Made In Japan
Warner Brothers Records, 1973
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/2001
At one time in my life, I considered Made In Japan by Deep Purple to be the ultimate live record ever released. It had it all to me: the music I loved in a setting I could only dream to have been part of. (For the record, I'm reviewing the original vinyl, not the expanded deluxe edition we're linking to with CDNow.)
But as time has passed, something has happened to my perception of this disc. As I listen to it now, some 15 years after I first bought it, Made In Japan doesn't seem to have the same snap to it. Now, what I hear is Ian Gillan and crew doing the same thing that so many bands in their time did - namely, stretch songs out far beyond their limits in order to try and get the most out of the tunes themselves. As my daddy told me once, there's only so much juice you can get out of an orange. (Of course, he was working on his tax return when he said that, so take it as you will.)
Touring behind their classic album Machine Head (which I still love), Deep Purple take seven songs and convert several Japanese audiences into true believers in their music. Of course, it's always great to hear some of these songs, and it is refreshing to hear that they're not always performed note for note compared to the studio versions.
But a few things catch my ears now that I'm older. For one thing, Ritchie Blackmore more often than not seems to flub some key guitar lines - though I can't tell whether they were done on purpose or not. Take, for example, the extended vamp on the intro to "Smoke On The Water". I hope that was intentional, 'cause if Blackmore screwed that up, he'd be the laughing stock of garage-band guitarists around the world. But, quite frankly, it doesn't sound natural - and Blackmore is known for being a perfectionist (not meant to be a slap towards Blackmore). Likewise, there are a few moments in the padded areas of songs like "Strange Kind Of Woman" and "Space Truckin'" that fall under the same pitfall.
The other thing that bothers me these days isn't totally Deep Purple's fault. Bands at this time in rock history often could stretch a song to twice its normal length - or more. (Sounds like an ad for a sexual device... no, no, wait, forget I said that.) "Space Truckin'" - a great song in and of itself - takes up about 20 minutes. I can appreciate this was the closing number and Deep Purple wanted to go out with a bang - but this one feels like it could have been cut in half and it would have been a tighter number.
Even with these flaws, though, Made In Japan has plenty of moments to celebrate. It's always a thrill to hear "Highway Star," and the versions of "Lazy" and "Child In Time" prove the studio versions of these tracks were no flukes.
Made In Japan is still considered to be one of the "must-own" albums in the Deep Purple discography, and I'm still glad I made the investment in this one all those years ago. But like many albums in its ilk, this one hasn't aged quite as gracefully as we'd all like to imagine.