Made In Japan
Warner Brothers Records, 1973
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/30/2006
I remember hearing this for the first time at age 10 and thinking it was pretty cool.
Then, a couple of years ago, I noticed a gushing press release about a new Deep Purple album. The release stated that the band was one of the most important ever in defining the rock and metal art form. I scoffed at the time; the band set noise records, but that's about it. Still, they put on a great live show, and this disc proves it, holding up as one of the better live documents of the classic rock era.
Seven songs are spread over two albums, so it stands to reason there will be a lot of solos, and that occurs twice on the two nadirs of the record. "Highway Star" is a logical opener and supersedes the studio version; props to Ian Paice, an overlooked drummer in rock history, who really drives the song. "Smoke on the Water" is slightly extended with some organ and a longer introduction but remains essentially the same.
Singer Ian Gillan is in top form here, alternating between a rock growl, shrieks, a falsetto and a smooth ballad voice (on "Child In Time," he does all four). Although we take this for granted today, especially in the wake of Spinal Tap, Gillan really set the style for metal vocals, maybe more so than Robert Plant.
"Child In Time" uses Gillan's voice as an instrument against the moody ballad, which gives way to a Jon Lord organ solo, which then speeds the song up and features Blackmore's excellent soloing for three full minutes before ending how it began. Likewise, "Lazy" betters its studio counterpart - minus the annoying metallic keyboard screech at the beginning, the song is looser and funkier. "Strange Kind Of Woman" is carried off well too.
This leaves the two problems, "The Mule" and "Space Truckin'." So many live records insist on putting on the drum solo -- think "Moby Dick" or "Perpetual Change" -- and every time it's a momentum killer. Seeing the solo is great, but even the most talented drummer can't sustain interest for that long. However, Paice gives it all he's got, and it's not half bad...better than the interminable solo on "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," I suppose.
And "Space Truckin'" is awesome for five minutes and then falls apart. This one was definitely padded to allow all sorts of solos and to push its running time to 20 minutes, but it ends the album with a whimper because of this unnecessary length. Songs that are this long should be complete pieces, or at least offer more than just wanking around to kill time.
But on the whole, the record is loud, energetic and fun. It was also the last great album the band would ever make, and on that note it's a great way to mark a legacy.