Thus Spoke Zarathustra

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn (1968)

It’s Purple Week at mikeladano.com!  It’s all Deep Purple and Deep Purple alumni, all week.  This is Part 2.  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple

DEEP PURPLE – The Book of Taliesyn (1968 EMI, 2000 remaster)

I’m not a big fan of The Book of Taliesyn, and that’s not because I don’t like Deep Purple Mk I. I do like Deep Purple Mk I, or at least some of it. I think the third Purple album from ’69 is one of the band’s all-time best, and an underrated classic. The Book of only scratches the surface. The band had yet to find their sound, which would emerge fully formed a year later on Deep Purple In Rock. This album does represent significant growth, but not in the heavy metal direction that Purple would co-pioneer.  Instead, Book of travels further down the orchestral roads with Jon Lord.

The Book of Taliesyn, like Shades of Deep Purple before it, is built with cover songs as its cornerstones. It contains one of my favourite Deep Purple Mk I tracks: their version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”. Energetic, ragged and rocking hard, “Kentucky Woman” is the absolute best track here.  Ian Paice is the MVP, but singer Rod Evans is well suited to this kind of tune. Other standouts include “Wring That Neck”, the legendary instrumental (also called “Hard Road”) that the band continued to play through the decades even after Blackmore left the band in the 90’s.  “The Shield” isn’t bad, as it features a long instrumental break featuring Jon and Ritchie.  There is also the track “Anthem”, a Jon Lord helmed piece that delves into classical, forshadowing the “April” suite from the third album, as well as the Concerto for Group and Orchestra itself. So, the band was certainly stretching out here. There is a definite growth from the first album. Unfortunately, the album is bogged down by another slow, boring Beatles cover (“We Can Work It Out”, this time) and also “River Deep, Mountain High”, a whole 10 minutes thereof, which does nothing to help the band.  The only notable thing about it is Jon’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” intro.

DP BOOK OF TALIESYN_0003Like the other two albums in this series of remasters on Spitfire, there are five previously unreleased bonus tracks. All are valuable in their own way. Keep in mind that these tapes are old and may not sound as good as you’re used to. But, “Playground” is a bright instrumental from BBC tapes, and “Wring That Neck” is presented live. “Hey Bop a Re Bop” is buried treasure, an early version of what would become “Painter” on the next album.  There are two more cool covers to boot.  “Oh No No No” is a studio outtake, but I don’t recognize it.  It’s a mid-tempo pop rocker with splashes of Jon’s organ that quench the thirst.  Nicky Simper demonstrates some impressive bass chops, but he just wasn’t the right fit for the band.  A BBC Top Gear session yielded a song called “It’s All Over”, a slow country blues ballad that Thin Lizzy could have done at the same time.  This is a great tune, and it’s a shame that Purple never recorded it properly.

The colourful cover art is a quaint reminder that once upon a time, album covers were 12.375″ x 12.375″ and you could gaze upon the finer details for hours.  CD just doesn’t cut it.  This cover was so different for the band.  Their name and the album title appear on it several times, and each band member is credited (first names only) on the front.  The bizarre landscape foreshadows the Hieronymus Bosch painting on the next album.

2/5 stars. Not quite the band we know and love, but slowly getting there.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Inglewood (Live at Inglewood 1968)

This review comes by official request of the one, the only, the Scottish Heavy Metal OverloRd!

DEEP PURPLE: Inglewood (2002 Purple Records/Sonic Zoom)
Re-released in 2009 as Live at Inglewood 1968

Most casual rock fans think of Deep Purple Mk II when they think of this band: Gillan, Glover, Blackmore, Lord, and Paice. Before that classic lineup formed in late 1969, the prototypical Deep Purple Mk I recorded three studio albums.  One of which (1969’s Deep Purple) is truly an excellent piece of work

INGLEWOOD_0005Deep Purple Mk I consisted of lead vocalist Rod Evans (later of Captain Beyond), bassist Nicky Simper (later of Warhorse) and of course Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice. They were more of a psychedelic hippy jam band than the heavy rock band that would record In Rock and Machine Head, and Made in Japan. As such, their live shows lack the ferociousness you’re used to. Having said that, this is an important historical document. It is bootleg quality, recorded in mono, but this is also the only live album of the Deep Purple Mk I years.

Track listing:  1.”Hush”, 2.”Kentucky Woman”, 3.”Mandrake Root”, 4.”Help”, 5.”Wring That Neck”, 6.”River Deep, Mountain High”, 7.”Hey Joe”.  Seven numbers.   Purple were the opening band for Cream that night. Purple’s setlist is mostly covers, with only two originals!  Cream were recording that night, and part of their set the following day ended up on Goodbye.  No audio tapes of Deep Purple survived, if they were recorded at all.  That this CD exists is a miracle of sorts.  It is actually from a video (not film) recording of the night.  They were experimenting with a new video camera and were trying out various angles on Purple’s set.  The tape sat for decades and degraded so badly that the video was a mere grey fog…but the audio portion survived.  This CD is the result, and it is actually a complete recording of the Deep Purple set.  No songs went unrecorded.

Blackmore was still playing a Gibson, so his guitar sound is still prototypical, beefy and out of control. Evans was no Ian Gillan, preferring to croon.  Most of the songs are long meandering jams.  While Deep Purple were excellent as musicians even back then, their jams only occasionally rise to the electricity they are now known and remembered for.  They had only been together nine months.

Opening with “Hush”, they sound a bit restrained compared to the more kinetic album version.  Rod and Richie provide some flash, but it’s a bit sluggish.  “Kentucky Woman” is more action packed, and during Jon’s organ solo, for a moment — just a second — you can hear a hint of the future of “Highway Star” emerge between he and Ian Paice.  “Mandrake Root” is an original, but for long stretches all you can make out is crashes and bangs of various things on various instruments.

I like Rod Evans’ understated introduction to “Wring that Neck”:  “It features once again our guitarist, who is…to my mind ’cause I play with him, one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever played with.  True!  He’s not bad, for a young’un.”  Once Blackmore is in tune, he proves the flattery was justified.  He’s obviously much more comfortable on something like this.  I enjoy his bouncing, teasing solo.  It is an antecedent of his style later on.

INGLEWOOD_0004Jon asks the crowd if they’ve seen 2001; the mild clapping indicates that some have.  The band crash into an organ-dominated version of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” before jamming into “River Deep, Mountain High”.  A workable version unfolds, and then the band close with a surprisingly emphatic “Hey Joe”.

For its sonic issues (dips in volume and the like) and sometimes sluggish set, this is still buried treasure. There are a few Mk I live BBC sessions available on Purple remasters and box sets; but this is it, the only complete live show released thus far.  Only one other is known to exist.

I have the Sonic Zoom digipack mail-order release. No matter the CD you purchase, all come with an excellent informative booklet with more information inside than you can absorb in one sitting. As mentioned though, this is bootleg quality. Don’t expect sonic clarity, don’t expect separation of the instruments. This is a one-mic recording, and there’s only so much you can do to clean it up.

If you’re a fan, add this historic recording to your library. If not, stick to one of more official live releases, like Made in Japan or In the Absence of Pink.

3.5/5 stars

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Deep 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), Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996).

MOVIE REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey (2008 blu ray)

Happy LeBrain Day! It’s my birthday. Sometimes on my birthday, I like to just spend an afternoon watching a favourite movie. This is one.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, from the 2011 Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Blu Ray Collection, Warner Bros.)

Once upon a time, when the year 2001 seemed aeons away, director Stanley Kubruck (Dr. Strangelove) contacted author Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End) to discuss making “the proverbial good science fiction movie”. Both were sick of films that passed for science fiction, but were actually monster movies set in space, or just replaced  science with fantasy.

The result was 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film, and a companion book of the same name which is actually a completely different animal. The film — striking, innovative, visually engrossing, ambiguous, and scientifically solid — is as good today as it was in 1968, even if many of the “predictions” of the film have failed to come to pass.

Separated into four chapters (The Dawn Of Man, TMA-1, & Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite) complete with intermission, 2001 has no dialogue for the first quarter of the film. Beginning with a blank screen (and “Atmospheres”, by Ligeti), this is a film paradoxically anchored by both music and silence. The screen changes to the Earth rising over the moon, and the sun rising over the Earth (an important clue and recurring symbol) accompanied by “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. We are then introduced to a tribe of pre-human apes (Australopithecus, perhaps), starving and on the verge of extinction. Other tribes are stronger and out-competing them for territory and resources. There is no dialogue, but the barking of the apes, yet that and the scenery speak volumes. Suddenly one morning, the game has changed: a mysterious black monolith has appeared. The apes are drawn to it, and soon find that they are now able to compete with predators thanks to a new discovery: weapons.

MONOLITH ACTION FIGURE!The second chapter, TMA-1, begins with what Clarke has called “the longest jump-cut in history”.  We see that humanity has evolved into a space-going race. Orbital weapons platforms orbit Earth as a shuttle is making way to an under-construction space station. “The Blue Danube” plays as the spacecraft dance in calculated perfection. Our first main speaking character, Dr. Heywood Floyd, arrives on the station and we are given some tantalizing clues as to why he’s made this trip: Rumours of a plague outbreak on the moon. Yet this is just a cover story. As Floyd makes his way to the moon in another beautifully choreographed sequence, we learn that a magnetic anomoly was discovered in the crater Tycho (named after astronomer Tycho Brahe) — Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1, or TMA-1. This discovery is potentially so important, that the cover story was created to keep everyone far away from Tycho.

We see that TMA-1 is another black monolith.  We see echoes and ripples of past events lead to another jump forward in time.  Midway though a mission of discovery to Jupiter, helmed by David Bowman (the perpetually young Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Star Trek’s Gary Lockwood).  Their ship, the Discovery contains three sleeping astronauts and the most famous computer of all time, H.A.L. 9000.  H.A.L. was flawelessly voiced by Stratford Ontario resident Douglas Rain.  His eerie voice and Kubrick’s perfect framing shots help create the creepiest computer character ever seen.

HAL 9000The seemingly dull, sleepy daily routine is soon shattered.  H.A.L. has detected a flaw in the ship’s main antenna.  It will fail, unless one of the astronauts goes outside and repairs it.  The antenna is their only link to distant Earth.   H.A.L., who controls the life support and every function of Discovery, then begins to show signs of what humans call stress — he makes an error, and acts strangely. Yet no 9000-series computer has ever failed, or found to be in error.  The chapter closes with H.A.L. singing the old song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”, surely one of the most haunting scenes in cinema.

After an intermission, Discovery finally arrives at Jupiter and its true mission is revealed. This section too has no dialogue, bringing us full circle to the way it began. David Bowman once again must venture outside the ship, and find out how the mysterious discovery on the moon relates to Jupiter.  Perhaps even how it related to our millenia-dead ancestors.

What follows is one of the most baffling and strange sequences in movie history, one which will require a few patient viewings to appreciate. The beauty of this final sequence is that there is no right or wrong interpretation. While on the surface it may appear to be a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour followed by a bizarre dialogue-free encounter with a being that seems to have no bearing on reality, it is Kubrick’s inventive way of showing the audience something that is beyond anyone’s imagination. Like the audience, David Bowman and humanity have come full circle.

2001_0004Lacking in what modern audiences call “action”, lacking typical space sound effects (there is no sound in space!), lacking dialogue for most of the movie, and lacking any sort of warm human characters (except maybe H.A.L. who is not human), this movie was a challenge to watch in 1968 and is still a challenge today. It is, however, a piece of art that transcends its genre and is a landmark in film making. Kubrick, always a visionary and always breaking through boundaries of what could not be done in film, outdid himself and made a science fiction film that still has not been topped over 40 years later. Nobody has made anything this epic, this beautiful, this deep or this scientifically sound since. The special effects — all practical effects and mostly in-camera, as CG did not yet exist — still stand up today. No movie buff will ever forget the rotating Discovery set that allowed one character to be seated while another seemingly walked on the “ceiling”.

Sure,we don’t have a moon base. We haven’t sent anyone to Jupiter. We do have a space station. We have created computers that can beat the best humans at chess and Jeopardy. This is not that far off. If they had named this film 2031: A Space Odyssey, we might be in the right ballpark. In the end, the year does not matter. You never see modern Earth in the movie anyway.

The blu-ray release is loaded with special features and has a beautiful transfer in 2.20:1, as Kubrick shot it and intended it to be. Both Dullea and Lockwood provide an audio commentary. There are documentaries about Kubrick, about the predictions of the film, and about the effects. The only thing missing is the vintage 1966 Arthur C. Clarke lecture from the first issue of the DVD.  I still have that DVD copy because I like that old 1966 footage of Clarke.  He’s my favourite author.

2001: A Space Odyssey is, without any doubt or any argument in my mind, the greatest science fiction film of all time. With Kubrick and Clarke now both gone, I doubt we will ever see anything like it again. 5/5 stars is meaningless, since this movie was (for its scale and stature) first, and the best, against everything in its genre.

I’ll rate it 200 billion stars, one for each star in our galaxy.