Who Do We Think We Are

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Who Do We Think We Are (1973, 2000 remaster)

DEEP PURPLE – Who Do We Think We Are (1973, 2000 EMI)

Five solid years of work had taken their toll on Deep Purple.  Relations between the band members (particularly Gillan and Blackmore) were frayed, especially since all the touring behind Machine Head and Made in Japan.  There was all sorts of bad blood, including management disputes and illness (hepatitis for Ian Gillan).

The band settled in Rome with the Rolling (truck) Stones mobile studio, but found that the vehicle could not enter the premises, as the stone arch in the drive was not tall enough for the truck!  Several weeks of work in Rome resulted in only one usable track, “Woman From Tokyo” which was released as a single.  [See below for a cool 1998 CD reissue of “Woman From Tokyo” (2:56 edit)/”Super Trouper”!] Another song, the excellent “Painted Horse”, was rejected because Blackmore didn’t like it.  It wasn’t even released as a B-side.

A few months later the band re-convened in Frankfurt Germany to finish the new record.  Perhaps due to sheer fatigue, they settled into a simpler, bluesy sound without the experimentation that marked albums like In Rock and Fireball.  The only really progressive moment on the album was a breakneck synthesizer solo on “Rat Bat Blue”.

The resultant album, Who Do We Think We Are, is generally considered the weakest of the original MkII studio quadrilogy.  That still makes it better than many bands’ best albums.  That aside, it is obvious by listening to it that Deep Purple were not putting as much in, and getting less out.

WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE_0007

“Woman From Tokyo” is still a great Deep Purple track, very similar to the direction of Machine Head: straightforward, and slamming.  It has a mellow, dreamy bridge before it assails you once more with its inimitable guitar riff.

It’s too bad that a song like “Mary Long” hasn’t been a perennial concert favourite.  This scathing attack on two British social campaigners teases the prudish!  “When did you lose your virginity, Mary Long? When will you lose your stupidity, Mary Long?”  Glover’s bass groove carries the song, a real driving tune.  Absolutely monstrous in the car.

“Super Trouper”, less than three minutes long, feels incomplete.  It feels like it needed a chorus, although it is still heavy and a Purple sledge.  Closing Side One, “Smooth Dancer” is Ian Gillan’s underhanded attack upon Richie Blackmore.  Black suede was his favourite clothing:

Black suede, don’t mean you’re good for me
Black suede, just brings your mystery
I want to be inside of you
But you’re black and I don’t know what to do

You’re a smooth dancer
But it’s alright, ‘cos I’m a freelancer
And you can never break me though you try
To make me think you’re magical

Even though Ian’s not fond of Richie at this point, it’s important to hear the line “I want to be inside of you, but you’re black and I don’t know what to do.”  Ian would have loved to be able to connect with Richie, but was simply unable to get inside the man in black.  Glover too has stated that Ian was frustrated by his inability to connect personally with Richie.

WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE_0006“Rat Bat Blue” (named for Ian Paice’s drum pattern that is the foundation of the song) is a great unsung classic.  Funky and hard-hitting, “Rat Bat Blue” could have been a classic had it been released by a band that still wanted to be a band.  “Rat Bat Blue” is my favourite on the album!  (Note: the first time I bought the original CD at my own store, I ran into a manufacturing flaw – a moment of silence near the end where Ian sings, “Aaaaalright.”  The CD with the defect just has “Aaaaaa” and then a second of silence!  My boss would not let me exchange it.)

The final two songs (on a seven song record!) are both a bit slow.  “Place in Line” has some swinging jamming blues to it, and “Our Lady” has gospel flavors and an incredible organ solo.  Neither would be remembered as Deep Purple classics, although “Our Lady” is very special.  Notice there’s no guitar solo, either.  Jon does all the serious work.

The remastered edition has some cool bonus tracks.  There are several 1999 remixes, with Roger Glover assisting at the mixing console.  Like prior Deep Purple remixes, you can hear additional guitar and other bits that weren’t there before.  They are great companion pieces to the album tracks, particularly the smouldering “Rat Bat Blue”.  There are also two snippets from the writing sessions: an unheard bridge from “Woman From Tokyo” and a bit of a deleted intro from “Rat Bat Blue”.  An eleven-minute instrumental “first day jam” is interesting because it has no guitar.  Roger Glover was late to the session, so that’s Blackmore on bass!

Finally, the rare outtake “Painted Horse” is restored to CD.  You could get it previously on the posthumous Power House compilation CD, but once placed on the album, it’s clearly one of the best tunes.  Why it was disliked is beyond me.  Maybe it’s Ian’s falsetto vocal or harmonica.  I think they just serve to make the song more unique.  This remastered version sounds loads fuller than the one of Power House.  I also love Ian’s lyrics.  “Why did the carpenter die?”

For the geeks, I’m sure you will enjoy the fully loaded CD booklet, with another essay by Glover, remembering times good and bad.

I like Who Do We Think We Are enough for a solid rating, but I’m not sure it that accurately reflects how Deep Purple fans at large felt about it.  If Machine Head, Fireball and In Rock are all 5/5 stars, then Who Do We Think We Are can be justified at:

4/5 stars

WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE_0005

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHADES_0002

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Power House (1977 Japanese import)

PH FRONT CD

DEEP PURPLE – Power House (1977  Warner Bros, Japanese import)

I have always loved listening to the Power House album, featuring the classic Deep Purple Mk II era. After Purple broke up in ’76, the market was inundated with compilations and live albums. This one, and others like Last Concert in Japan, and When We Rock We Rock… were snapped up by fans who wanted more Purple. All of these albums have been rendered redundant by superior, current Deep Purple remasters.  If you’re the kind of fan who collects all of those 70’s posthumous Hendrix albums, then you’ll dig Power House, a brief but enjoyable romp through less familiar Purple. You’ll even get the original liner notes by Simon Robinson.

Power House consisted of 6 then-unreleased tracks. Here’s your complete track list:

1. “Painted Horse”.  This is an outtake from the Who Do We Think We Are sessions in July 1972.  This is the track that Blackmore “didn’t like”.  He hated what Gillan did with the vocal, and demanded it be changed.  Gillan refused, and the result was a great, unique Deep Purple rocker that remained unreleased until after the band was defunct.

2. “Hush”
3. “Wring That Neck”
4. “Child In Time”
From the Concerto for Group and Orchestra program in September 1969.  The original hit LP release of the Concerto had just the three movements of that piece.  Deep Purple played a standard three song set before the Concerto, and here it was released on Power House.  These three versions remain among my favourite performances of these songs.  “Child In Time” had yet to be recorded on album, and Jon Lord’s melodies are experimental and in development.  Very cool.  It’s “Hush” that really smokes, a definitive version of this cover.  Gillan made it his own right there.

Today the Concerto is available remixed on two discs, with the full piece, the Deep Purple set, and the Royal Philharmonic’s rendition of Malcolm Arnold’s “Symphony No. 6”, which was also performed that night.

5. “Black Night”.  Another nearly definitive version in my books!  This is a B-side, recorded at the Made in Japan dates in August 1972.  This is widely available today on various extended versions of the Japan shows, the Singles A’s and B’s, 24 Carat Purple, and many others.

6. “Cry Free”.  Outtake from the Deep Purple In Rock sessions in January 1970.  It is incredible how fertile the band were in the early 1970’s.  As if In Rock wasn’t amazing enough, this kind of song doesn’t even make the album?  Amazing that Deep Purple’s outtakes were so impressive.  That they could throw this away speaks volumes of their confidence at the time.

Regardless of Power House being superseded in recent years by better packages, I still enjoy this album, in this sequence.

4/5 stars