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Crate Digger’s Gold: Deep Purple – Made In Japan

February 3, 2017

One of my earliest rock and roll memories is listening to an 8 Track of Deep Purple’s Machine Head in my camp counselor’s pick up truck. I would have been about twelve at the time.  I was pretty naive about rock and this album captured my imagination: it sounded wild, dangerous and forbidden.

Deep Purple was what we used to call heavy metal or hard rock.  They were part of the “unholy trinity” of British heavy metal (Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath).  For whatever reason, Zeppelin and Sabbath have never lost their cachet, but Deep Purple has fallen off the radar (it took until 2016 to get inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – a criminal omission – and at that date an insulting afterthought).  You can easily pick up this double LP in good condition for under $5 (it sold over 2 million copies in the US).  I paid $4 for a near mint copy, however it is a record club edition (these can sometimes be of dubious quality, but I got lucky this is a good one and sounds great).

Made In Japan, like Machine Head is the Mark II line up – the second and most commercially successful Deep Purple line-up: Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (keyboards, backing vocals), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums), and Ritchie Blackmore (guitar). It  is a live album featuring their best songs.

Deep Purple was epic because it had it all: great riffs, face melting guitar solos, thundering drums, seismic bass,  the devil’s organ and classic hard rock vocals.  But none of that would have mattered if they didn’t have great songs – Deep Purple had great songs.   

I remember a few years ago, a friend of my son, called me up and asked me why the vintage vinyl double album he just bought had odd side numberings.  The flip side of side one was side four and the flip side of side two was three.  There is a good reason.  Back in the day there used to be a kind of turntable called a “changer.”  With a changer you would stack several records on a spindle and it would play multiple records in sequence without user intervention. Often double albums were designed with disk one with side one and four and disk two with a side two and three.  Then you could use a changer to play side one and two without having to get up to flip the record. Once those two sides were done you would flip both records without shuffling  and it would play sides three and four.

I was reminded by this when I was playing the LP version of Made In Japan and I was expecting to hear side two after the flip, but instead I heard side four. Instead of hearing the heavy metal classic “Smoke On The Water” I heard the equally classic “Space Truckin’.”  I knew it was wrong, but “Space Truckin'” live is such a great jam I had to hear it out.  A full side of glory.

Back to side one. It opens with a pretty close to the studio version of Machine Head’s “Highway Star.” Which is one of the most bad ass songs of the early heavy metal period. Ian Gillian’s vocals are perfect.  Richie Blackmore’s guitar solo would  not sound out-of-place in a Metallica show.  A great live presentation. This is followed by a more adventurous reading of “Child In Time” from Deep Purple in Rock. This is almost prog.  This is a great opportunity to hear what a great vocalist Ian Gillian is. He goes from a whisper to a scream.  And what a screamer Ian is. It is raw emotion. On par with anything Plant or Daltrey has done. And so blatantly British.  Again Blackmore let’s it rip.  I had forgotten how great he is.  Bluesy, but foreshadowing thrash. These guys are as good as Zeppelin.

Side two opens with the one song that will not allow Deep Purple to be forgotten: “Smoke On The Water” which is one of the greatest rock songs of all time.  One of the first and only riffs I ever learned on the electric guitar. That riff is so iconic and perfectly simple.  Blackmore had the ability to create both simple monster riffs and complex epic solos.

“The Mule” is from The Fireball. The song is famous for drummer Ian Paice’s live solos on this song. On this version he solos for about 6 minutes.  It is actually a pretty tight and engaging drum solo. The album has a nice stereo mix of the drum solo which is a bonus.

On to side three.  “Strange Kind Of Woman” is also from Fireball.  It is probably the most conventional blues boogie in the album.  Again Ian Gillan and Blackmore steal the show. There is a great volley back and forth between Blackmore and Gillian as Blackmore tears off a lick and Gillian imitates it with his voice.  The songs ends with a tremendous Gillian scream that must have inspired many a heavy metal vocalist.

Lazy is from Machine Head. The song opens with a spacy and trippy keyboard with a hint of garage rock before it finds a sweet jazzy groove.  Blackmore joins the groove with some funky guitar.  He introduces the riff gently and then the band explodes the riff and we have a heavy metal song.  Yet the song swings.  This is something that AC/DC must have been inspired by – as heavy as AC/DC is, they always swing. The song is playful as heck – something often missing in metal is fun and humor (again AC/DC never forgot that).

If you are not familiar with Deep Purple this would be a great introduction.  If you are a fan you probably already own it.  If you are a casual fan of classic rock, this need to be in your collection.  If you are a jam band fan you will appreciate the imaginative and stretched out arrangements of Deep Purple’s hits.  There is also a deluxe CD edition (also available on Spotify) that extends the album with an extra five songs.  I have not listened to that version – as I prefer to take the medicine in its original form.

  1. Thanks for reminding me what a great album this is. I’ll be putting it on my turn table tomorrow.

  2. I did not know that about the “odd side numbering s”. See why I come to your site. Makes CB smarter.

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