Smoke on the Water

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers Live (2013 2LP/2CD/1DVD set)

NEW RELEASE

DEEP PURPLE – Perfect Strangers Live (2013 Eagle Vision 2LP/2CD/1DVD deluxe edition)

Perfect Strangers Live, a new 2013 release of a 1984 recording in Sydney, proves many things but one of them is this:  The proverbial “vaults” must be an endless place where this band is concerned.  Year after year newly released archival recordings hit the shelves, all worthy of your hard-earned music budget dollars.  Perfect Strangers Live is available in multiple formats, but I chose to go with the deluxe 180 gram vinyl set, complete with 2 CD and single DVD versions included.  I bought this via the Deep Purple Appreciation Society, who I especially appreciated this time.  I ordered the set and it got lost in the mail.  After contacting Ann directly she posted another one right off to me which arrived safely to my delight.

IMG_20140217_082459It’s a beautiful beast of a package.  The heavy vinyl gives the set real heft, but it’s also a triple gatefold sleeve as well.  If you loved the reunion era of Deep Purple Mk II then some version of this set will be an obvious must for you.  You can buy it separately as a 2 CD set, a DVD, a 3 disc set, or go hogwild like I did with the vinyl deluxe set.  Hell if you’re really nuts for the band there’s a 3 LP, 2 CD Japanese version with extra goodies.   As to the version I own, the only disappointment comes in the way the CDs and DVD are housed in the set.  I hate spending a lot of money on a package that will absolutely scratch your CDs.  No matter how careful you are, something will get scratched and that’s a bummer.  So I ripped the CDs and put them away for good.

The music contained within is 100% worth your money and probably the best documentation of this era of Deep Purple.  There are other collections out there, most notably the 1985 recording In the Absence of Pink (Knebworth).  There was also the Highway Stars bootleg contained within the Bootleg Series box set.  This one tops the rest sonically.  The recording and mix are excellent.  You could easily mistake it sonically for a modern recording.  Everything is audible, including Gillan’s oft-buried congas.

Speaking of Gillan, the man was in absolutely stunning shape.  I don’t know why the band used backing tapes (quite obviously) during the screams on “Child In Time”.  Gillan’s live screams didn’t need the boost.  Somehow he keeps it going all the way to the 12 minute closer “Smoke on the Water”.  Gillan had just finished his stint with Black Sabbath, but he sounds infinitely better here than on any live recording I’ve heard with Black Sabbath.

It’s hard to pick a single MVP on Perfect Strangers Live, such is the dynamic of Deep Purple when firing on all five cylinders.  Certainly Ritchie Blackmore is a delight, projecting intensity and playfulness at every turn.  During “Strange Kind of Woman”, Blackmore treats the Australians to “Waltzing Matilda”.   On “Under the Gun”, he’s mesmerizing as he tortures his Fender.  Ritchie’s solo that closes a 15 minute “Space Truckin'” is among the most electrifying moments you will hear.  Jon Lord is as wonderful as ever on that same song, and of course “Child In Time”.  Not to go without mention are Glover and Paice.  Ian Paice is the little engine that would not quit; Roger Glover the anchor.

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Also important to mention are the “new” songs.  Deep Purple played more than half of their new LP including both singles:  “Knockin’ On Your Back Door”, “Perfect Strangers”, “Nobody’s Home”, “Under the Gun” and “A Gypsy’s Kiss” (preceded by a bluesy Blackmore jam).  Purple rarely played so much off Perfect Strangers at one time, and some of these versions are just scorching!  “Nobody’s Home”, possibly “Under the Gun” too, are superior to the album versions…even when Gillan forgets the words. (That’s kind of my favourite part.)

As for the DVD, it too looks and sounds amazing.  I don’t know what else is out there video-wise from this period but I haven’t seen anything better than this.   You know Blackmore and cameras, he’s often got his side to the camera, or he turns away just as they turn to him.  That’s the man in black, that’s the enigma.  It’s a great DVD, although Lord and Paice are often buried behind their instruments.  Lord goes from keyboard to keyboard, extracting different sounds.

The cherry on top is a 20+ minute tour documentary.  It’s a rare look at a time when Deep Purple was more or less getting along as well as they ever would!

I haven’t played the vinyl.  I haven’t decided if I will.  Let me know if you care enough for me to review the vinyl, and I’ll consider it as a possibility.  I’ll be honest, after struggling to get the records back in the sleeve after taking the photos for this review, I’m not eager to take them out again.

4.5/5 stars

More PURPLE at mikeladano.com:

DEEP PURPLE – “Above and Beyond” (CD and 7″ singles, Edel)
DEEP PURPLE – ”All the Time in the World” (2013 Edel single)
DEEP PURPLE – The Battle Rages On… (1993 BMG)
DEEP PURPLE – Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD set)
DEEP PURPLE – Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition)
DEEP PURPLE – Deep Purple (1969 EMI, 2000 reissue)
DEEP PURPLE – Inglewood (2002 Purple Records/Sonic Zoom)
DEEP PURPLE – Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD box set, 2002)
DEEP PURPLE – Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl)
DEEP PURPLE – NOW What?! (2013 edel)
DEEP PURPLE – Perks and Tit (2003 Purple Records/Sonic Zoom)
DEEP PURPLE – Power House (1977 Warner Bros, Japanese import)
DEEP PURPLE – Rapture of the Deep (2 CD special edition)
DEEP PURPLE – Shades 1968-1998 (4 CD Rhino 1999 box set)
DEEP PURPLE – Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition)

REVIEW: Rock Aid Armenia – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions

ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions (2010 Edel CD/DVD set)

When some of the biggest names in both British and Canadian rock combined together to re-record “Smoke on the Water”, as a mega-collaboration charity track, I don’t care who you are:  You gotta listen!   Originally released as “Smoke on the Water ’90” on The Earthquake Album, it didn’t garner the attention of, say, a Hear N’ Aid, but it’s definitely a noteworthy track.  The Earthquake Album contained just the radio mix, which was an edited down version lacking Paul Rodgers.  This package on the other hand is a CD/DVD combo set including all 4 versions of “Smoke ’90” and a documentary.

The region 0 encoded DVD is 40 minutes long, and filled with incredible behind-the-scenes footage and candid interviews.  First, an explanation of the cause:  rebuilding a children’s music school in Armenia, destroyed in a 1988 earthquake.  Then, the musicians arrive!  Roger Taylor (Queen) is first in the door.  Can’t do anything without the drums!  He shows off his considerable chops while warming up.  Chris Squire (Yes) is next, who reveals that all egos have been dealt with in advance of the recording.  Brian May turns up with a broken arm (skateboarding accident) to offer his support; he would return to record after the arm has healed.  The recording takes place over five separate sessions.  One benefit of this arrangement was that it enabled Ritchie Blackmore to show up, without having to see Ian Gillan!

IOMMI MAYOh, to be in that room…

Soon to arrive:  Tony Iommi.  Paul Rodgers.  Bruce Dickinson.  David Gilmour.  Alex Lifeson.  Two keyboardists:  Keith Emerson and Geoff Downes.  Even Bryan Adams sings some backing vocals, after he turned up just to check out the recording studio!  (Gilmour can’t help but take a stab at Rogers Waters during the interview segments.)  Incidentally, I found it cool that Rodgers recorded his vocals with a hand-held mike.

I’ve always been a fan of this version of “Smoke”; in fact this was the first version of that I ever heard, 23 years ago.  The band was dubbed Rock Aid Armenia.  They got together in late ’89, and recorded this updated sounding cover.  Gillan, Dickinson and Rodgers handled the lead vocals, in that order.  It’s great to hear Iommi playing those chunky chords again.  Chris Squire’s bass work is fairly simple, but perfect.

The CD includes an updated 2010 remix that cuts down a lot of Keith Emerson’s cheesey keyboards.  Emerson stated that he wanted to put his own stamp on his parts, based on ELP’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.  He probably wouldn’t be happy to be mixed down on this version, but his keys always stood out like a sore thumb to me.  The 2010 mix adds in a lot more previously unheard guitar fills instead. Other extras include a previously unreleased version of the song, with an entire Ian Gillan vocal take.

This is a great little-known recording, and I’m glad an obscurity like this has finally been reissued properly.

4/5 stars

Footnote:  In 2011 and 2012, Gillan and Iommi followed this with a single and compilation album under the name WhoCares; also featuring Nicko McBrain, Jon Lord and Jason Newsted!

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD)

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DEEP PURPLE – Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (2000 Thames Thompson, Australia only, 12 CD set)

There are two (!) 12 CD Deep Purple bootleg collections; this is the first and best of them.  Although Deep Purple’s career is chock full of live albums chronicling this period, this set does feature many treats that are hard to find or not available on official live albums.  These really are bootlegs; the band decided to release their own versions of pre-existing audience bootleg albums!  All artwork, errors included, are copied from the original bootleg releases.

Before you get too excited I will state right off the bat:  There’s no Deep Purple Mk V or VI.  No Joe Lynn Turner, or Joe Satriani.  There is, however, a show from 1995 with Steve Morse, previewing tracks from the yet-to-be recorded Purpendicular album.  This transitional period is very cool.  You get to hear Morse perform “Anyone’s Daughter”, which was dropped from the set not long after.  Since Morse and Blackmore’s styles are vastly different, it’s a cool take on a track that you don’t hear often as it is.  In addition, you’ll hear Morse reinvent “Woman From Tokyo” on a bootleg from 2000.

BOOTLEGS FRONTThe Bootleg Series also contains my favourite version of “The Battle Rages On” ever released.  1995, Ft. Lauderdale Florida, Ian Gillan tore the roof off with that song.  In my mind I always imagined his screams directed towards Blackmore, even though he was probably furthest from Gillan’s mind.  It’s a magical version, you can hear the electricity and the emotion.  Just awesome.

Also a treat is a revisiting of the old In Rock classic, “Into the Fire” from 2000.  This version crushes!  Unfortunately, a stiff and slow version of “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” follows it.  Deep Purple are that kind of band, usually they just kill it.  But their history does contain rare stumbles, and this take of “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” is nothing stacked up against other versions available.  On the other hand, Purple just smoke the Abandon track “’69” immediately afterwards!  They extend this concise rocker to include an extended jam with a nod and wink to “Paint It, Black”.

Other highlights:  Blackmore’s solo spot “Difficult to Cure”.  Rarely heard 80’s-era tracks such as “Under the Gun”, “A Gypsy’s Kiss”, “Nobody’s Home”, “The Unwritten Law”, “Bad Attitude”, “Hard Lovin’ Woman”, and “Dead or Alive”.  You can’t buy a live version of “The Unwritten Law” anywhere else.  “Fools”, a rarely played track from Fireball, simply crushes.  Holy Ian Paice, Batman!  Steve puts his own slant on the guitar part in “Fools”, but it is his solo spot on “Cascades” that is truly intoxicating.

These being bootlegs, don’t expect sound quality or packaging or liner notes, unfortunately.  The sound quality does improve as you go from the oldest discs to the most recent.   The oldest shows have a lot of crowd noise, and poor sounding drums.  By the time you get the Japan 2000 show, things sound much better although can still stray towards muddy at times.  Packaging-wise, what you see is what you get:  A box, six jewel cases, front covers and back covers.

This was an Australia-only release.  I have no idea what it’s worth today.  I haven’t seen one in years.

4/5 stars

Bootlegs:

Highway Stars (Adelaide Australia, 11/30/1984)

Third Night (Sweden, 06/16/1985)

Hungary Days (Budapest Hungary, 01/28/1987)

In Your Trousers (Stockholm Sweden, 11/13/1993)

Purple Sunshine (Ft. Lauderdale Florida, 03/04/1995)

Made In Japan 2000 (Osaka Japan 04/01/2000)

I decided that there’s no point rating these bootlegs individually.  For one, it’s a set, and when it came down to splitting hairs, I like them equally.  And that speaks volumes as to the consistency of this band.

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.

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.