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Deep Purple
The Vinyl Collection ('72-'87)


Artist: Deep Purple
Label: Universal Music Catalogue
Release Date: 29 January 2016

Universal Music releases Deep Purple: The Vinyl Collection ’72-’87 on to an unsuspecting public in early 2016. It is a luxury box set of classic albums remastered from the original tapes. They are also available separately. Seven classic Deep Purple albums on vinyl? What’s not to like? Anybody into Rock or Metal will know Deep Purple well. They were/are one of the early greats which evolved the sixties Psychedelia and Blues into seventies Classic Rock and Metal. The albums on parade here are Machine Head, Who Do We Think We Are?, Burn, Stormbringer, Come Taste the Band, Perfect Strangers, and The House of the Blue Light.

The first thing which comes to mind is the curiously illogical choice of titles in this collection. The fact that four of the seven albums feature the Mark II line-up of Blackmore, Lord, Gillan, Glover and Paice, I would have thought it preferable to stick with that by substituting Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band, with In Rock, Fireball and Made in Japan – the two releases which immediately preceded Machine Head, and the brilliant live album which followed it. As In Rock is my favourite Purple studio album and Fireball is pretty fine, too, I was somewhat disappointed that these two weren’t included. And as for Made in Japan… it’s a timeless classic. However, it’s no use dwelling on what might have been, so let’s study what we do have.

Machine Head is first, and it’s no surprise that it’s usually first on every fan’s lips. It’s hard-edged, has plenty of originality, and showcases the level of individual talent in the band. We all rattle 'Highway Star', 'Space Truckin’', and 'Lazy' off the tops of our heads (oh, and a little ditty called 'Smoke on the Water') but, personally, I think the stand-out track is 'Pictures of Home' – which has never really been given the recognition it deserves. The oddball here is undoubtedly 'Maybe I’m a Leo', the style of which would fit more comfortably with Who Do We Think We Are? This album is treated like a mistake by a lot of people, but that’s more than a little unfair as there is much to enjoy here. Nearly every Rock fan will know 'Woman From Tokyo', which is probably the track that should have been on Machine Head instead of 'Maybe I’m a Leo'. The musical content (or the feel, if you like) noticeably changed for this album, becoming lighter, with more Blues, and certainly injecting more fun into the formula. This was when the allegedly mega-egos of Blackmore and Gillan clashed big-time, culminating in Gillan leaving the fold. It was said that Gillan’s song 'Smooth Dancer' (or at least some of the lyrics) was a dig at Blackmore. I still love the tracks 'Place in Line', and 'Rat Bat Blue' from this release. One more thing worth mentioning is the more prominent keyboard levels. Jon Lord was, in my opinion, the greatest Rock and Metal keyboard player ever, so I would never complain about some deservedly longer solos.

Enter David Coverdale and the Mark III line-up of Purple. Coverdale’s voice is quite different to Gillan’s. Whereas Gillan’s fits a harsher Hard Rock sound, the young Coverdale’s is deeper and smoother, connecting with Rhythm and Blues infused with a little soul. Nevertheless, the album Burn kicks-off with the title track, a powerful song which motors along giving 'Highway Star' a run for its money. The other stand-out track is 'Mistreated', which is a great, moderate-paced Blues that brings Blackmore to life again. What I don’t like about this album is Glen Hughes, who replaced Roger Glover on bass. I know he has a lot of fans and has stood the test of time, but I just can’t get on with his grating voice. On the songs which he shares vocals with the frontman, his voice clashes horribly against Coverdale’s deep and refined voice. If you get the chance, look up Jon Lord at the 1973 California Jam concert they did, and gape at his monumental Hammond organ solo.

If I’m honest (and this will also be controversial with a lot of old-school fans), I prefer Stormbringer to Burn. It’s the first true glimpse of what would evolve into Whitesnake… and I loved Whitesnake up to 1984. Standout tracks here are 'Stormbringer', 'Hold On' (Blackmore having fun…if that’s possible), 'Highball Shooter' (what a great Jon Lord keyboard solo), and the excellent ballad 'Soldier of Fortune', which showcases Coverdale’s husky sighed vocals. Blackmore finally leaves after this album to form the harder-edged Rainbow with the legend that was Ronnie James Dio. Thus MK II Purple seemed to become Rainbow and MK III Whitesnake. Come Taste the Band introduces Tommy Bolin on guitar. This album is easily the weakest of the bunch on offer here. It’s far too funky, almost totally severing ties with what Purple is all about. Aside from maybe the first couple of tracks, it’s pretty awful. Even Lord is persuaded to play weird Moog synthesiser stuff. Enough said.

Jump forward to 1984 and we are presented with the awesome return to form that is Perfect Strangers. Why is it so good? Because it is the reformed MK II line-up, and all of them are on the top of their game. The production on the album is spot on, with Roger Glover’s bass driving a harder sound, aided by Ian Paice’s solid Animal drumming. Jon Lord’s Hammond keyboards are in the forefront of the mix, along with Blackmore’s enthusiastic and inventive guitar. Ian Gillan’s sometimes harsh vocals totally complement the overall sound, slicing through a reassuringly Hard Rock sound. You feel he is being pushed to extend himself and is enjoying every minute of it. A handful of the songs on this album were released on 12” singles at the time. There isn’t really a duff track (the monumental 'Perfect Strangers', 'Nobody’s Home', 'Knocking at Your Back Door', 'A Gypsy’s Kiss', and the melancholy ballad 'Wasted Sunsets' being my favourites), and this album was universally considered to be the true follow-up to Machine Head.

Purple followed Perfect Strangers with The House of Blue Light. It was viewed by some as more of a Gillan album than a Deep Purple one. I think that’s more than a little unfair. It’s simply that this is a little lighter and up-tempo than its predecessor’s moderate and heavier pace. It’s still very much Purple, perhaps emulating Who Do We Think We Are? in its weight. Overall, though, this one maintains more meat on the bones. Blackmore still sounds like he’s interested (listen to 'The Spanish Archer'), and it’s great to hear Jon Lord’s piano ('Strangeways', which has great lyrics, too) and traditional Hammond organ still very much in evidence. There are no real stand-out tracks on this album, but similarly no bad ones either. The songs are quite diverse, but I particularly like 'Bad Attitude' (which sounds like it could have been on Perfect Strangers), 'Dead or Alive' (good Blackmore/Lord solos), and 'Spanish Archer'. After another clash of personalities with Blackmore Gillan left again, but two albums later would return once more.

I suppose that The Battle Rages On could have been included, too, as it was a last attempt at the classic MK II line-up. Anyway, a good set here which could have been perfect, but as this is close to that we won’t quibble too much about the choices. Another thing worth pointing out is that these are remastered copies of the first releases, but are not vinyl representations of the CD anniversary re-issues of recent years which incorporated outtakes and alternative versions. In other words, there is one version of each track. The production is good, with a nice raw energy evident on the majority of these records. Enjoy.


Ty Power

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