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Best Deep Purple site on the Net: The Highway Star (this, in fact, is how a good official band site should look like!)

Class C

Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Art Rock, Prog Rock
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years, The Interim Years,

The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day




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Of the three alleged 'fathers of heavy metal' (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple), Deep Purple are probably the least well-known, at least in the West. This is a great shame. On one hand, this is certainly understandable: Deep Purple came a bit later than both the Zepsters and Sabbath (I mean, their first album was released before both Zep and Sabbath were even formed, but they didn't really acquire their image as 'heavy metal gods' until after In Rock, released already after both Zep's and Sabbath' grandiose debuts), and seemed to say and offer much less than both of these bands. In retrospect, however, it slowly becomes obvious that Deep Purple were just entirely different: they never exactly fitted into the standard 'heavy metal' pattern.

Where Led Zep represented the genre's 'kingship', with their mystical, overblown epics, occasional ventures into the world of the occult, their blatant cock-rock attitudes and a pretentiousness that could hardly find any equals; where Black Sabbath took the genre to its ultimate 'height', to the point where it was already verging on the border of gross, with practically nothing but Tony Iommi's masterful riffs to save them from a total downfall into gothic banality; where ninety-nine percent of their followers were stupid and trashy, soon to enter the wastebin of history; where it was simply like this - Deep Purple were never stupid or blatant enough to pretend that what they were playing was something bigger than just rock'n'roll with a little bit more distortion than usual. They were just your basic 'rock-on-type' of band, with Ian Gillan screaming out simple lyrics that were neither too ambitious nor too incomprehensible, but usually up to the point and rarely silly, and Ritchie Blackmore cutting out one memorable riff after another. They had one more thing about them, too: they had speed. Without the slightest doubt, Deep Purple were the speediest, flashiest hard rock/heavy metal band of the early Seventies - and it's no slight coincidence that both punk and speed and thrash metal owe a great deal to Purple, and not to Led Zep or Sabbath. That's not to say that the band didn't have its share of slow songs - they did, and some of them were quite impressive, but it's certainly speed and flashiness that's their most impressive trademark. For all I know, songs like 'Speed King' or 'Highway Star', as performed by the original band, have simply no analogies in modern music: they're breathtaking. Ritchie Blackmore is often credited as one of the best guitar players in existence, and, while this statement is certainly exaggerated, I'd no doubt say that he's at least the best fast guitar player in existence. And when they play, this is just Rock And Roll. You know? No ambitions! No overgoofiness! And, above all, no Satanism or mysticism, which might be the best thing about the band: a heavy metal band that never flirted with the occult, concentrating on simple life's problems instead. Geez, didn't Gillan play the part of Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webber's opera? It would sure be an embarrassing task to sing about Lucifer later on!

Over all this comes one serious objection: Deep Purple are a band that's definitely limited in style. Apart from their early excursions into the realm of flower power and even progressive rock (which, by the way, were quite far from uninteresting - believe it or not, these guys weren't the worst hipsters around), they know only one style which they overabuse to death: the style of headbanging riffing and breathtaking soloing over soulful screaming or raucous roaring. But after all, we're talking heavy metal here - a genre where bands do not usually tend to experiment much. And Deep Purple did try to experiment from time to time, with elements from classical (Jon Lord's organ passages) to gospel ('Child In Time') to country-rock ('Anyone's Daughter'). Okay, they didn't experiment that much - but neither did Black Sabbath, a band that's even more limited in style, but much more popular. And moreover, they were always conscious of the fact and even ashamed of it (AC/DC, take heed!): after all, Gillan and Glover left the band exactly under the pretext that it did not make any progression, instead remaking the same record over and over again. The band did not last too long after that - two years of endless change of personal and they called it quits. Of course, the band did everything to spoil its reputation by having at least three or four comebacks since the mid-Eighties, some of which did not feature Gillan and some did not feature Blackmore. Originally, I thought all their 'reunions' were nothing but their wastes of tape and our wastes of money, but House Of Blue Light managed to get me intrigued, so I guess I'll be looking up more of these 'late-period' records in the future.

Lineup (1968): Mark I - Rod Evans, vocals, Nic Simper, bass, Ritchie Blackmore, guitar, Jon Lord, organ, Ian Paice, drums. The first two were sacked in 1970, after three albums, a failed career in Britain and a decision to 'broaden the horizons'. Mark II - same as above, but instead of Evans and Simper, Ian Gillan - vocals, Roger Glover - bass. This is usually considered the finest 'mark' of the band, and I fully agree. Both Gillan and Glover, however, quit in 1973, replaced by David Coverdale - vocals, Glenn Hughes - bass ('Mark III'). Blackmore left, 1975, over some heated arguments with Coverdale, replaced by Tommy Bolin ('Mark V'), after which the band finally collapsed. Re-formed in the mid-Eighties, since then carried on in quite a few line-ups which I'm too tired to speak about here. Go visit the official site instead.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

The humble beginnings - psychedelic heavy metal linked in with classical-influenced pop. Still holds up to time, though.

Best song: HUSH

Track listing: 1) And The Address; 2) Hush; 3) One More Rainy Day; 4) Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad; 5) Mandrake Root; 6) Help; 7) Love Help Me; 8) Hey Joe.

This is how they started. No finger-flashing, energetic, dazzling solos or crunching, leaden riffs - just your average bunch of half-stoned kids playing a funny mix of all styles possible. The tendency to play it hard and heavy was there right from the beginning, though: as soon as the trippy organ chords that serve as the opening to 'And The Address' give way to the gritty guitar melody, you know you're definitely not in for a Monkees rip-off. Young, ambitious guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has not yet got all his chops worked out, and at this time his guitar playing ability does not extend beyond impressive, but not thoroughly imaginative copying of his idols. And who are his idols, you might ask? Why, that's pretty obvious, even banal: Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, of course! If anything, these guys try a bit too hard to sound exactly like Cream (in some parts) and like the Experience (in others). This certainly explains even their selection of covers - 'I'm So Glad' and 'Hey Joe' are both here, sure as hell! The latter, though, is certainly excruciating: while Jimi managed to say it all in about three and a half minutes, the Purplers extend the number to a seven plus minutes running time, incorporating large bits of the Bolero on their way. But 'I'm So Glad' is cute as a bellybutton: Ritchie gets the perfect guitar sound in the intro, ringing and tasty and echoey, and he manages to make his solo on that one an almost exact carbon copy of Eric's passages on Fresh Cream.

Elsewhere, the choice of covers ranges from great to bizarre. Their version of D. South's 'Hush', which was their big breakthrough hit single in the States (but passed virtually unremarked in Britain), is simply incredible: a great psychedelic anthem along the lines of Iron Butterfly, but with a much more expressive guitar part that Erik Braunn could ever pull off, and even with some cool, tripped-out vocal harmonies (just imagine some cool, tripped-out vocal harmonies on Fireball!) And let me take this opportunity to say that their lead vocalist, Rod Evans, was actually a talented chap with a happy, flower-powerish voice that sounds quite fit on such numbers. It gets a little less acceptable on the heavier ones, though, and it is certainly obvious that his vocal style would have been totally ridiculous on their 'classic' heavy metal albums; but here it's totally in place. And have you ever heard the way the band does Lennon's 'Help' here? They slow it down to make an almost pompous, ambitious power soul ballad, and again, fiddle with Ravel's 'Bolero' both in the beginning and in the end. Needless to say that no one can make a Beatles song sound better than it sounded originally; the main thing is simply not to embarrass oneself in the process, and they certainly do not - Rod's singing is quite credible, although I hate it when he spoils the melody on the final line ('won't you please help meeeee...', he wails, giving the song a rambling blues intonation, which destructs much of the fun).

Apart from the covers, there aren't that many originals, and that's the main problem: they sound painfully derivative. Shush, the instrumental 'And The Address' sounds just like some Hendrix tune, and 'Mandrake Root' is simply a rip-off of 'Foxy Lady'. But that's not to say that both are great songs! I've heard many minor blues and hard rock bands from the era, but no-one could rip off Hendrix as well as these guys - kudos to Ritchie Blackmore, of course. Hmm, but why just Ritchie Blackmore? Ian Paice is right here, too, and his drumming style in these early days is taken directly from Mitch Mitchell - right down to the clever use of these tinkling little bells (or whatever that gadget is) on 'And The Address'. And, of course, the band has one element that neither Cream nor the Experience ever had: a clever, skillful organ player in the face of Jon Lord, who certainly wasn't on par with Keith Emerson these days, but at least he could outplay Doug Ingle, for as long as I'm concerned... And like I said, Rod Evans was the perfect lead singer for that early incarnation of the band.

Anyway, I think that this album would make quite a good buy for the casual Deep Purple fan who finds them a little bit too monotonous on their 'classic' albums (like me, for instance). Ballads like 'One More Rainy Day' and flower-happy, lightweight rockers like 'Love Help Me' might not be a great whatever, but they're both decent, okayish attempts at 'capturing the vibe', and they have certainly never done anything like that since 1970. Plus, check out Blackmore's guitarwork on 'Love Help Me' - these wah-wah licks simply drive me crazy every time I hear them.

Anyway, this mark of the band shares a rather uncomfortable fortune. The more diehard fans usually dismiss it completely, while severe commercial dudes who want to look intelligent like the ones from the All-Music Guide, on the other hand, claim that their music was more interesting than what came later. Both are wrong, of course. This is a truly essential part of British late Sixties hard-flower-power-rock, but it is certainly less groundbreaking, far more derivative and far less kick-butt than the 'classic' Mark. Buy it anyway, because it's enjoyable.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Deep Purple goes progressive, with mixed and, unfortunately, not unpredictable results (you know what I mean).


Track listing: 1) Listen Learn Read On; 2) Wring That Neck; 3) Kentucky Woman; 4) Exposition/We Can Work It Out; 5) Shield; 6) Anthem; 7) River Deep Mountain High.

Not as good: picky and sneering critics will probably snarl at this album and dismiss it with the word 'dated'. Well, dated or not, on their second record Deep Purple decide to show some progress and growth. In order to do that, however, they sacrifice a large part of their grittyness that made the debut so fresh and invigorating. Perhaps the biggest flaw of this record is that Ritchie's guitar is shamelessly ignored - apart from a couple of brilliant, yet still subpar (for him) solos, it's mostly Jon Lord's and Nick Simper's show throughout. No more Hendrix rip-offs for ya - and turns out that the Hendrix rip-offs were good after all...

Anyway, this is a concept album, as you might guess, based around the fictitional character Taliesyn (some minstrel at King Arthur's court, as far as I know), and his magic 'book' of lore. The concept seems to have something to do with reading the book - whilst you turn the pages, different pictures open before you, setting different moods, each corresponding to a band member's personality: that's what the dudes said anyway, but I still can't get it. While the opening song may serve as an introduction, this still leaves us with six others (and yes, it is Taliesyn that opens the series of albums with the magic number 'seven' - their next five studio albums in a row will have seven songs each): six songs for five band members? What the hell is going on with the arythmetics? And in any case, the very idea is kinda stupid, because you won't be able to make head or tails of it anyway. There are a couple of instrumentals, a Neil Diamond and a Beatles cover, a sappy orchestrated pop ditty, an old R'n'B number, and a couple of mystique-drenched, pompous 'rockers': if this is indeed a 'concept', then so is Please Please Me.

What a concept album needs, however, is lots of pretentiousness and seriousness, and this is what you'll get in spades. I must say that I kinda like the opener, 'Listen, Learn, Read On', the only 'truly conceptual' number that introduces us to Taliesyn: it rocks pretty hard, and the chorus is quite catchy as well. You know I usually don't mind the 'overblowness' effect in songs, and although Evans gets a little over the top with his echoey, self-important vocals, the melody is still good, plus it's just a nice foot-stomper with a nice guitar solo. On the other hand, while 'Shield' has a really cool start - with that little naggin', snappy bassline and some moody guitarplaying, it's nowhere as memorable as the album opener, and it doesn't have a third part of that song's energy, just drags along as a tired horse; Lord tries to vitalize the atmosphere with weird organ noises (as if he's tapping on the keys with little hammers), but it doesn't really work, since the resulting sound is not unlike the one you'd hear through the door to a carpenter's shop. Taliesyn wouldn't be proud of these guys, that's for sure.

But then again, he just probably wouldn't care about the other songs, as they have nothing to do with mysticism or chivalry (so much the better, I say!) There's a funny, relatively short little instrumental ('Wring That Neck'), again, dominated by a brilliant Lord organ riff; however, the extended live version that the band performed as the intro to its Concerto and which can be consequently found on Power House is far, far superior. Then there's their version of Neil Diamond's 'Kentucky Woman' - a minor hit single in the States, where the band had already gained some loyal audiences, unlike in Britain; it is again thrust forward by a great Simper bassline and even has cool vocal harmonies - eh, vocal harmonies on a Deep Purple record? Yup! Mark I wasn't as lame as you would suppose it was, now was it? Apart from that, the guys continue to mine their stock of Beatles' covers, and fail, as the version of 'We Can Work It Out', preceded by a boring organ instrumental, goes in the direction of nowhere: whilst they were able to present 'Help' as a funny soul number with excited, interesting vocals, they simply can't do anything that would take 'We Can Work It Out' in another direction and enrichen its potential. They only slow it down and that's it. And it's rather crappy.

But my feeling is that the two magna opera (which is the plural from magnum opus - see, I just wanted to share some of my Latin knowledge with you) that are placed near the end of the album were intended to be 'Anthem' (what an original name) and 'River Deep Mountain High'. The first one takes our heroes into a shameless pop direction... nah, wait a minute. You know who they are copying here? The Moody Blues! That's right! It's a nice pop ballad, with lots of soaring strings and even a string solo section (no Mellotron, though), and Rod Evans sings all the way through as if he was the long-lost brother of Justin Hayward. And vocal harmonies again. Still sounds cheesy - they just didn't have the kind of melodic sensibility that Hayward used to have before he lost control over distinguishing between prime and pablum as well. Then again, it's still better than Elvis, so there's no reason to hide your face an' weep. But they'd make better use of the orchestration on 'April', in any case, so read on.

The last ten minutes of the album are occupied with a lengthy cover of 'River Deep Mountain High' - actually, the first four minutes are instrumental again, with Jon Lord overabusing all kinds of organ tricks and Ritchie tossing in some psychedelic guitar lines mostly to disqualify the idea of Purple as a 'keyboards band', I think - I wonder if he was half-asleep while recording the tune. Which is not that bad - after all, it wasn't written by Rod Evans. The funny thing is that Eric Burdon and the Animals released their version of the song the same year (see my review of it on Love Is), and the two versions sound quite similar. Since both albums came out at approximately the same time, I don't know who ripped off who, but somebody must have ripped off somebody else - after all, we live in a world where most of the coincidences have logical explanations (I know it's an arguable statement, but I just wanted to make it so definite because I love making definite statements with no arguments to back them up. As does everyone on this planet). 'River Deep', though, I like the song, if only it weren't ten minutes long, and if only Ritchie'd bothered to play his instrument at full power, coulda been a killer.

Nevertheless, the record's relative success in the States ensured that Deep Purple would think of themselves as a 'progressive' group for the whole next year. It only took the failure of Concerto to realize they didn't quite have the guts to become a true progressive rock band. So the natural question is: is this album dated? Answer: of course no! Trout Mask Replica is dated! This is your prime jangly stupid prog-pop from a great soon-to-be heavy metal band! Who the hell cares that it's only available as a Japanese import? The Japanese sure do have good music tastes! (By the way, the Japanese seem to be huge Purple fans. Funny how each country has its specific 'idol': Deep Purple in Japan, Queen in Russia, Genesis in Italy. Hey, if you have nothing to do, how about writing a thesis on these countries' cultural identities?)



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Quite 'normal', for Deep Purple. Blues meets classical music, and Rod Evans sounds really nice...

Best song: APRIL

Track listing: 1) Chasing Shadows; 2) Blind; 3) Lalena; 4) Fault Line; 5) The Painter; 6) Why Didn't Rosemary?; 7) Bird Has Flown; 8) April.

More late-Sixties psychedelic & flower pop sound from what was soon to become England's grittiest heavy rock band. But I tell you, NO WAY there is you could guess that their next album after this one would be In Rock. Here, Ritchie turns his guitar sound down, down and down again: the days of emulating Hendrix are long gone by. Not that the album is organ-oriented, either: Jon Lord treats his colleagues with respect, and the band, at this point, is still a democratic unit.

Nevertheless, they progress. For one, there's only one cover on the album - and it's good: the gorgeous ballad 'Lalena', authored by Donovan himself. Its chorus might seem repetitive - 'that's your lot in life Lalena' (a line that I'd always misinterpreted as 'bet your rotten life Lalena'. Funny, eh?) crops up after every two lines, after all, but Evans sings everything with such a beautiful, sad, highly emotional intonation that you can't but understand - yup, at this point the guy managed to evolve into a really impressive chord-spender (that being my personal slang for 'vocalist', ya gotta understand). I still do not regret their decision to sack him - he was no match for Gillan - but, unfortunately, this decision led to his artistic downfall. What a bummer.

Let's get back to the album, though. Like I said, all the other songs are self-penned, mostly collectively, and, while some are still rather obvious blues rip-offs, others start to display serious hints of creativity. The opening number, 'Chasing Shadows', built around the story of some old Jon Lord nightmares, is, well, not exactly creepy or spooky, but somewhat haunting: Ian Paice gets in a great percussion groove (maybe his best performance in Mark I), and all the lyrics dealing with 'hiding in the shadows', accompanied by gloomy organ passages, hit the mark right smack in the middle. 'Blind' is a rather forgettable ballad, possibly the only truly weak cut on the record, but the stuff that follows it and 'Lalena' has some of the most awesome blues-rock of the Sixties. 'The Painter', 'Why Didn't Rosemary' and 'Bird Has Flown' are all outstanding, with the band, especially Ritchie, in top form, as usual. Dammit, what's 'Rosemary' about? 'Why didn't Rosemary ever take the pill...' ...isn't this about incidental pregnancy? Whatever, it's a top-notch rocker, that shows Blackmore maturing further and further as a guitarist and Lord maturing further and further as an organ-annihilator (although he wouldn't truly start to massacre his instrument until In Rock). And then, there's 'Bird Has Flown', with its moody wah-wah guitar and a surprisingly menacing sound for a song about broken love.

But... the album's centerpiece is definitely none of the above. This honour falls to 'April', the thirteen-minute suite that closes the album and serves as a logical precursor to the infamous Concerto For Group And Orchestra, that is, presents Deep Purple as an ambitious, ballsy 'art-rock' ensemble. And note that, however 'dated' or 'naive' their artsy excourses might seem now, in 1969 they were pretty daring. Yes, believe it or not, but for a short while Deep Purple had a bifurcation before them - the choice was between 'art' and 'metal'. They probably made the right choice in the end. But that does not mean that 'April' ain't impressive; on the contrary, the suite must hold its own ground as one of the most successful art-rock creations of the year. It consists of three parts - an instrumental part played by the band, an instrumental part played by the orchestra and the 'song' itself, with pessimistic, quasi-pastoral lyrics sung by Evans in his very best 'epic' tone. Note that nobody had yet done that - except for the Moody Blues on Days Of Future Passed, so Deep Purple were really pioneers in the matter. Not that the composition is utterly brilliant. I mean, the first section is really, really good, with nice acoustic guitar and organ, and over it, some subtle, autumnal (damn the title, they're autumnal) electric lines of huge expressivity. The orchestral passage, however, is a bit trite - and yet, far from the banal, bland MGM orchestration used by the Moody Blues. The big difference, I guess, stems from the fact that the Moody Blues did not write the orchestral arrangements, while Deep Purple, namely, Jon Lord, produced the score himself, and, being the smart dude that he was, he just couldn't fall into banality. So it's good, but not great. And then the third part comes in, and we're suddenly beginning to rock! Rod Evans pleads and screams, Lord upholds him on organ, and Ritchie plays up a thunderstorm! Still a bit 'soft', perhaps, but everything cooks...

Quite an interesting band they were, these Deep Purple Mark I. Still much too inexperienced - still much too 'compromising' - still much too derivative and shy - but showing signs of greatness. God knows what they could have evolved into had Evans and Simper not been replaced by metalheads Gillan and Glover. Hey, I'm not complaining - I'm just curious! Buy this album! It has a Bosch painting on the cover! And did I ever tell you, and if I didn't, this is the most perfect place to do it, that Bosch is my favourite painter in the world? Buy this album now - while the world hasn't forgotten it!



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

The perfect synthesis of rock and classical? Or a bunch of derivative and useless 'classical noise'? I'm not sure myself...

Best song: hmm, I'm not certain if one can call a concerto a 'song'...

Track listing: 1) First Movement; 2) Second Movement (Part One); 3) Second Movement (Part Two); 4) Third Movement.

Evans and Simper left the band somewhere in the middle of 1969, and were immediately replaced by ex-Episode 6 members Ian Gillan on vocals and Roger Glover on bass. Glover, rumor has it, wanted the band to move in a heavier direction right away - but instead of it, they recorded a piece of symphonic music. How's that for a real controversial resume? Actually, another rumor has it that Lord simply mentioned the idea of a 'group and orchestra concert' while the band were somewhere on a cruise, and the management caught the idea and booked the Royal Albert Hall the next day - so Lord had no choice but to sit down and compose the score. One can only imagine all the fuss.

The critics didn't particularly approve the idea back then, and they hate it in retrospect, condemning the whole affair as, naturally, self-indulgent, snub-nosed, dirty-minded, and big-headed. And what about me? I DON'T KNOW. See, I'm really not that big a connoisseur of classical music to tell whether Lord's score is all derived and totally unoriginal, or whether there are some interesting new ideas here, on the contrary. (Something tells me, however, that the critics who pan this album aren't all that familiar with classical music, either: musta been a sixth sense!) One thing I know for sure: the movements of this concert contain sections that can be indeed called 'classical music' - they don't have anything to do with the Hollywoodery of the early Moody Blues. At the very worst, this is okayish, passable, not terrifically exciting, but listenable classic music. I'll even go as far as to say that it reveals influences of Tchaikowsky, Beethoven and... let's see, who else? Well, some of the brass sections bring visions of Valkiries to my mind, so I guess Wagner also has to be one of the influences. And probably a couple dozen lesser known composers that I've never even heard - after all, it's Jon Lord who's had a classical musical education, not me, so spare me if you can.

The work's total originality, though - and there's no point trying to get away from it - is that this is indeed a 'concerto for group & orchestra'. Sometimes the orchestra plays alone, sometimes the group jams alone, but quite often, the sound is combined, and this is indeed the kind of sound that nobody dared to experiment with at the time. Perhaps only the Nice, but even their major experiment, 'The Five Bridges Suite', came out later, and it was more short and more shy, not to mention that the orchestra and the group did not usually play at the same time. And I must confess that there are really powerful moments, when 'interest' suddenly grows into 'excitement', like at the last minutes of the first movement, where Blackmore's fascinating, lightning-speed soloing is powerfully punctuated by sharp bursts of sound from the orchestra. Oh yeah, in fact, the first movement is quite great - starting from the point where the band kicks in: Blackmore plays his heart out, and he's finally mastered the guitar to his 'standard' level, playing hundreds of notes in one second and truly brewing up a storm.

Of course, no amounts of soloing can save you from the fact that if you hardly tolerate classical, you'll find this completely boring and throwawayish (like all those critics do). Understandably, there are no vocals: the only vocal passages can be heard in the second movement, when Gillan spits out some meaningless, but pompous lyrics - for the first and last time, thanksfully - and that's it. Moreover, a big part of the third movement is occupied by Ian Paice's drum solo: of course, the guy must be given credit for inserting his solos into different songs all the time, rather than sticking with the same groove like 'Moby Dick' or 'Toad' for years on end, but that doesn't mean it's still enjoyable or anything.

On the other hand, if you DO tolerate classical, you might suddenly find this album a pleasure - and not necessarily a 'guilty' one. I would have no problem with putting this on as background music, for instance; I don't see why this couldn't rank along with some of the minor classical works by well-known artists, especially since I'd bet my whole worthless life that Lord simply stole most of the themes from his majors. Unfortunately, I haven't yet finished my classical homework to be able to grip him by the sleeve and sue him for plagiarizing the greats. When I do, you'll be the first to know - promise. For the moment, I warily give the album an overall rating of eight - with chances of growing (a little). It's nowhere near horrendous, but certainly is about the last place to start with Deep Purple.

I've also heard rumours of a re-issued version that adds the 'intro' to the concert - live versions of 'Wring That Neck' and 'Child In Time' that could otherwise be found on the Power House album, reviewed below. If this version is available, and if you can't lay your hands on Power House (it seems to be out of print now), my advice is to grab it: the version of 'Child In Time' alone is well worth two or three more points. Please check the review below. Please!



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

Possibly the best, the cleverest and the most memorable Pure Heavy Metal Album in the world.

Best song: CHILD IN TIME

Track listing: 1) Speed King; 2) Bloodsucker; 3) Child In Time; 4) Flight Of The Rat; 5) Into The Fire; 6) Living Wreck; 7) Hard Lovin' Man.

A classic, no less. Now, with Gillan and Glover having replaced the flower-powerish Evans and Simper, the group was finally ready to conquer the world. However, it really took the artistic puzzle of Concerto For Group And Orchestra, the most pretentious and prog-like creation they ever did, and one of their worst sellers ever at that, to have band make a clever decision that 'high class' stuff was definitely not their area of expertise; or perhaps Blackmore just hated that orchestra crap. So they tried the other approach to business - and amazingly, it worked better than anything they'd done previously.

Actually, the closest they got to 'ambitious' here was on the cover of the album - which still looks incredibly cool. Otherwise, most of the songs here are fairly simple: your average headbanging-style hard rockers, with just one 'power ballad' thrown in for good measure. But if you ask me, well, this is one of the most effective, point-making, cleverly produced and recorded bunch of rockers ever assembled in one place. Yes, you heard: 'cleverly produced'. One of Deep Purple's main disadvantages was horrendous production - which is especially visible on the two following 'classic' records, on which you can hardly ever hear Gillan's voice, completely hidden behind Blackmore's guitar. But here, it's okay: either Blackmore got pissed off at Gillan later, or Gillan secretly messed up the vocals, but he's almost perfectly audible on every track, except for 'Flight Of The Rat', maybe.

Besides that, all the exact trademarks are in place. Blackmore's guitar sounds tons of times more professional, self-assured, and, what's perhaps the most important element, independent, than previously; Gillan sings, howls, bellows, whines, whispers and roars like on no other record; and even Jon Lord tries to make something interesting out of his organ playing - getting it beautiful and majestic at some times, or dirty and feedbacky, almost orgasmic, at other times. And the lyrics? Well, they're mostly interesting - not terribly innovative or fascinating, but at least, no Tolkien-inspired blabbery.

In fact, it's a kinda concept album! Each song has that little 'epigraph' to it, and it's often society-bashing, but again, in a bright way. 'Speed King' opens the album with a lightning-speed riff and Gillan intentionally blurting out Little Richard cliches - 'just a few roots, replanted', the liner notes say, and that's what they are, replanted by Ritchie's monstruous riffage. 'Bloodsucker' is one of the two definite Gillan vocal highlights on this album - ever heard that 'Oh No No No No-aaaaaa-oooo!' blood-curdling scream at the end of each verse? Proof enough that it was Ian Gillan, and nobody else, as the greatest heavy metal vocalist of all time (well, he wasn't chosen to be Jesus Christ Superstar for nothing). Add Blackmore's cycling riff, with enough resemblance to the one of 'Whole Lotta Love' to sound just as powerful but not enough resemblance to sound like a complete rip-off, and you come up with a major classic.

And, of course, there's 'Child In Time', a song that has some real majesty in it - not the kind of puffed-up, fake majesty of Led Zep or Sabbath. It's an anti-war song, see, and the 'grounded' character of the message only gives the song more poignancy. Perhaps it is a bit overlong, at a ten minutes running time, but I never notice it! Gillan's singing in the chorus is pure ecstasy: can a living man really pull off all these 'ooh-oooh-ooh' and 'aaaah-aaaah-aaaah' without ever missing a single note, without ever getting off-key, and in such tight combination with the moody, slow groove of the song, that it really brings me to tears every time I hear it? And it's hardly possible to forget the brilliant 'rush-to-the-end' climax to the song, either, or Blackmore's frenzied solo in which he tries so hard to demonstrate that he's the speediest player on this planet that one can even witness a few moments of a classic 'slip-of-the-hand' that actually enliven the song even further.

But - if Gillan is the undoubtful star of Side 1, then Blackmore is the undoubtful star of Side 2. The fast rockers - 'Flight Of The Rat' and 'Hard Lovin' Man' simply chug along mercilessly, like a choo-choo train, with Lord supporting Ritchie with his brain-muddling, flashy distorted organ passages. Their riffs are top-notch, the solos are short, to-the-point and astonishingly professional, and again, Ian is Ian - what can I say? 'Into The Fire' and 'Living Wreck' are a little slower, but not bad either, especially the former, with that wonderful scream '...into the fiiiiiire!' and the relentless THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of the rhythm, like a heavy tank crushing your head into the dirt. And 'Living Wreck' has these funny groupie-bashing lyrics and all, and a Jon Lord organ part that almost sounds like the agony cry of some wounded and very dangerous alien creature. Classic, simply classic.

Yeah, maybe if I were forced to name a prototypical 'classic' metal album, it would be this one. There's simply no existing complaint I could put forward as related to it. Can you? There ain't a single boring number here! The only complaint is the lack of diversity - but that's a general fault of the band, not of this particular record. Okay, maybe the coda to 'Hard Lovin' Man' is a little bit overdone, with Blackmore again remembering that he used to imitate Hendrix once and trying to do it again with some supposedly cool guitar noises. But it's still short, and not really annoying.

Otherwise - no flaws at all. Buy it today, don't let Deep Purple fade away.



Year Of Release: 1995
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

A little more concentrated and polished than Lord's first go, but also less revolutionary. You decide.

Best song: FIRST MOVEMENT (I suppose)

Track listing: 1) First Movement; 2) Second Movement; 3) Third Movement.

Apparently, Jon Lord's classical appetites weren't completely quenched by the (un)success of Concerto. I'd previously thought that the effort prompted him to abandon all the neo-classical ambitions and turn to the gritty distorted hard-rock marathons instead, at least within Deep Purple itself. Well, turns out that I was wrong. Gemini Suite is an archive release of yet another concert of the band in the Royal Albert Hall, with yet another time Malcolm Arnold conducting the orchestra that's playing yet another multi-part Jon Lord suite. The weirdest thing is that the recording date is September 1970 - In Rock had already been in the stores for three months then. I can only imagine how much Blackmore and Gillan wanted to participate in the Rock-Classical Venture Mark II: however, at that time the band was still deciding which way to turn, and maybe even was determined to continue both programs at the same time. Still, as far as I know, Gemini Suite was Lord's last ambitious project within the band.

Which is a shame, because Gemini Suite is an improvement over Concerto, in most possible ways. The problem is that it's not that much of an improvement: it sounds like a polished and slightly revised version of its predecessor rather than a radical reworking of it. This time, the main innovation is that Lord is determined to give every band member a chance to shine. So it hardly even sounds like a 'band with orchestra': rather, it sounds like several isolated guys always accompanied by an orchestra. The 'First Movement' part has a guitar-dominated half and an organ-dominated half; the 'Second Movement' has a vocals-dominated part and a bass-dominated part; and the 'Third Movement' is drums-dominated before the finale, where everything eventually comes together. So I suppose that while one band member was showing his skills on stage, the others were probably hiding backstage and drinking coffee or something. I can hardly imagine Ian Gillan just sitting or standing there in the corner for almost forty minutes doing nothing...

In any case, this mostly works: the suite thus becomes more organized than Concerto, and it's also better in that the band instruments actually do get around to playing along with the orchestra, not substituting it. Particularly effective and impressive is the first part of the first movement, where Blackmore plays his heart out accompanied by a Beethoven-esque orchestra sequence. Note: please don't ask me to criticize or praise the orchestra parts, because I don't know nothing about 'em. I mean, I do recognize quotations from 'past masters' in places, but I can't really tell who the hell Lord was ripping off this time. Anyway, the guitar comes in right there at the thirtieth second, and after you overcome the funny tingling sensation - hard rock guitar along with classical music? Are you serious? - you start to realize that the passage is really good, and the instruments actually complement each other. Blackmore sounds a bit like Santana on that one, but then again, he often sounds like Santana, so I don't suppose he was trying to Latinize his music specially for the occasion or something.

The organ/orchestra part is a lengthy bore, though. Listening to all that stuff makes me wanna throw on Lord's solo to 'Highway Star' instead. He should really leave this stuff to Keith Emerson. And I'm not overtly seduced by Gillan's part, either - can't make out the lyrics, too, but some say they're just improvised. But he sings like a somnambula, and only "wakes up" at around the fourth minute when the suite launches into a fast, upbeat part that could almost be said to "boogie"... But then comes the second best part: I enjoy Glover's basswork on that one very much, because, just like Blackmore's instrument, the bass guitar seems to fit the orchestra parts very well, creating an eerie, gloomy atmosphere.

The drum part is kinda boring again, and, of course, it's mostly dedicated to a drum solo. I'm kinda sick of drum solos, much as I respect Ian Paice. But, again, there's some redemption in the mighty chaotic finale, where all the instruments rise together in a helluva chaotic climax. You really gotta hear that part: Blackmore's demonic soloing is a little drowned out by the orchestra, as can be understood, but if you can discern it, the effect is unique.

Still, it's kinda painful to wait for the good moments while having to endure all the boring stuff. Supposedly rockers by heart just can't really bring themselves to writing solid classical compositions. Or maybe the balance is so way off here, inclining towards the 'classical rip-offs' side, that there's no talk of a real compromise between the two. It's not really a blend of rock and classical: it's more like a serious injection of rock into a classical composition. Unlike the usual prog rock records, that were usually injections of classical into rock compositions. The perfect fifty-fifty balance between the two genres has yet to be found, I say; more probable, though, is the solution that since it wasn't found by 1970, it will probably never be found in the future. Aw, well. Can you cross a fox and a dog?

Forget it. That was kind of a rhetoric question.



Year Of Release: 199?
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

You gotta be REALLY jam-tolerant for this one, but it's real good anyway.

Best song: CHILD IN TIME

Track listing: 1) Wring That Neck; 2) Speed King; 3) Into The Fire; 4) Paint It Black; 5) Mandrake Root; 6) Child In Time; 7) Black Night.

One of the more important archive releases for Purple, this double CD sucker was recorded in Stockholm on November 12th, 1970 - which means just a few months away from the recording of In Rock, when the band was riding high upon the album's fresh success and its hard-rocking flamboyance hadn't yet mutated into formula. I can even picture some diehard fans of the band putting this above Made In Japan, but then again, let's not be too extravagant.

Because seriously, this record is not for the uninitiated. It reflects that early period in Mark II's history when they didn't yet have enough material to build upon - just one album and a couple singles to boot. As was pretty common for bands at the time, then, they were resolving this problem in a very simple way: stretching out the available material to unprecedented lengths. This is a double album, containing about two hours worth of music, and it has seven tracks altogether, out of which only two can be considered "non-stretched": a surprisingly short version of 'Into The Fire' (and a great version, too - well worth checking out if you weren't impressed with the studio original), and merely a seven-minute rendition of their debut single 'Black Night'. Seven minutes? Don't make me laugh!

Elsewhere, the audiences had to sit through: two thirty-minute (sic!) instrumental marathons based on Mark I's studio recordings of 'Wring That Neck' and 'Mandrake Root'; a ten-minute jam based on 'Speed King'; a deadeningly lengthy rendition of 'Child In Time', arguably the longest you'll ever hear on a Purple live album, due to the fact that Lord also takes a solo in the middle part; and - please don't laugh at me - a nine-minute track that bears the title 'Paint It Black' and is credited to Jagger/Richards, but all it actually has in common with 'Paint It Black' is the main riff played a couple times near the beginning and another couple of times near the end; all the rest of the space is occupied by the inevitable Ian Paice drum solo - later, of course, to be transferred to 'The Mule'.

In fact, I pity Ian Gillan: he remains absolutely silent for a good 4/5ths of this album or so, because even the tracks on which he actually does sing are still mainly dedicated to jamming and soloing. Then again, maybe he was pleased with this situation, I don't know. Saving vocal potential and all. Taking care of the chords. Oh well. If he wasn't, at least he still had the privilege of doing all the announcements. 'There, this is an old one called "Wring That Neck"'... and then you can go take a dip in the swimming pool or roll a few joints or something while the rest are all sweating out there. Heck, I sure wouldn't mind.

Anyway, if you got Level A Jamming Clearance, it's a solid listen all the same. I'd bet you anything that Blackmore actually runs out of finger-flashing ideas by the twentieth minute of the album or so, and extending the solo on 'Child In Time' merely results in his repeating the same runs over and over again, but he's about the only guy in the business who can be forgiven for doing that - he plays straightforward, heartfelt, manic rock'n'roll, where you can actually play the same Chuck Berry lick fifty thousand times in a row and it can still be cool if you're doing it in the right place at the right time. Besides, at least they occasionally set different patterns for jamming. On 'Wring That Neck', "battling" is the word of the day as Blackmore and Lord trade riffs and solos off each other, initiating sort of an "instrument conversation" that won't ever get boring if you don't try to convince yourself that it's boring. With 'Speed King' we see the first sign of the notorious Ritchie/Ian guitar/vocal duels that would reach their peak on 'Strange Kind Of Woman' - see the hilarious introduction of 'Land Of A Thousand Dances' into the duel, too. (I sure could do without the preachy 'do you know who a speed king is?' intermission from Ian, though).

On the second disk, 'Mandrake Root' is more of a true solo vehicle; I'd say it's actually the weak link of the album (disregarding the so-called 'Paint It Black', of course, which couldn't be expected to be a strong link in the first place), because another thirty-minute jam after we already had one does seem exhausting. On the other hand, listen closely and you'll notice much of it is occupied by the same frantic "space boogie" rhythm that would later serve as the lengthy conclusion to 'Space Truckin' - turns out these guys were actually saving their improvisational vehicles, just transplanting them into later written songs one by one. 'Child In Time' goes off like a true blast with Gillan, as usual, on full power (how could he not be?.. he'd just taken a twenty-minute break on 'Mandrake Root'!), but perhaps, once again, the solo section is overlong... I'm not sure if Lord's stately organ solo really belongs there; I'm way too used to the maddening don't-stop-until-you-drop guitar attack occupying the solo section from beginning to end. Never mind, though, because then along comes 'Black Night' and pulls all the stops once and for all. That is, after the band tunes up because 'we broke a couple of things', Gillan humbly states.

Had I heard this record, say, two years before writing this review, I'd probably have kicked its jammy ass, but I know better now. Many of these jams are just headbanging fun, which is, after all, their actual intention, I guess. And I'm particularly enamoured of Blackmore's jamming style. It's funny how the guy can be so highly technical and proficient and so goddamn sloppy at the same time. Yup, you heard. Come on now, you hear him pinch wrong notes all the time. He breaks down, picks it up again... hits a wrong note while doing a fast run... plays the same run too many times in a row... well, you know, all these things that would probably enrage an Yngwie Malmsteem, but me, I take pleasure in this. For me, Blackmore is kind of an ideal "technical" player - a "technical" player who knows that technicality is only good as long as it's injected with actual rock'n'roll emotion. And the rock'n'roll emotion actually involves playing sloppy, dirty and mean - and he does. And it comes out great, and it's demonstrated multiple times on Scandinavian Nights.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

The band expands its musical vision a little, unfortunately, not in the necessary directions...

Best song: FIREBALL

Track listing: 1) Fireball; 2) No No No; 3) Demon's Eye; 4) Anyone's Daughter; 5) The Mule; 6) Fools; 7) No One Came.

A slight falldown from the previous album. But not a horrible one! Again, there are seven numbers, and most of them kick just as much ass as In Rock. This time, however, Gillan, Blackmore & Co. decided that they would like to 'broaden the horizons' - who wants to mess with a single formula all the time? Thus, two numbers on this record kinda step away from the usual pattern. Whether it was a good move or not is kinda unclear. First, there's a strange country-western number ('Anyone's Daughter'), where the band gets a good groove going indeed: I particularly enjoy the wonderful intro, with that guitar/piano duet (actually, this is one of the few tracks in the Purple repertoire where Lord plays simple piano, not dirty distorted organ). However, the song's message is unclear, and the lyrics, about how Gillan screws farmers' and judges' daughters, are unusually dumb for the band's standard level. Plus, Ian almost sounds like Mike Nesmith on that number, and, while I have nothing in particular against Mike Nesmith, eeh, bringing late-Monkees country-rock into Deep Purple? Hmm. Interesting idea. The weirdest number on this record, tho', is the 'psychedelic', Eastern-influenced 'The Mule', a nearly-instrumental jam with just a few lines of lyrics, a complicated beat and trippy guitar/organ solos. Sometimes it's good, but usually it's a bit too messy for me - after all, Deep Purple are no Who, and their strength never lied in creating a groovy mess. Don't skip it when you play the song on CD, though! Don't you dare do this - somewhere right in the middle, Blackmore suddenly seems to wake up from his trance, ask himself 'what the fuck am I into?' and then he kicks in with some of the most ferocious riffage on the whole album - for about thirty seconds. Later, however, he falls asleep again... A very strange number, indeed, ending in an almost apocalyptic way with a ferocious drumbeat: Ian Paice at his best (although, of course, the song served as a suitable pretext for a drum solo in concert). Oh, and the lyrics are the only Deep Purple lyrics (I think) where you find a mention of Lucifer. That's not to say they're 'evil', though - they seem to deal with a man's possession by evil forces, represented by 'the mule'. I don't know what kind of 'mule' they're talking about, but it sounds more silly than scary in any case.

The rest of the album is, however, pretty normal. Again, they kick it off with a fast, speedy rocker (title track), where Blackmore seems to race with the speed of sound itself. The problem is that from now on the damn engineers start to mix Gillan's vocals incredibly low - if you can hear his singing at all on this track, as well as most of the other ones, you're damn lucky - I can't. But who needs 'im when the guitarwork is so amazing? Other highlights include the bluesy 'Demon's Eye', a dark, dreary track, all sizzling with both guitar and organ feedback, and also built on a tremendous riff; and the album closer, 'No One Came', with some of the most interesting Purple lyrics: actually, it's dedicated to the fate of a rock star and his relations with the soulless public.

I'm, however, not a big fan of the stupid screamfest 'No No No' with its annoying, repetitive lyrics; not to mention that it's much too similar to the superior 'Into The Fire', and yet has the nerve to drag on for nearly seven minutes with so-so solo performances by both Blackmore and Lord. As for 'Fools', it is objectively a good song, but certainly overlong as well. Especially the lengthy, moody organ intro: after the deceptive, menacing guitar licks at the beginning, Lord takes the rule and proceeeds to bore you for a couple of minutes, only after which the main melody finally breaks in and the song begins kicking all kinds of butt, together with a blistering Blackmore solo.

And that's it - seven songs, just like on the previous album. Perhaps this is the biggest problem: Deep Purple certainly made quite a bit of their numbers too overlong. And if it's studio albums we're speaking of, truth must be told: their lengthy instrumental passages are not always terribly entertaining. Fireball, in particular, is too much dominated by Lord and his organ. Now Jon is a really good organ player, but he rarely becomes ecstatic enough to match the furious Blackmore solos. When he just plays organ alongside the guitar, the effect is miraculous; his solos, however, are what puts me down. And he gets at least as much of them as Ritchie, perhaps even more! Now this is what I call an unwise policy. Also, the album is rather slow: except for the title track and the main melody of 'Fools', all the other numbers are mostly mid-tempo! How can a Deep Purple album be first-rate when it's so slow? They're fast rockers! Hmm. Maybe an eight is even a bit too much for this album. No, wait. The songs are good. The melodies are quite strong, in fact! 'Demon's Eye' is a great distorted blues rocker! I'll leave the rating as it is, thanks a lot. But please, be sure to make In Rock your first buy, so as not to be disappointed.

P.S. Note that I have the European version of the album. The US version has the contemporary hit single 'Strange Kind Of Woman' replacing 'Demon's Eyes'; I'm not sure which one works best, as I still haven't heard the original version (the live version on Made In Japan is fantastiwastic, though), so maybe it's a tie.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

Folding down again - this is back-to-the-wall, all-time-heavy-and-glorious, gritty-and-ferocious rock and roll. That says it all, basically.

Best song: SMOKE ON THE WATER (yeah, as if I could even begin to try denying it)

Track listing: 1) Highway Star; 2) Maybe I'm A Leo; 3) Pictures Of Home; 4) Never Before; 5) Smoke On The Water; 6) Lazy; 7) Space Truckin'.

Ah! Better! Still not quite on the same level as In Rock, but unquestionably their second best (studio, that is). Definitely no traces of experimentation here - the guys have wisely decided not to mess around with the formula this time. Once again, the magical number seven makes up the album: seven strong, compact rockers that deliver all the crrrrrrrrunch you need in your life and maybe more. And apparently the public got it, too: this was their major commercial breakthrough, and a record that finally put them in the same league with Led Zep and company. Yeah, I know that true fans already knew that two years ago, but it did take 'Highway Star' and 'Smoke On The Water' to convince the general record-buying public that, after all, Deep Purple were one of the all-time greatest hard rock ensembles.

If I have any gripes with the record at all, they are few - mainly, the songs do not grab me as tightly by the collar as the ones on In Rock do, and, whatever you say, it's practically impossible to imagine a more polished hard rock record than the 1970 clunker. Also, I'm not a really big fan of 'Lazy', even if it seems to be a fan favourite; I mean, such a generic piece of boogie-woogie gotta have something more than just Ritchie's amazing playing technique in order to be distinguishable. Other than that, yet another immaculate record from Gillan, Blackmore & Co. As has now become the tradition, they open it with a speedy, ballsy rocker that's since turned into one of their trademarks: 'Highway Star'. I mean, what more perfect example can you give of a song that celebrates the joy of sex, speed and youthful aggression better than this 'choo choo train' (again)? 'Nobody gonna take my car, I'm gonna race it to the ground, Nobody gonna beat my car, It's gonna break the speed of sound...' And that powerful 'Yeaaaaah' that opens the song - a crystal clear, shiver-sending scrrreeeam that we really haven't had on the last record? Both Ritchie and Ian are outstanding on the song, with the former in an even better form than before - just watch out for that solo! Even Lord gets caught up in the ecstasy and delivers some gloomy boogie passage on his organ. This, I tell you, this is the blueprint for speed metal and thrash - only it's tons more exciting, clever and non-violent than both.

The album's highest point is not 'Highway Star', of course. I bet there's just no need to mention the song - it's right up there, with 'Pinball Wizard' and 'Stairway To Heaven' as one of the most overplayed songs of the century, the band's visit card and definite symbol. And, well, it's deserved: Ritchie's introductory riff is certainly the best-known, the most celebrated and cliched in the whole genre of hard rock or heavy metal. Even now, I can't hold a smile when I hear it - Lord you don't know how dumb it sounds, but what is it there in this dumbness that makes it so fantastically memorable? Why do these chords seem to delve so deep in your head that you can't help but repeat the riff the whole day long after hearing the song once? And funny - does anybody indeed realize that the song itself never stands up to that riff? It's a good rocker, with enough guts and force, but not thoroughly spectacular. And the autobiographical lyrics that tell of Deep Purple's famous fire incident with the Rolling Stones Mobile in Switzerland, have dated badly - anyway, they haven't even dated, they're just nothing more than a half-poetic 'document'. Perversely, now they will be immortalized forever. In two hundred years' time, when nobody will ever remember who the hell was Frank Zappa and why did he have several Mothers, children will ask their parents and their parents will just stare dumbly and not know what to answer. Ah, but he's mentioned in 'Smoke On The Water', you see... do you really believe it is possible to forget that one as well? Hardly.

And hey! This is Machine Head we're talking about! It has 'Space Truckin'! It's a fantastic tune, one of the heaviest they ever did! Do you, mister Intelligent Person, think it could have been a parody on the Grateful Dead 'Truckin'? Only set to a 'cosmic' background? Whatever be, it's a fantastic album closer, and it shuts it down in the same way as it opens - with a SCREEEAAM. Can you shout 'Yeah Yeah Yeah Space Truckin'' like Gillan does it in the end of the song? You cannot, don't even try! He's got the best pair o' chords in the business! And it's also the place where you get your 'Pictures Of Home', a fast, emotional rocker dealing with imprisonment and nostalgia - hey, the musical thunderstorm that it opens with might be just the best way to start off a Deep Purple classic. Ritchie, meanwhile, delivers short, snappy, economic solos that build up the tension not any worse than the lengthy jaw-dropping workout on 'Child In Time'.

And then there are the 'minor' numbers, all good in their 'minor' way: both of the stompy, gritty blues-rockers 'Maybe I'm A Leo' and 'Never Before' are solid headbangers. Like I said, I'm not a big fan of 'Lazy', a lengthy, seven-minute blues jam, just because I do not think it represents the band in top form - maybe Ritchie, sure, but then again I've never understood why his playing on 'Lazy' should be revered and, say, similar or even superior solos by Alvin Lee dismissed. (The live version of the song rules, though). But it's not bad or unlistenable, either, and dammit, does this album bleed heavily on your ears! A good kind of bleeding, though - like a purging... this is definitely the way Deep Purple are gonna be remembered - loud, brawny, professional, tasteful, a little vulgar, a little clever, and totally inoffensive.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

Friggin' great. The ultimate live metal album, and quite possibly the only live metal album you need so badly.


Track listing: 1) Highway Star; 2) Child In Time; 3) Smoke On The Water; 4) The Mule; 5) Strange Kind Of Woman; 6) Lazy; 7) Space Truckin'.

First of all, let me warn you. Deep Purple have put out about a hundred various official and semi-official live albums (not counting the bootlegs), and more than half of these come from the 'later', Gillan-less years, or from their 'comeback' gigs. No, I'm not necessarily telling you to avoid these, but if you're a more casual fan, Made In Japan should be your first and primary buy. Don't confuse it with stuff like Live In Europe, etc., etc. Furthermore, the situation is even more complicated: I, for instance, have this CD under the name of Live In Japan (it was originally released under this name, sure enough, in Japan); but there also exists a 3-CD set (I think) named Live In Japan and providing you with a more detailed insight into their 1972 Tokyo gigs. If you're not a diehard, you certainly don't need it. Also, the 1-CD edition cuts out several songs from the original LP; maybe there exist 2-CD editions, I'm not sure. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is: don't grab just anything. Make sure you've analyzed the track listing beforehand.

Now, about this record. It rules. It rules absolutely and totally, and if you have nothing against lotsa long songs in general, you might wanna get this even before In Rock. Deep Purple, in fact, in their prime were one of these bands whose full potential really doesn't realize itself outside o' the stage, and this album is ample proof. Blackmore soloes like a demon throughout, Paice kicks in and out with a vengeance, Gillan howls and screams better than usual, Jon Lord's organ solos leave me impressed - for the first time, and even Glover, the quiet bass player who's pretty unremarkable on studio records, gets a chance to shine on 'Space Truckin'. The only problem with the album is that there's but... seven songs. Again!!! And this time, it's seven songs on a DOUBLE album - it goes on for seventy-five minutes, for Chrissake! Not every song gets extended, though - some were that long from the beginning. The only number, in fact, that's prolongated well worth four times its original running time is the side-long 'Space Truckin'', but it's worth every minute! Well, nearly every minute. I mean, they do the song itself, with those outstanding 'yeah yeah yeah come on let's go space truckin', and then Paice and Glover crash into a fast, stomping 'rondo' jam, with Jon Lord pulling an Emerson and doing all kinds of dirty things with his synthesizers, imitating a spaceship, no doubt. When you play it quiet and don't pay attention to it, it's mind-numbing; when you put on your headphones and play it loud, it's ASTONISHING! All these weird noises, and above all, Paice's furious, swift drumming - how come he didn't drop dead after having to push that pedal so fast for ten minutes? And then in steps Blackmore, and he does all those wierd noises, too... hmm... it almost seems as if he were bowing his guitar! I don't know, really, but I think I heard signs of bowing there! Plagiarizing Page, was he? Well, at least he tries to do music with the bow (if it's a bow), not just crappy noises. And then the drums kick in again, and we get an impressive, short, swift and cool Hendrix-ey guitar solo before the very end. Eighteen minutes? I don't care, I don't care!

But that's not the only 'guilty pleasure' on the album. They open the concert with 'Highway Star', a version that chews up the original and spits it out - all modesty and self-containment is gone, and Blackmore amply demonstrates his finger-flashing style that we only had a short glimpse of on the studio version. 'Child In Time' is more or less the same as the original, but 'Smoke On The Water' is extended - and this time, it is also anthem-ized, with the enthralled audience going ecstatic and Blackmore teasing the cute little Japanese by playing some dirty tricks with the Riff of Riffs. The only track that is a letdown is 'The Mule' - I never loved the song much in the first place, and moreover, here it is even devoid of that fantastic Blackmore riffage. Instead, it turns into a dull Ian Paice drum solo, and, well, a drum solo is a drum solo. He doesn't do it much worse than Baker or Bonham, but he sure doesn't do it better. In fact, I'm far more impressed by how well he holds down the rhythm on the 'Space Truckin' jam here. Fortunately, it's only nine minutes long (ha! ha!). A short one, in fact. And you'll forget all about it by the time they play the hit single 'Strange Kind Of Woman', with a gorgeous guitar-vocal duet between Gillan and Blackmore at the end. I mean, it's also generic, right? And ripped off of Led Zeppelin? Well, maybe, but they do it much better than Led Zeppelin - Plant's vocals don't hold a candle to Gillan's, and the way the two dudes hit exactly the same notes, and rather complicated ones at that... wow. You need to hear it, believe me.

Then there's 'Lazy'. The intro is kinda long, but the song is pulled off well, and it's fast and furious this time - no longer a dull blues jam, more like a happy piece of boogie. And then there's 'Space Truckin'. What else do I need to say? One of the two or three world's best metal bands in their prime, in the zenith of their glory, and this priceless document - as priceless to the band's fans as Leeds to Who fans or Ya-Ya's to Stones fans. And now, it's also preparing to become one of my Top Ten favourite live albums. Believe me, it won't take long. Go and buy it, and say your thanks to me for bringing that much pleasure into your life. At least, say your thanks for providing you with so many pages of text worth reading to kill your free time! I'm no Mark Prindle, for sure, but if you got that far, this sure means you've been enjoying my reviews! Thank you kind sir!



Year Of Release: 1993
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

Enough vintage live metal material to stuff you for the rest of your life...

Best song: heck, all of them.

Track listing: CD I: 1) Highway Star; 2) Child In Time; 3) The Mule; 4) Strange Kind Of Woman; 5) Lazy; 6) Space Truckin'; 7) Black Night;

CD II: 1) Highway Star; 2) Smoke On The Water; 3) Child In Time; 4) The Mule; 5) Strange Kind Of Woman; 6) Lazy; 7) Space Truckin';

CD III: 1) Highway Star; 2) Smoke On The Water; 3) Child In Time; 4) Strange Kind Of Woman; 5) Lazy; 6) Space Truckin'; 7) Speed King.

More than twenty years later, Made In Japan was re-released... first as a 2-CD anniversary edition, then as a 3-CD near-documentary quality package. All the three editions have their own value, I guess. The single-CD Made In Japan is a must for every rock music fan - even if the name of Deep Purple doesn't exactly get your liver tap-dancing upon your stomach, you still gotta own it because it's, well, it symbolizes everything great and timeless about the Hard and Heavy of the early Seventies. The double-CD Made In Japan is a must for every standard Deep Purple fan, as the second CD adds 'Black Night', 'Speed King', and 'Lucille', three songs that Purple played for the encores and the only tracks that didn't make it onto the original double album.

The triple-CD edition, though, is only a must for completists and Purple historians. Simply put, it takes all the three gigs that Purple played in Japan - the Osaka shows of August 15th and 16th and the Tokyo show of August 17th - and places them together. For any average live band, in fact, for most good live bands, such an issue would be total massive overkill. The thing is, Deep Purple played exactly the same set every night: the only difference was with the encores. Thus, you get lots of redundant - and lengthy versions - of the same songs; obviously, the marketers couldn't have any other reason for releasing this stuff other than a simple 'beat the boots' approach. However, this is Deep Purple at their friggin' live peak we're talking about, and few rock bands really topped or approached Deep Purple at their live peak. The Who, maybe. The Stones. Definitely not Led Zeppelin. Anyway, I personally have listened to these CDs several times in direct chronological order and didn't find myself bored in the least. Of course, now that I actually take the time to relax and write this here little 'redundant' review, with the riff of 'Smoke On The Water' and the 'Rondo'-like endless thudding of the extended jam on 'Space Truckin' endlessly echoing in my head, it's all starting to blur together and, frankly speaking, I think I had actually overabused my Purple diet... but that wasn't the feeling while the music was playing, mind you.

The bad news is that even with this approach, it's still NOT the entire performance set. The idea was to have one disc per show, but each show lasted well over 70 minutes, and each CD cuts away a piece of it. Oh well. I don't really regret the lack of one version of 'The Mule', first, because Paice's drum solo for me is the least pleasant part of the show anyway, and second, because that actual version is on the original Made In Japan. So is one version of 'Smoke On The Water' - the only one, by the way, where Ritchie toys with the riff at the beginning, which makes me believe it was actually due to a mistake he made and decided not to let the people notice it. Much worse is that they don't include 'Lucille'! I don't have the remastered 2-CD version, and so what? Do I need to get it just because no other version has 'Lucille' on it? Man! I wanna hear Ian do that song! Bastards.

On the other hand, the mix is great, annihilating the murky production of the original - Lord's organ occupies the right speaker, Ritchie's guitar is in the left one, and Ian is wailing in both, thus the vocals are now more prominent than before. You can blast this at top volume (at the beginning of one version of 'Strange Kind Of Woman' Ian asks 'can we have everything louder than everything else?') and still be able to make out all the details. And you DO get to hear them rip into 'Speed King', a definite highlight with a breathtaking guitar-organ battle and a piece of 'Who Do You Love' thrown in for good measure.

If you expect me to be comparing the three live shows, don't. For the life of me I couldn't tell the difference... er, the difference between the shows, that is, because there's enough difference between the versions of individual songs to appreciate each on its own. But the three shows are all packed with energy - this is especially obvious on 'Strange Kind Of Woman', with the famous Gillan/Blackmore duels. It's really hilarious to hear them trade lines off each other in such an amusing way; on the first version, for instance, after a particularly twisted Blackmore line Gillan goes 'uh-huh?' and actually takes a pause to figure out the way it went... I'd say that in general the most whizzed up show was the second Osaka performance, but maybe it's just because most of the songs on the original Made In Japan are taken from there and I'm more used to them. On the other hand, they weren't taken from that performance for naught, right?

So, what you get is what you get. 'Black Night' and 'Speed King' are the treasurable bonuses (lucky for us that at that time neither 'Black Night' nor 'Smoke On The Water' never served as pretexts for clowning with the audiences), Ian's screaming on 'Child In Time' is perfect all the time, and the only things that actually make me press the fast forward button are two Paice solos on 'The Mule' and pieces of the 'Space Truckin' jam where Lord can sometimes get too tedious. Other than that, it's really one of those few "totally redundant" albums whose top quality salvages it, and I could easily recommend it to anybody. Nobody asks you to listen to all the three CDs in direct sequence, after all. That's like participating at three Deep Purple concerts in a row, with no breaks! And even the band itself had to take some breaks, to visit a couple of Geisha bathhouses and the like... And you probably don't even have a Geisha bathhhouse in the vicinity!



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

What happened? Somewhere on the way they seem to have lost it completely!


Track listing: 1) Woman From Tokyo; 2) Mary Long; 3) Super Trouper; 4) Smooth Dancer; 5) Rat Bat Blue; 6) Place In Line; 7) Our Lady.

The Purplers' 'mystery album'. In 1972 they were at their peak, one of the two or three best heavy bands in the world, and had just released a studio classic and a live classic. And somehow, it all ends up here, on this far less than spectacular release that would become their last with Gillan and Glover... for a long time.

Actually, the album's patchiness may have something to do with Gillan's jerkiness. He was always pushing the band on to 'progress' and develop their sound further - a purpose that was, let's admit it, quite generous, seeing as there is really not much 'progress' in Machine Head as compared to In Rock. Blackmore kept pissing him off, and so Gillan really decided to quit the 'stagnant' band at the end of the Head tour. (Glover was actually pushed out of the band, since Ritchie thought the two were accomplices). He did, however, stay with the band to record this album - and one might only imagine the tensions in the studio at the time. Given the background, it becomes more clear why WDWTWA is such a huge letdown from the previous three classics.

On a formal level, everything stays in place - Lord's organ, Blackmore's guitar, Gillan's vocals and Paice's furious drumming are firmly kept in place. But there's simply nothing about the album that makes it somehow stand out. The rockers here are for the most part generic and unmemorable - or simply pale copies of the older classics. Ritchie is plain lazy, since there ain't a solid riff to be found anywhere. The production is kinda murky: while on previous albums the guitars always stand out loud and clear (so loud and clear, in fact, that you can hardly hear Ian sometimes), here they often merge together in a hardly listenable and certainly non enjoyable mess. Maybe Gillan tampered with the mix to make revenge on Ritchie? But that doesn't even help him out - his singing is nowhere near as impressive as on the older records. Where's that great SCREAMIN', for instance? Nowhere. But, perhaps, the greatest offense - and I mean it - is that there are No Fast Songs. No Fast Songs on a Deep Purple record - whoever heard that? Most of this stuff is midtempo wank rock, certainly more Free than Deep Purple! Okay, so 'Smooth Dancer' is more or less fast, and 'Rat Bat Blue' happens to have a fast instrumental passage, but this is, you know, kinda unserious. Kinda flat. Kinda unconvincing. I want another 'Fireball' or another 'Highway Star'. I don't find 'em here.

The big hit off the record was 'Woman From Tokyo', but I simply don't like it. Never liked it, never will: just your average piece of boogie. Yes, maybe the song does represent some 'progress' in Gillan's eyes: it has a slow, 'psychedelic' mid-eight with Gillan singing some 'heavenly' vocals and weaving mystical motives into the lyrics. But essentially, it's just boring, and doesn't hold a candle to even a single glorious track off In Rock. Where's the enthusiasm of old, dammit? 'Mary Long'? What's that shit for? A melodyless, monotonous bore, with lyrics that are more AC/DC than Purple? Yuck! 'How did you lose your virginity Mary Long?/When will you lose your stupidity Mary Long?' What IS THAT? Oh, right, consult the verses and you'll guess it's something of an anti-critic or an anti-puurraise the Lord holier-than-thou preacher rant. But with Deep Purple, it's the chorus you're after anyway!

Okay, it's not total crap, this record. Amidst the general boredom, recycling and monotonousness, some good songs still shine through. On occasion. Okay, on a couple of occasions. 'Smooth Dancer', for instance, is more or less fast (I think I already said that), and sometimes recalls the fresh atmosphere of In Rock - except that the song itself is stale. The good thing is that somewhere near the middle of the groove you finally get caught up in the excitement generated by Lord's maniacal boogie organ. And I also think highly enough of 'Rat Bat Blue', probably the last 'semi-classic' recorded by the band, with its paranoid rhythms and exciting guitar & organ interplay in the mid-section. But, anyway, they all sound flat: maybe ultimately it's just the production that sucks.

And then, even if these two songs are enough to guarantee some little metal joy, along with 'Super Trouper' (not to be confused with ABBA's later song of the same name; this one's just an inferior re-write of 'Bloodsucker'), the final two certainly eliminate all hopes: 'Place In Line' is a lengthy, mega-boring blues jam that's even a big step down off 'Lazy' (and I never was a big fan of 'Lazy' in the first place), and the closing 'Our Lady' certainly gives a hint at their later do-nothing-mean-nothing career with Coverdale: a pointless, pompous quasi-gospel stylization that ends nowhere and simply represents a waste of precious recording tape. Not offensive, just unnecessary in this world of ours when we could have been listening to.. to... to 'Highway Star', instead!

Oh so oh so oh so dull. I give the record an overall rating of 7 because none of the songs but 'Mary Long' are truly offensive, and 'Smooth Dancer' and 'Rat Bat Blue' may have enough potential to woo me in the future... but overall, this just looks like a record made on occasion, and that's about it. Come to think of it, maybe Gillan and Glover screwed everything up themselves and then left on the pretext that the band had run out of steam. Might well be that way.



Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

Pretty average, this one. The days of finger-flashing are gone by, and this one might even please everybody's parents...

Best song: BURN

Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Might Just Take Your Life; 3) Lay Down Stay Down; 4) Sail Away; 5) You Fool No One; 6) What's Goin' On Here; 7) Mistreated; 8) "A" 2000.

I used to think that after Gillan and Glover left the band, it turned to generic hardcore metal or something like that and was no better and no worse than everybody else in the business. Boy, was I ever wrong. I mean, I was totally right in imagining Purple's Mark III as a somewhat average band; but by no means is this heavy metal. Actually, there's not even a single truly heavy riff on Burn - and I mean it. The addition of Dave Coverdale as lead singer and Glenn Hughes as the bassist led to very significant changes in the band's sound, unfortunately, not exactly good ones. What I liked about the band in the first place were speed, rashness, improvisation, and unabashedness, plus a cool Gillan shriek sending shivers down your back from time to time. Dave Coverdale? Pleeeease! He hasn't got a bad voice, sure enough, but who can equal Ian Gillan, one of the best rock singers, in his prime? This wrinkled little dude who sounds like a cross between Adrian Belew and Stevie Winwood? Don't make me laugh! And, okay, it would be one thing if I just had to complain about his voice; after all, it just takes a little time to get used to it, because we can't live on comparisons like that all our life. Unfortunately, I have to complain about the musical direction they have chosen here. These tunes are not metal at all! I know, I know, it's kinda weird to hear me complaining about an album that it isn't a metal one, but you gotta understand me, Deep Purple kind of metal was the good kind of metal, the non-vulgarized, un-profanated kind of metal. And it was speedy, funny and totally ass-kicking. These songs aren't metal: they're blues, they're R'n'B, they're even funk, but not metal. Hell, few of them are even hard rock. And they're so DARN SLOW - even the faster ones sound so loose and comatose instead of compact and energetic! If you're in for another Machine Head, insomnia cure guaranteed.

The title track is a classic, of course - no question about that. It's the fastest and the most energetic one on here, with loads of drive, a quasi-apocalyptic message (so it has a point), and a rich solo from Blackmore, not to mention the classic riff which is alone guaranteed to settle the number in among with all the other Purple classics. But the fun abruptly ends right there, once and for all. The other songs are all pretty pedestrian. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they dared to break the tradition and put on eight, not seven, of them. Maybe Ritchie just didn't get along well with Coverdale (it's a known fact that Coverdale was one of the reasons of his departure a year later). But whatever it is, most of this stuff sounds like a slightly more energized Free: the guitar is still prominent, but it's completely colourless. No breathtaking riffage or intoxicating solos for you, just 'wank', as Mark Prindle would say. I'd say that two of these tunes are okay, but not more. I sorta enjoy 'Sail Away', because its naggin', bouncy rhythm manages to enthrall me with its repetitiveness, and it's rather hard to keep yourself from bobbing your head to the steady pace of the tune; and 'Mistreated', although horrendously overlong, is still a better blues jam than the above-mentioned Free could ever master. Even if Blackmore sounds completely uninterested, he still sounds good - professionalism is always professionalism, after all, isn't it? Anyway, 'Mistreated' could have been a real gem with the addition of Gillan on vocals... but Coverdale does a good enough job, and the number predictably became one of the new band's stage favourites.

The other songs just make my jaw drop down, lower and lower and lower. I mean, 'Might Just Take Your Life'? Gee, I could easily write a song that has a better melody - mainly because it has none, it's just a dull, overpumped rhythm. Same goes for 'Lay Down Stay Down', a song that's supposed to be fast, but instead is simply dumb, marred by an endless Coverdale screamfest that overshadows even the faintest outbursts of melody. Worst offender, however, is 'You Fool No One', with its funky rhythm and a vibe that somehow predicts Eighties' King Crimson: didn't Adrian Belew rip off the melody for 'Waiting Man'? Only 'Waiting Man' was cool and moody, while this song just sounds dumb. And what's the deal with that crappy instrumental that closes the album? Yeah, yeah, it's got a good Blackmore solo and all, but essentially, I think it's only point is to satisfy one more burst of Jon Lord's self-indulgence, because mostly, it's all about synthesizers and how you really do not need to use them...

A fairly weak effort, if you axe me. Even the lyrics have somewhat gone off the deep end. They don't sound silly, and anyway, these guys never equaled Bob Dylan with their lyrical stunts, but except for the title track, with that cool line about 'still I hear - BUUURN!!', the lyrics here are all pretty crappy, mostly straightforward sexist songs or simply ditties about failed love and all that stuff. No 'Child Of Time'-style philosophy here, for sure. 'Sail away tomorrow, sailin' far away, to find it steal or borrow, I'll be there someday'. Blah blah blah. If you're able to find a compilation that has 'Burn' and this 'chunka-chunka-chunka' stupid 'Sail Away', well that's the only two songs you really need off this album. Aw shucks, just find 'Burn'. Otherwise, get this only if you're a big Bad Company fan.



Year Of Release: 1996
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

Gee, how many archive releases these guys really need?


Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Might Just Take Your Life; 3) Mistreated; 4) Smoke On The Water; 5) You Fool No One/The Mule; 6) Space Truckin'.

An okay live recording. I'd say that the very fact of this concert and the legendary 'settings' far overshadow its actual musical value. I mean - hey, it's the famous 'California Jam', people! The 'California Jam', one of the Seventies' biggest rock venues, that took place in Ontario Speedway on April 6, 1974. If I'm not mistaken, this is where ELP's 'older' parts from Then & Now come on, too, and there were probably lots of other classic acts there which I really don't know nuthin' about (well, I do know some things about Black Sabbath, and I even know some things about Earth, Wind & Fire, but Seals & Crofts? Who remembers these guys?). Strange, but true: Purple were the headliners, so apparently the world was still hot for Blackmore and hadn't yet developed an allergy on Coverdale, which, frankly speaking, it would be hard not to develop after this show. Not only that, they bugged the audiences by not coming out until after dusk, and then there's that story about Blackmore punching cameramen and explosions ripping the stage to shreds... but anyway, that's all just legend, and it does not translate well onto disc. Which, by the way, comes with several album covers and several names: mine is California Jamming, but it's also known as Live At The California Jam and under other names.

I won't really go into the largest of details here; if you want to know what Deep Purple Mark III really sounded like live, please proceed further down to my Made In Europe review. The setlist is practically identic, except that here you'll also find 'Smoke On The Water' and 'Space Truckin'. I'll just make a pre-warning that you'd better skip these two tracks, as it's painfully clear Coverdale and Hughes were only willing to tolerate them to please the fans. I'll admit that it's kinda polite that Coverdale sings 'they all came down to Montreux...', because he himself wasn't there, but later on he gets all worked up and on repeating the first verse sings 'we all came down...' again. And that ending? The one where he instigates a screamfest? Abysmal, simply abysmal; 'Smoke On The Water' could only survive because of its being a restricted and compact tune, and trying to re-work it into something more pompous and 'soulful' only made a complete idiot out of Coverdale. These songs really needed Gillan to make them come to life - and these assholes cram down the lyrics as if the feeling were just 'make it quick and get over with that, and if you can't make it quick, make it as if it were recorded for Burn'. I mean, if any decisive anti-Coverdale argument should be made, it would be his trying to sing 'Smoke On The Water'; this is where the obnoxiousness really stands out.

And the final jam at the end of 'Space Truckin' is rotten, nowhere near as good as on Made In Japan: sometimes the band seems to get it on, sometimes they just fall totally apart and just make a lot of Tylenol demanding noise (particularly Lord - where in the world did he uncover these hideous synth tones? Even Emerson never caused me so much pain). They quiet down and pick it up so many times it makes me all fidgety, and worse, they don't vary the tone much, mostly sticking with the same rondo-type rhythms every time the tune picks up steam again. Maybe Blackmore was way too busy venting "his fury on his guitars, the stage, the amps and finally the on stage television cameras"? Unfortunately, I can't exactly distinguish the sound of an onstage television camera lumped over by an electric guitar, so I can't even let my imagination participate in all the fun. (Likewise, it's very hard to guess what's going on at Hendrix's Monterey performance without the video - you just hear a bunch of undiscernible noise, when in reality it was Jimi setting his guitar on fire and splattering it all over the stage). Result? Twenty minutes of mostly pointless noodling, preceded by five minutes of equally pointless and even downright offensive singing (David can't even sing on key when he's shouting the 'come on, come on, let's go space truckin' lines - somebody call in Ian as guest vocalist!); stick with the superior Japan version.

To make things even worse, the sound quality is crappy, at least, as compared to the 'older' live releases: when 'Burn' comes on at the beginning, I can hardly hear Ritchie's guitar at all. Of course, sound quality was always a big problem with the Purple gang, but I swear 'Burn' is completely butchered by awful production, and in general, Ritchie's guitar sounds good only when it's decibels louder than everything else or just wailing away on a solo note with the rhythm section taking a break. Oh, wait, my mistake when I said the sets are identic: there's also 'Might Just Take Your Life' on here. One could also give the cause of the 'You Fool No One' jam and say that the opening is borrowed from 'Lazy', which also sets it apart from Made In Europe. Most of the material is from Burn, as you might have guessed.

Perhaps this will make a good buy for collectors (more work for you, guys), but average Deep Purple fans need not bother. If you really need a live Purple album with Coverdale, Made In Europe is your essential bet. This is just an archive document - not the very worst imaginable, but pretty weak. Although, just to perk up spirits, let us mention that the guitarwork in the solo section of 'Mistreated' is truly excellent, perhaps even better than anywhere else.



Year Of Release: 1982
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Gee, this is almost the same. But better.


Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Might Just Take Your Life; 3) Lay Down Stay Down; 4) Mistreated; 5) Smoke On The Water; 6) You Fool No One.

It's getting harder and harder - the flood of Purple archives never seems to cease, and Live In London got the unhappy distinction of representing a live show just one month away from the California Jam. It's actually a better live album, though. If the liner notes are to be believed, this concert, recorded at the Kilburn State Gaumont on May 22nd, 1974, was originally recorded in order to be broadcast for the BBC, which it was. And we all know the BBC doesn't tolerate low quality. So the ensuing sound is, in fact, better than on almost any other Deep Purple live recording of the epoch: unlike the California Jam mess, all the instruments are perfectly discernible all the time, and Blackmore's guitar fireworks never really get lost on the consumer. Neither does Lord's stunning organ playing.

Apart from that, it's essentially just California Jam with better sound quality. Yeah, well, it lacks 'Space Trucking' which was omitted from the original because it didn't fit onto the LP (they happened to extend it to thirty minutes); currently, there are rumours of possible expansion of the set to a double CD, but I pray to God that will never happen. Please, Lord, don't make 'em do it... Save the purse of the trusty faithful Deep Purple fan. Otherwise, the only number that isn't found on the California album is 'Lay Down Stay Down'; not that I really care.

Oh! Wait! There is a distinction. Coverdale is pretty timid throughout. Well, mostly. All the band intros are done by Jon Lord, the nice refined English gentleman as he is - after having introduced all the players, shyly remarking that 'there have been changes' (in the lineup, that is), he turns 'round and says: 'And my name is Rick Emerson'. What a funny little guy. And then he just says: 'This is a number from Machine Head', and the band breaks into 'Smoke On The Water'. Yeah! Read on to see how Mr Coverdale would take over the introduction functions from Lord and fuck up the whole business.

By the way, did I say '...and the band breaks into 'Smoke On The Water'? My mistake; as usual, Blackmore entertains the audience with a whole number of classy false starts. For instance, a few lines from 'Lazy'. Audience goes 'oooh!', and then he goes into 'Jingle Bells'. Audience goes 'eh?', and then he plays the opening riff to 'Smoke'. Cool tools. Anyway, as usual, Ritchie is in top form throughout, rescuing even the weaker songs. The solos on 'Burn' are outstanding; same goes for the guitarwork on 'You Fool No One', with a short relaxing bluesy intermission. Strange enough, 'Mistreated' isn't that guitar heavy this time around, but the song's still worth the two-minute intro alone, even if it would be refined even further by Rainbow. You can never achieve perfection, you know.

Coverdale, like I said, is quite shy throughout, which is a HUGE relief; the only spot where he's close to unbearable is the coda to 'Mistreated', but even that one is eatable. It's the cock rock posturings I really can't stand from the guy, and fortunately, the record doesn't feature a lot of cock rock standards. Obviously, it had to take some time before Coverdale would feel completely at ease with the band. The other players are all right. Of course, Paice gets obnoxious on the 'You Fool No One' solo, but that's a predictable evil, I guess. And that's it.

What else can be said? Nothing. So in order to make this review look more complete, let me just rant a bit on the subject of liner notes to these archive releases. Boy, do they ever look stupid; this Simon Robinson guy, whoever he is, should be banned from the business forever. Oh, okay, I gotta admit this review you've been reading is hardly worth more than Robinson's starry-eyed ravings about Coverdale's 'deep heartfelt vocals'. If somebody wants to believe in the 'deep heartfelt vocals' of Coverdale, it's his inalienable right. But when you pay your money for the record, you don't get my review with it. You get Robinson's review. And instead of further factual information, you gotta read stuff like 'Ritchie rips into a magnificent noisy opening barrage before setting into the riff', etc., describing every song on the album. Aw, heck. I would pay dearly to see an album come out together with a 'neutral' or even 'negative' review of it. Yup, you gotta admit that this won't be a reasonable commercial decision, but just think of the precedent! Wouldn't it be fun? I mean, when you buy an album that sucks and stare at liner notes describing how it was 'inventive' and 'unpredictable' and 'daring' and 'leading the band into a new direction' and 'underappreciated at the time' and all, it only makes matters worse.

Don't take this rant as a sign of jealousy, tho'. I'd actually be scared shitless if anybody ever wanted to put up one of my reviews on the inner sleeve of a record. You know these Russian illegal albums I've been buying for so long? Recently, they started 'enriching' the inner sleeves with reviews taken directly off the All Music Guide site, even if they're not all that friendly. Now that's what I call a precedent, you know.



Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

Deep Purple moving further and further away into the direction of soulish balladeering with a bit of distortion thrown in for good measure.


Track listing: 1) Stormbringer; 2) Love Don't Mean A Thing; 3) Holy Man; 4) Hold On; 5) Lady Double Dealer; 6) You Can't Do It Right (With The One You Love); 7) High Ball Shooter; 8) The Gypsy; 9) Soldier Of Fortune.

Burn Vol. 2, but even less appealing to fans of Mark II. It is obvious that Coverdale and Hughes were battling for the domination of the group with Blackmore - and this album finds Ritchie being alienated further and further from the heart of the band. Even if only two of the tunes are uncredited to him (most of the others are signed Blackmore/Coverdale), I doubt if he was really interested to making head or tails of this record. Sure, there's plenty of guitar here, but it doesn't rock at all - just keeps playing the same tired, needless melodies over and over. The title track is again a classic - like 'Burn', it's a fast, metallic rocker based around a good, finger-flashing riff that hearkens back to the good old days of In Rock; however, it also betrays signs of funk which would otherwise entirely dominate this record. At least it's fast and it's powerful - really powerful.

But out of the other eight songs, none would rank as prime stuff. Mostly, they're all written in order to suit the Coverdale/Hughes vocal team - that is, none are guitar-oriented, but most are singing-oriented. Which boils down to the problem of your enjoying Coverdale's voice or not. Me, I don't. I mean, he's got a good voice - but so do a hundred thousand funk performers. And at times it can get very annoying, not to mention fake: see the album closer, the dreadful ballad 'Soldier Of Fortune', to witness how pathetic and whiny Dave can really sound. Oh, and don't try to tell me that he's 'laying bare his soul' or something: he was nothing but a middle-class jerk, perfectly happy to find such a good job in such a 'classic' band. He ruined their sound, and he's the only person responsible for that. Guess he'll always be a soldier of fortune, no doubt about that. See, there's just too much of a difference between this "soulful" track and the rest of the album - it doesn't fit in at all, and so sounds artificial and unnatural almost par excellence.

Oh well, at least, when he's able to find himself a fast groove, he's damn good at it - 'Lady Double Dealer' is probably the second best song on the album. Maybe it's because it's basically a sped up version of 'Stormbringer', with a somewhat less interesting guitar melody. But it's fast and screechy and arse-kicking and full of potential, whatever that might actually mean in the actual case. Unfortunately, these two are the only really fast songs on the record. Most of the time, it just drags: 'funky rockers' like 'You Can't Do It Right' or 'High Ball Shooter' should better be left to acts like Sly And The Family Stone. Not only is this stuff blatantly commercial, it simply tramples the band's reputation into the dust. These songs might have been good to headbang to if played live at an arena show, but in the studio Deep Purple were about as good a funk band as the Beatles. Needless to say, not a single whiny trace of them remains in your memory after the fun's essentially over, so why order the special in the first place?

Of course, if you do not wish to regard Mark III in comparison with Mark IV, preferring to think of it as an entirely different band, the crisis is not so obvious: after all, one cannot accuse the band of being unprofessional. In fact, once I got through a few preliminatory listens, I found out that it is possible to enjoy a couple slower songs, like the Glenn Hughes solo spot 'Holy Man', which is a rather pleasant ballad, for some reason reminding me of George Harrison. Maybe it's because it has a superb slide guitar part, a thing not too common for Mr Blackmore but which he nevertheless pulls off with enough subtle grandness and dexterity? Or maybe because of the "non-raunchy" falsetto from one of the two singers? Hmm. No, no, forget that, I know, it reminds me of the Grateful Dead... eeh... better drop this comparison business. Oh, by the way, Hughes' vocals are nowhere near as grating and annoying as Coverdale's, so perhaps one might forgive him for constantly fighting for the microphone with Dave. And I guess 'The Gypsy' is okay, too. But truthfully, the rest is so formulaic, that, unless you're a big funk fan, you'll want to bypass this by all means. 'Hold On' strolls on without any melody at all - underpinned by a grand total of two or three bass chords, 'High Ball Shooter' strolls on likewise, underpinned by a grand total of two or three synth notes and a jerky riff that sounds as a profanized copy of the introductory riff to Sabbath's 'Supernaut', and... all right, I have enough insults in my backpack to fit all the dreck on this album, but why is this necessary when I already told you the main point? Dave Coverdale, you're dead meat! Get out of my way! Maybe Ian Gillan could have saved a couple of these songs, if he were around (then again, maybe not - he'd washed down a large part of the band's reputation too, with Who Do We Think...)

Anyway, Blackmore left after this album - and I don't blame him a single second. If I were in his place, I'd kick Dave's balls, too, and make sure it would be one DAMN FINE KICK!



Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Turns out that the guys were still strong in concert; but how much can you do with such weak material? (And with such a lameass singer?)

Best song: BURN

Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Mistreated; 3) Lady Double Dealer; 4) You Fool No One; 5) Stormbringer.

Again, this live release is kinda muddled up. It was originally a single LP, consisting entirely of material from Burn and Stormbringer; however, in the recent past the stuff was remastered and released under the name Mark III Final Concerts (or sumpthin' like that - haven't checked the site for a long time), and the contents were upgraded to a 2-CD package, with the inclusion of several lengthy jams that included older material, too: a 'normal' twenty-minute version of 'Space Truckin' among them, plus 'Smoke On The Water' and 'Highway Star'. The Russian release, then, is some kind of weird hybrid: a 1-CD package that adds 'Smoke On The Water' and 'Highway Star', but, for evident timing reasons, not 'Space Truckin'. My review will suffer accordingly.

As far as I know, most of the songs were taken from Mark III's final tour, sometime in April 1975; and, judging exclusively by the way they sound, they were still able to cut the mustard in a way that almost nobody else could. Even the songs that sounded completely unremarkable, even dreadful, on the studio releases, take on a new energy and power in concert, mostly courtesy of Blackmore. He might have been subdued in the studio, but taken live he still shines: blistering, fiery solos and crushing riffs abound, and I'd even say that his finger-flashing abilities have vastly improved since Made In Japan: the lightning solo on 'Highway Star', for instance, comes off as if he could play it in his sleep without any efforts. Many of the songs are extended, and it works: sometimes the jams and the guitar/organ interplay are much more fun to enjoy than the actual melodies.

One thing mars the pleasure horrendously, and yeah, I think you guessed that it's Coverdale. The jerk. His idiotic blabber and requests for audience participation are not just annoying, they piss me off horrendously, as if I'm being treated like an idiot. He does everything to draw attention to himself (I wonder why Blackmore never knocked him off the stage. I understand completely how much he must have hated this guy). The worst blow, however, is with the classics - he hadn't even had the patience to study the lyrics! He repeats the first verse of 'Smoke On The Water' twice (double jerk), and he messes up the lyrics on 'Highway Star' completely, not to mention that he substitutes the line 'she's got a moving mouth' for 'she's got big fat tits' (triple jerk). Somebody shut old Dave down, please. And to think that he really has a great voice! He just doesn't know how to use it on songs that weren't originally written for his vocal cords - when he does, as in the blistering vocal rendition on 'Mistreated', it's a marvel. More often, though, he just shows off and does nothing at all. So maybe it's not a bad point that they haven't included any other older material on the original release - it would only get true fans pissed off. Actually, the older stuff sounds worse than the new one in general. 'Smoke On The Water' gets vulgarly distorted, sped up and messed up; and 'Highway Star' is a complete disaster, as it turns out into a sloppy jam that threatens to fall apart and crumble into dust every few seconds; Blackmore simply goes berserk with his guitar and plays whatever he wants to play, while Paice sounds stoned (the drums fall in and fall out in a completely unpredictable manner).

So, if you want entertainment, stick to the new material, which is, of course, inferior to the classics, but sounds way more organic and acceptable than the classics that are mrecilessly butchered. After all, Purple always shone far brighter when they played live, and so even some of the lifeless new studio material comes to life on stage - although, to be fair, they mostly pick out the cream of their new brand of music. Like I said, the version of 'Mistreated' presented here is terrific - Blackmore plays his heart out, and Dave sings up a storm, possibly the only time in his career when I can really compliment him. I could do without the short excursion into 'Rock Me Baby' near the end, but it's nothing but a minor complaint. 'Lady Double Dealer' and 'Stormbringer' both rock more or less the same way as on the original release, and 'Gypsy' sucks as much as always; but 'Burn' is the definite version, the one you should place on compilations. Good mix, too: while on California Jamming I couldn't really tell Blackmore's guitar from Hughes' bass from time to time, here all the rhythm and solo work is clear and distinctive. And, for a little bit of inoffensive humour, check out the intro to 'You Fool No One' where Lord interpolates some lines from 'Havah Negeilah' on his organ.

In case you haven't understood, though, I repeat that the only people to whom this album will be of any interest are diehard Blackmore fans. I'm not one, but I really appreciate the dude's talent, and I have no problems with tolerating a couple of fifteen minute guitar jams now and then if they're professional and powerful enough (although I can hardly stand Paice's obligatory solo spot on 'You Fool No One'). However, there is really no need to bother finding the complete versions. Coverdale is not Ronnie James Dio and he isn't fit to treat the classic compositions of his predecessor with enough reverence. Stick to the original please - if you can find it.



Year Of Release: 2000
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Jam sessions don't get much better than this... I only wish it were, you know, instrumental jams. Purely instrumental.


Track listing: 1) Owed To "G"; 2) If You Love Me Woman; 3) The Orange Juice Song; 4) I Got Nothing For You; 5) Statesboro Blues; 6) Dance To The Rock & Roll; 7) Drifter (rehearsal sequence); 8) Drifter; 9) The Last Of The Long Jams; 10) The Last Of The Last Jams.

Not content with the endless stream of archive live releases from their vaults, on the very edge of the two centuries Deep Purple also poked their noses into the stuff that was left from old studio outtakes and demo versions. Apparently, this stuff suited them far less, or maybe they had already been spent, what with albums like Powerhouse (see below) already on the shelves, so the thing that was most suitable for release turned out to be Days May Come, this collection of live in the studio jams that I would never in my life have purchased had I not seen it for a really ridiculous price. 'What the heck?' thought I. 'After all, I already have so many Deep Purple albums that suck, adding one more won't change my attitude towards the band in general'. And I went ahead and bought it. And a good thing I did - it's a really good album. Granted, only as good as you'd expect from a bunch of jams played in order to warm up the band and oil them up for further creativity, without a sense of purpose or anything, but if you can expect something from stuff like that, that stuff is right for ya.

The central figure on here is Tommy Bolin, whom I will also have the chance to discuss in even more details over the ensuing two albums; in fact, in a certain sense Days May Come can be seen as a certain tribute to this late great guitar hero, and a sign of approval and appreciation of his talents on the part of his former bandmates. In this respect, it's only natural that such a collection of outtakes was released, because previously Bolin's talents could only be appreciated on a shitty studio album and a so-so live album where he was too weak to play anyway (see below). This, however, is a strong and multi-sided collection of studio rehearsals and improvisations that showcases him nicely.

In fact, that's the trick: had they not tried to shape the album Come Taste The Band into something actually resembling a collection of songs, but released this jam session indeed, the pill would certainly have been sweeter. It's one thing to think of an unstructured melody-less collage as pretending to be an actual song, and another thing to lower your expectations to 'jam' mode. And here, it works.

In between the 'longer' jams on here we have some inserted shorter tracks that are mostly nice: the version of the instrumental 'Owed To 'G'' is somewhat moodier than the polished version, 'Drifter' boasts terrific guitar solos that don't get lost in the context of the endless pointless wankery on CTTB, and 'The Orange Juice Song' is a strange gloomy un-tune that sounds quite unlike anything the Coverdale-led band ever did, based, as the liner notes say, on Rodrigo's 'Concerto de Aranjuez' (Jon Lord sure could pick out some obscure classical pieces). In dire contrast to that, 'Statesboro Blues', as every Allman Brothers lover probably knows, is just a cooky old blues number, and you don't often hear Deep Purple play generic blues - undoubtedly, it was a song from Tommy's former repertoire, and he certainly does it justice. (But somebody please put a muzzle on Coverdale. Man, is it just me, or does that guy have simply the WORST friggin' voice in the entire universe? I thought I could stand everything, but this... somebody shoot me).

Of course, the central pieces on here are the lengthy improvised monsters - four nine/ten/eleven/twelve minute funky jams that DO sound similar to what they eventually shaped into a studio release, but the length gives Bolin and Lord enough space to stretch out, and the listener enough possibility to just relax, dig into the groove and play some air guitar/organ. After all, Deep Purple, even in this sad state of affairs, were still one of the top ten or so jammin' acts in the world, and as far as jamming goes, this is unbeatable - except that, of course, good taste should have driven them to cut out the intruding voice of Coverdale whenever it intrudes. Every time I hear him roar 'We're gonna dance to the rock'n'roll' on 'Dance To The Rock'n'Roll', I wanna grab my gun, especially since the jam itself is absolutely dazzling - it's faster than almost everything on here, and Lord and Bolin both take turns to engage in speedy, breathtaking solos that every musician would have to kill for. The last four or five minutes of the tune are an excellent demonstration of Bolin's impeccable jazzy technique, in particular: he 'weaves' the chords in such a beautiful, smoothly flowing manner that perhaps even Blackmore couldn't reproduce. Then again, maybe I should just shut up on the subject since I don't play guitar myself. I still call upon everybody to note that skill.

In other words, Days May Come gets the highest rating that a simple "album of jamming" could be expected to get - a record fully suitable for the needs of (a) guitar/organ aficionados who need a shining example and (b) plain rock fans who could use this as excellent background music, by one of their favourite bands, too, without having to concentrate on anything. As a bonus, you also get extensive liner notes with details about every single track, etc., etc., and some really cool photos of the band, with Tommy probably the coolest-looking of all. Coverdale still looks like a jerk, though. Why do almost all of his photos show him in this stupid "head flung backwards" position? To capture the man in an "emotionally concentrated" state? Sheez.



Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

Ehn, this is like, heavy funk, man. Proceed at your own risk.

Best song: come on, how kin I pick da best when it's all only ONE???

Track listing: 1) Comin' Home; 2) Lady Luck; 3) Gettin' Tighter; 4) Dealer; 5) I Need Love; 6) Drifter; 7) Love Child; 8) This Time Around/Owed To "G"; 9) You Keep On Moving.

Well now, this certainly sounds nothing like the Purple of old! Although, it rarely sounds horrible, but it's just... not Purple. This is the only studio album of Deep Purple Mark Four, with Ritchie gone and replaced by jazz rock/blues rock star Tommy Bolin, whom I already discussed a little in the previous review but since it was written after this one, just forget all about it. Now, frankly, I was afraid - simply because I got into the band in the first place because of Blackmore and Gillan and no-one else. I always respected and still respect Jon Lord, but, well, he's just a good organ player with inadequate ambitions, that's all. However, Come Taste The Band is certainly unpredictable in that respect. I thought it would be dominated by the keyboards. Strange enough, it isn't; apart from a couple annoying synth solos (cf. 'Love Child'), Lord's instruments are very much kept in the background. On the other hand, young star Tommy almost jumps out of his skin to make a good impression and convince the world that Blackmore's departure does not equal the band's death. Thus, heavy, crunchy riffs, demonic solos and loads of distortion dominate the album - they set the controls back to 'heavy' again. Sure, Tommy is no Ritchie: however good he is, he's no 'speed technician', and he rarely stuns you in the way that only Blackmore can. But he's quite an impressive guitarist nevertheless, and certainly not worse than, say, Tony Iommi. So I simply can't complain about the guitar sound on this album. Yeah, I'd like to complain, but I'm not biased! You see, I don't take the critics' word, right? I know that Tommy Bolin was a miserable, heroin-addled junkie who couldn't even play his instrument on stage during the CTTB tour because he'd damaged his left arm after an overdose. And he died in a short time, anyway. But first, let us not speak badly of the dead, and second, lots of great guitarists were junkies. All great guitarists were junkies, in fact! Okay, not all. Maybe not all. Frank Zappa wasn't a junkie. But Clapton was, and Keith Richards, and Hendrix, and Townshend... you know the score. Poor Tommy Bolin, anyway.

But I digress again, filling the empty spaces. Truth is, I really don't know what to say about this album. Yeah, there's a lot of guitar. And believe it or not, Dave Coverdale does a superb singing job on many of the songs - had he finally cleared his throat? Still not up to Ian's standard, but definitely more hot and pulsating and grizzly than on Burn. But here my compliments end again. You see, ninety percent of these songs are funk. Pure funk, just a bit heavier than it's supposed to be. And none of the songs are truly distinguishable from each other! It just seems like one long, endless groove that never stops. Only one time they interrupt it with a weepy, keyboard-dominated ballad ('This Time Around') that sounds like bad Stevie Wonder or worse Paul McCartney in his Eighties period, with the usual raunchy roar suddenly replaced by a sleazy, stupid tone which makes the song sound even more like a parody.

So there's really no getting away from the funk: 'Lady Luck', 'Dealer', 'Drifter', 'Love Child', all of them seem to be ripped from some obscure Motown tunes. The melodies are probably existent, but I wouldn't know about it - every time the record says 'stopped playing' I go like 'now what did these tunes all sound like?' Perhaps the tune that opens the album, the frantic rocker 'Comin' Home', is a bit more memorable than the others - but only a teensy-weensy bit, because it's faster. Apparently, they didn't want to break the 'Speed King' tradition, and started the album with a speedy riff, boogie-woogie piano chords, ecstatic guitar solos and violent vocals. But the riff is blurted, the solos sound too close to Blackmore to be believed (yeah, Tommy does try aping him here, but he hardly succeeds), the boogie-woogie piano doesn't help much as I can't hear it well even in headphones, and the vocals are so generic that they're in no way entertaining. And certainly, the main problem is that there are no trademark riffs - the ones on 'You Keep On Moving' and 'Drifter' may probably come close to good, but in that case I would have remembered them. I didn't. So sue me. 'You Keep On Moving' is often considered a minor classic for completely unknown reasons - it's as 'zero-tone' a song as could be, with zero percent energy, zero percent innovation and zero percent entertainment value. Dang slow, too.

Frankly speaking, I don't think the band could have carried on even if Tommy didn't stick that stupid needle in the wrong place. It's clear that they are spent here. The album cover is cool, though. Arguably the most interesting they ever made, at least, up to that point. Oh, at least the second most interesting after In Rock. But the songwriting is clearly in the toilet, with that bastard of a bastard (Coverdale) doing his best to make the band turn away from what it did best to what it did, well, just as well as millions of other bands. They had no choice but to disband after that.

P.S. I actually forgot to say - if you're a big fan of generic funk, you'll probably dig the hell out of this record. I hardly tolerate funk at all, unless it's spiced up really really hard, and since this is the funkiest Purple record ever, well, the reaction is obvious. Hey, whadda I know? 'Lady Luck' might be one of the greatest songs ever written - if not taken in perspective, of course.



Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

It was probably Jon Lord's idea to release the album, as it mostly showcases HIM.

Best song: BURN

Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Love Child; 3) You Keep On Moving; 4) Wild Dogs; 5) Lady Luck; 6) Smoke On The Water; 7) Soldier Of Fortune; 8) Woman From Tokyo; 9) Highway Star.

Yet another live recording, this time from the final concerts of Deep Purple Mark IV. Unfortunately, just as the guys planned to put up some recording equipment onstage, Tommy Bolin got that infamous needle in his left arm, and this seriously influenced his playing abilities. After all, great player or not, it's kinda difficult to play a guitar with just one right hand, right? Tommy still tries, though, and must be given credit for that: the riff of 'Smoke On The Water' is left intact, and sometimes he even tries to craft a solo, but that's mostly laughable. When he gets his solo spot on 'Highway Star', I only pity him - this sounds like a ragged parody on what Blackmore (and possibly Tommy himself, were he in good form) could really do with that instrument: disjointed, feeble chords with no power at all. I can't take it as anything other but an absolute insult - after all, Tommy was a talented guitarist, and out of all possible gigs the band had to go ahead and release this one? The only similar case of disrespect towards band members I can recall is the infamous Who's Last that cathes Daltrey with a severe case of laryngitis or something. So either Last Concert In Japan was a secret "fuck-you" to Tommy from Lord or it was just a record company bastradisation (which is more probable).

Anyway, intentionally or not, that's where Lord really steps in and tries to save the situation. As you turn on the record, you realize there's something wrong: yeah, it opens with 'Burn' all right, but the main riff is played on the organ - no guitar in sight, except for some background noises. Huh? Exigent fans would probably tear the band to pieces, but I guess Deep Purple were so reverenced in Japan that they could even tolerate a totally disfunctional Bolin, as long as the kick-ass energy was still there. Truth is, there ain't that much kick-ass energy either, not on the final record, at least. Mostly, it's just the usual stuff: once again, Coverdale goes massacring 'Smoke On The Water' (where he STILL can't force himself to learn the third verse!) and 'Highway Star' ("she got big fat muffins"? ehhh... what?), and the rest of the material draws heavily off Come Taste The Band. Much too heavily, in fact: I don't really buy Purple records to hear average dreck like 'Love Child' or 'You Keep On Moving', which this album has in spades; at least, we must be grateful it's not a double LP.

'Highlights' on here include the following: a good enough version of 'Burn', where Lord really saves the situation from total disaster; 'Lady Luck', which somehow turns out to be slightly superior to other Mark IV compositions, possibly because it's one of the rare cases where a song perfectly matches Coverdale's voice; a few verses from 'Soldier Of Fortune', here presented as a (rather unexpected) coda to 'Smoke On The Water'; and a totally instrumental version of 'Woman From Tokyo', again with Lord's organ being the only important instrument throughout (Tommy had admittedly passed out totally by the time). Then again, I didn't put the quotation marks for nothing: none of these 'highlights' are spectacular, since all of these songs were really mediocre according to Purple's highest standards, and uninspired live renditions don't exactly bring any more life into them. There is, however, a nice surprise in 'Wild Dogs', a solo Bolin composition where he even gets to sing, and you know, kinda puts to shame Coverdale and his pompous, but totally soulless and insincere voice; an interesting and strangely emotional, if a bit messy, R'n'B tune. In fact, whereas I still regard Coverdale as a total jerk whose only advantage were solid vocal cords, and every new recording only consolidates my opinion, Tommy was certainly different. He was really a good guitarist and looks like a nice kind of guy (some cool photos are included) - what a shame he had to be such a desperate junkie.

In fact, my Russian CD edition adds some bonus tracks - taken from their early 1976 concerts, and you can certainly feel the difference, because when Bolin finally regains his left hand, you can really see he's an awesome performer: not right up there with Blackmore, of course, but close, and at least a worthy disciple. His improvisations and riffage are well worth your attention, and in certain spots are even lesss predictable than your usual Blackmore wanking - that's to say, I do not at all feel the necessity to compare the talents of the two, but am able to enjoy them independently. So why the record company had to go ahead and release this shitty 'document' instead of the more deserving stuff is way beyond me and it will probably always be a great mystery. This is bootleg quality material!

And please - I don't really remember how many times I've already asked you to slap good old Dave for me - but do it again, will ya? 'We're going to give you a song from Machine Head... It's about a place called Montreux, in Switzerland... Frank Zappa and the Mothers...' What kind of a song introduction is THIS SHIT? (When he can't even bring himself to learn the lyrics properly!) Or: 'we're gonna give you a song, it's a rock'n'roll song, it's a rock'n'roll song you all know, it's a song about speed... (pause for the public to get the hint)... it's a song about thunder... (pause for the public to get another hint)... it's a song about a killing machine... (pause for a third hint)... my my my... oh baby... here's a song for you it's called Highway Star'. If that's supposed to be "crowd-enticing", I wonder why the Purple-loving crowds didn't bring along the tomatoes. Oh well, so much for politesse-loving Japanese. Truly and verily the dude should be hanged head downwards for singing Gillan songs if he didn't have the least respect towards them. Bring on Mark II!



Year Of Release: 1995
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Totally different - seems like the guys got some energy towards the end of the tour.


Track listing: 1) Burn; 2) Lady Luck; 3) Getting Tighter; 4) Love Child; 5) Smoke On The Water; 6) Lazy; 7) The Grind; 8) This Time Around; 9) Tommy Bolin Solo; 10) Stormbringer; 11) Highway Star; 12) Smoke On The Water; 13) Going Down; 14) Highway Star.

Oh. Without a doubt, this is the best Deep Purple album to ever sport Mr Coverdale and Mr Hughes on it. I reiterate my question - why were these tracks shelved in their time and Last Concert In Japan had to be released? Easy answer: the wise marketing guys thought that mentioning 'Japan' in the title would make it sell better. And not only in Japan itself.

These particular tracks were recorded at the very tail end of the Purple Mark IV touring life, at the Long Beach Arena in California, Feb. 1976. (The really weird album title, originally given to the corresponding bootleg, as explained in the title, somehow has to do with the nickname for a Russian jet MIG fighter whose pilot defected to Japan at the time and thus gave the West a fine opportunity to study the invincible vehicle - except that it's not too clear what that has to do with a Deep Purple live show in California. Are they presuming that the band flew over to America from Japan in that plane or what?). One complete show is recorded, plus a bunch of bonus tracks from an adjacent show, but only 'Highway Star' and 'Smoke On The Water' are actually doubled on the release.

In the end, it just goes to show how much guitar-dependent the band was: out of all the post-1972 Purple albums I've heard, it is this one that seems the most 'motivated'. Blackmore's playing on the 1974 albums was fine, but much too often, kinda lacked the spark; Tommy's playing on Last Concert was predictably shit because you try playing with your left hand while your right hand is numb from an overdose; and only on this show does the spark go through as Mr Bolin really steals the show from everyone. Even his photo on the inner sleeve, with that naughty childish smile as he's tearing at the strings leaning at an amplifier, is somewhat invigorating, and the playing as well.

Of course, you can't really get past the usual obnoxiousness elements: the stupid spoken intro to 'Smoke On The Water', the total vocal burnout on 'Highway Star' which is always messy as usual (and frankly speaking, it's the one number that's so Blackmore-dependent Tommy isn't too good at it even with both his hands tacked on perfectly), and an unexpected, and thoroughly corny, 'Georgia On My Mind' that Glenn Hughes found it nice to insert smack at the end of 'Smoke On The Water'. It's one thing to have a nice pair of chords, Mr Hughes, but it's another thing to use them wisely. Little piggies have their throats quite powerful as well, and I'd rather have a little piggy, mm, yummy, than hear Mr Hughes tear through 'Georgia On My Mind'.

But I'm not even paying attention to the old Deep Purple classics; it's primarily the Come Taste The Band material that thrills me on here. They play four numbers off the new album where they - in each and every case - MASSACRE the shit out of the studio albums. Tommy turns the amps up as loud as possible and plays so damn well he annihilates everybody else, which is THE important thing to do: if you can concentrate on the guitar playing and forget about the obnoxious singing, you'll be in rock'n'roll/funky heaven. Never even thought of noticing 'Getting Tighter' on the original record; here, at fourteen minutes length, it is turned into a roaring funk monster, with the main riff jumping out of the speakers on a ten-feet high sonic wave and engulfs you in a way the original could only dream of. And did I say 'average dreck' about 'Love Child'? Well I take that back. I nearly fell out of the chair when I heard that opening line... even if Coverdale introduces the song as 'featuring Jon Lord on synthesizer, the magic fingers guy', the song belongs to that phased riff, thus, to Tommy.

Mr Bolin actually gets a few highlights of his own, including a ten-minute guitar solo on the second disk which is a sonic marvel for those who don't hate guitar solos (and if you're a Purple fan, I don't know how you could have anything against guitar solos). He explores every musical style possible, even playing some countryish licks from time to time, and occasionally ends up doing superweird sonic barrages that show a serious Hendrix influence but are still quite idiosyncratic. And in the long run, this all culminates in a killer version of 'Stormbringer' that's so dang heavy even I can't always take it. As much of a dork as Glenn Hughes is, when he plays that fat funky bass in unison with Bolin's guitar, they sound like an unstoppable two-headed whoever constitutes your favourite cliche, be it mammoth, mastodont, or argentinosaurus. (Has anybody ever heard of an argentinosaurus, BTW? I always thought the brontosaurus was the biggest of the bunch, and now it comes out that this puppy was even huger).

One more thing: the sound quality is EXCELLENT. Probably the best sound quality of a Purple concert I've ever heard, even including Made In Japan. The balance between the instruments is dang near perfect, with most emphasis on the guitar but the other instruments come through just as well. So the album is well recommendable if only for this little circumstance - we all know how much of a struggle the band always had with production values. And, goes without saying, no Tommy Bolin fan can live without this album and be free from nervous breakdowns.



Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

A magnificent collection of outtakes and live versions. If it were in print, it'd make a fine companion to 'Made In Japan'!

Best song: CHILD IN TIME

Track listing: 1) Painted Horse; 2) Hush; 3) Wring That Neck; 4) Child In Time; 5) Black Night; 6) Cry Free.

Funny. Seems like, what with the band having broken up after all its 'funky' embarrassments, the world still needed a little Purple around, and the recording companies threw this out on the market. I doubt if this archive collection is still around today, but if you ever see it in used bins or somewhere else, don't hesitate - grab it, steal it and kill for it! (Disclaimer: that was tongue-in-cheek). It beats every post-1972 'original' Purple album I ever heard, and that's saying something, especially if you consider that this whole album consists of just six songs, at least three of which you have heard previously in more 'standard' versions.

Let me tell you all about it now. These are two studio outtakes and four live cuts, all from the band's glory years (1969-72), and they all smoke. We begin with a collector's rarity, an outtake from the Who Do We Think We Are sessions called 'Painted Horse'. It's a bizarre, psychedelic rocker, with a great Gillan harmonica part and strange falsetto vocals that we don't often get from our Jesus boy, but they're wonderful, just like the melody itself. Why the hell did so many insipid hard rock lumbertracks make their way onto that album and 'Painted Horse' was left behind is way beyond me.

Next, we are invited to take a look at what happened on September 24th, 1969, right before the live recording of the infamous Concerto For Group And Orchestra. Well, turns out that the introductory set was much stronger - who knows, maybe they should have released a double live album instead? (As a matter of fact, this mistake has been partially corrected - the new re-release of Concerto includes a part of that set as bonus tracks). They start the set with an energized, tightened and hardened version of 'Hush': if you put it next to the studio original from Shades, well, there'll just be no further need to explain the crucial difference between Purple Mark I and Purple Mark II. Gillan's soaring vocals are so much better than Evans' that it makes you wonder... aw, well, it doesn't. Evans was a perfect foil for his epoch, and Gillan for his. Anyway, this live version is a total hoot. Then, the weakest spot: an eleven-minute version of 'Wring That Neck', the instrumental from their second album. Actually, it's not bad, and it's much more energetic and inspired than the studio original; but certainly not recommended for haters of 'wankfests'. Even if it's fast and it boogies. Highlights along the way include: a call-and-response duet between the guitar and the organ; Blackmore's brilliant finger vibrato near the end; and a few subtle lines from 'Jingle Bells' that Ritchie unexpectedly pops in before the ending climax. Heh, heh. And it wasn't even Christmas! But if you had enough patience to endure this to the end... wow. This record contains maybe the definite version of 'Child In Time', the one that beats both the studio original and the Japan version. They were still fresh from rehearsing it (the liner notes tell us that the actual recording took place several days before the concert), and the playing is immaculate. For once, Gillan's voice comes loud and strong out of your speakers, and he screams like a demon - play this loud and feel your eardrums burst! The wildest, most thrilling, most chilling SHRIEK alongside Roger Waters in 'Careful With That Axe'! And, as if in competition, Blackmore comes up with the fastest, most exciting, most breathtaking solo in his life, the one that'll kick you right out of your seat and smear what's left of your body around the ceiling. In fact, the effect is so devastating that even the audience is left stunned after the song is over, and it takes them at least a couple of seconds of absolute silence toburst into applause. Classic!

Back to studio again, with a great In Rock outtake ('Cry Free'); why this pulsating, paranoid rocker with a killer riff didn't make it onto the album is way beyond me - the only explanation is that it was already chock-full with classic tunes. It also features a rare element in a phased solo, a thing Blackmore didn't do that often, and sounds top-notch. And finally, the album closes off with a live version of their hit single 'Black Night' taken from the same Tokyo concerts that gave birth to Made In Japan (there are expanded versions of the album that include it, in fact). Needless to say, it kicks exactly the same amount of butt as every great track of that great album, and makes a shattering ending to the record. And... that's it? Unfortunately, yes. Personally, I would want some more! Oh, well, guess we'll just have to be patient...

Anyway, if you're a fan, this album is a must for you - how you're gonna get it, I dunno, but you simply must. I don't know how a Deep Purple diehard can fare without this version of 'Child In Time' or without 'Cry Free'. Apparently, though, the US market isn't interested. To hell with you, US market! When I go check the All-Music Guide and see how many great albums by great bands aren't currently in print, I sometimes wonder what is this world we're living in... why can I get all this stuff in Russia but couldn't get it in the US? Deep and answerless question.


IN CONCERT 1970-1972

Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

A dead-on-balls-accurate representation of classic live Purple here! Hey! JUST what we needed!


Track listing: CD I: 1) Speed King; 2) Child In Time; 3) Wring That Neck; 4) Mandrake Root;

CD II: 1) Highway Star; 2) Strange Kind Of Woman; 3) Maybe I'm A Leo; 4) Never Before; 5) Lazy; 6) Space Truckin'; 7) Smoke On The Water; 8) Lucille.

Another archive release here, but now just don't you start getting despaired all over - this one's actually well worth your money and more than that. It contains recordings of two BBC shows by the band, one from 1970 and another one from 1972, so I've been all confused about where to fit it chronologically and finally just decided to file it under 1980, the year when it was actually released in its original double LP form (note that they had to cut the second show, omitting rare, extremely rare even, live performances of 'Maybe I'm A Leo' and 'Never Before' - fools! Fools they are! Fortunately, both have been restored for the regular CD re-issue). And it seriously vies with Made In Japan for the title of best Purple live album ever.

This one, of course, has the serious advantage of giving us slices of two seriously different periods of deeppurplism. We have the 1970 show - a young, still slightly insecure Deep Purple vieing for stardom, with no serious hits to their name (not counting "Hush", of course) and still actually months ago from the release of the groundbreaking In Rock album. They're still heavily into jam mode and just as heavily into showcasing their dynamics and playing skills. And then we have the 1972 show, with a more mature, more steady, and actually more hit-oriented Purple presenting their audiences with generally shorter, more compact, but just as tight, numbers from the upcoming Machine Head. It's actually a nice idea to pick up this album first if you're into live Purple at all, and then proceed to Made In Japan if the 1972 show is more appealing to you, or to Scandinavian Nights if it's the 1970 one. Hey, maybe I should go into marketing.

Anyway, the 1970 BBC show is conducted by long-time Purple fan and soon-to-become long-time Purple hater John Peel, and it features just four numbers, but, of course, three of them go over the ten-minute marker, so it's not like they left a lot of empty CD space out there. The sound quality is awesome, just as befits the BBC - which is an asset considering how so many DP recordings, even live ones, sound so chaotic. The performances are top notch as well; 'Child In Time' doesn't get to be as long as on Scandinavian Nights, and at one point it looks like Gillan actually forgets to clean his throat before soaring on the refrain, so he has to cut out the wail and replace it with another extra 'I wanna hear you sing' exhortation, but it's fun to see him coping pretty well with his own mistakes. Elsewhere, 'Wring That Neck' and 'Mandrake Root' all deliver the usual goods - without having to deliver them for half an hour each.

The second show dates from March 1972, again, some time before Machine Head was actually released, which is why, if you're willing to compare, you'll see there's a bit more restraint exercised when they play all those "new" songs, just because they hadn't yet performed enough of them to be able not to make any mistakes in their sleep. Like, for instance, Blackmore doesn't do the "audience-teasing" with the 'Smoke On The Water' riff, and he's also not quite daring yet to unleash the full force of his crazy arpeggios on the 'Highway Star' solo. However, if you're afraid that makes the songs any less powerful, don't be - they pack just as much energy and bombast as the Made In Japan versions, they're just a bit more "calculated" than on that one. And besides, there are those two songs that I've mentioned above that they dropped pretty early off their setlist; for what reason, I'll never know, because they sound pretty damn good on here. And Gillan's vocal duelling with Blackmore's guitar and his final crowning wails at the end of 'Strange Kind Of Woman' have never been better.

Also, as usual, there's a twenty-minute "Space Truckin'" extravaganza (and when you're actually having this particular live album it's much easier to see how they just extracted the jam part from 'Mandrake Root' and transferred it onto "Space Truckin'" - which, if you ask me, makes a lot of sense because you can really picture that speedy jam as an actual soundtrack to your space voyage), and they close with their trademark heavy-metal-rearrangement of 'Lucille' which I in particular am glad about having because I don't have that particular one-of-a-thousand edition of Made In Japan which has that song.

If there's anything to complain about, it's the DJ introducing the 1972 show; that flattering son of a bitch constantly sounds like he's ready to just drop everything and provide each member of the band with a blowjob right on the spot. (Going like: 'hmm, 'Never Before' seems to be shorter on the setlist than it is on the album, Ritchie must have cut out one of his excellent solos... what a shame...'). Fortunately, at some point Gillan (whose name the dork constantly pronounces as "Jillan") just takes over the announcements. Ah well, guess I'm just being bitchy myself, it was the guy's job, after all. Maybe they should have gotten John Peel on the 1972 show as well, despite all the hostility. Come to think of it, that'd be fun! (Peel: "Ah yes, now the next number is called 'Lazy', and from what I've heard, it's going to be a long-winded pompous bluesy bore from everybody's favourite bunch of sell-out lazybones here. Take it away Ritchie!").

I guess what I'm simply trying to say is you really can't go wrong with these classic archive releases. They're all guaranteed niners or tenners. Keep 'em coming! And screw all those shitty Coverdale era shows!



Year Of Release: 1984
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

Pretty weak, for a comeback: not a catastrophe, but nowhere as invigorating as you'd like.


Track listing: 1) Knocking At Your Back Door; 2) Under The Gun; 3) Nobody's Home; 4) Mean Streak; 5) Perfect Strangers; 6) A Gypsy's Kiss; 7) Wasted Sunsets; 8) Hungry Daze; 9) Not Responsible.

Perhaps the Deep Purple comeback was a little ill-timed. Nineteen eighty-four, eh? Not the best time for approaching music-making again, not even from a 'fresh' point of view... But apparently, the ex-members' careers were so messed up that they thought a reunion would do no harm. Blackmore was dissatisfied with his work in Rainbow; Gillan just had a 'stunning' experience of working with Black Sabbath that he never wanted to repeat; and I don't even know what the hell the others were doing - I'd bet you anything they were only too happy to re-institutionalize the band.

Ah, yes, what an ironic title... Sounds like it, though: you'd hardly guess that this music is Deep Purple. More like 'perfect strangers', indeed. Complaintive fans are used to whining about how this sounds more like Rainbow than Purple; since I ain't never heard Rainbow yet, I wouldn't know about that. What I do know is that most of these songs are deadly dull. They're all mid-tempo (with a couple exceptions). They're all based on electronically enhanced drums (Paice, get out of the picture). They're all based on recycled, almost instantly dated, lumbering riffs that any contemporary heavy metal band could easily reproduce. They're all based on uninspiring synthesizer patterns. The lyrics suck. Plus, Gillan had lost his voice. Any other arguments?

One could make a good point, of course, by saying that the guys were intentionally moving away from their old patented sound - to try something 'new' and not get marketed on nostalgia accounts alone. Problem is, there's not that much 'new' about this sound: your typical mid-Eighties slow hard rock (aka sludge) excellently fit for MTV. I've played it so many times that I lost count (I guess somewhere along the way I pushed the 'repeat' button), but there's still about as much energy there as in a completely spent Duracell. Apparently, they just forgot to recharge.

A couple of songs, nevertheless, approach 'good', though even this 'good' is nowhere near the old Purple magic. There is the weird title track, for instance, based on an ominous, Eastern-influenced melody, that sounds not unlike 'Kashmir' (yeah, buddy). For some strange reason, this Kashmir-type sound (I suppose it's based on some untrivial guitar/keyboards interplay) crops up quite often, most evidently on 'Hungry Daze', an upbeat rocker, but somewhat of a duffer: personally, I feel bad about Ian and his hoarse tone as he waxes nostalgic about how 'we all came down to Montreux, but that's another song'.

Elsewhere, though, the sound meanders somewhere in between mid-Eghties Yes and mid-Eighties Rolling Stones, with the basic rule that says, the slower you play, the more it sounds like Trevor Rabin, the faster you play, the more it sounds like Mick Jagger. Both choices are rote: apparently, this album predicts both Big Generator and Dirty Work. I mean, doesn't 'Knocking At Your Back Door' sound like the metallized version of Yes? It sure does! It has some nice memorable vocal "moves", of course, but the melody is near non-existent - just a steady rhythmic thump, that's it. And doesn't 'Under The Gun' sound like something taken directly off the Stones' worst album? Substitute Gillan for Jagger and you won't feel the difference! What about the lame metal of 'Nobody's Home'? Why does it remind me so much of 'Hold Back'? And even when we get to the fastest song ('A Gypsy's Kiss'), what we get is simply a fast metal song with the drums overshadowing the guitars and the organ making the only (not very) significant difference. It is probably supposed to make a certain equivalent of 'Highway Star' for the Eighties - same tempo and same "mood" in the solos, but it only goes to show how pathetic the heavy rockers used to sound in the Eighties. And, to top it off, the boys toss in a thoroughly bland, uninspiring 'epic' ballad ('Wasted Sunsets') that must have served as a blueprint for all the further career of the Scorpions. And for Aerosmith's comeback, too. Sorry, have I unintentionally made you shiver and tremble? I apologize.

Biggest problem on the album is, of course, with Blackmore. He does insert a couple of his trademark solos now and then, but on second thought, they aren't all that trademark: I miss the crunch, the power, the distortion, the Hendrixy overtones and vibratos. And there are no riffs! No good ones, at least. It almost seems as if Ritchie was there in the studio just to lay on a couple of overdubs and then went on to mind his own business. So in return, the sound is carried forward mostly by electronic drums and corny synths - which reminds one of Asia rather than Deep Purple.

The CD issue of the album includes one bonus track, yet another mid-tempo tryceratops called 'Not Responsible'. I guess I don't need to tell you that if you have to choose between CD and vinyl, your only choice should depend on the price. Better still, don't buy it at all: I know this might sound blasphemous, but such albums make me feel glad about Bonzo's untimely decease. Who knows what kind of garbage Led Zep would evolve into if they were to continue into the Eighties?



Year Of Release: 1991
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Perhaps all that rain just made Ritchie steam at the concert?

Best song: whatever.

Track listing: 1) Highway Star; 2) Nobody's Home; 3) Strange Kind Of Woman; 4) Gypsy's Kiss; 5) Perfect Street Rangers; 6) Lazy; 7) Knocking At Your Backdoor; 8) Difficult To Cure; 9) Space Truckin'; 10) Speed King; 11) Black Night; 12) Smoke On The Water.

One more confirmation of my hypothesis that out of all Deep Purple live albums with the exception of Made In Japan, the good ones are normally (some of) the archive releases. This 2-CD issue of one of the reassembled band's first shows actually kicks the shit out of the officially and synchronously released Nobody's Perfect (see the review below), if only because it really captures all the spontaneity and aggressiveness of one complete live show rather than culling unrelated tracks from different venues into a virtual 'greatest hits live' package.

The whole tale of the June 22nd, 1985 Knebworth show has long since become a legend, and the show itself one of the most controversial events in Purple history. Not only was the band prohibited from carrying out their original plan to make the concert the loudest ever played in Britain (with a 250,000 watt potential, no less!), but it so happened that it rained like crazy all day long, and the Knebworth audiences were wet to the core while listening to the opening acts like Meat Loaf and the like; the entire event was renamed 'Mudworth' in the aftermath. So you have this cool photo of Ritchie holding the guitar with his left hand and an umbrella in the right one, and you also have Gillan desperately pacifying the people at the end of Disc 1, telling them that the weather service was predicting a clear sky in ten minutes. Supposedly the clear sky never arrived.

Yet somehow, all of these factors actually contribute to the band's sound - the rule is that the more pissed off Mr Blackmore is, the more smoke he beats out of his guitar, this time, some real smoke on the water, too. And the show is a blast; I can't even complain about Ian's singing that much, as his voice is in surprisingly good form. I will comment some more on his singing in later reviews. Here, just four things: (a) he's invented a whole new system of screaming for himself, this time, almost completely devoid of vocal vibratos - supposedly that was too hard; (b) he doesn't sing 'Child In Time'!!! in fact, it's the only Gillan-led Purple live album I've heard without 'Child In Time' on it, at least, up to the mid-Nineties when the song fell out of the Purple setlist entirely; (c) he has developed a strange knack for stupid 'tricking' of the audience, as when he states that they're going to introduce all their songs in different languages and 'in French, this song is called... straaange kind of woman', or when he introduces 'Speed King' as the 'most depressing, agonizing song we ever did'; and finally (d) HE'S FAT!!!!! Never noticed that, but on some of the photos he definitely looks overweight. What the hell? Had the Black Sabbath stint temporarily deranged his digestion system?

Then there's Ritchie. Ritchie blazes on here. Supposedly the rain really got him pissed off, and even when engaging in a relatively mild standard like 'Lazy', he tears the roof of his house, as if he were hitting these strings with a hammer, plays twice as fast as usual and employs shriller and dryer tones. Later on, halfway through the jam on 'Space Truckin', he faithfully replicates all the ancient tricks and gimmicks plus adds a couple new ones, the faithful Hendrix disciple he is. And the actual solos of 'Highway Star' and 'Smoke On The Water' go off splendidly.

Particular suprises of this particular show would include: (a) a bluesy introduction to the rocking 'Gypsy's Kiss' (well, whaddaya want? 'Here's some blues for you', Gillan states at the beginning); (b) the revelation of the actual title of 'Perfect Strangers' - if we're to believe Mr Gillan, although we're probably not, it's 'Perfect Street Rangers' and it's about an outcast football team; (c) Ian Paice getting his drum solo spotlight on 'Lazy', which is a good move because the song goes at such a frantic pace (paice? huh!) you hardly even notice it going into the drum solo, and just as the drum solo starts getting tedious, it goes away; (d) a totally weird version of Rainbow's 'Difficult To Cure' with Lord throwing Beethoven's 'Ode To Joy' into the mix; (e) Jon playing Ravel's 'Bolero' to the gallopping rumbling jam at the end of 'Space Truckin'; (f) Ritchie throwing the riff from 'Burn' into the middle of 'Speed King' and Ian singing 'Not Fade Away' in the same place and then Ritchie using the 'Land Of A Thousand Dances' riff in the same place'; (g) Gillan singing 'Jesus Christ Superstar' in the singalong portion of 'Strange Kind Of Woman'.

If that's not enough for you, stay away from this album - but for me, all these factors were nice enough to guarantee an entertaining and involving listen. In fact, it's probably the best post-reunion live album from DP. Maybe not. I haven't heard all of them. In any case, amidst all of Ian's stupid banter, the things that he says at the end of 'Smoke On The Water', about how the band actually were not sure if they should get back together and finally decided to try if that would work and were now grateful for the audience's support, seem to be really heartfelt. Not a wasted effort. Oh and, by the way, the album's subtitle is In The Absence Of Pink. What that means, I don't know, except that it is taken from more of Ian's stupid banter. But in any case, Purple bootleggers sure had a knack for weird album titles - remember Russian Foxbat?



Year Of Release: 1987
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

A lot heavier on the guitars and speedier, too, but the production is a complete disaster.


Track listing: 1) Bad Attitude; 2) The Unwritten Law; 3) Call Of The Wild; 4) Mad Dog; 5) Black & White; 6) Hard Lovin' Woman; 7) The Spanish Archer; 8) Strangeways; 9) Mitzi Dupree; 10) Dead Or Alive.

Either the world has gone crazy or it's just me, but I actually like this album. I know fans usually consider it a letdown after the relative 'success' of Perfect Strangers, but I really can't see that. I mean, I hated both at first, but House managed to grow on me, at least, a little. If anything, the songwriting quality is far, far improved, and there are even some fast tracks here which finally begin to kick some arse after you turn 'em on real real loud. Apparently, three years of collaboration and touring after the infamous ten years gap finally brought some fruits: this is an album that does suit the 'Purple' moniker, whereas Strangers was a much more strange and inadequate affair.

What really bothers me about the album is the downright awful production. Maybe I didn't notice it so much on Strangers, just because the songs there didn't match their trademark style. But here, even when the guys finally figure it out right and try to rock out with enough conviction, their efforts are undermined by Eighties' production values which don't just suck: they threaten to take the very life out of the songs by introducing electronic drums, often reducing Blackmore's once powerful riffage to background noise fodder and drenching everything in corny synths. For the life of me I can't understand why Jon Lord, the master of the organ and piano, took these poisonous synth sounds that shred even the best material to generic-sounding Eighties fodder, so seriously. Unless, of course, he played all the keyboards with Blackmore holding a gun against his chin and urging him to make this sound like Rainbow. 'Now Johnnie darling, where were we? Ah yes... didn't I catch you messin' with that Hammond organ in the corner yesterday? I see you with the Hammond one more time and you're dead meat. Tony Banks will be a good replacement, don't you think so?" (Don't take that for an exact quotation, tho'). I mean, once you've sat through this two or three times, you'll notice that there actually are good melodies on here; it's just that the production does everything possible for the casual listener not to notice that.

Sometimes, of course, the songs are not that good by themselves. 'Call Of The Wild', for instance, begins deceptively with a gruff pleasant little riff but is soon transformed into a bouncy, but absolutely meatless and faceless pop number with nothing but the solid rhythm section to boast about (not to mention the total absence of guitar, a crying shame). But I'm lucky to say that such tracks are in the minority. Most of this stuff is all right - never amounting to the same trusty level of old, but you can really feel the emphasis is on 'rock', not on 'we're back with a bang'. 'Mad Dog', 'The Unwritten Law' and 'Hard Lovin' Woman' all qualify as solid tunes, for me. Well, they don't offer you loads of excitement, but it's still much better than your average 'dinosaur' stuff in the mid-Eighties. They're guitar-based, relatively fast hard rockers with something more than just a couple of power chords to back each of them, and that's refreshing. Perhaps someday I'll get to love them even more.

Occasionally, they even elevate themselves to something more interesting than just your 'bash-it-out' attitude. 'Black & White', for instance, has Gillan playing harmonica, a stunt that comes off extremely tastefully, especially in the middle of the song, where he gets to have a solo duet with Blackmore. Funny enough - the harmonica is the instrument that sounds the least spoiled by the horrendous production. Oh well, I guess no production is able to spoil a solid harmonica solo. The most hard-hitting rocker on the record, though, is 'The Spanish Archer', simply because it's one of the few tunes that's really and truly dominated by Ritchie's six-string. The solos he rips out all over the place are easily his best since God knows when, probably since the 1972 Japan performances. The main melody is kinda generic, perhaps, but the guitarwork is immaculate and it even makes me forget the production values - again.

I'd even go as far as to say that the only 'experimental' track on here, a lengthy synth-basher called 'Strangeways', succeeds where all the Kashmir-influenced Strangers songs did not: I mean, that main synth riff is so catchy! Half-dance, half-Eastern... Maybe it does sound a bit corny and all, but to me, this is as interesting and memorable a note combination as can be squeezed out of that miserable instrument called 'synthesizer' when you're using it in a generic Eighties manner. Hah. No, no, of course synthesizers can do better, but you got my hyperbole, didn't you? The song itself probably goes on for a bit too long (seven minutes, and it don't really get better than that), but it's fun anyway. And they close the record with two more generic rockers, one real slow, but with a real funny riff ('Mitzi Dupree'), one real messy, but real fast ('Dead Or Alive'). So, what I mean is, there's plenty to appraise about the record. Ironically, it gets despised more often than not, and even fans bash it. And, as far as I understand, the band members didn't get a hoot out of it, either, as Gillan called it quits soon afterwards. Rumours say he was kicked out of the band by Ritchie (only to get his revenge a few years later, when he rejoined once again and kicked out Ritchie himself). Gee, some people really never know how to get along with each other.



Year Of Release: 1988
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Butcher the classics to make them seem inferior to the new originals? What an idea!


Track listing: 1) Highway Star; 2) Strange Kind Of Woman; 3) Dead Or Alive; 4) Perfect Strangers; 5) Hard Lovin' Woman; 6) Bad Attitude; 7) Knocking At Your Back Door; 8) Child In Time; 9) Lazy; 10) Space Trucking; 11) Black Night; 12) Woman From Tokyo; 13) Smoke On The Water; 14) Hush.

The album title is almost like an apology: "Hey, what do you want us to do? Play twenty-year old music as if we were 20 years old?" Truthfully, though, despite the first nice try of Knebworth, in general Deep Purple are simply not one of those bands who can find enough strength in themselves to do their classic material onstage the same way they did it during their peak years. Yes, it's Purple Mark II all right, but this time it's almost as if everything were against them - the weather conditions on these particular shows might have been better than in Knebworth, but the playing goes down the drain anyway. The tracklisting that concerns classic material is all top-notch, all the hits are here, from 'Highway Star' to 'Child In Time' to 'Black Night' to 'Smoke On The Water', but the way they're presented makes me immediately go back to earlier classic versions just to wipe the sludge out of my ears.

Gillan's voice is shot; we all know that. The strangest thing about that is he actually hits his upper screaming notes all right; it's the standard register of his voice that's gone to hell, now a squeaky wheezy whine instead of the earlier angry, decisive, and a bit meditative delivery. That said, when he does get around to the screaming parts, as on 'Child In Time', it's painfully obvious he has to control himself a lot to reach the necessary notes and does this at the expense of genuine emotionality - here's a guy trying to artificially recreate something that's been lost long before, and it hurts. And when he engages in the obligatory guitar-vocal duet with Ritchie at the end of 'Strange Kind Of Woman', it hurts even more. Granted, it's kinda fun to see him bawl out a few lines from 'Superstar' - I wonder if he ever inserted any JC quotes in the classic Purple period? - but the actual guitar-vocal lines are completely rotten; he simply can't do it, yet he still wants to make us all believe that he can, and that's ridiculous.

But the problem's not with Ian alone. The rhythm section punches as usual; Glover and Paice are the two guys in the band who were always content with perfecting their trickery as time went by, and I can't accuse them of ever messing around with anything 'experimental'. However, both Blackmore and Lord are definitely not at the top of their game. Apparently, Ritchie hadn't played his Purple stuff in a long time, and he ended up reinventing all the solos and sometimes even riffs in quite a different manner that reeks more of sterile professionalism than the fiery youthful enthusiasm of old. Even the guitar tones are kinda generic at times, and when he messes up the soloing on 'Highway Star', it's a disgrace. As for Lord, well... Then again, maybe I just have to blame the awful, gray, gloomy production on all those things. Instruments blurring together and all. On the other hand, it's just that there are bands made for endlessly replaying their old hits and enjoying it, and then there's the case of Purple who simply don't seem to enjoy it. No wonder that at later tours some of these songs just faded away, replaced by lesser known oldies - for instance, the new incarnation of Purple never plays 'Child In Time' any more. Thanks God. Also, remember the way the songs used to be earlier? Remember the lengthy almost epic-proportion jams that 'Lazy' and 'Space Trucking' used to evolve into? Nothing like that on here. 'Lazy' and 'Space Trucking' are both five minutes long, nothing else. Short and to the point. "Greatest Hits Live" for those who weren't able to capture the band in their prime.

That said, it's not as hopeless as most short reviews of the album present it. First of all, there's some new material from the last two albums - it's excellent, done maybe even better than on the studio counterparts. New songs, fresh energy. 'Dead Or Alive' and 'Bad Attitude' and 'Hard Lovin' Woman' all rock very well, and 'Perfect Strangers' sounds thrice as energetic as it did in the studio. And then there's the epic 'Knocking At Your Back Door', preceded by a lengthy entertaining Lord solo passage where he messes up with an endless stream of classical, jazz and ragtime quotations. I hate to admit it, but I'd really be interested in having them really throw out more stuff like that instead of messing with the classics.

Second, there are certain surprises at times that are at least enough to perk up your wined and dined interest in the whole project - for instance, the stupid, but for some reason, attractive audience singalong on 'Black Night'. Or the way Gillan suddenly emerges with a bunch of Buddy Holly quotations at the end of 'Woman From Tokyo'. And it's refreshing to at last hear 'Smoke On The Water' performed the way it should be performed, without the stupid repetition of the first verse instead of the third as Mr Coverdale used to do. And then, a surprise at the end gives us a new studio re-recording of 'Hush', the only pre-Gillan song in the Purple repertoire - it ain't special, but Gillan actually sounds like he's finally having some fun singing it. Which is the album's main flaw: the songs may be good or great, but if a live performance is done without the members actually having fun, well... I have to suppose the tension in the band was already mounting once again by the time of these 1987 concerts; quite soon, Gillan would have to go again, making way for Joe Lynn Turner. History repeats itself, doesn't it?



Year Of Release: 1990
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

A further Rainbow-ization of the band takes place, with mediocrity pouring out of all the pores...

Best song: impossible to choose. They're all one! Some are faster.

Track listing: 1) King Of Dreams; 2) The Cut Runs Deep; 3) Fire In The Basement; 4) Truth Hurts; 5) Breakfast In Bed; 6) Love Conquers All; 7) Fortuneteller; 8) Too Much Is Not Enough; 9) Wicked Ways.

Joe Lynn Turner used to be Blackmore's partner in Rainbow, and he's not a bad vocalist, but if you remember that Blackmore's most notorious vocal partners over time have been Ian Gillan and Ronnie James Dio, he feels pretty awkward jammed in between the two. Nice solid R'n'B-ish/metal vocal, not overscreaming or anything, but lacking any kind of distinction.

Just like the entire album. Glancing at the title and album cover, you'd have a feeling that Deep Purple finally made this dubious transition into the world of 'death metal' and 'doom' stuff and wild sci-fi fantasies that the band had thankfully always kept away from over the years. These mystic hands stretched towards the globe... 'Slaves', 'masters'... Titles like 'King Of Dreams'... And look at these band photos! All dressed in black, with grim scary impressions on their faces! And why is Ritchie crossing his arms? Fie, Satan!

But then you actually get the courage to put on the album and you discover that it's actually meek. At least, when compared to all the heavy metal scene happenings in the late Eighties/early Nineties. This sure ain't your Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, not to mention your Slayer or Napalm Death. It's just... just Blackmore and the guys stuck in their time warp, pushing out late Seventies-brand Rainbow-like heavy metal with the novelty factor totally worn off and not an interesting melody in sight. An absolute snoozefest.

Not that it's really bad. Or maybe it is - lately I've been catching myself at having to apologize for every negative review. Seriously, I don't feel like these songs weren't worked on at all. They probably were. But not enough. See, however feeble Perfect Strangers and House Of Blue Light were (although I really like the second of these), they at least had a style. The resuscitated Deep Purple used to have a style - this strange melancholic moody synth-enhanced East-influenced mid-tempo groove that borrowed a lot from Rainbow but wasn't exactly Rainbow because Jon Lord gave it a flavour of his own. Slaves & Masters doesn't have a style, none whatsoever. Just your traditional hard rock - average riffs, run-of-the-mill vocal melodies, energetic flow (I guess). Anybody could have done that. Kiss wrote songs that were pretty similar. And what do I have to do with an album whose innovative value is zero, whose songs all fall into the same style and whose hooks aren't enough for me to want to take off my hat?

Okay, so they don't ALL fall into the same style. One exception is 'Love Conquers All'. I wanted to die when I saw the title on the back cover and I knew I was absolutely right when I heard it. The Scorpions could learn a thing or two from these guys at this point - a wretched five hundred percent generic power ballad. Bring out your lighters, all you people out there! TIME TO ROCK TO THE CLIMAX!

I don't hate the other songs. Like I said, they're not any better than Kiss or anybody else like that melodically, but at least they don't have an offensively dumb atmosphere around them. Perhaps these themes of desperation and anger and [insert favourite negative emotion here] were really important to Ritchie and Joe Lynn Turner at the time. They took some time to work on the riffs. I suppose that on the millionth listen you can actually be entertained by this stuff. But spare your time, there's so much better material out there. I look at the track listing and I really can't tell one song from the other, they're all so dang even. They're even nice to listen to in headphones. And yeah, I really like Joe Lynn Turner's vocals after all. Lord, I shudder each time I think they could have engaged another dickhead singer like Coverdale and then the album would have gotten a five or six at best. Turner at least gives it some human features, that's nice.

But I have to ask - where the heck is Jon Lord? Yeah, I hear him, all right, on most tracks, but the overall impression is still that he's been tremendously subdued on the record; it's the Blackmore show all the way. That cuts out a huge part of Purple's charm - and I don't rejoice at the idea of Blackmore toning down his gimmicky powers either. The solos are restrained, the guitar tones are limited. Blackmore is the guy who used to get away with guitar hooliganry better than anyone since Hendrix at least... so what's happening now?

So for a conclusion, take this: Slaves & Masters is not a complete disaster because the songs were worked on. I give you my intuitive word. But it's totally redundant and doesn't add a single interesting idea to the Purple legacy. It rocks hard though, can't deny it. So if you're a fan of later period Scorpions and late period Rainbow, grab it grab it grab it and disregard my rating. Personally, I consider such records as eatable fodder that can be eaten only when there's nothing better lying around. It's not SHIT (apart from 'Love Conquers All' - you'll hardly be able to move me on THAT one!). But why, oh why can't I remember a single one of those songs? I must really have a bad memory...



Year Of Release: 1993
Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 7

More 'Perfect Strangers', albeit with a slight emphasis on the guitars this time. Production sucks, as usual.

Best song: ONE MAN'S MEAT

Track listing: 1) The Battle Rages On; 2) Lick It Up; 3) Anya; 4) Talk About Love; 5) Time To Kill; 6) Ramshackle Man; 7) A Twist In The Tale; 8) Nasty Piece Of Work; 9) Solitaire; 10) One Man's Meat.

Slaves & Masters were a predictable disaster - it was obvious that this particular change of stylistics didn't benefit the stagnant Purple one bit, so Turner was fired and the band decided to get Gillan back. Thus the line-up for Battle is the classic one again; unfortunately, it doesn't really lead to a classic result.

The usual critique of this period is always based on the rough relations between Ian and Ritchie; they never gelled fine, and it was more or less evident that Ritchie wouldn't last long in the band after he'd been overruled by his pals insisting on Gillan's return. After all, he spent a lot of energy and zest in the past years to kick Gillan out of the band twice - and now his pals were clearly intending that Gillan's presence in the band was almost more essential to its existence than Blackmore's own. So they spent quite a lot of time fighting and quarrelling and everything, until finally Blackmore called it quits (there's a great story about him demonstratively ripping to shreds his Japanese visa when they were all but ready to embark on the tour), and he's probably never coming back any more. Replaced by Steve Morse, for all and eternity.

Nevertheless, this here album is still a Blackmore/Gillan collaboration. And I must say that I don't really see how the main flaw on here could have been their endless battles in the studio. Actually, the guitar work is quite fine - Blackmore rips it up on some cleverly constructed riffs and adds typical flashy solos everywhere; and the vocals are buried a bit down in the mix, but then again, so were the vocals on Fireball. For me, the major problems preventing me from really liking the work are more or less the same as on the band's Eighties records. First of all, the pace is again dreadfully slow - nearly every song is midtempo, rolling along at a relaxed, monotonous pace, and even the breaks between tunes are hard to notice. Second, the same PS formula is used again: each and every guitar riff is steadily accompanied by an annoying, banal synth/organ pattern. I hate that. On their early records the band could utilise all their instruments carefully, making each of them sound independently of one another and at the same time contributing greatly to the sound. You could concentrate on the fire of Blackmore's guitar or the dizziness of Lord's 'dirty' organ playing, or you could just be amazed how well they blend with each other. Here it's practically impossible to follow any single instrument - they are all meshed into a sludgey, uninspiring, lethargic mess that only pretends to be 'rock'n'roll' but is really stupid, formulaic adult pop with a lot of added distortion. Or, if you wish, it's simply sleazy, megalithic 'heavy metal' with not an ounce of creativity or fire, clearly recorded exclusively under the pressure to put out new and new product. Typical example: Blackmore solos. I can't really imagine myself missing a Blackmore solo on the early records, but I clearly don't give a damn about his solos on here. And why? Because they're so darn muddy! And they're all obscured with the naggin' synth patterns - like tiny speckles of gold you have to sift out of endless tons of ore.

A couple of these tunes can probably stand up to time. The title track, built on what might be the best riff on here, is well worth hearing just because of the riff and the powerful scream 'THE BATTLE RAGES ON!' It really has a powerful feel to it, although speeding things up wouldn't hurt either. But once you heard the title track, you've heard them all: 'Lick It Up', 'Talk About Love' and a handful other tunes are built according to exactly the same pattern, but they lack impressive riffage and are thus completely dismissable. 'Anya' is the only song that could be called 'standing out' on the record: not really a ballad, rather a memorable synth rocker with an Eastern-influenced mystical feel; no wonder that the main riff of the song is a total rip-off of 'Strangeways' from House Of Blue Light. The lyrics are absolute mushy gibberish, though: something about a girl with the Russian name Anya who has gypsy blood and for some reason deserves a delicate acoustic intro where Blackmore plays some fine Spanish guitar. Either way, what should I really have to do with this 'Strangeways' rip-off? Ridiculous.

So when the best track on record - 'One Man's Meat' - suddenly falls on you at the tail end of the album, it's something like a completely unexpected surprise. In style, it's actually much closer to the next mark of Purple, the one with Steve Morse: the guitar riff isn't at all spoiled, as this time around Lord's keyboards are pushed deep in the background, and the song is completely guitar-dominated, with elements of heavy funk and a good, memorable melody. Gillan even pulls out his harmonica at the end, a thing that he really never abused on this record.

Still, like I said in a million previous cases, one song never makes an album. None of the other stuff is really that offensive, although sometimes Gillan's grating, whiny vocals really get on my nerves; and if you turn the volume up REAL REAL LOUD, you probably won't be lulled to sleep until the third or fourth song comes along. That's why I still give it an overall rating of 7 - 'bad', but not 'horrendous'. That's what it is. Now go get yourself a pizza and a used copy of Fireball and forget all about this crap. Sometimes I really wonder - why do people keep pumping out pleonastic and totally unnecessary 'product' when it's obvious that they really do not wanna do it?



Year Of Release: 1993
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Quick, find ten dissimilarities with 'Nobody's Perfect'? At a loss already?


Track listing: 1) Highway Star; 2) Black Night; 3) A Twist In The Tale; 4) Perfect Strangers; 5) Anyone's Daughter; 6) Child In Time; 7) Anya; 8) Speed King; 9) Smoke On The Water.

I don't have the LEAST idea why anyone in the world but the most rabid Purple historian would be interested in purchasing this album. Okay, so I can justify people actually owning Nobody's Perfect. It does seem curious to witness the classic Blackmore/Lord/Gillan line-up play more than fifteen years after their peak; the actual results might not be glorious, but at least you gotta own that stuff to draw your own conclusions about whether Blackmore plays with as much fire as earlier or whether Gillan's new voice actually bothers you or not, or whether the band actually has some FIRE left. But this live album, recorded on the Battle Rages On tour, is totally expendable. It's the same lineup - personally, I would even be more interested in a Joe Lynn Turner line-up live album, had it ever existed, just to see if the guy was able to fuck up the old Purple classics even worse than Mr Coverdale used to do.

But no. Gillan goes on the killing spree again, with his voice not any better or any worse than it was on Nobody's Perfect. Maybe a little worse, because he tends to overscream at times, and each time he overscreams, I can feel a dozen knives stuck all over my body. Ever played "Leisure Suit Larry V"? If you did, you'll certainly remember that every time you make poor Larry put his hand into an electric outlet, just for some sadistic fun, he gets thrown back against the wall while uttering something like "EEEEEEEEYYYAAAAAAAUUUWWW" in the most shiver-sending shriek of agony ever recorded. Well, now I know where they lifted that scream from. They lifted it from the final scream Gillan emits while teasing the audience at the end of 'Smoke On The Water'.

That should give you an approximate idea of the album. Ritchie's heart clearly is not in it. Gillan does seem to be having some fun, though, but I could care less - and the annoying toying with the audience on 'Black Night' and 'Smoke On The Water' really gets on my nerves. I could easily do without 'Smoke On The Water' anyway; this time, it's ten minutes long, but not because Ritchie pulls out tricks or anything - just because Gillan leads the crowds in their endless chanting of the refrain, before a minute-long 'coda' which just consists of the riff repeated over and over again till it really gets sick. And it goes without saying that one more self-indulgent version of 'Child In Time' is one too many.

Again, this doesn't mean it's really such a shitty album. It's... okay, I guess. No bad songs, and anyway I'm supposed to be reviewing records not based on how they sound in relation to the others. If it's your only DP live album, you might even love it. Who knows. If it's not, well... of course, there's always supposed to be a few surprises, right? Here, surprises include two songs from the recent album - 'A Twist In The Tale' and 'Anya', both of which are done in a decent way and, again, for me they almost sound fresher than the classics... heck, that's because they are fresher. They also do 'Perfect Strangers', which is strange for me - I kinda used to think they dropped all the songs from that, er, 'album', but Lord just seems to love that 'Kashmir'-like Eastern synth flavour, so... The decision still sucks, because 'Perfect Strangers' and 'Anya' are done in the same style, so add some monotonousness to all the already mentioned problems.

The biggest surprise, of course, is the inclusion of 'Anyone's Daughter' from Fireball. It's been marked as 'best song' here, although, of course, it ain't the best as far as melody is concerned. It's just that it is particularly refreshing to see them actually try out something that wouldn't be regarded as a nostalgic tribute to the fans or straightforward promotion of the newer stuff. It also comes out great as far as vocal delivery is concerned because it's the only song here that doesn't force Gillan to strain his rapidly Brian Johnson-ified voice. By the way, did I ever mention that when Ian just talks on stage, he's got one of the best stage-bantering voices? Cool, soft, yet stern and intelligent. It's only when he begins to force his poor vocal cords that my hand reaches out for the alms...

Too bad no other 'surprises' are included. Actually, since Blackmore's departure Deep Purple have much improved as a live band, performing all kinds of rare 'n' precious stuff like 'Pictures Of Home', etc., and dropping some of the obligatory crowd-pleasers, out of respect for the songs, I'd guess. But in 1993, despite having the classic line-up and all, they were really at the end of the rope, with personalities clashing, etc. If Come Hell Or High Water really reflects the setlist and the average energy level at the time, I can only pity the poor unsuspecting fans that had attended these concerts hoping for the old magic.

Plus, the record certainly features one of the all-time worst Deep Purple album covers. Gillan looks just hideous. And he looks little better on the back cover. If I were him, I'd stop being such an inoffensive jerk and sue the photograph. Oh, wait, I forgot that the album sleeve must have probably been approved by Gillan himself... what an offensive jerk. No wonder Blackmore kept slapping him in the face with spaghetti.



Year Of Release: 1996
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Maybe they're not as "substantial" as before (not a good word, I know), but at least they're still able to put out a decent heavy metal album in the Nineties.


Track listing: 1) Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic; 2) Loosen My String; 3) Soon Forgotten; 4) Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming; 5) Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover; 6) The Aviator; 7) Rosa's Cantina; 8) A Castle Full Of Rascals; 9) A Touch Away; 10) Hey Cisco; 11) Somebody Stole My Guitar; 12) The Purpendicular Waltz.

The Purpendicular lineup, with Steve Morse replacing Ritchie on guitars, seems to be the band's most stable since the early years of Mark II - and they're probably going to stay like that until the end, unless Blackmore gets sick and tired again and begs the rest of the band to get him in again, on bended knees. But somehow I doubt this is going to happen - the late Eighties/early Nineties have amply demonstrated Blackmore and Gillan's incompatibility.

Anyway, who the hell cares? When the opening funky, dirty, throbbing licks of 'Ted The Mechanic' hit you in the face, it's like you're born again (and no, this is not a masked reference to Gillan's humiliating Black Sabbath period). Steve is an exceptional guitarist indeed, and if anything, he's far too immaculate for me - rising to almost robotic heights at certain times. I loved Ritchie as he was, with all his blurts and mistakes; in my opinion, he had a real, living drive which Steve substitutes for an ideal, virtually impeccable technique. The solos on 'Ted The Mechanic' and 'Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover' are astonishing, from a professional point of view, but the problem is, there are far too many impeccable guitarists in the world nowadays. Dang, almost every generic metal band has an impeccable guitarist; you simply have to be 'not like everybody else' to stand out. And Steve, well, he's probably unlike many, but not unlike anybody else. Actually, if you're searching for something distinctive, better look for it amidst the riffage, not in the solos. Because the riffs here are good - concise, cleverly crafted and creative, and never concealed behind a barrage of power chords as is so usual in the world of metal.

Well, I'd probably say that the record doesn't really live up to the promise of 'Ted The Mechanic' - that funky, mastodontic groove is never recaptured as perfectly in any of the other numbers - but it's still enjoyable, and arguably the band's most entertaining effort since Machine Head, and hey, that one was twenty four years ago. It took a long time, dudes. Some reviewer whose opinion I've met on the Web said that this is actually closer in style to Fireball, and I enthusiastically agree. I mean, there are no obvious smoking highlights here, like 'Highway Star', or 'Child In Time', or 'Smoke On The Water', and the songs don't tear your soul apart - the energy level is pretty low (not in a bad sense of the word) even on the more hard-rocking numbers, and the hooks are rare and barely noticeable. It is, indeed, more in the Fireball tradition: moderate, non-cathartic or ecstatic, but solid and increasingly rewarding with every next listen. In fact, I didn't pay much attention to it first time around, but it grows and grows on me and is actually still growing even now as I'm typing this review and the dark, ominous mood of the grizzly 'Rosa's Cantina' is setting in. In the end, it's actually a bit better than Fireball - crafted like a really tight, indomitable monster, with next to no missteps along the way.

Although a couple of the numbers I could easily live without on here. Notably, the band doesn't do well with power ballads: I mean, the genre itself is so miserable, right? How many impressive power ballads have you actually heard in your life? Of course, the genre runs the gamut of brilliant, from Queen's 'The Show Must Go On' to vomit-inducing, like Aerosmith's 'Crying', but overall it's just painfully generic, and 'Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming' is no exception: long, essentially boring and, of course, containing a 'climactic' solo from Steve that sounds just like all the 'climactic' solos in power ballads. Some of the more straightforward rockers also sound insecure and inferior in the light of all the better stuff: 'Somebody Stole My Guitar' and 'A Castle Full Of Rascals', for instance, are highly average, and the only good things that can be said about them is that Steve never allows the songs to be transformed into a horrible tuneless mess - the riffage is solid (even if it reminds me of an uninspired Tony Iommi trying to come up with a real song).

However, no sooner do they speed up the pace that a half-classic is born: 'Ted The Mechanic', 'Rosa's Cantina' and 'Hey Cisco' are wonderful, brave stabs at recreating the 'speed groove' of the early Deep Purple, and even if early Deep Purple is impossible to recreate without Ritchie (not that he was ever intent on doing that himself), they do come close. Perhaps the greatest flaw is not Steve Morse, but Ian, whose fading vocals just can't compare to the powerful screaming of old: after all, what could you expect of his old whiny wheeze? Not that his singing is bad - it's just so sad when you think of how outstanding he used to be... I guess my feelings could be better if I ever could forget the past, but unfortunately, I can't do that.

Nevertheless, these rockers are superb. And the few 'experimental' grooves work all right, too - the strange, complex time signatures on 'Soon Forgotten', accompanied by Morse's guitar howls, really set up a special atmosphere. The two 'non-power ballads', 'Aviator' and 'A Touch Away', add a nice breath of diversity, and both have cute little poppy melodies - again, not great ones, but interesting, and proving that Purple are still a force to be reckoned with in the songwriting department. A minor force, perhaps, but where are the major ones? Gone they are. Finally, the album closes on yet another booming note ('The Purpendicular Waltz', another weird rocker, with Gillan doing an outstanding job on harmonica and more tricky time signatures again - just listen to Ian Paice keeping the time), and you're left with the kind of feeling that a hungry working man gets after chewing up his average dinner: not in seventh heaven, maybe, but full and satisfied. Undeniably, this is the best the old boys could weed out of themselves after all these years, and kudos to them for that.

In conclusion, I'll just say that I wasn't right by placing the main emphasis exclusively on Mr Morse. Everybody's superb: Glover's bass still keeps beating out the shit of the amplifiers, Lord is still able to play a mean organ, and Paice hasn't lost a thing. Actually, Paice has to be considered one of rock's most underrated drummers ever - his technique is incredibly impressive once you gave it a good scrutinizing. Not everybody can do these stunts on 'Purpendicular Waltz', that's for sure.



Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

You know, it's actually an important release. Despite being live again.


Track listing: 1) Fireball; 2) Maybe I'm A Leo; 3) Ted The Mechanic; 4) Pictures Of Home; 5) Black Night; 6) Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover; 7) Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming; 8) Woman From Tokyo; 9) No One Came; 10) The Purpendicular Waltz; 11) Rosa's Cantina; 12) Smoke On The Water; 13) When A Blind Man Cries; 14) Speed King; 15) Perfect Strangers; 16) Hey Cisco; 17) Highway Star.

Years may come and years may go, and birds will fly away to Africa and get back and fly away again and get back again and become catfood, and your parents may go to Heaven and your government may go to Hell, and you may grow up and get a family, but one thing you can always be sure of: whenever you're ready for it, you may visit your nearest big record store, and they will have a brand new shiny "Deep Purple Live" album out there. As Bob Dylan once sang, "You may be from eighty-four, or from ninety-eight/You may be from two thousand and twelve, who cares, it's never too late/You may be recorded in Scandinavia or at the California Jam/May be recorded in Tokyo, may even in the heart of Vietnam/But you're gonna be a new Deep Purple live album/Yes indeed you're gonna be a new Deep Purple live album/Well you may be ass-kicking/Or you may be a bowl of shit/But you're gonna be a new Deep Purple live album". This was, of course, followed by three thousand more verses but I can't be expected to remember them all. Maybe Purple completists will help.

Anyway, this one was recorded... hold on, let me open me booklet... okay, this is what the info-avid booklet tells me: "Live at the Olympia. Paris. 17th June 1996". Gee, I hope it wasn't too hot in Paris in June '96. Obviously and naturally, this is the Purpendicular lineup, and what does that mean? I know! It means they're playing lots of songs from Purpendicular. And why are they doing that? This is a complex question, so I'll answer it in test form. (A): Because they have forgotten most of the old songs. (B): Because Steve Morse hates impersonating Ritchie Blackmore. (C): Because they like the new album very much. (D): Because they want many many many French guys to buy many many many copies of their new album. Ready, set, go!

Not that there's anything wrong with buying many copies of Purpendicular. (Whoops, gave away the answer so soon. Impatience kills). It's a damn good record. And not that there's anything wrong about playing material from that album, although 'Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming' still makes me feel like screaming. Sometimes. In fact, personally, I would invite them to go one step further and eliminate the following songs from their regular setlist: a) 'Speed King' (should be retained only under the condition that they let Ronnie James Dio guest star on it), b) 'Smoke On The Water' (I can sign a paper that officially states it is the greatest song ever recorded if only that makes them drop it from the setlist), c) 'Woman From Tokyo' (the greatest Bad Company anthem that Bad Company never wrote - Gillan and Co. should have gotten the hint long ago and transferred the rights over to Paul Rodgers and his croonies).

Leave 'Highway Star', though. It closes this here set, and not only does it close the set on a kick-ass, not-an-iota-tired note, it's also exquisitely interesting due to Steve's guitar work. Everybody knows what to expect of Jon Lord for this performance, and everybody knows that Gillan's aged whining is a necessary evil you have to forget about in order to prolong your life, but I guess nobody imagined how the guitar parts in that song would sound until the actual moment that Mr Morse demonstrated it. And you know what? If any definitive proof was needed about Steve being ten times as technically accomplished as Blackmore, this performance nails it. Our favourite finger-flasher actually starts ear-dazzling fretboard runs way before the finger-flashing part in the solo section, and when he gets around to that, he doesn't make a single mistake in the sequence: the lightning-speed solo is smoother than a baby's bottom, whereas in Ritchie's hands it always sounded kinda... er, ragged, if that's the right word.

Don't get me wrong, though: I'm not saying Steve is a better player when tackling classic Purple material. Classic Purple material will, pretty much for eternity, be associated with Blackmore's "ragged" style, which was cruder and less glitz-like professional, but also displayed feeling and aggressive spontaneity much better than this technically amazing, but spiritually somewhat lacking performance. Steve's playing is way too clean to reflect the true essence of classic Purple. On the positive side, it's still a lot of fun, and, still more important, it is a definitive improvement over the somewhat lacklustre performing from Ritchie himself in latter years (especially on Come Hell Or High Water) - there is certainly a lot of enthusiasm here.

Considering that Gillan's vocals, unfortunately, do not get better with age, and that for most of the album Jon Lord plays a rather supportive role, this double-disc performance is primarily a showcase for Steve. And what a showcase! He's the one guy who's truly delighted to be on the friggin' stage. The Purpendicular numbers are mostly done by-the-book (carefully preserving all the delicious and/or unbelievable guitar tricks he did in the studio), and the "oldies" are either done justice or even improved upon. 'Perfect Strangers', in particular, never sounded that good, with less emphasis on the solemn keyboards and more emphasis on the ravaging guitar, so that for the first few minutes, until the familiar 'Kashmir'-like patterns actually were introduced, I almost failed to recognize the song.

Going back to my complaints about the 'eternal chestnuts' that could have been dropped, if not from the show, then from the live album at least, I am happy to notice that Purple have finally dropped 'Child In Time' from the setlist - once and for all, so it seems. In its place, they unearthed and reinstated several "forgotten" songs - doing such second-rate but still extremely respectable numbers as 'Pictures Of Home' and 'Maybe I'm A Leo' from Machinehead and even - go figure - 'No One Came' from Fireball! For the latter, by the way, they recruited a troop of three local French horn players, who also join them for several other performances. Surprisingly, the horns fit in pretty nicely with the songs, although, of course, it would do no good to "Vegas-ize" the entire show.

Overall, it's probably the band's best live album since classic Mark II; only some of the most fiery moments of the Tommy Bolin period (Russian Foxbat, in particular) could give some competition. And that's good to know. Not that it really makes me want to see the show, but I'll be the first to admit that this must have been a pretty good show. And it goes without saying that, whatever one might think of Blackmore as the founding father of the band and all, his final departure really served as a solid adrenaline injection for Purple. They're actually having fun out there, not merely raising the obligatory, proverbial, commonplace Hell (or high water, for that matter).



Year Of Release: 1998
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Gritty and flashy, without too much diversity, but who asked these guys to be diverse, after all?


Track listing: 1) Any Fule Kno That; 2) Almost Human; 3) Don't Make Me Happy; 4) Seventh Heaven; 5) Watching The Sky; 6) Fingers To The Bone; 7) Jack Ruby; 8) She Was; 9) Whatsername; 10) '69; 11) Evil Louie; 12) Bludsucker.

Very similar in tone and style to Purpendicular, but not exactly a carbon copy. I originally gave both records the same rating (with a slight reassessment of Purpendicular a few years later), but that was because Abandon is at the same time better and worse. When I first threw it into the deck, I was simply blown away. I said, 'wow! Whoever heard of a thirty-year old hard rock band that manages to rock JUST AS HARD as thirty years ago and maybe more without repeating the same tired pattern over and over? A nine, hell, maybe a ten, right here and now!' However, as I was moving deeper and deeper into the heart of the record, I felt more and more bored; somewhere around tracks 8 or 9 the boredom reached a climax and I just had to take it off. It got better, eventually, and ending the record with a re-make of 'Bloodsucker' (now and forever known as 'Bludsucker') was a brilliant idea, but I still have some problems with sitting through the whole record from beginning to end.

The big improvement in quality from the previous record is that the band has finally perfectly gelled together. No doubt, this had a lot to do with Purple's endless touring in the mid-Nineties: out of all the dinosaur rockers, they are probably the most active and energetic band to remind the world of their existence at the turn of the century. Not a single song here sounds half-finished or too raw or too insecure: these guys know perfectly well where they want to go and what they want to do. And this time, they never sound strained: Steve Morse's fabulous lead guitar work fits in with the organ and the bass and the drums to a tee. Plus, it never looks like generic heavy metal: distortion and loudness are never abused, and the riffs are all, once again, precise and catchy.

The falldown, then, is in that Abandon was certainly designed as a 'pull-no-stops' heavy metal record, and the style is pretty monotonous. Nearly every following track sets the same formula: a trademark hard riff around which the band flash their patented tricks - Steve's fluid solos, Gillan's screechy and, let's face it, grating vocals, Lord's dirty organ and Paice's impeccable drumming. Two of the songs step away from the formula: 'Don't Make Me Happy' is a power ballad, and not a very interesting at that (the best moment is Steve's weird Santana-esque soloing), and 'Watching The Sky' cleverly alternates melancholic, slow, moody passages with the usual gruff, chaotic noisefests. Apart from that, it's all your well-known bash-a-thon. And here is where the differences between the old Purple and the new Purple finally become obvious: while I never got tired of the incessant bash-a-thon on, say, Deep Purple In Rock, Abandon's bash-a-thon is a bit hard for me to swallow in one entire gulp. This certainly has to do with two factors. First, Gillan's shot vocals really don't add much to the excitement: previously one of the most expressive and enthralling singers ever, Ian now has trouble while even singing soft, tender passages, let alone the furious screeching on the harder ones. Second, much as I respect Steve Morse, these riffs are still somewhat generic and they don't really grab me. Songs like the slow, boring 'Fingers To The Bone', or the stupid and completely unoriginal 'Jack Ruby', just don't make me all that happy. Actually, almost the entire second half of the record is forgettable: once you've played it straight in a row, you won't really be wanting to hear it again if you have the alternative to put on Machine Head instead. Most of the songs there are far too similar to each other to be that enjoyable; heck, they're all mid-tempo! How do you expect to get away with that, when 'She Was' and 'Whatsername' are basically the same number, with slight cosmetic differences?

Aw yeah, all right. Let's pay attention to the good stuff instead - there's plenty. Actually, it's the same case as with Purpendicular: they only need to speed it up and the result is heavy metal nirvana for everyone involved. 'Any Fule Kno That' (sic!) is a blistering rocker with elements of rap thrown in, but I manage not to notice that, cuz it's so funky and exciting anyway, and 'Almost Human' nearly matches it in terms of grooviness. I do, in fact, enjoy that type of bouncy rhythm playing which Steve brought into Purple: Blackmore never played like that, preferring to make all his notes equally strong, while Steve brings in all that terrific funk and thus makes Purple step away from generic metal. '69' is also one groovy number, almost punkish in its speed and destructiveness; the riff which underpins it is one of Steve's best. Also, like I said, the 'ballads' are quite good. And what about that closing 'cover' of 'Bloodsucker'? Well, here's a good polygon to compare the Gillan of old with the new Gillan - to give him credit, he can still sing the 'WAAAH-NO-NO-NOOOO' line, although with just about half as much conviction and aweful force as before. Elsewhere, they render the song just as crunchy and breathtaking as before, with Steve not necessarily imitating Ritchie's solos, but throwing in some of his own, and even Lord does not repeat himself. Nostalgic? Unnecessary? Perhaps, but what a great way to close the album after all that average midtempo metal in the second half...

In any case, I must say that this is not a real disappointment, the record. After all, one must pay their due to Purple: hell, they are the ONLY heavy metal band with a thirty year legacy behind them to rock as hard and genuinely as they do now (not convinced? just look at Aerosmith or Black Sabbath or whatever Jimmy Page is currently up to!) In that sense, Abandon is just as much of a masterpiece as Purpendicular; amazing, simply amazing how the guys still hold on. Okay, so it's often boring; so what? Nothing on here, and I mean nothing, is offensive, or unprofessional, or just bad. With a little bit more variety, and a bit more vocal practice (Ian really has to work harder than that), they have every single chance to make their next album a minor chef-d'oeuvre of Nineties 'retro' metal, or, since their next album isn't coming out any time soon, to be the pioneers of the Third Millenium Heavy Metal, whatever it is going to look like. My bets are on these guys; let's wait and see. Unless, of course, they all die of measles next year, in which case I have no hopes for heavy metal at all.



Year Of Release: 2003
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

It's great! Because there ain't no bananas in it!

Best song: impossible to determine. Frustratingly even.

Track listing: 1) House Of Pain; 2) Sun Goes Down; 3) Haunted; 4) Razzle Dazzle; 5) Silver Tongue; 6) Walk On; 7) Picture Of Innocence; 8) I Got Your Number; 9) Never A Word; 10) Bananas; 11) Doing It Tonight; 12) Contact Lost.

Do you like defying your fortune? I do - sometimes. Meaning that from time to time you suddenly get the impulse to do something you not only don't want to do, but actively feel against doing because, well, it's just not like you to do it. Like taking your family for a walk when the last time you did that was years ago. Or doing ten push-ups when the last time you got some exercise was when the elevator broke down. Maybe it's not exactly defying your fortune (because nobody knows what your particular fortune has got in its particular store for you), but at least it's going against the motherfuckin' grain. In any case, it's cool to be doing something no-one ever expected of you. Including yourself.

This is exactly what happened with this album, I think. "Oh no, not another Deep Purple release". Who cares if their last two albums were somewhat rejuvenated? They're still boring old farts. To tell the truth, I didn't even notice at first that there was a time gap of five years between Abandon and Bananas - quite a respectable period that would certainly allow for a mature effort to, well, mature during all that time. To me, it was just another cash-in. And so was it to lots of other people, judging by some of the reviews I've read. Not to mention that in the meantime, Deep Purple managed to do lots of silly things, like do another one or two Moscow concerts (look, I love my city, but I don't think it needs a Deep Purple concert every second year or so when they couldn't even get the Stones more than once), as well as - in the most sadistic way imaginable by mankind - decapitate, dismember and consume their keyboardist. Yes, that's right, Jon Lord is finally out of the picture - the glue that held it all together for thirty years is no longer. Which leaves us with, hmm, Ian Paice as the only original member. He's cool, he bashes like the devil and I've always admired his spectacles, but he's not exactly the musical backbone of this outfit, if you know what I mean. Not to mention Jon Lord's permanent replacement is the Rainbow/Sabbath/Purple-family ronin Don Airey, whose yucky synths I remember as a trademark element of classic Ozzy Osbourne material.

Good. The stage is set. The result? The result goes against the grain. Against everything, in fact. The result is one of the best Purple albums ever. Maybe it's not quite on par with In Rock and Machine Head (I'd give it an 11.5, actually, were I even more anal about my ratings), but it's hard to tell because they have different goals. The 70s albums were about youthful ecstasy and innovation. This one is more about unnerving professionalism, careful craft and thorough quality control. It's definitely an album made by old people - but that doesn't mean it has no appeal towards the young 'uns. As long as reckless headbanging is not the only thing these young 'uns care for, that is.

Twelve songs, nary a stinker. Nothing that makes me go "WOW!". No, they can't do it any longer. That kind of spark is gone. In fact, I was kinda bored first time around. But then you start noticing that, in fact, every song has something to offer, even if none of them are "revelations". And they have lots of different things to offer, too! Some people have said that this is a conscious attempt to recapture some of the classic Seventies' sound, and yes, it is - at least, as far as the first track is concerned. But it also has a lot of trademark Steve Morse elements to it, making it a delicious potpourri of both the In Rock and the Purpendicular styles. And it has new things - tiny elements of blues, gospel, and even rap that I haven't seen on previous Purple albums. Plus, all the musicians are in top form - Steve especially is keen to prove that not only is he a master of his own style, he can effortlessly make a transition into other styles as well. And I don't know, maybe the Don Airey guy did want to bring his yucky synths with him, but they probably poured oil on them and burnt them saying: "We don't want you to sound like Jon did on Perfect Strangers no longer". In fact, I think he's got more piano work and organ work on here than annoying synth parts (where there are synths, they're mainly pushed into the background).

It's dang hard to pick out highlights. 'House Of Pain' is the kind of song that could have saved Who Do We Think We Are thirty years earlier - yes, Deep Purple can make a balls-to-the-wall mid-tempo rocker without sounding boring and slight, even if the melody is essentially generic blues-rock. Gillan has just enough tension in his vocal delivery without the vocal part transforming into the infamous This Piglet Is About To Die aria, Morse's solo is fluent and funky, and the backup vocals ('back to the house of pain, back to the house of pain!') are hilarious. 'Sun Goes Down' probably marks the most effective use of the wall-of-sound approach in Purple history. 'Razzle-Dazzle', as the title suggests, is a fun fun fun kind of romp - yeah, mid-tempo again, but who can resist it when the guys are obviously having so much fun recording the song? The transition between the "pompous" verses and the "robo-metal" part of the chorus is seamless.

Morse really steps into his own on such tracks as the "robo-funky" 'Silver Tongue' and the chuggin' 'Picture Of Innocence' - these two rank up there along with the best material off Purpendicular. What amazes me about these songs, as well as the even better 'I Got Your Number', is that the melodies are relatively simple and, in fact, I don't think they had all that much to compose, yet it all sounds so natural, so fresh, and so entertaining. Maybe I'm wrong about giving out such a high rating - maybe these guys can really do all this stuff in their sleep, cuz they're professionals and all. But then again, maybe it's not just the professionalism that counts. Maybe it's a question of taste as well, as pretty much everything on here is done in what, to me, looks like the perfect taste. No overdoing it, no underdoing it. No showing off, none of the "we can still do it!" approach. And no half-assing either. Just plain good stuff.

In fact, if I haven't put this point plain enough, here's more proof to you. There are two ballads on this album, and the default situation would be that they would have to suck. BUT. 'Haunted' is not just any power ballad. It's not really a power ballad, in fact. It's more of a gospel song, as made clear by Beth Hart's pretty backing vocals and awesome string arrangements courtesy of Paul Buckmaster (yeah, they knew the perfect man for the job, didn't they?). And it's beautiful, in a way. And I haven't even mentioned Morse's excellent solo yet, the best thing about which is the way it "interacts" with Buckmaster's string arrangements. I know that on paper a chorus like 'I'm haunted, haunted, is that what you wanted?' will look unbearably stupid, but don't pronounce final judgement until you hear the song. And the second ballad, 'Never A Word', is a quiet folksy instrumental, mostly relying on Morse's pretty acoustic theme; only later on does Gillan add some equally quiet and humble verses, singing in a strangely encoded falsetto. Did you expect that? I didn't.

One song that might not please everybody is the seven-minute blues workout of 'Walk On', but I have to warn you that I adore it. It's more solo Clapton than Deep Purple, but first of all, I have nothing (in theory) against solo Clapton, and second, it still has enough of that subdued, but still mean nitty-grittiness to it to make it interesting all the way through. Including the guitar soloing.

In short, this is the kind of album I expect from every artist who's carried on for so long he's had enough of being "great" but still wants to release albums. I've got enough useless pieces of plastic of washed up superstars sitting in my collection; what I'm really looking for is useful pieces of plastic. And this is a perfect example. I'm no Deep Purple diehard and I hardly even like 50% of their total studio output (well, not that I have ever counted), but Bananas is an album I'd heartily recommend to any General Music Lover with no remorse about it. (Or should that be no re-Morse about it? Sorry, that one was coming rather obviously). And don't you be confused about having a Deep Purple album called Bananas in your collection. Trust me: had they released an album called Gods Of Thunder And Lightning, chances are it would suck. Very, very badly.


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