Deep Purple BOXED SET review by Bruce Adams

Music Reviews
Deep Purple BOXED SET review by Bruce Adams
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Feb 20, 2008, 00:07

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DEEP PURPLE Shades 1968-1998 4xCD Boxed Set

I was watching Breaking The Waves the other night and was pleased to hear a bit of Deep Purple. And it wasn't “Smoke On The Water,” “Space Truckin'” or “My Woman From Tokyo” either. It was the stunning “Child In Time,” from Deep Purple In Rock, a track that moves from a mournful organ vamp, through Ian Gillan's awe inspiring falsetto howl through a near runaway instrumental passage back to the quiet opening. Deep Purple have been typecast by their most famous songs in the minds of most people these days; thanks to classic rock radio the band's string of three incredible albums (Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head) by the “classic” lineup has been reduced to three songs. A pity as in many ways that peak period of the band wipes the floor with contemporaries like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.

This box set goes a ways towards opening up that view, not only of the primo Purple of Ian Gillan/ Jon Lord / Richie Blackmore/ Roger Glover/ Ian Paice but also of subsequent lineups. Even David Coverdale comes off looking good. Deep Purple had two major strengths. The fact that you can still go to a show and hear a guitarist run off the riff to “Smoke On The Water” between songs is indication of the first—the band could come up with a memorable riff. The second strength was Deep Purple's indisputable instrumental prowess. Every member of the band could add little touches to a song that show themselves time and time again. I'm not just referring to Blackmore's baroque excesses or Jon Lord's organ flourishes. Ian Paice was a remarkably subtle drummer and on a lot of songs here there are hints at jazz snappiness that lifts the material above the plod of heavy metal. People knew at the time; Deep Purple had their own jet.

There are plenty of instrumental passages here that, if isolated and served up on their own, could very well pass for the latest product of the Chicago post-rock mafia on Drag City or Thrill Jockey. The liner notes for the excellent booklet by DJ Jim Ladd imply that the Purple were just stoopid fun for the Me Generation, an over simplification at best. Musically the band was sophisticated as hell. The first disc of this collection contains a number of the band's early experimentations with psychedelic styles, flirtations with soul power like a cover of “River Deep, Mountain High” and the beginnings of the lineup most of us think of as Deep Purple. For Ladd to say that “Space Truckin'” was simplistic compared to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young not only ignores the amazing instrumental break down in the middle of the song but also he overrates hippy blather as social commentary. Besides, “Mary Long” combines social commentary and humor in a way that Graham Nash could never have managed.

As with most bands, the key to Deep Purple was balance. As long as the competing instrumentalists were held in a dynamic equilibrium the band had it all. The pull exerted by Blackmore into complex filigrees, Lord's interest in Jimmy Smith organ runs, the rhythm section's near funkiness and Gillan's vocals all took the band in several directions, often in the same song. Eventually they lost it and the third and fourth discs in the set chronicle Purple's various attempts to equal the heights reached in 1972. For curiosity's sake some of the music is worthwhile, and some of us old enough to remember the fuss made over Tommy Bolin might find interest. For you sprouts out there, dig up a copy of Machinehead or Fireball, you won't regret it. [Warner Archives/ Rhino]

-Bruce Adams

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