Slaves and Masters

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Shades 1968-1998 (box set)

DEEP PURPLE – Shades 1968-1998 (Rhino 1999 box set)

I was really excited about this 1999 box set when it came out, but what it came down to was this: I paid “x” amount of dollars for just two songs that I didn’t have on other recent Deep Purple CDs. One song, “Slow Down Sister”  by Deep Purple Mk 5 was only available here. It’s since been reissued on the Slaves and Masters deluxe edition.  The other is a very rare and very great 1971 live version of “No No No” from a compilation called Ritchie Blackmore/Rock Profile Vol. 1. So there’s your bait.

Unfortunately, the booklet and discography is loaded with errors. This was disappointing. The packaging is nice, with that sheet metal looking embossed cover. It opens kind of awkwardly though, making it hard to handle. And man, there are so many Deep Purple box sets out there now! I have Listen, Learn, Read On which is six CDs dedicated entirely to just 1968-1976. Obviously you can’t squeeze Deep Purple’s career onto just four discs. This set covers 1968-1998, which is a huge chunk.  It’s almost the entire Jon Lord tenure.  It skimps in some places and confounds me in others. Usually, Rhino do such a great job, but I felt this one didn’t live up to their other products.

SHADES_0003Disc one covers 1968 to 1971 (Shades Of to Fireball). The tracks listed here as demos or rarities are from the Deep Purple remastered CDs, all except for the aforementioned “No No No” which really is awesome. If you have the great Singles A’s & B’s and the Deep Purple remasters, you have all this stuff. Except maybe the edit version of “”River Deep, Mountain High”, I’m not certain about that one. You get a good smattering of favourites on here, like “Kentucky Woman”, “Speed King”, “Child In Time” and so on, but it’s not really sequenced all that well. The slow-ish Deep Purple Mk I material fits awkwardly with the Mk II.  Other songs of note include non-album singles and B-sides such as “Hallelujah” (first recording with Ian Gillan) and “The Bird Has Flown”.  The version of “Speed King” included is the full UK cut, with the crazy noise intro.

Disc two is 1971 to 1972: more Fireball, and Machine Head. All these tracks can be found on Deep Purple remasters. There  are some excellent tracks here, such as the rare “Painted Horse” and “Freedom”. “Painted Horse”, a personal favourite, has been available for decades on an album called Power House. I guess Blackmore didn’t like them at the time, so they languished until the band broke up before the record label released them. “I’m Alone” was rare for a long time, and “Slow Train” was completely undiscovered until the Fireball remaster. I like that “Anyone’s Daughter” is on here, a very underrated song.  Of course you will hear all the big hits on this disc: The studio versions of “Smoke on the Water”, “Fireball”, Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'”. This will be many people’s favourite disc.

The third CD continues with Mk II.  It starts off with the Made In Japan live version of “Smoke” which is fine, but now you’ve heard it twice.  Soon, it’s  “Woman From To-kay-yo”, “Mary Long”, and the scathing “Smooth Dancer”.  Then Gillan and Glover are out, and in comes Coverdale and Hughes  One rarity on this disc is the instrumental “Coronarias Redig”, which dates from the Burn period. It also includes some of Mk III’s most impressive work, including two of the best tunes from Come Taste The Band. Conspicuous by their absence is the epic “You Keep On Moving”, and Blackmore-era fave “Gypsy”. You will, however get “Burn”, and “Stormbringer” from Stormbringer itself.

SHADES_0005The fourth CD is the one that ticks me off the most. This covers the reunion era, from 1984 to the then-most recent album Abandon in 1998. The hits are here, “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking’ On Your Back Door”, as well as some singles from the Joe Lynn Turner era. What ticks me off here is the song selection. “Fire In The Basement”? What? That song kind of sucks, why not “The Cut Runs Deep”? Only one song from The Battle Rages On is included, only one from the excellent Purpendicular, and only one from the recent Abandon? And not even the best songs? That makes no sense.

To short-change the later era of Deep Purple only serves to short-change the listener.  The band were revitalized and rejuventated by Steve Morse, and made some really good, well received music. I saw them live with Morse in 1996.

From The House of Blue Light era, a single edit of “Bad Attitude” is included, which is probably rare.  What you won’t get is the full, 10 minute + version of the instrumental “Son Of Aleric”. This is one of the best lesser known tunes from the reunion era. Instead, you get the truncated 7″ single version. That makes the 10 minute version frustratingly hard to get. It was originally released on a 12″ single, which you may be able to find. You might have better luck finding it on the European version of Knocking at Your Back Door: The Best of Deep Purple in the 80’s. It was included there, replacing “Child In Time” from the US version. I managed to get it thanks to my mom & dad who bought it for me at an HMV store in Edinburgh (along with Restless Heart by Whitesnake).

SHADES_0004Mick Wall’s liner notes offer the Morse years a mere mention, and end on a nostalgia note of “bring back Blackmore.”  Come on. Let’s focus on the present of a band that shows no signs of slowing down, shall we? But this box set short changes the present, and by picking it up you won’t hear such awesome later songs as “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” or “Fingers to the Bone”.

I know many reviews of this set are glowing, and each reviewer has their own reasons for doing so. I can’t. This band is too important, too vital, and dammit, still alive! This box set simply doesn’t do them justice. I was ticked off when I bought it and realized I owned almost all the “rare and unreleased” material. Collectors won’t find much here worth the coin spent, and rock fans who just want a great box set of Deep Purple won’t get to hear enough Morse.

Somebody dropped the ball on this one! 2/5 stars.

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Battle Rages On… (1993)

TBRO FRONT

DEEP PURPLE – The Battle Rages On… (1993 BMG)

After the ill-fated (but personally enjoyed) Slaves and Masters, Deep Purple realized the only way forward was with Mk II screamer Ian Gillan back at the mike. With a full album’s worth of material already written with former singer Joe Lynn Turner, all Gillan had to do was turn up and re-write the melody and lyrics. Much to Blackmore’s chagrin! Blackmore had no qualms telling Gillan that he preferred the original lyric and melody to “Time To Kill”.

Much heavier than Slaves and Masters, The Battles Rages On is much more in line with albums such as Fireball, Perfect Strangers and Machine Head. Lord’s Hammond organ is much more in the forefront. However, a vintage sound does not a great album make. The Battle Rages On has 10 tracks, 5 of which are good and 5 of which are filler. This was disappointing for me personally, but some (M.E.A.T. Magazine and Martin Popoff included) have rated this album very high.  Joe Lynn Turner derisively calls this album The Cattle Grazes On.

The five tunes I like: “The Battle Rages On”, “Anya”, “Time To Kill”, “Ramshackle Man”, “Solitaire”.

The title track is absolutely monstrous. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, “Bloody well right!” Big beefy riff, angry lyrics!

“Annihilation, kill ’em all. Capitulation, watch the mighty fall. The road to glory is lined in red, and though the reason now is gone…The Battle Rages On!”  (Always wondered if this was about Gillan and Blackmore.)

The song is a Purple epic, along the lines of “Perfect Strangers” or “Knockin’ At Your Back Door”. Just an awesome track.  I understand that in 2013 they have actually returned it to the set.

“Anya” is a keyboard driven rocker, Jon Lord style, lots of drama. “Time To Kill” is sort of a heavy pop rocker with Gillan trying to get philosophical with the lyrics, which Blackmore hated. “Ramshackle Man” is blues rock, pure and simple as Purple have specialized in. “Solitaire” is mournful, sad, kind of unlike anything Purple had really done before.  Gillan’s droning melody seals the deal.

The rest of the songs just do nothing for me. Some, like “One Man’s Meat” have decent riffs and parts, but weak melodies and lyrics.  As songs, they don’t add up to a satisfying listen.  It is a shame, given the strength of the good songs on the album.

Blackmore left in the middle of the tour.  Joe Satriani filled in, and there was talk that he wouldn’t mind joining Purple full time.  His time proved to be temporary, and Steve Morse has been in the band almost 20 years now. When Joe Satriani was in the band, they did an awesome version of “Ramshackle Man”, which I have on a video bootleg from the European tour.  There was an official live album with Blackmore from the tour, called Come Hell Or High Water.  As well, you could buy official bootlegs with both Morse and Blackmore in a box set called Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  And let’s not forget the Come Hell Or High Water video, with Blackmore throwing that water bottle in Gillan’s general direction…

Check out Satriani’s outro solo starting at about 7:07…smokin’!

To me, Purple’s true comeback was 1996’s Purpendicular. Having said that, the five good songs on The Battle Rages On are worth the purchase at a reasonable price. And hey, maybe Popoff was right, and I’m just not getting it. You decide.

3/5 stars

And check out these cool supplementary releases, all of which deserve their own individual reviews.