The Battle Rages On…

#698: Cancer Chronicles 12: The Battle Rages On

At LeBrain HQ this summer, we have been burning the candle at both ends.  Caring for a sick family member is not easy especially when they are out of town.

Mrs. LeBrain has been on trains and busses for half of every week, going up to Toronto to provide love and support.  She can’t drive because of the seizures so she’s at the mercy of bus and train schedules.  One night she spent five hours getting home from Toronto.

I’ve been given strict instructions from her aunt:  “Don’t let Jen burn herself out”.

Easier said than done!

She’s been doing an amazing job.  Since I work full time I am only free to drive down to Toronto on weekends.  That’s exhausting too, though not as much as public transit.

We haven’t had as much time to recharge our own batteries.  It’s sad to say but we won’t be going to the cottage at all this summer.  On the hot days, we would love nothing more than to jump in the refreshing waters of Lake Huron.  It’s not happening this year.

And I haven’t had as much time to work on my reviews here at mikeladano.com.  I come home from work mentally wiped out.  I’m still playing and enjoying music every day but not writing about it very much.  Thankfully guest writers like Holen MaGroin, Kovaflyer, Harrison Kopp and Derek Kortepeter have stepped up to provide some content and relief!  (And there will be more content from Mr. MaGroin soon.)

My job, supporting Jen, is the easier of the two.  I go to work, get paid, drive her where she has to go when I can, and try to take care of her.  She’s got the harder job.  If I’m not around these parts as much, or haven’t responded to your comments, that’s why.  The struggle continues and the battle rages on.

We are not quitters!

 

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Purpendicular (1996 US bonus track)

“The banjo player took a hike” — Ian Gillan


PURPENDICULAR US_0001DEEP PURPLE – Purpendicular (1996 BMG)

When Blackmore quit Purple for the second time, I had written the band off. I wasn’t too keen on the previous studio record The Battle Rages On, and what is Purple without the man in black? I didn’t want to hear a hack Deep Purple, struggling on to pay the bills with some sub-Blackmore player.  The first time he left, it shattered the band and they were unable to continue past one record with Tommy Bolin. Then I started reading reviews of live shows with Steve Morse on guitar. Steve Morse? What the hell was that going to sound like? Morse and Ritchie Blackmore — it is hard to imagine two electric guitar players who sound less alike. (Joe Satriani was also briefly in the band to help them finish up touring commitments.  Bootlegs of shows with Satriani are well worth checking out.)

When Purple finally released their new studio album Purpendicular, I had to buy it on import.  It didn’t even have a North American release.   When it was released officially in the US, an extra bonus track was added, so I tracked that down and bought it too. That is how much I really love this record. It had a huge impact on me musically in the mid to late 90’s, and when I saw Purple on this tour, they were smoking!

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Kicking off with some of that patented Morse shredding, the oddly titled “Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic” kicks you in the teeth and won’t let go. This was, according to Gillan, done on purpose.  It was a statement: “Here is our new guitar player, bitches.”  Ian’s lyrics, ranging from bizarre to absurd and back again, are at their absolute peak on this album. (Check out “Somebody Stole My Guitar”.) Clearly, when the man had been freed of Blackmore’s shackles, he had been creatively revitalized.  That probably followed in turn for each of the members.

The second track is the melancholy, bass-driven “Loosen My Strings”, a song which wouldn’t sound out of place on Slaves and Masters. From there, the album goes from strength to strength: The powerful progressive epic “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” (probably the best track on the album) to the bright and positive “A Touch Away”. Every song is backed by Morse’s unmistakable picking, miles away from Blackmore’s style of riffing, or medieval tendencies. That is not an attack against Blackmore, but sometimes a quality change can be refreshing. Morse utilizes pinch harmonics frequently on this album, which is a new sound for Deep Purple.  He also utilizes long sustained notes with wide vibrato, a classic Steve Morse sound.

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There are very few weak songs on Purpendicular.  The plodding “Soon Forgotten” can be skipped.  Not all the songs are immediate.  Some of them are complex arrangements designed to take a little effort to penetrate. This album must be played a couple times for it to sink in. But when it does, stand back and prepare to be blown away.  I wouldn’t want to miss “The Aviator”, a rare acoustic Purple tune.  Morse lends it a celtic feel.  For folks who prefer the 70’s jamming Deep Purple, check into “Rosa’s Cantina” and give a shout-out to “Hey Cisco”.  And if you like it a little more straightforward and rocking, you may prefer catchy rockers like “Somebody Stole My Guitar” and “I’m Not Your Lover Now”.

PURPENDICULAR US_0003I mentioned that I re-bought this album for a US bonus track.  “Don’t Hold Your Breath” is a bright upbeat rock song, and worth tracking down.  It’s not necessarily an album highlight, but why do without?  Jon Lord’s organ sounds on this one are particularly enticing.

 

There was also one outtake from this album, a silly little jam/band intro called “Dick Pimple”.  This was put out on a fanclub-only release, and later reissued on Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi’s compilation CD WhoCares.  It’s a 10 minute track, giving the fans a rare chance to hear Purple with Morse jam just for shits & giggles.  Because it’s Deep Purple, it is a quality jam, and completely unlike anything on Purpendicular.

Purpendicular was a vital record for Deep Purple.  If they had blown it, that would have been it.  They couldn’t have continued with any credibility if it didn’t kill.  Fortunately it did.  I am pleased to report that despite the tragic death of Jon Lord, Deep Purple has managed four more great records since, all with Steve Morse on guitar.

4.5/5 stars

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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.