ritchie blackmore

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Nobody’s Perfect (1988, 1999 reissue)

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

Deep Purple are more than just a band, they are a legend.  And as such we must judge them a little more stringently than the average band.

In 1988 Deep Purple were celebrating their 20th anniversary, but they were actually broken up for eight of those 20 years.  And as it turns out, they celebrated their 20th by firing lead singer Ian Gillan!  They also released this live album, which failed to excite the general public.  Nobody’s Perfect is little more than a sub-Made in Japan.

It’s important to note, if you’re going to buy Nobody’s Perfect, there is no point in getting anything other than the 1999 2CD Mercury reissue.  Originally, in order to get all the tracks, you had to buy the album on LP and cassette.  The cassette had one exclusive track, “Dead or Alive”, a rarity from The House of Blue Light.  The double LP had its own exclusive, “Bad Attitude”, another rarity from the same album.  Meanwhile the single disc CD release was missing both these tracks and “Space Truckin'” as well.  In other words, definitely do not buy the original single CD release which is the most incomplete of them all.

The big critique levelled at Nobody’s Perfect, then and now, is that the setlist was too safe and a repeat of stuff already released in live form.  Ian Gillan himself was one who voiced that opinion.  The cassette and LP bonus tracks go a long way to add value, since those songs were dropped after this tour.  The only other place you can find live versions of “Bad Attitude” and “Dead or Alive” is the very expensive and out of print Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  Otherwise, Nobody’s Perfect consists of all the same songs as Made in Japan minus “The Mule” and with a small handful of newer songs.  The album is also sourced from many concerts around the world and completely lacks the flow that Made in Japan had (even though it was taken from three concerts itself).

The Deep Purple of 1987-1988 may have had the same members, but they still sounded very different from the Purple of 1972.  Ian Gillan’s voice aged as all human voices do, and is the most notably different.  Just as importantly though, Deep Purple had drastically cut down the soloing.  That’s not a bad thing, but a lot of the shorter jams and solos sounded by rote in the 80s.  One new highlight though is a bit of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the middle of the “Strange Kind of Woman” solo section.  Gillan was, of course, the original Jesus on the Jesus Christ Superstar album.

Whatever negatives may be applicable, when they rock they rock and when they roll they roll.  “Dead Or Alive”, a new song, smokes the stage.  “Child in Time” is probably the last decent version of the song released.  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” were fresh and haven’t worn out their welcomes.

Finally there is a “Hush”, a re-recording of Deep Purple’s original 1968 single, captured live in a jam.  This reimagining of the track has been dismissed as unnecessary but that is an unfair assessment.  Ian Gillan and Roger Glover didn’t play on the original, so it’s actually cool to get a nice version with them.  “Hush” in 1988 was a heavier track than “Hush” in 1968, but it’s still playful rock and roll.

As Purple approaches their 50th, Nobody’s Perfect has faded into the backdrop.  As an official live album, it has its place in the discography.  With so many superior official and semi-official live releases since, it is hardly an essential listen.

3/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Stranger In Us All (expanded edition)

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Stranger In Us All (originally 1995, 2017 Sony expanded edition)

Blackmore said “adios” to Deep Purple for the second and final time in 1993.  He beat them to the punch with new music, in the form of a resurrected Rainbow…sort of.  As he is prone to do, Blackmore assembled an all-new Rainbow of unknowns.  The only familiar face was bassist Greg Smith who happened to be in Alice Cooper’s band when Wayne’s World was filmed.  The new singer was the smooth-voiced Scot, Mr. Doogie White.  White’s career almost broke in a completely different direction earlier, when he was one of two finalists in the running to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden.  It went to Blaze Bayley.  Signifying new beginnings, Blackmore reverted the band’s name to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow once again.

Back in 1995, my impressions of Stranger In Us All, the new album by Blackmore’s Rainbow, were significantly underwhelming.  It has taken its time, but over the years the album slowly penetrated my stubborn refusal to accept it as legitimate.  By now I think we know all Rainbow needs is the Man in Black.  And there he stands on the front cover, pilgrim-hatted again, gloriously silhouetted against a cloudy sky.

The only serious weakness in Stranger In Us All has nothing to do with the lineup.  The production (by Pat Regan and Blackmore) sounds low budget and the drums sound muddy.  Blackmore’s guitar tone is thankfully impeccable and his neo-classical leanings on the first track “Wolf to the Moon” were refreshing.  “Wolf to the Moon” is one song that has stood the test of time.  It is thoroughly still enjoyable today, and Blackmore is unleashed.  And the singer?  It is true that Doogie White stands in the shadows of some great lead vocalists.  I’ll resist ranking and comparing.  White has a very smooth voice with impressive power and range, and he doesn’t sound like any of his predecessors.  Where White really impresses is in live renditions.  He is an entertaining and amicable frontman.

Track two brings a slower grind to Rainbow, and White slinks along with him, adapting perfectly to every vibe.  Going slower still, “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” really prowls.  It is spare, dark and sweaty.  Moving on to inspirational hard rock, Rainbow brings the harmonica-inflected “Stand and Fight”.  What is not to like?

Rainbow ended the first side in typically epic fashion.  “Ariel” was quite a track, featuring backing vocals from the lady who is now Ritchie’s wife, Mrs. Candice Night.  She co-wrote a number of the album’s tracks including “Ariel”.  This kind of thing is Ritchie’s bread and butter, he’s been writing epics like this since “Child in Time” back in 1970.  As an added bonus, the extended edition of Stranger In Us All has the single edit of “Ariel”, trimming it to a tidy format-friendly 4:00.  This is more like a re-edit, moving parts around and making it more compact.

They step on the gas again for “Too Late for Tears”.  Side two has a couple “stock” rockers — “Too Late for Tears” and “Silence”.  Good blood-pumping tracks, nothing to save for your greatest hits album, but decent enough.  “Black Masquerade” is better, as it has a dark neo-classical edge.  Thing go kind of goofy when they cover Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and add lyrics.  They also have another go at the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad”, this being the second time.  The first Rainbow version was an instrumental.  This one has vocals, and it’s pretty good.  Just like with lead singers, I don’t think it’s worth comparing this version to the 1975 one.  It’s unique enough that it’s almost two different things.

Back in 2013 I found the Japanese edition of Stranger In Us All at the 2013 Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale for $15.  Instant no-brain purchase right?  Now that this expanded edition is out, I no longer need it in my ever-expanding collection.  I am passing it on to massive Rainbow fan Brian over at Boppinsblog.  Now that CDs are worth nothing, I like to pay it forward with my retired music.  The expanded edition contains the Japanese bonus track, “Emotional Crime”.  It has a cool, “smoove” groove and a bluesy feel.  Think Purple’s 1988 remake of “Hush” in terms of vibe.  The other extra tracks are the aforementioned “Ariel” edit, and a live take of the old Rainbow classic “Temple of the King”.  This is and the “Ariel” edit are taken from the old out of print CD single.  “Temple of the King” was recorded in Stockholm October 2 1995, meaning it is not the same as the one on the double live CD Black Masquerade.  That was recorded exactly a week later in Germany.  (Thanks to Scott the Heavy Metal Overlord for pointing this out.)  It’s a brilliant arrangement giving Candice Night and Doogie White a chance to harmonize over a very quiet backdrop.  The Man in Black whips out a solo that surely must be considered one of his most passionate.

That’s how this version of Rainbow succeeds — by a putting a fresh spin on it.  You avoid trying to compare to other versions of the band and just enjoy.  Ritchie reveals in the extensive liner notes that he wanted to call the band Rainbow Moon.  And speaking of the liner notes, there are also recollections from Doogie White.  In short this expanded edition is worth every penny, even if you’ve bought it before.

3.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978)

DEEP PURPLE – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978 Warner)

When Deep Purple broke up in 1976, their back catalog was ripe for exploitation for compilation by record labels.  One by one, out trickled Deepest Purple, Singles A’s and B’s, and When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll.  1978’s When We Rock is the least necessary of them all.

The only thing that When We Rock really has going for it is that did feature all the Deep Purple singers to date.  Ian Gillan sings the majority of tracks, Rod Evans has two (“Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”) and Coverdale/Hughes have one (“Burn”).  The shoddy package had no involvement from any ex-members of the band, and even has an incorrect track listing on the back.  “Woman From Tokyo” isn’t live, but “Smoke on the Water” is (from Made in Japan).

If music shoppers in 1978 were just looking for a handy-dandy single record set of all Purple’s radio hits, then When We Rock almost fits the bill.  “Hard Road (Wring That Neck)” is conspicuous by its inclusion, being a semi-obscure instrumental from 1969’s The Book of Taliesyn.  Swap that one out for “Strange King of Woman” and you could have had a serviceable hits set, even considering the live tracks.  After all, Made in Japan helped establish the live album as a viable hitmaker.

The only reason to own When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll is the cover art, which admittedly is pretty nifty.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – InFinite (2017 deluxe box) Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of a double-sized Deep Purple deluxe InFinite box set review!  For Part 1, click here.

DEEP PURPLE – InFinite (2017 Edel deluxe box set edition)

When we last met, we took a solid look at Deep Purple’s fine new album, InFinite.  Because the year is 2017, InFinite is available in multiple editions.  The most logical to buy is the deluxe box set.  This includes:

  • InFinite on CD
  • From Here to InFinite – a full length documentary DVD
  • InFinite on a 2 LP set in its own double gatefold
  • The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2 – an exclusive live album included on three 10″ records
  • A T-shirt
  • A poster
  • Five lovely photo cards
  • A sticker

That’s a lot of goodies for a reasonable price, and it all comes housed in a sturdy box.

The included DVD is a very intimate look at the creation of InFinite from writing to overdubs.  Narrated by Rick Wakeman (you read that correctly), it also looks at the moments that Steve Morse and Don Airey joined the band.  Much attention is given to the shocking departure of Ritchie Blackmore in 1993, and the acquisition of Joe Satriani (who is interviewed for the DVD). However, Joe had commitments and couldn’t stay long.  Deep Purple couldn’t wait for him, so they had to look for someone else.  They had a list, and the first name on it was Steve Morse.  Almost instantly they found themselves rediscovering the joy of music.  The atmosphere and attitude of the band did a complete 180.   When Jon Lord’s passing is discussed, there are a few teary eyes and sincere words.  Moving on to InFinite, it is remarkable to watch the band pluck ideas from the air and mold them into songs.  Bob Ezrin is a huge part of the process, with his own ideas and preferences.  His reputation as a taskmaster is reinforced by the band, but it seems like a very easy collaboration.  They have the same goals and desires, and trust each other’s musical instincts.  There is also a shockingly frank discussion with Steve Morse, about the osteoarthritis in his picking hand.  His technique has, over the years, worn out his wrist to the point that there is bone-on-bone contact.  The pain has grown so severe that playing the guitar required him to completely change his picking technique, while wearing a wrist brace.  Meanwhile Don Airey gets 20 “Cool Points” for wearing both a Rival Sons T-shirt, and a Winnipeg Jets sweater.  Canucks will also be pleased to know that Ian Gillan recorded his vocals at Bob Ezrin’s studio in Toronto.

The DVD can be had in a CD/DVD set, so the real reason for fans to choose this box set is The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2.  Vol. 1 was included on the “gold” reissue of their last album Now What?!  Vol. 2 is, as it states on the sleeve, “100% live!  100% unreleased!”  There are some obscure tracks on here, making this live album very enticing indeed.  You don’t have to sit through more versions of “Smoke on the Water” or “Black Night”.  Even better, or perhaps best of all to the vinyl nerds, are the lovely records that comprise The Now What?! Live Tapes, Vol. 2.  Three 10″ records, each in their own coloured sleeve, and each on coloured vinyl!  White, clear, and clear blue.

“Après Vous” (from London) commences the proceedings.  This newby from Now What?! has a lot of life on stage, and the long instrumental section sounds kinda like the old days.  Then an oldie:  “Into the Fire” (Milan) from 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock.  Ian really strains his voice on this one, but somehow pulls it off with style.  Back to London for “The Mule”, a song featuring Ian Paice’s busiest drum work.  No problems from Paicey.  Indeed, on the DVD Paicey says he hasn’t experienced much physical difficulty in continuing to play the way he wants to.

The second record starts with Purple’s recent “Green Onions”/”Hush” medley (Gaevle, Sweden), a cool way to inject new life into one of Purple’s earliest singles.  The interplay between the four musicians during the jam section is remarkable.  Even though most of the originals are long gone, it sounds sorta like Purple circa 1969.  Another medley showcasing Steve Morse (“The captain of the skies, the Aviator”, says Gillan) occupies side two.  “Contact Lost” (London) is Morse’s short instrumental tribute to the crew of STS-107, known to most as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.  This merges into Purple’s majestic song for Jon Lord, “Uncommon Man” and finally Steve’s instrumental “The Well-Dressed Guitar”.

One more record to go.  The excellent single “All the Time in the World” from Now What?! comes from Aalborg, Denmark.  It’s a slick and laid back jazzy rock groove.  Purple always seem to find a great groove, and “All the Time in the World” is unlike previous ones.  “Highway Star” (London) is like a polar opposite.  Though you know they will hold it all together, “Highway Star” still sounds so fast that it could come off the tracks at any time.  1971’s “Strange Kind of Woman” (Aalborg) is a long-time favourite with fun vocal-guitar interplay.  Back to London for the last track, “Space Truckin'”.  What can you say about “Space Truckin'”?  Not much except that Ian Paice still kicks it, and hard!

Purple fanatics who still love what the band is doing today will need this box set.  It will be indispensable to them.  Wear your T-shirts with pride!  For the casual Purple fan who just wants to check out the CD and DVD, that edition will suffice.

To InFinite and beyond!

4/5 stars

 

Further reading on more Deep Purple InFinite related releases:

DEEP PURPLE – Time For Bedlam (2017 Edel EP)

DEEP PURPLE – All I Got is You (2017 Edel EP)

DEEP PURPLE – Limitless (2017 exclusive CD included with Classic Rock #234, April 2017)

DEEP PURPLE – InFinite (2017 Edel)

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

 

 

#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:


12-09-07_1628

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.