Quad

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: 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: Black Sabbath – Paranoid (deluxe edition with Quad mix)

I’m addicted to buying these deluxe editions.  And I have more Sabbath coming soon, too! Check out more of my Sabbath deluxe reviews by clicking here!

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BLACK SABBATH – Paranoid (2009 deluxe edition, 3 discs)

Wow, how many times have I bought Paranoid now? I would guess that this might be my sixth purchase of this album.  I mean…it’s Paranoid.

And what is Paranoid?  Only one of the most important rock albums of all time.  Regardless of the genre it helped spawn, this album is more important than just being a heavy metal album.  This is an important rock album.  I highly doubt any died-in-the-wool metal fan has not heard this album, but in case you’re young/been living on the moon, I’m happy to discuss these incredible tracks.

First up to bat is the unmistakable sludge of “War Pigs”.  “Generals gathered in their masses…just like witches at black masses…”  Bonus point to lyricist Geezer Butler for rhyming “masses” with “masses”! Joking aside, this is simply an incredible song, one which history has proven (as great as Dio was) that only Ozzy Osbourne can sing correctly.  Then, the brief punk rock explosion of “Paranoid”.  This was the first and only song I learned to play on guitar, simple are the chords.  But it is no less powerful for its simplicity!

The haunting “Planet Caravan” is a perfect example of Sabbath at their softest and darkest.  Ozzy’s distorted vocals send chills up the spine, while Geezer’s bass carries the melodic side.  I didn’t like this song as a kid (I hated the soft ones) but I sure grew to appreciate it since.  Iommi’s jazzy solo proves what an incredible player the man was and is.  In case you were falling asleep, Black Sabbath wake you up with the next track, “Iron Man”.  Everyone knows “Iron Man”, a monolithic slab of prototypical heavy metal!

“Electric Funeral” opens with Iommi’s Gibson puking wah-wah and distortion from the speakers, but like many Sabbath songs of the period, the track takes a careening turn into a fast section, before returning to its sludgy roots.  Bill Ward, one of the most underrated drummers ever, plays creatively throughout, his use of cymbals and fills endlessly interesting.

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“Hand Of Doom” is another one with different sections and tempos, and more of Ward’s jaw-dropping creativity on the tubs.  Ozzy howls like a banshee, the band behind him providing a heavy, frightening backdrop.

“Rat Salad” is a personal favourite, the album instrumental, and really a Bill Ward showcase.  You want to hear what Bill Ward could do?  This is the track to listen to, although Iommi is not to be underestimated.  His howling Gibson sends shivers up the spine.

“Fairies Wear Boots” closes the CD, the perfect mixture of riffage and melody.  All the while, Geezer and Ward continue to provide a rhythm section as interesting as the guitars and vocals.  Once again, Sabbath show their compositional prowess by creating a catchy, riffy heavy metal song with interesting sections and changes.  It is another perfect track, on an album of nothing but.

Liner notes and photos: A+. Awesome job. Lots of cool photos, facts, and figures that I was not previously aware of.

Packaging: C-. I have a 2CD/1DVD Clash set from this series where all three discs are packaged with a plastic tray to hold them in. Not so with Paranoid! Cost cutting may be the reason, but disc 3 slides into a cardboard sleeve while the other two discs have plastic trays.

Remastering: A+. My understanding is that this is a brand new remastering. That would be remastering #3 for Paranoid. (1996 Castle remasters, Black Box remasters.) Like the Black Box version, this sounds great, very clear, very powerful, very authentic. Can you tell the difference between this version and the Black Box version? Not really!

Bonus material: B+. Maybe it’s not anybody’s fault, but the bonus material is somewhat disappointing  Most are alternate takes with different lyrics or no lyrics at all. I guess that’s all that was available. Still, it’s not something I will listen to often. Including the DVD, keep in mind you’re going to be hearing these songs three times each! The alternate lyrics are interesting to say the least, but when you’re so used to hearing these songs a certain way, it is a little jarring.

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The DVD is an A. On this DVD, you get the original 1974 quad mix. Collectors rejoice, and people who are hoping for a 5.1 remix are going to have to keep waiting. I love the fact that we’re finally getting reissues of classic 1970’s quad mixes. Deep Purple have been releasing some as well. Personally I hope to hear some of the old Alice Cooper quad mixes some day, too.

Not a perfect reissue, but it is what it is. The packaging is the one thing that could have been improved easily. The extra material, well, if this is all Sabbath have in the vaults, then so be it!

(Note:  For completists, there’s still an early version of “War Pigs”,  ( then titled “Walpurgis”) with different lyrics, from BBC Radio 1, 4/26/70, but you can get it on Ozzy’s The Ozzman Cometh  CD.)

5/5 stars.