PURPLE REVISITED: Made in Japan (1972/73)

Deep Purple’s month-long “Smoke on the Nation” tour kicked off this weekend in Newfoundland and makes its way into Ontario this week, culminating in a sold-out performance at Massey Hall on Sunday.  After some initial trepidation over ticket prices, I ended up forking out a hundred bucks for a fourth-row seat.  What can I say, I wanna see these guys before they die!  Alas, Jon Lord has retired, and the chances of Ritchie Blackmore rejoining the band are about equal to those of the Leafs winning the Cup this year–but the other three-fifths of the Mk II lineup remains intact.  Thus, I figured I’d spend this week revisiting the recorded output they produced over that glorious five-year timeframe…

Made in Japan (1972/1973)

One of the earliest live rock albums, and to this day one of the very best, recorded over three nights in Japan on the Machine Head tour.  For some strange reason, Warner delayed the US release of this record till after Who Do We Think We Are had come out, which hardly makes sense when most of its material was culled from its predecessor.  Every song here is extended from its album length, necessitating a double-vinyl release back in the day, and lemme just say that if they still jam like this nowadays, I am gonna be a happy camper come Sunday!

This record, much like their ’72 studio album, opens with “Highway Star,” drawn out to seven minutes by a slightly longer intro jam to the polite clapping of the Japanese audience and a sweet-ass solo section made sweeter by a slight return.  Gillian’s voice actually seems to have a bit more fire than on the studio version—or maybe that’s just wear and tear from the road.  We’re then treated to the lone inclusion from In Rock, a 12-minute “Child in Time” that tacks a little bit extra on to the original.  If anything, Gillian’s wails are a tad more restrained here, but there’s no doubt that he can still hit the high notes at this point.

Much like Machine Head, Side Two opens with, you guessed it, “Smoke on the Water.”  The fans clap along as Blackmore throws a loop into the classic riff off the top—or maybe that’s just a false start that made its way onto tape.  We also get some additional keyboard/guitar noodling at the end.  You’d think with three shows to choose from, they could find a better take…  On that note, next tune, “The Mule,” offa Fireball, was taken from the Tokyo gig two days later.  This is also where Gillan utters the classic line “Can we have everything louder than everything else?”  That’s right Motorheadbangers—he said it first!  Oh, and cue drum solo…

Side three offers us another Fireball tune (at least on the US version) in “Strange Kind of Woman,” which meshes well with the bluesy groove of “Lazy” from its successor, though these two were recorded on different nights.  The former does get a little silly though when Gillan starts to mimic Blackmore’s guitar bends with his voice—it probably didn’t need to be nine and a half minutes long.  The latter also takes a little longer to get going than usual, and as a result, it almost hits the 11-minute mark, adding a little more life to an above-average blues jam.

But la pièce de résistance, taking up all of Side 4, is a 20-minute version of “Space Truckin’” that starts off with an organ flourish, Gillan encouraging the crowd to clap their hands as the opening riff is played a couple extra times.  To say they throw in a few more solos would be an understatement—this tune in quite the undertaking!  Though to be honest, I think they only play one proper verse…

I just hope that listening to Made in Japan doesn’t raise the bar too high for the gig on Sunday.  I mean, surely they can’t still pull this off 40 years later—can they?

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