’s Night!)  Finally, the band kicks in with an intense rocker, Paice laying it down hard.  Rod Evans’ lead vocal is among his best, a fitting swan song, although he certainly didn’t know that at the time!

Indeed, even while Deep Purple were gigging with Rod Evans and Nick Simper in the band, they would soon secretly begin rehearsing and recording with their replacements, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover!

This excellent CD remaster comes with an extensive booklet and five bonus tracks. Some of these bonus tracks were completely previously unreleased. These are live BBC performances and non-album singles. Notably included are two cool, catchy and rare singles A-sides:  “Emmaretta” and “The Bird Has Flown” (an earlier version of “Bird Has Flown”).  Some of the BBC performances have since been released on compilation albums, but these are rare performances indeed.  In a short while, the band would write In Rock and drop most of the old songs from their set.

The only flaw with this CD, (and I’m talking the only flaw), is the cover. That awesome painting by Hieronymus Bosch is one of the coolest, creepiest, most interesting paintings I know. The original LP was a gatefold and you could fold the whole thing out and stare at it for years. The cover on this CD is so tiny, and doesn’t show the back part of the LP.  That’s a real shame.  For such a great cover, for it to be chopped and rendered down to about 2″ per side…it doesn’t make any sense.  What a blown opportunity.  The CD should have come with a small fold out poster, at least.

5/5 stars…but pick up an original LP if you can. I have a purple vinyl reissue, but it lacks the gatefold, and you really lose something without the gatefold.

An original LP is seen below.