ritchie blackmore

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”.

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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

 

 

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#532: If You Have Ghosts…

GETTING MORE TALE #532: If You Have Ghosts…

Many rock stars claim to have seen ghosts, or had supernatural experiences.  Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath and Mick Mars from Motley Crue are notable examples.  A black shape that Butler saw scared him “shitless”.  Ke$ha even claims she has had sex with a ghost, though that seems a little outlandish.  Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek of the Doors think they may have been contacted by the spirit of Jim Morrison.  Sting thinks there is one in his house.  Ace Frehley claims a ghost threw a book at him, though substance abuse may have been a factor.

Tales of spirits and hauntings go back thousands of years.  As old as civilization itself are tales of the supernatural.  Yet over all this time, nobody has ever captured any tangible evidence that would satisfy science that ghosts exist.  This certainly does not mean ghosts do not exist.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  We are still learning much about the universe.  Skeptics have good reasons to be skeptical, while others have decided to go ghost hunting for themselves.  Ritchie Blackmore was well known for performing seances in his Deep Purple days and over the decades.  He stated that he has contacted many spirits, and “ghosts are very real, but not in the physical sense.”

blackmore seance

Artist’s probably very accurate impression of an actual Blackmore seance

The only experience that I simply cannot explain I have had happened when I was in grade 9 or 10.  I was sleeping, it was the middle of the night.  I was awaken by a shocked feeling that someone has just hit me hard in the face with an object like a pillow.  Like if you wanted to prank your brother or sister awake and smacked them in the face with a pillow as hard you can in the middle of the night.  I woke up with a start and there was nobody in the room, nor any object that would have hit me in the face.  My pillow was under my head the whole time.  Was it a ghost?  All I know is that I can’t explain it.

This reminds me of an experience Mick Mars wrote of in Motley Crue’s The Dirt.  Something (a ghost or an alien) seemed to shake his bed regularly.  He could physically feel it, just like I could feel the pillow smacking me in the face.

One night 10 years ago, I have the opportunity to try a little ghost hunting myself.  I wrote an email about it to a friend, so here are the fresh details from that night:


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We were in Mississauga at a party.  These two guys lived in the house and somehow the conversation got to weird stuff they’d seen.  Including:
 
  • A man standing at the top of the staircase, looking down into the basement.
  • A child wandering around the house.
  • A pale woman at the front door.
 
All these figures were solid, not transparent, seen by more than one person, and more than once.
 
They also:
Heard yelling, the sounds of people falling down stairs, and someone banging on the dryer in the basement even when the house was otherwise empty.
 
And they saw:
  • Coins on the floor where there were none before.
  • The dryer was known to move a few feet even when unplugged, blocking a doorway in the basement.
 So we turned off all the lights and went down to the basement to shoot some video on my cameraphone.  We shot ten minutes of video.  In the first minute, Alex dropped the camera because he was startled by seeing a face in front of him.  The face was not on camera but we ran our asses off out of there.  In the last minute, upon replay, we got a very strange light on camera.  I can’t explain it as the room was pitch, pitch dark.  Yet you can see a tiny pinpoint of light on camera, bright and distinct.  And that creeped me the fuck out!
 
I still have it on video and can’t explain it.
 

I can explain it now.  I reviewed that video many times.  It was disappointing to reason out that there was still one obvious light source in that pitch black room.  The screen of the camera phone itself had a slightly blue colour.  Same colour as that pinpoint of light.  It was just the reflection of the screen on the glass window of the dryer.  A mundane but simple explanation.  I’m sure most are.
 
*All due respect and inspirational credit to 1537 for regularly using Lego in his artwork.  I am but a mere ghost of your talent, sir.

 

#525: Best Hats in Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #525: Best Hats in Rock

With all the head-banging going on, it’s no surprise that the majority of rockers do not wear hats on stage.  The flailing around in musical ecstasy means that hats don’t stay on top for long.  Also, with those hot stage lights beating down, nobody needs to preserve their body heat with a hat.

Yet some rockers have managed to make hats a trademark.  Let’s have a look at five of the best.*

 

ament

5. Jeff Ament’s whatever hat

During the Ten period, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament used to sport some cool, huge hats.  We have no idea what you call these hats, but there is no denying their 90’s cool-ness.  If I had long hair again, I’d want one of these hats.

blackmore

4. Ritchie Blackmore’s pilgrim hat

Blackmore is well known for his anachronistic mixture of time periods.  Playing medieval music with electric guitars?  Sure, why not.  We don’t know why Blackmore wants to look like a passenger on the Mayflower, but it does not matter.  The hat has become iconic, though not as iconic as…

lemmy

3. Lemmy Kilmister’s assortment of Motorhats

God bless Lemmy, for he had a fine collection of headgear, usually emblazoned with skulls, crossbones, and World War II symbology.  Lemmy may not have been a fashion icon, but he did own some pretty cool hats.

johnson

2. Brian Johnson’s newsboy hat

This one is near and dear to my heart.  Brian’s hat was to cover a receding hairline, but I had one just like it.  It was perfect for keeping a tangled mess of hair under cover.  Best of all, I could use it as a “hair mold”.  I would comb my hair in the morning, tuck it under the hat to “set” it, and an hour later it would come out looking perfect!

slash

1. Slash’s top hat

At LeBrain HQ, we think Slash’s hat has become the most iconic rock and roll piece of headgear.  One look at that hat, and you automatically know who is underneath it.  The fact that Slash hid his face behind curtains of hair meant that fans had to recognize him in other ways.  That’s where the hat comes in!  Even if you wouldn’t recognize Slash’s face in a crowd, it’s a guarantee that you know his hat.

 

Honorable mentions:

Kim Mitchell’s OPP hat

Tom Morello’s assorted baseball hats

Mick Mars’ skull hat

 

What are your favourite hats in rock?

 

*Not including bandanas or hair pieces

REVIEW: Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes (1982)

scan_20160911RAINBOW – Straight Between the Eyes (Remastered, originally 1982 Polydor)

I’ve always found the most interesting bands in rock to be the ones who have had multiple singers over different eras.  Blackmore’s Rainbow never did two albums in a row by the same lineup.  From Ronnie James Dio to Graham Bonnet to Joe Lynn Turner and beyond, Rainbow has been an ever-changing entity during its brief lives.  Each era has much to offer, with the Turner years sometimes slagged as the weakest.  It is true that ballads became a larger part of the Rainbow sound under Joe, but the turn towards the commercial was evident during the Graham Bonnet era, on Down to Earth.

The peak of the Turner period would have to be Straight Between the Eyes, his second with the band.  The lineup this time consisted of founder Ritchie Blackmore, with Roger Glover on bass (his third Rainbow record), drums by Bobby Rondinelli (his second) and new keyboardist David Rosenthal, replacing Don Airey.  Rondinelli is a remarkably hard-hitting drummer and his solid, massive beats propel the songs.  The finest example of this is “Death Alley Driver”, which could easily be seen as an updated version of “Highway Star” from a decade earlier. The amusing video clip featured Joe Lynn Turner on a motorcycle being chased perilously close by a pilgrim-hatted Blackmore in a hearse!* “Death Alley Driver” indeed!**

Although “Death Alley Driver” is the first track, the soulful ballad “Stone Cold” was the first single. It was a minor hit and still gets radio play today. The integrity lies in Ritchie’s smooth guitar, Joe’s always authentic vocals, and the classy organ backing it up. The song’s strength is in its unmistakable pulse, which is Rondinelli and Glover’s impeccable rhythm. Blackmore fans may have been aghast at the soft rock single, but “Stone Cold” holds up as a classy ballad from a spanking album.

Sadly the music video was not the humorous pleasure the “Death Alley Driver” was. Turner looks stiff**^ and awkward searching through a hall of mirrors looking for a girl with a frozen face.  Blackmore just looks disinterested.

Straight Between the Eyes was produced by Roger Glover, as were the previous two albums.  With Bobbi Rondinelli behind the kit, Glover extracted an even bigger drum sound, and it is up in the mix.  Each track boasts a massive beat, even the ballads like “Tearin’ Out My Heart”.  He provides a gallop, and that’s the extra kick the songs get.  The album would not have been as forceful with a different drummer.

So as Joe sings it, “Let the Dream Chaser take you away” if you want to get “Rock Fever”!  The album can be found affordable so it won’t be a “Tite Squeeze” on your wallet.  Feel the “Power” and “Bring on the Night”!  It’ll rock you “Stone Cold”.**^^

4/5 stars


* Something about that action-packed music video makes the music seem faster and heavier.

** During the Blackmore closeups inside the hearse, pay attention to the rear window behind him. You can clearly see from the trees behind that the car is not moving an inch!

**^ Cue Aaron.

**^^ These are all good songs.  No real duds on Straight Between Eyes.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Aachen 1970)

DEEP PURPLE – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Live in Aachen 1970) (2001 Sonic Zoom)

Over the course of the decades, Deep Purple and their official Appreciation Society have found numerous interesting live recordings to release for the fans.  From significant moments to obscure gigs, each disc has had their own points of interest.  It doesn’t hurt that Deep Purple never did the exact same thing twice.

This German gig from 1970 wasn’t well documented or reported on.  Purple were on a large bill including Pink Floyd, Free, Traffic and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  It’s possible but not known for certain that Kraftwerk may have also played that day.  Bootleggers made sure that at least some of it was recorded.  The released bootleg H-Bomb was one of the earliest Deep Purple live recordings available, and has been available in bootleg form since it taped.  According to organist Jon Lord, he heard that the bootleggers sneaked in an eight track mixer inside a Volkswagon, hidden under the stage.  When they had the chance to hear the recordings on LP, the band were actually impressed with the overall quality.

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In 2001, Sonic Zoom released the show on CD and called it Space Vol 1 & 2.  Since the original tapes were long lost, Sonic Zoom went back to the earliest vinyl pressings, and cleaned them up, using the best sounding versions of each track.

What you get here is only four longs, but quite a long set, being well over an hour long.  Purple opened with their instrumental “Wring That Neck”, stretched out to include lots of solos and jams.  They tease out recognizable melodies such as “Hall of the Mountain King”, “Jingle Bells”, and a jazzy “Three Blind Mice”, disguised on rock instruments.  Vocals were scarce that evening, perhaps because Ian Gillan was suffering from a sore throat.  As such his vocals don’t come through as well, but they also often sound as if he’s singing into a tin can.  Though most everything else is well recorded enough, when the vocals do happen such as on “Black Night”, they are very rough and tumble.  Jon Lord was also known to be very hard on his Hammond, and like electric whip cracks you often hear the instrument yelping away in the background.

AACHEN

The Stones cover “Paint It, Black” is mostly another excuse to jam on something.  11 minutes of equipment-destroying guitar, drums, bass and organ madness is a lot for anyone to digest.  If you dig drum solos, Ian Paice will keep you mesmerized for many minutes of straight high-velocity rhythmic instructional.  You’ll know it’s over when the other guys finally come back!  That’s nothing, though.  Half an hour of “Mandrake Root” awaits, one of the longest versions known.  Ian spends a lot of it screaming, but when it’s jam time you can hear him on the congas.  The first half of the jam is loose but at least structured.  Lord considered this his best keyboard work that had been captured so far.  Interestingly, part of this jam resembles a future song called “Highway Star”.  Then, the second half descends into pure madness.   Atonal noise, feedback and electric pain dominate these 10 minutes.  It is an endurance challenge to be sure.

It is not known for certain if any other songs were played that day, but because it was a festival it seems likely that Purple played for this hour and nothing more.  According to the only written account of the day, Purple won over the festival crowd by powering over them.  That much is clear from this recording.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Gemini Suite – Live (1970/93)

The Deep Purple Project goes on with a flashback to 1970.

Scan_20160212DEEP PURPLE and the orchestra of the LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY – The Gemini Suite – Live (recorded in 1970, released 1993 EMI)
Conducted by Malcolm Arnold

Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra put Deep Purple on the map.  An original concerto in three movements written specifically for an orchestra and a rock group together had never been accomplished before.  Headlines and offers to bring the Concerto over to America helped cement Deep Purple’s name in the public consciousness.  The only problem was, public perception was that this was a band who always played with orchestras.  They were not:  Deep Purple wanted to be a heavy rock band.  They did not want to be cornered into playing with orchestras for their career.  There may also have been some internal friction because Lord was being singled out as the band’s leader in the press.  Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan were united in their insistence that the orchestral work cease.  Worse, some in the band suggested that Lord was using the Concerto as a potential launch pad to other projects.  These were accusations of petty youthful jealousy of course, but it led to Lord announcing his intention to leave Deep Purple.

Scan_20160212 (3)Management arranged a sit-down and peace was kept.  They collectively agreed that the way forward was with rock music, not classical hybrids.  There was just one catch, which was that Jon Lord had already been contracted to write a second classical/rock piece for Deep Purple to perform.  This project had to go forward, it was too late to do otherwise, but the band insisted that it was publicized as little as possible.  The new piece was played live by the band, but a Deep Purple album release of the final product, the Gemini Suite, would not happen until 1993!  Instead, Jon Lord recorded and released a studio version of it with other guests and musicians.

Perhaps to assuage some bruised egos, Lord decided to compose his next work around the five members of Deep Purple.  Each movement had time for a member of Deep Purple to shine on his own.  The first goes to Ritchie Blackmore.  The year was 1970, and Deep Purple were working on the Fireball LP.  The quiet moment in Blackmore’s movement is tonally similar to Ritchie’s solo in Purple’s “Fools”.   According to the liner notes, this is one of the last occasions that Ritchie played a Gibson on stage.  Jon Lord goes next with an organ piece (though on the back cover it’s incorrectly listed as the vocal movement).  There are some very cool atonal parts here.  You have to admire the man for his ambition and vision, but as technically brilliant as this is, it doesn’t have the level of impact of the Concerto nor is it as well recorded.  The are fewer memorable themes and instrumental moments, and the end result is that these two movements take some patience to absorb.

It was noted that Ian Gillan had not written the lyrics to his movement until the night of the show.  The lyrics are not really important; what counts is that you’ve never heard Ian Gillan sing like this before.  With an exaggerated falsetto, and an unusual psychedelic melody, Ian really knocked it out of the park.  Halfway through, this gives way to standard Gillan howling.   It’s hard to make out all the words, but this is Ian Gillan in peak voice, totally in control and at the top of his game, backed by a friggin’ orchestra.  What more do you want?  This vocal movement is the highlight of the entire Gemini Suite.  Roger Glover goes next with his bass spotlight.  It’s about as interesting as you imagine a bass spotlight to be, but the orchestra plays it busy in the background.  There’s some great oboe on this movement, which ends on a sudden, awkward note.

Ian Paice goes last.  With military precision, Paice marches forward, leading the orchestra and percussion section.  They answer his drums in interesting ways, making this movement another solid highlight.  The crowd clearly loved it.  Then, there is a long finale (10 minutes) with everybody playing together.  It attempts to tie together the previous movements, but without memorable themes, this is difficult.  The Suite lacks cohesion overall.  There are some absolutely mindblowing moments of musical precision and dexterity, as well as rock thrills (most of them concentrated in the finale).  It is probably well enough that they did not release an LP of this at the time, for it would most definitely have lived in the shadow of its superior predecessor.

3/5 stars

Look at that backstage photo.  Looks like nobody wanted to be there that night, particularly Ian Gillan.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Nobody’s Perfect (1988)

The Deep Purple Project continues!  Join me all week for more rock majesty than you can shake a purple stick at!

Scan_20160201 (2)DEEP PURPLE – Nobody’s Perfect (1988 Mercury, 1999 2 CD reissue)

“I’ve been drunk from nine o’clock in the morning, ’til nine o’clock in the morning, because you’ve all been buying me drinks.  You are sensational!”  — Ian Gillan to the audience in Oslo

Like so many Deep Purple releases, Nobody’s Perfect is an interesting one.  By the time it was released, Deep Purple Mk II had split for the second time.  By his own admission, Ian Gillan was becoming impossible to work with.  The final straw was a drunken night in which he stumbled in naked wearing nothing but garbage bags on his feet, and smashed a table by passing out on top of it.  Even Ian’s longtime friend Roger Glover had enough.

Strangely enough, even though they were on the hunt for a new singer, Roger stated in Hit Parader magazine that he was certain he’d work with Ian Gillan again, perhaps even in Deep Purple.  I suppose it was fair to say there was no job security in the role of Deep Purple’s lead singer!  What a strange way for a band to celebrate its 20th anniversary:  fire the singer!  (The same thing Motley Crue did a few years later on their 10th!)

The double live that followed was interesting in itself.  It was intended to mark 20 years since the first Deep Purple formed.   In that regard, it was a bit of a dud.  It didn’t crack the top 100 on Billboard in the US.  It was not warmly received by some; Gillan in particular disowned it as sub-par to Made in Japan.  You also had to buy it twice to get all the songs.  The CD had just 11, but the LP had two more:  “Bad Attitude” and “Space Trucking”.  And the cassette had “Dead or Alive” instead of “Bad Attitude”!  You had to buy both LP and cassette to get all the songs.  Fortunately a proper 2 CD reissue was done in 1999 with all the tracks present and accounted for.

Perhaps Gillan was right about Nobody’s Perfect.  The tracks were pasted together from multiple gigs, and mixed by Glover over a month-long period.  The result is a somewhat clanky album, sometimes lacking in spark and never quite feeling as impressive as Deep Purple live actually are.  That said, there are many highlights.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is notable for its “Jesus Christ Superstar” interlude.  Don’t forget Gillan played Jesus Christ on the original album!  “Child in Time” is also notable as one of the best (and shortest) live versions on the market.  Ian was still able to hit the notes at that point.   “Lazy” is another short barnstormer.  Both “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” are very, very good.  “Back Door” is stretched to almost 12 minutes, including a long Jon Lord introduction.  “Woman From Tokyo”, on the other hand, is one of the tracks that doesn’t really work.  The best part is when it derails into “Everyday” by Buddy Holly, which itself almost transforms into “That’ll Be the Day”.

Nobody’s Perfect is one of the only places to get live material from The House of Blue Light album.  Three songs are included (grouped together on disc one), though Deep Purple did not necessarily play the best three.  “Bad Attitude” is a must-have (Ian flubs the words!), but it was originally only on the LP.  “Dead or Alive” noticeably lacks some of the guitar fire of the album version (but you had to get cassette to hear it).  Jon Lord tends to carry the weight on “Dead or Alive”.   Lastly, “Hard Lovin’ Woman” was probably the song on which to leave and get a beer, which is too bad, because they broke into “Under the Gun” partway through.  “The Unwritten Law” and “Difficult to Cure” would have been nice to have.  Fortunately, versions can be found on the 12 CD Bootleg Series.

The last track, recorded live in the studio not long before Ian was fired, is for all intents and purposes a remake of “Hush”, Purple’s first hit from 1968.  Most people prefer the Rod Evans original, but this re-recorded take ain’t bad either.  Blasts of harmonica replace some of the old organ solo.  Fortunately it’s not an either/or situation.  The 1968 version is still heard lots on the radio, but the Gillan version is closer to the way it goes down live.

What happened next?  The magazines went wild with speculation.  Hit Parader reported that Blackmore had given the band six months to find a singer, or else he too would leave and reform Rainbow.  With the Dio band also falling apart, that did not seem implausible, though it was Joe Lynn Turner that Ritchie phoned.  There was talk of a new Rainbow, or a Blackmore-Turner blues band.  Meanwhile, Purple were auditioning singers furiously.  Survivor’s Jimi Jamison was a favourite.  Bad Company’s Brian Howe was another.  Even Doug Pinnick of King’s X had a go.  Jimmy Barnes was the only singer who auditioned that would actually sing live with Deep Purple, albeit as a guest on their 2001 Australian tour dates!  Ultimately, Joe Lynn Turner was the not-so-surprising addition.  He’d worked with Glover and Blackmore before in Rainbow, he could write songs, and he did not sound at all like Ian Gillan.  Deep Purple Mk V was born.

Even so, Roger Glover’s prediction proved to be true.  He did work with Ian Gillan again, both in and out of Deep Purple.  Gillan may have blown the 20th anniversary, but he was back for the 25th….

3/5 stars

Final note:  A whopping five tracks from this album made it onto the 11 song collection Knocking at Your Back Door in 1992!

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The House of Blue Light (1987)

The Deep Purple Project continues!  Join me for the next week (plus?) and see more rock majesty than you can shake a purple stick at!

Scan_20160129 (4)DEEP PURPLE – The House of Blue Light (1987 Polygram)

The Deep Purple reunion was the success beyond what anybody hoped for.  The band had revitalized after many acrimonious years apart.  They were fresh and rejuvenated, and the resultant album Perfect Strangers was the proof.   If the live recordings are anything to go by, then the tour was also dynamite.   Obviously the next thing to do would have to be a second reunion album.

According to Ian Gillan’s autobiography Child in Time, things went south very fast.  He found Ritchie Blackmore increasingly difficult to work with, refusing even to record guitar for one song.  Gillan admits he was no treat either, so it was the band that suffered.  Ian compared Deep Purple to a beautiful meal, a plate full of gourmet perfection — that’s Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Jon Lord.  Ian and Ritchie were the fork and knife on either side.

The House of Blue Light (title taken from Little Richard via Purple’s own “Speed King”) was not a fun album for anyone to make.  Some hold it in high esteem today, such as renowned writer Martin Popoff, who rated it 10/10 in Riff Kills Man (as he did Perfect Strangers).  While I believe Perfect Strangers is easily a 10, I don’t find The House of Blue Light to be its equal.  The band may agree; none of its songs have been performed live since this tour.  That also just could be residual hard feelings.

There is no mistaking the organ of Jon Lord on “Bad Attitude”.  What an opening statement this is.  Just as strong as the best songs on Strangers, “Bad Attitude” rules.  It’s all about the spaces between, but Ritchie ensures there is a catchy trademark Deep Purple riff involved.  His solos are exotic delight.  Even in 1987, Purple weren’t afraid to load their single down with solos!  Jon Lord’s synths are perhaps more prominent than they were in ’84.  This is not a bad thing, because Jon Lord makes synth sound good.  Synth and electronics take center stage on “The Unwritten Law”, powerful both because of and in spite of it.  The pulse and beats give it a dramatic chase-like feel.  Its drum outro is very reminiscent of “Chasing Shadows” from album #3 in 1969!  It’s also the only Ian Paice co-write.  In the 80’s, instead of splitting the writing credits five ways as they always had, Purple changed to awarding individual credits (and royalties).  This led to petty squabbles and infighting.

“Call of the Wild” was a single and (pretty terrible) music video, and didn’t really make much of an impact.  Too bad.  It’s one of Purple’s more pop songs, but that’s just fine by me.  Purple have occasionally forayed into commercial songwriting, but have always done so with class.  This one sounds like a Rainbow song circa the Joe Lynn Turner years.  “Mad Dog” blows away all three of the previous songs.  With a killer, choppy Blackmore riff right up front, it sounds vintage.  Gillan gets to play some bluesy harmonica on “Black & White”, a good mid-paced groove but not an outstanding one.  Something like this needs a timeless Blackmore solo to drive it home, but the fire fails to light.

There’s a natural split between side one and side two, which still comes across on CD.  “Hard Lovin’ Woman” (supposedly a sequel to “Hard Lovin’ Man” from In Rock) is one of the few songs that was played live, probably because of its energy.  It has the pace of an old-school Purple rocker, but not the timelessness.  It’s largely forgettable and really only notable because it’s on the live album Nobody’s Perfect.  Back to regal sounding Deep Purple, “The Spanish Archer” could really have been something had they bothered to play it in concert.  It has a drama to it that is one of Purple’s strengths, but a lot of its strength is sapped by 80’s production values.  Glover’s bass doesn’t have enough meat to it, and there is a hint of electronic effects on the drums.

Onto “Strangeways”, the only long song (7:35).  Its vibe is very much in tune with “Hungry Daze” from the previous album.  The lyrics are unusually topical for Gillan and Glover.  “Have you seen the headlines?  Princess engaged.  Three million out of work, but that’s on the second page.”  Its length is taken up by some of Ritchie’s most subtle playing, but if you listen carefully, you can hear Ian Gillan on the congas.  Just like old times.  “Mitzi Dupri” is the one that Blackmore refused to record.  The guitar you hear on the album track is taken from the original demo.  Once Ian came up with the lyrics, Blackmore proclaimed he did not like it and would not participate in recording it for the record.  I think he found the words a bit dirty.  Closing the record is “Dead or Alive”, speedy Purple in the classic fashion.  If only the production of this album were a bit tougher, that song would be mercilessly heavy.

The House of Blue Light is not the equal of its predecessor.  Given some better production and perhaps one or two different songs, it could have been.  Someone in Purple (I think it was Glover) said that every other Purple album was “difficult”.  Perhaps there’s a smidgen to truth to that, because The House of Blue Light does not sound like the same confident band that recorded Perfect Strangers.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rainbow – Live in Munich 1977 (vinyl)

Thanks for joining me this week for my Deep Purple Project. I admit that this review is a bit of a cop-out. I got dreadfully sick with the flu a week ago and was not able to finish any more Purple reviews for this week. I pulled an old one out of the hopper instead. This is close to Purple,  — the Man in Black himself, and Blackmore’s Rainbow. This review is for music writer Victim of the Fury!

RAINBOW – Live in Munich 1977 (2013 Eagle Rock 180 gram 2 LP set)

Something about listening to classic rock with that rich, warm sound of pristine vinyl played on nice big speakers for the first time…is there anything better?  Dropping the needle on side A, let us begin the ritual of properly listening to a double live album.

This 180 gram was a birthday gift from my sis, knowing my love of all things Ronnie James Dio. Not to be confused with the double CD Live in Germany 1976, this freshly mastered concert was recorded in 1977 for German television.  Dio was one hell of a powerhouse, especially in 1977.  Live in Munich contains what must stand as one of the best Dio performances caught on tape.  This was caught just before the album release for Love Live Rock ‘n’  Roll.  “Kill the King” was a storming opening and the live recording is all but flawless.  If Rainbow could be faulted for anything at this point in their brief life, perhaps they played too many long jams on stage.  “Mistreated”, the Deep Purple concert favourite, is the first of these.  As usual for the Man in Black, Ritchie Blackmore himself, the song is almost 12 minutes in length when stretched out live.

Lets not get into comparing Ronnie James Dio to David Coverdale. There’s no point to that.  As with Black Sabbath, you either like Ronnie’s interpretation or you don’t.  Regardless is it drummer Cozy Powell who detours most noticeable from the Deep Purple original, doing a busier blast than Ian Paice did.  As for Blackmore, his solo spans the entire spectrum delightfully.  He fluffs it for a moment, only to immediately take control and keep going.  This is a brilliant version of a song we have heard many times.  Ritchie then takes center stage for a delicate workout to “Greensleeves”, before blasting into the Rainbow barnstormer.  Once again, this is probably the best live version on tape.

IMG_20151108_111910Flipping the record to side B, we are treated to Ritchie seemingly tuning his guitar…melodically…working his way into a lengthy “Catch the Rainbow” including classical interludes.  There’s more than a little “Little Wing” within “Catch the Rainbow”, which Ritchie plays into.  Bassist Bob Daisley sings the angelic backing vocals, proving why he has been such an integral member to so many bands over the years.  In fact this would have to be one of the strongest Rainbow lineups, period.  Keyboardist David Stone rounded out the quintet, and he is kept busy on “Catch the Rainbow”.  The brand new song “Love Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” is next, and a few people in the crowd indicate they may already know the song!  It is presented more Deep Purple in style (hints of “Black Night”), perhaps a bit more laid back with nice flashes of organ here and there.

The second LP has to shuffle the track order out of necessity.  “Still I’m Sad” is 25 minutes, so it must occupy all of side C, even though it was played after “Man on the Silver Mountain” in concert.  There is something about a side of vinyl that contains one monolithic slab of music in only one track.  It feels like a challenge, a solo-laden endurance challenge.  Once it starts rolling, it becomes one of the most intense versions of the song yet recorded by Rainbow.  Then it goes all over the place as pretty much every member has moments to shine.  It’s way too much and it’s way over the top and taxing even to the staunching rock fans.  It was 1977 and this is the way it went down!

Settling in for the final slab o’rock, side D is also daunting with two tracks of 15 minutes apiece. Purple’s “Lazy” is teased out, as part of “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Lots of soloing and noodling abound, and the big weakness with this period of Rainbow is that they thought we needed this much of it. The segue into “Starstruck” is way more fun. More solos and a frantic “Do You Close Your Eyes” ends the concert. Stone’s keyboard solo is cheesy fun, but overall this is another great over the top performance from Rainbow. You can hear a guitar destroyed at the end of it all.

Double lives are best experienced on vinyl, and pristine 180 gram records fit the bill perfectly. If you’re going to go double live for Rainbow, do it with Live in Munich.

4/5 stars

A
1. “Kill the King”
2. “Mistreated”
3. “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”

B
1. “Catch the Rainbow”
2. “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”

C
1. “Still I’m Sad”

D
1. “Man on the Silver Mountain”
2. “Do You Close Your Eyes”

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made in Europe (1976)

Scan_20160114DEEP PURPLE – Made in Europe (1976 EMI)

In 1976, Deep Purple ended with a thud.

With no desire to carry on, the band split in 1976 after the ill-received addition of Tommy Bolin on lead guitar.  David Coverdale was eager to start a solo career where he could sing, and not “scream his balls off”.  Everybody else was just plain tired of it all.  Dutifully, the record company trotted out live albums and compilations, to keep the cash flowing.  Made in Europe, intended as a followup to Made in Japan, came first.  It was followed by Power House, When We Rock We Rock, Deepest Purple, Last Concert in Japan, Live in London, and many more.  The goal was not to provide fans with good quality unreleased music for them to enjoy.  The purpose was to make more money.

Made in Europe has since been superseded by better releases.  MkIII: The Final Concerts expanded and remixed this material, sourced from their last shows with Ritchie Blackmore.  He had already made the decision to quit, unbeknownst to his bandmates.  More recently, the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series released full shows of two concerts, Graz and Paris.  It is always preferable to have the full show, rather than a song here or there sloppy edited and mixed into a live album.  Don’t you agree?

With only five songs, Made in Europe was hardly representative of Purple’s set at the time, but it seems a single LP was all that EMI were willing to invest in.  Producer Martin Birch was unable to get the same heavy, crisp sound that he got on Made in Japan.  This one is heavy, but that crisp sound is muffled under a blanket.

“Burn” is an apt opener, and both David and Glenn Hughes were in fine form that night.  Blackmore, Paice and Lord always are.  Yet Deep Purple sound almost…bored?  Playing by rote?  Blackmore’s guitar is also too buried in the mix.  The first of two jams is up next: “Mistreated (Interpolating ‘Rock Me Baby’)”.  While no one questions that this is one of the greatest songs in the Deep Purple MkIII catalogue, the live jam has always dragged.  Ritchie’s playing is still a delight, but they could have trimmed two or three minutes from the song.   That’s followed by a frantic “Lady Double Dealer”, never one of Purple’s finest.  Birch applies an irritating echo to the chorus, but that’s all for the first side.

The second side is dominated by 16 minutes of “You Fool No One”, the second jam.  Jon Lord takes center stage for the organ solo intro, but if you dig cowbell, this song is for you!  Could Ian Paice be the #1 cowbell player on the planet?  “You Fool No One” testifies to that.  He is absolutely the MVP on this track (for his drumming, too)!  Finally, the full gale force of “Stormbringer” brings the proceedings to an end, easily the best track on the disc.

What, no “Smoke on the Water”?  No “Highway Star”?  It appears EMI wanted to avoid song overlap with Made in Japan, so you get MkIII material and only MkIII material!  That the drawback to a set such as this which is really only about half of a proper Deep Purple concert.

3/5 stars

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