vinyl

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith (1984) Part One – Vinyl

JUDAS PRIEST – Defenders of the Faith (1984 Columbia)

If memory serves, in contemporary times, Defenders of the Faith was considered good but not as good as Screaming for Vengeance.  It was a down-ratchet in terms of tempo and intensity.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that both albums are near-equals in quality.

It begins with a bang.  “Freewheel Burning” is borderline thrash, with the kind of high octane tempos they do so well.  Racing metaphors are paired with a lightspeed lead Rob Halford vocal, syllables flowing so fast that only a seasoned rapper could keep up with his flow.

Look before you leap has never been the way we keep, our road is free.
Charging to the top and never give in never stop’s the way to be.
Hold on to the lead with all your will and not concede,
You’ll find there’s life with victory on high.

Without a lyric sheet, there was no way you were able to follow the words.

After an adrenaline rush like that, Priest wisely shifted the throttle back a few gears with “Jawbreaker”.  Though not slow, it’s also not mental like “Freewheel Burning”.  The pace is determined.  It would not be controversial to say that Dave Holland isn’t as complex a drummer as Les Binks was.  Still he and Ian Hill do lay down a pulsing, robotic metal beat.

Third in line and backed by regal guitars, “Rock Hard Ride Free” sounds like an anthem.  “Rock hard with a purpose, got a mind that won’t bend.  Die hard resolution that is true to the end.”  For context, in the 1980s, being a metal fan was like choosing to be a neighbourhood pariah.  Many of us appreciated upbeat, encouraging messages like “Rock Hard Ride Free”.  We believed in something, and it wasn’t what the teachers and preachers thought it was.  That’s what “Rock Hard Ride Free” is about.

The first side closes on “The Sentinel”, a mini epic.  A street battle is taking place in a shattered apocalyptic landscape.  It could very well be the same world inhabited in “Blood Red Skies” or “Painkiller”.

Amidst the upturned burned-out cars,
The challengers await,
And in their fists clutch iron bars,
With which to seal his fate.
Across his chest in scabbards rest,
The rows of throwing knives,
Whose razor points in challenged tests,
Have finished many lives.

A multi-parted dual guitar solo animates what the rumble must look like.  Rob tells the story with the necessary urgency.  In the end it’s a scream-laden metal triumph.

Ominous echoing bass notes ring as soon as the needle drops on Side Two.  “Love Bites” was a single, an unusual song with a very spare riff.  Its simplicity is its weapon as it bores its way into your brain.  Halford sounds absolutely menacing.  Then they go turn on the afterburners for the very naughty “Eat Me Alive”, a song which got them a bit of trouble in the 1980s.  It  was one of 15 songs the Parents Music Resource Center wanted stickered for “explicit content” . “I’m gonna force you at gunpoint to eat me alive” sings dirty Rob, as the parents of America weep in their Cheerios.  Not an album highlight, except in terms of pure aggression.

Much more interesting is the slower, menacing “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”.  A great deep cut.  Dave Holland could have been a drum machine for what it’s worth, but this song is a champion.  Interestingly they followed it with the even slower “Night Comes Down” which might be the album ballad (albeit a heavy one).  Great pulsing bassline by Ian Hill on this track.  It’s a more sensitive, thoughtful side of Rob.  “Call me and I’ll wait till summer.  You never understood that I would wait forever, for love that’s only good.”

The album closes on a dual track:  “Heavy Duty” / “Defenders of the Faith”.  “Defenders” itself is an epic outro with “Heavy Duty” being the main part of the song.  As it implies, this is a heavy duty stomp.  The highly processed drums are accompanied by a repeating riff until Rob breaks into the outro.  Though “Defenders” itself is only a minute and a half in length, it’s among the best minutes on the album.

Not a perfect album, but even though this is a simpler Judas Priest for the 1980s, it still commands respect.  Defenders of the Faith is undoubtedly an 80s album.  It’s aimed at a wider demographic that wouldn’t necessarily get their earlier more complex material.  Defenders does it well, with some truly timeless riffs, and great song after great song.

4.5/5 stars

 

Sunday Afternoon Test Stream

With all apologies to Aaron, the old backdrop of checkers and lighthouses is gone.  Behold the new backdrop of a cloth with a paper logo!

But that’s not all.  Before this afternoon’s listening, I decided to un-package a rare 2016 limited edition 180 gram reissue of Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger.  Lemme tell you folks, it sounds great.  But it also looks cool and you can see it fresh out of the package in the live stream below.

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (1987 Remix single)

BLUE RODEO – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (Remix) (1987 Warner 7″ single)

Blue Rodeo were off to a hell of a start.  With a debut LP produced by Terry Brown (Rush), the uncategorizable band eventually went four times platinum in Our Home and Native Land.  Their first single, “Outskirts” didn’t do much, but the followup singles sure did.  Because of its unforgettable chorus, “Rose-Coloured Glasses” was renamed “Day After Day”, with the original title in parentheses.  It was also remixed for the 7″ format.  The 7″ remix remains exclusive to the single, despite a massive Blue Rodeo box set released not that long ago.

Purchased for 99 cents by Dr. Kathryn Ladano somewhere out in the boonies (possibly Radio Shack in Port Elgin), this copy looks like it was marked for clearance.  There is a telltale burn mark on the inner ring of the record.  Anything with non-album tracks or versions was on our radar for collecting and we didn’t care about little burn marks if the record was 99 cents!

The remix isn’t drastically different; some minor changes.  The song didn’t need any help.  As one of Blue Rodeo’s best from the early days, it’s still pure delight.  Greg Keelor’s lyrics are that of a lovestruck poet, something he does very well.  He often finds himself entranced by new love.  “But there’s something in those eyes that keeps me hanging on, I’m hypnotised.”  Still he’s always grounded in his own reality.  “See a world that’s tired and scared from living on the edge too long.  Where does she get off telling me that love could save us all?”  I love everything about it.  The music is full of joy and hope just like the object of Greg’s affection.

The B-side, “Floating”, is an unlisted edit version.  Cut down from 7:53, this version runs at 7:28.  There’s about 7 seconds of noise missing from the opening, and the rest seems to be taken off of the end.  That’s means you’re not getting all of Bob Wiseman’s nutty organ soloing, but who are we kidding, you already have the album anyway.  In contrast to the A-side, this is one of Greg’s more nocturnal explorations.  Are those waves crashing that I hear?  Blue Rodeo jam on this long bomber, the title of which is descriptive of the music.  “And I feel like William Holden floating in a pool,” goes the line that gives the song its name.

This is a band that has it all:  writing, playing, and singing.  They don’t use outside writers and their live shows feature jams that go on for days.  I’m going to get a little preachy here.  If you’re going to jump on the Blue Rodeo train, may as well start at the beginning with songs like “Rebel”, “Try” and of course “Day After Day”…or “Rose-Coloured Glasses”.  It doesn’t matter as long as you get it in your ears.  Hell, Bob Wiseman on his own is a brilliant and entertaining artist.  Throw in the rest of the original lineup and you have a formidable contender for Canada’s greatest band.  Greg Keelor’s guitar playing has always been underappreciated, though Jim Cuddy’s golden voice gets all the praise it earns.  Basil Donovan’s bass is in-demand due to his innate sense of rhythm and melody.  And Cleave Anderson, the former punk drummer who went country, just has a “sound”.  It’s simple and it’s his, just like Johnny Fay.  Though the band today is larger and more versatile, original Blue Rodeo was a special thing.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Faith No More – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 UK 3 track 7″ single)

FAITH NO MORE – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 Slash records 3 track 7″ single)

When I was beginning to seriously collect Faith No More in 1991 onwards, I had no idea what was out there.  I found the UK 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” at a record show in Guelph.  There are different versions of this single out there with “Cowboy Song” on the B-side, but that track can also be found on Live at the Brixton Academy.  The UK single on Slash/London has two live tracks you can’t find anywhere else, recorded by the BBC on March 2 1990.  Shortly after “Epic” was released as a single, but before it went mega.

The problem is, with 10 minutes of music squeezed onto the B-side, this single sounds horribly thin and is ridiculously quiet.  Tons of surface noise too.  The A-side, which spins at 45 rpm, is better.  Have a look at the unaltered waveform in Audacity for comparison.

Faith No More didn’t truly make it big until the end of the (first) vinyl age.  The album version of “From Out of Nowhere” was always an excellent song; one of their most “mainstream” if you can call it that.  The keyboard hook is the main angle, and Patton’s notable for using that clean nasal voice he discontinued not long after.  An excellent song, and a cornerstone of any nutritious Faith No More collection.

The B-side, the exclusive live recordings, rotates at 33 1/3 rpm.  Captured in Norwich, “Woodpecker From Mars” is Faith No More’s instrumental classic led by a keyboard violin voice by Roddy Bottum.  There is a different performance on a home video called You Fat Bastards (which is the complete Brixton set) but nothing else on audio.  “Epic” is disappointingly edited by the BBC.  They obscure the line where Mike Patton naughtily sings “get down on it and fuck it some more.”  The band sound fresh and almost green with enthusiasm for the song, playing it a bit more straight than they would later on.

On the plus side, this single comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a rarity for 7″ release.  Inside Mike Patton is givin’ ‘er live on stage.  Some kids probably taped this to the wall as-is.

In short, the music is great.  The vinyl is not.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Sloan – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 7″ single)

SLOAN – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 murderecords 7″ single)

Though those without the syrup of the Mighty Maple flowing through their veins might not be familiar with Sloan, there are some who consider the east-coast quartet to be Canada’s greatest rock band.  With four writers / singers / instrumentalists, it’s an argument with some merit.  Though some say they are too sloppy live, in the studio they have some truly shining diamonds.  Some of those gems aren’t even from albums.

1995 was a difficult time for Sloan.  After receiving no support from Geffen for their shoulda-been breakthrough album Twice Removed, the band either broke up, or were about to break up, or considered themselves broken up even though they weren’t.  The double A-sided “Stood Up” and “Same Old Flame” single comes from this murky period in their timeline, released on their own label murderecords.  (In Japan, these two songs were included as bonus tracks on their third full length CD, One Chord to Another.)

“Stood Up” is a Chris Murphy number with a catchy tremolo guitar hook.  The lo-fi recording is so tasty.  Sloan’s usual vocal harmonies create the melodic blend you expect, but that relentless guitar groove is center stage.  Not dark, but shady, with energetic shouts.  By contrast, Patrick Pentland’s “Same Old Flame” is light and upbeat.  The fun verses set up a more plaintive chorus, all danceable.  Though both songs are equally strong, it’s “Same Old Flame” that you will singing and tapping your feet to.

For only $7, I found this single at yet another record show in Guelph with my buddy Peter.  Today it sells for twice that.  Though I hoped to find more than just one Sloan single that day (“Rhodes Jam” still eludes me), at least I left with what I came for.  A great single for any Sloan collection, big or small.  An essential one in fact, now that everybody is into vinyl again as their primary format.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Max the Axe – “Randy” Live at the Boathouse – VinylArt.co custom picture disc

There are plenty of services online for cutting your own music to vinyl these days.  The one that caught my eye was VinylArt.co, based out of Wales.  This company will cut picture discs with your chosen artwork and (legal) music to four sizes:  5″, 7″, 10″ and 12″.  How well does it work?  Read on to find out.

MAX THE AXE – “Randy” (Live at the Boathouse) (VinylArt.co custom picture disc)

“How many times can you say Randy?”

The first thing I need to note is that I didn’t choose a song to put on vinyl for its fidelity.  The prime factor behind me spending my money wasn’t to test the product for review, it was to make something that I wanted for myself.  It had to be something that you can’t get physically — I wanted to create my own physical product for something that only exists digitally.  In 2018, I recorded a song by Max the Axe when they played the Boathouse, and a few people commented that they liked the video.  I think the live version of “Randy” they played that night was outstanding.  It had bite and presence.  Singer Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller really gives his all in this version, particularly on the chorus.  I decided to turn that version, recorded on my phone, into an “official bootleg” live record.  Sound quality wasn’t even a concern in that regard.

VinyArt.co seem to market these records as keepsakes more than a way to play music.  For example, you have two packaging options:  a coloured paper sleeve, or a frame.  You don’t buy frames for records you plan on playing.  I planned on playing my Max the Axe “Randy” bootleg.  I wanted it to sound decent.  Does it?

Actually yeah.  It sounds OK for a picture disc.  There is surface noise that you can hear during the fades.  As you can see from the waveform image below, you also lose volume with a picture disc.  By nature it is not going to sound as clean as the original mp3 file that it was made from.  However VinylArt “master” the track as part of the process, and it does sound full and beefy enough for my needs.

Unaltered vinyl at top, original mp3 at bottom

It’s a very easy process.  All you have to do is upload a photo, and a track that you own (or one from their library).  Then you choose the record size.   The smaller the cheaper, but also the less music that will fit.  A 5″ record can only handle up to four minutes, so I had to go with the standard 7″ single.  The records are one-sided with a smooth white finish on the B-side.  With shipping to Canada, the whole thing cost me $55 CAD and took just over a week.  They track the whole process for you, from photo printing to audio mastering to record cutting.

Keep in mind picture discs do not typically offer the same quality as pure black vinyl, but this is something I wanted for myself as a keepsake.  The bass is nice and fat and the vocals clear as a bell.  Except for the fade-in and fade-out, which are noisy, it sounds like a vinyl record should.  About what I expected.

Now Max the Axe can boast that he has been bootlegged to vinyl, and a decent one at that.  I can claim to own the only copy in existence, a limited edition of one!  The rarest record in my collection.

VinylArt.co aren’t going to make your music sound better than the source material, but it will sound like vinyl.  Your music, on a playable picture disc!  I plan on ordering something from them again, so if repeating a sale is a way to judge a company, then VinylArt gets the passing grade.  And so does Max the Axe!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 7″ picture disc single)

Part One of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo picture disc 7″ single)

I can admit that my first Metallica album was Load.  I concede that they were more Rocktallica than Metallica on that album, but the fact of the matter is that for the genre, Rocktallica was good!  A lot of hard rock and heavy metal albums in the mid-90s were not good.   Metallica introduced themselves to me with an album that was what I wanted, when I wanted it.  “Mama Said” was the third single from Load, a an acoustic ballad, and with an exclusive live B-side on the vinyl that wasn’t on the CD singles (to be reviewed next).

The 7″ single contains the album version, not the shorter single edit.  James Hetfield wasn’t afraid of getting personal in his lyrics anymore, and “Mama Said” is about his late mother.  It’s audible that he is getting something deeply important off his chest.  The music is notable for its distinct country twang.  Trash Metallica all you like, but this sounds great.  The thing about Metallica is that they usually (not always) do whatever it is they set out to do, and do it well.

That said, a 7″ picture disc is not the best way to hear Metallica play an acoustic ballad.  It can’t deliver the clarity and dynamics that a CD can.  The B-side, “Ain’t My Bitch” recorded live in California on August 4 1996, is a louder song and can get away with the format a little better.

James gets the crowd to shout “We don’t give a shit!” a couple times before they break into the song.  “Ain’t My Bitch” remains a fun little blast precisely about not giving a shit.  “Outta my way, outta my day!”  It might not be “Creeping Death” you can’t deny it’s fun to just bang along.  “Mama Said” might have been James dealing with deep shit, but “Ain’t My Bitch” says “just forget it and let go”.  Kirk Hammett’s solo on this one is mega fun, and it’s always a bonus to get Jason’s Newsted’s backing growls.  An underappreciated ex-Metallica member.

Including the tracks released over the two additional CD singles, “Ain’t My Bitch” is the seventh of seven total B-sides to “Mama Said”.  All the live ones are from the same show in Irvine Meadows.  If you gotta get ’em all, then “Mama Said” you need this picture single too!  Shame about the audio quality.

3/5 stars

Part Two tomorrow.

Gallery: A closer look at Alice Cooper and Japanese import unboxings

This week’s live show included some cool unboxings.  Here is a closer look at the three new arrivals at LeBrain HQ.

#1 Dokken – The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 Japanese import.  Old unreleased demos polished and finished for release.  This baby has a bonus track called “Going Under”.

#2 Accept – Blind Rage Japanese import.  2014 studio album.  “Thrown to the Wolves” is the name of this Teutonic terror’s bonus track.

# Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” 7 inch picture disc single.  Great to finally have this new Covid-related recording on a physical format.

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Whoosh! (2020 Super Deluxe box set review)

DEEP PURPLE – Whoosh! (2020 Edel Limited Edition Collector’s Box Set)

Includes:

  • Whoosh! (CD and 2 x LPs)
  • The Infinite Live Recordings, Vol 2. (3 x 10″ EPs)
  • DVD – Live at Hellstock, Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin in Conversation

 


Whoosh!

Every Deep Purple album seems like the final album.  Maybe this one is; maybe it isn’t.  It feels like the band treat every album as seriously as if it was their last.  The cover art and music of Whoosh! takes us back to 1968 and Shades of Deep Purple.  The logo is similar, and there is a new version of the 52 year old first Deep Purple song ever, “And The Address”.

Opening with the lead single “Throw My Bones“, the album sets a mid-tempo pace from the start.  This is a lush, catchy groove with hints of classical and funk.  It began life during the Infinite sessions but was not finished until Whoosh!  Purple pick it up a bit on “Drop the Weapon”, a non-preachy appeal for cooler heads to prevail.  It has a similar vibe to the 1988 album Accidentally On Purpose by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  The immediate riffs and hooky vocals are bound to make this a favourite.

“We’re All the Same in the Dark” has a cool groove and a jaw dropping funky Morse solo.  Purple haven’t sounded this funky since Glenn Hughes was in the band.  Airey and Glover give it some heaviness.  “Nothing At All” sounds like a Morse composition, but his intricate classical-inspired interplay with Airey is sheer delight.  This could be the best track on Whoosh!, and contender for one of the best songs of the entire Morse era.  A massive chorus could help this one cross over on radio.  Though it’s a far different song, “Nothing at All” has elements that recall “Never A Word” from Bananas.  A regal-sounding crowning achievement.

“No Need to Shout” opens with the growl of a Hammond.  “Just a bunch a crap, you’re talkin’ out your hat!” sings Ian on a song featuring rare female backing vocals.  This is one of a few new Deep Purple songs that display a pissed-off attitude.  “I got your message loud and clear, the meaningless ringing in my ear.”  Add in a couple naughty words and you can tell Ian isn’t having any of it.  Cooler though is “Step By Step”, a very different kind of song with perhaps some lineage with “Vincent Price” from Now What?!  The haunting, ghostly quality of “Step By Step” sets it aside with a cascade of keyboard accents.

Purple start to boogie on “What the What” (a friendlier way of saying “What the Fuck”).  While Don’s hammering the keys, Steve stabs out with some tasty guitar twang.  If any song recalls “old” Deep Purple, it’s “What the What”, which could have been on 1973’s Who Do We Think We Are!  But that album completely lacks the joie de vivre of “What the What”.  Then Purple get heavy on “The Long Way Round” which just drives.  The keyboard solo is out of left field but is a spacey masterwork to itself.  There’s even a sly Black Sabbath callback — “I promised myself I would not get Trashed again.”  Then the song dissolves into a beautiful, quiet stream of notes.  This serves as a great lead-in to “Power of the Moon”, an excellent track previously heard on the “Throw My Bones” single.  It stalks prey in the cover of night.

Another heavy growl unexpectedly opens “Remission Possible”, an absolutely smokeshow of fretwork.  It’s a brief instrumental interlude just before the excellent “Man Alive”.  This track, enhanced by orchestra, sounds absolutely massive.  It has serious heft, but it’s not weighed down.  Ian is writing about some heavy themes and it will take deeper analysis of the album as a whole to decipher them all.  Roger Glover was very happy with Ian’s writing on the album, which takes a more contemplative tone without going heavy-handed.

The final side of vinyl begins with another instrumental, the aforementioned “And the Address” from Shades Of.  Deep Purple have occasionally re-recorded old material with new lineups, such as “Hush ’88” and “Bludsucker”.  This cut of “And the Address” has more momentum.  The only guy present who played on the original is Ian Paice, but Don Airey is a dead ringer for Jon Lord.  “And the Address” is one of the most enjoyable songs on Whoosh!, probably surpassing the original recording.

There’s still one track to go:  the “bonus track” called “Dancing In My Sleep”.  Safe to say it’s called a “bonus track” because it’s the most different of all the songs.  It’s an Airey conception based on a cool little techno beat.  Though it’s certainly not dance music, it does have one foot in that world and it’s a sheer delight to hear Purple stretch out into new territory 52 years into their game.

A seriously fine album this late in the career.  An album so fresh that it is hard to rate so soon.  But clearly a high point, with a band still exploring new ideas completely unafraid of what people might say.  In fact, a band who still has something to say.  Something worth listening to.

4.25/5 stars

But that’s not all of course.  Go big or go home.  Check out the rest of the box set’s contents in detail below.

 

 


The Infinite Live Recordings, Vol. 2

The previously released Infinite Live Recordings, Vol. 1 came out in 2017.  The concept behind the series is simple: pure live releases with no overdubs.  Vol. 2 comes from a show in 2017 on the Infinite Tour in Rio.  It is the big bonus in this box set, and present on a set of three beautiful 10″ coloured records.  72 minutes of live Purple — essentially, a double live album.

The opening thunder of “Highway Star” is robust on purple 10″ vinyl.  How these guys can still blast through it full speed is unknown, but they do it.  Mr. Gillan still gives it his all, which is not the same in 2017 dollars as it was in 1970 dollars, but still more than the average mortal his age.  Mr. Morse and Mr. Airey give each version of “Highway Star” a different feel, while Mr. Paice in the back is the only original member left from the 1968 lineage.  Sticking to Machine Head, Purple seamlessly go into “Pictures of Home”.  The old familiar groove of Mr. Glover is comforting warmth from the emptiness, eagles and snow.  Morse’s solo is a composition to itself, and then Airey gets to put his spin on Jon Lord’s classic organ solo.  Then it’s an unfortunate side flip as the band goes back to In Rock with “Bloodsucker”.  Gillian is more a verbal timekeeper than the screamer he once was, but the track is otherwise flawless and heavier than lead.  A more mainstream hit, “Strange Kind of Woman” flows from that, and relaxes the groove a bit.  Don Airey gets his first of two solos (this one organ) as the last track on this disc.

The action continues on transparent burgundy vinyl, and “Lazy”.  Morse’s signature string bending is the star of this show.  There are a couple different twists in this fresh version including a nifty Gillan harmonica solo.  Then it’s the only new song of the set, “Birds of Prey” from Infinite.  It’s weighty and worthy of its place.  Steve Morse is the Captain on this flight.  Gillan ends the track on a joke and then, after a side flip, introduces Don Airey’s keyboard solo including Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley”.  This diverse and fun solo goes into “Perfect Stranger” (no “s”?) which has steadfastly remained in the setlist ever since its 1984 conception.  Gillan is shaky but the Purple is solid.

The final vinyl, clear 10″ power, commences with “Space Truckin'” signalling the beginning of the end.  “Smoke on the Water” is the penultimate moment, slow and groovy after all this blazing rock.  Ian Paice has a couple nice moments on this one and Steve Morse’s stuttery solo is completely compelling.  One more side flip, and Purple end the set with their first hit “Hush” and the “Peter Gunn” theme.  Glover goes funky on this one with a bassline a little like “Another One Bites the Dust” in parts.

An entertaining and good live album, but one you won’t play often simply because Deep Purple have 846 live albums (exaggeration).

There is still more live material from the same tour in DVD form included in this box set.


Live at Hellfest

Next we have a double feature DVD:  A live show from Hellfest in 2017, and an interview session with Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin.  The Hellfest show has a much longer runtime with more new material.  They open the show with “Time For Bedlam” from Infinite. Ian doesn’t even attempt to sing it in tune, but we’ll always cut the guy some slack for still getting up there and givin’ ‘er.  The track has a “Pictures From Home” vibe, and the band look cool playing midday in shades.  Into “Fireball”, Ian Paice leads the charge as if it was 1971.  Don Airey has an Ozzy bobblehead on his keyboard!  Then it’s “Bloodsucker”, powered by Paicey.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is a nice melodic respite after a pair of piledrivers like that.  Ian ends this one with a bizarre freeform spoken word beat poetry bit, but with Morse shredding next to him.

The Jon Lord tribute from Now What?!, “Uncommon Man”, is heartfelt, and a solid track from their current era.  It sounds massive.  As good in quality is “The Surprising” from Infinite, something of an epic, and performed with full gusto.  Intricate symbol work by Paice.

After a brief pause, it’s on to Don Airey and “Lazy”.  A high speed workout like that merits something slower to follow, so it’s “Birds of Prey” from Infinite, a steady groove with dynamics.  Steve Morse’s solo takes center stage and it’s a melter.  “Hell To Pay” picks up the pace.  Not Purple’s most remarkable single, nor the best version, but nice to have in live form.  Airey’s jammy keyboard solo on this track is stellar, just as the sun starts going down.  Then he gets his own full-blown solo, with the Ozzy bobblehead there next to him during “Mr. Crowley”.  Roger Glover just watches from the side as Don goes to town through familiar melodies and themes.  The crowd eats it up smiling.

Don takes it into “Perfect Strangers” without missing a beat, and soon the rest of the band joins him.  This version has some stellar Morse guitar trickery.  The set is almost finished, with only “Space Truckin'”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Hush” and “Black Night” left to satisfy cravings for the classics.  Even at the end Paicey still brings that thunder.  “Hush” has the “Peter Gunn” theme attached, and “Black Night” brings the show to a massive finish.

It’s absolutely delightful watching Ian Paice play the drums, as he mouths along to every beat as if playing beatbox along to himself.  It’s fantastic and an expression of pure joy.

It’s not over yet.  The DVD has even more content.


Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin in Conversation

The DVD also includes the conversation with Roger Glover and Whoosh! producer Bob Ezrin.  This is another full 70 minutes of content.  Ezrin was involved with Purple from the jamming stage in Nashville and speaks in terms of “we”.  One of the biggest takeaways from this interview is a piece of wisdom from the late Jon Lord as told by Roger Glover.  Lord didn’t want to do more than two takes of a solo.  More than that, and he starting thinking too much.

The pair discuss the lyrics, the songs, the title (nicked from Faulty Towers), the playing, and more.  It’s lovely watching the pair just enjoy Steve Morse’s harmonics.  “Like capturing lightning,” says Roger.  Watching this portion of the DVD will enhance your enjoyment of the album.  It’s fun knowing what parts of the songs turned on the musicians and producer.  “Stretch out,” advised Bob.  And so Purple interpreted that as stretching it out every way.  “I wanna put the Deep back in Purple,” said Bob.  The boys also praise Ian Gillan’s focus, from eating right to meditating.  They even go back in time and talk about Glover’s joining of Deep Purple in 1969.

Ezrin particularly loved seeing magic unfold live before his eyes and ears, captured on tape.  He is obviously a fan of Deep Purple as musicians and as people.  Whether you can get into Ezrin-era Purple or not, there is real chemistry between band and producer.

You’ll probably only watch this conversation once, but you’ll be glad you did that at least.  There is so much knowledge and history to absorb here that all fans are advised to give the whole thing a spin.


Summing up

The box set itself comes with a cool black T-shirt with the “strolling dissolving astronaut” graphic.  This is the second album in a row with simple excellent art design for Deep Purple.  The astronaut recalls the music video for “Knocking At Your Back Door” from 1984.  He appears in numerous places in this set in different forms.  There are three art prints (two 12×12 and one 12×6), and of course all this music!  The vinyl copy of Whoosh! comes in a gatefold sleeve with credits and photos.  It sounds phenomenal with plenty of bottom end.  For lyrics, you’ll have to dig into the included CD copy.

Of course, if you don’t need all the extra live stuff and added goodies, you could just buy Whoosh! on CD, vinyl or download.  It’s frequently said that the benchmark for Purple is Purpendicular.  “Best album since Purpendicular,” fans often enthuse.  Whoosh! could be the best album of the Ezrin era, and is a contender for best of the Steve Morse epoch.  A serious fan will want the whole box with the three live 10″ discs.  They are beautiful to look at and sound good on the turntable.  Though the set is expensive, this is the kind of thing I’m willing to pay for.

4.25/5 stars for Whoosh!

4/5 stars for the box set

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Throw My Bones”/”Man Alive” (2020 10″ single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Throw My Bones”/”Man Alive” (2020 10″ Edel single)

As a general rule, I won’t listen to new Deep Purple until I have a physical product in my hands.  These days that usually happens in the form of a new single.  Deep Purple will be back with a new album Whoosh! produced by Bob Ezrin in August 2020.  Until then, they’ve issued a three track single with one exclusive new song.  How nice of them!

A huge thanks to John of 2 Loud 2 Old Music for gifting this vinyl.  Certain new releases are difficult to find today (for obvious reasons), at least without spending money on huge markups by secondary sellers.  Music friends are the best kind of friends — make one today!

A word about the cover art:  love it!  Though not identical, the new Deep Purple logo is strongly reminiscent of the original Shades Of Deep Purple logo from 1968.  The astronaut is similarly retro.  He even recalls the similarly-garbed “archaeologists” in the music video for “Knocking At Your Back Door”.  And now, for the first time, the needle drops on the vinyl and we find out what the new Deep Purple sounds like.

“Throw My Bones” has one of those quirky Steve Morse guitar riffs but then it’s backed up by those lush Don Airey keyboards.  This is one of the catchier songs that Deep Purple have written in the last few years.  Morse’s solo is as breathtaking as usual, but the sparkling keyboards are what makes this song shine.

The second track is the non-album “Power of the Moon” which prompts the question:  if this didn’t make the album, just how good is the album?  Because this track is excellent.  It’s different.  Its quiet passages are mesmerising.  Once again it’s Morse and Airey who really take it to another level.

Finally we have “Man Alive”, a song adorned with an orchestra.  Under the deft guidance of Bob Ezrin, something powerful and dramatic hits the ears even though Deep Purple don’t really do “heavy” anymore.  “Man Alive” is the song that detractors call the “environmental agenda song”.  Hey, if Deep Purple can say something relevant to today and get you to think, that’s great.  We don’t always have to hear about strange kinds of women from Tokyo.  The lyrics are assembled intelligently and thoughtfully.

A lot of people bitch and moan about Ian Gillan.  For the most part, it’s not the singer delivering the hooks in these new songs.  Just as Steve Morse has had to adapt to his damaged right wrist to keep playing, Deep Purple have adapted to Ian Gillan’s age.  The songs don’t blast like they used to; they breathe.  Ian’s voice is multitracked to give it some thickness.  Incidentally the vocals were recorded in Toronto, a city that Gillan has history with.

Longtime Purple fans who enjoyed Now What?! and InFinite will enjoy these new songs just as much.  The cool thing about Purple is that they have distinct eras.  We might be in the tail-end of a Bob Ezrin era (and the whole saga in general) and with time, the Purple/Ezrin collaborations will be looked back on fondly.  The Ezrin albums don’t sound like the Bradford discs, the Glover productions, or any of the others.  They’re more subtle and show a band growing even in their later years.  Whoosh! could be a nice capstone to a career.  We shall see.

4.5/5 stars