During this COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve been keeping busy and have started to learn the guitar. My wife asked me politely if I could stop playing Wonderwall; I said maybe.
Welcome back my little chums to another re-evaluation of a classic double live album. Tonight’s morsel is the 1972 Deep Purple classic Made in Japan, which recorded during their first tour of Japan in August of that year.
The band did not want the album to be released outside Japan and wanted full rights to the tapes, but it was released worldwide anyway. “That double album wasn’t meant to be released outside of Japan. They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks” – Jon Lord.
The response from critics was favourable. Rolling Stone’s Jon Tiven wrote that “Made in Japan is Purple’s definitive metal monster, a spark-filled execution … Deep Purple can still cut the mustard in concert.” Subsequently, a readers’ poll in the magazine declared the album to be the sixth best live album of all time, adding the band have performed “countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.” The band as a whole had mixed feelings about the album: Gillan was critical of his own performance, yet was still impressed with the quality of the live recording. Paice gave a very positive impression, suggesting that the shows were some of the best the group had performed, and the album captured the spirit of them well. Lord listed it as his favourite Deep Purple album, saying, “The band was at the height of its powers. That album was the epitome of what we stood for in those days.” Heady stuff indeed, but does it still hold up today? Let’s find out…
Cards on the table here folks, I was never a huge Deep Purple fan. I mean, I know they were important in the creation of hard rock/heavy metal, one of the pioneers alongside Zeppelin and Sabbath, but I always preferred to listen to the bands that sprang from Purple’s demise: Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan (Shiva, I just about had every Gillan album ever made when I was growing up!) Other than the 1980 Deepest Purple compilation, I never bought any of their records until much later on in my rock/metal journey, and even that was the expanded, 25th anniversary 3cd set. So I have owned and heard this album, just never in its original form. Kicking off with a super energetic Highway Star (Paice and Lord are on fire here), the band then follow it up with a sublime Child In Time with the band kicking arse and taking names. Even the most overplayed song in their catalogue, Smoke On the Water, sounds fresh and exciting here (tbf it was still a new song and hadn’t yet been saturated via classic rock radio), Blackmore’s solo is probably the best version I’ve heard on this song. The album takes a couple of steps backwards, firstly with the drum solo on the otherwise great version of The Mule (I don’t like drum solos or any other unaccompanied solos be they guitar, keyboard or, Ganesh forbid, bass solos) then with Lazy, which starts off with 3 to 4 minutes of faffing about and strange noises good enough to scare away cats! Once the song gets underway it’s, as usual, a cracker, as is the ending track Space Truckin; Jon Lord’s keyboards on here is the star of the track but even here the track ends with a whimper rather than a bang, leaving the audience a little quiet and confused before realising the song has finished and start applauding and cheering.
So is it excessive? A bit, 3 out of the 7 tracks are over 10 minutes and 2 of them (Lazy and Space Truckin) could use a little trimming. Were the critics right? They were; it does feature the band in all its pomp and glory and there are some excellent performances on here, the band as a whole are on fire. Would I listen to it again? In all honesty, no. Certainly the first three tracks would get some heavy rotation but the rest of the album not so much. I’ll stick with the studio versions, thank you. Would I recommend it? I wouldn’t wholeheartedly say ‘you gotta hear this album’ but it has some great moments. Is there a drum solo? Yes, and it’s totally unnecessary, as drum solos usually are.
So my score for this album is a 6/10. It might seem low for such an acclaimed record but it just kinda lost its way after the first three songs. A little too indulgent for my liking. Speaking of indulgent, my next two posts will be featuring triple albums! Yikes! Until then, toodles to you!