Deep Purple - Made In Japan - Review
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critics' view

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why In Rock doesn't get the band's high score. To say that Made in Japan shows DP as a great live band is to say nothing; to say that Made in Japan shows the band as one of the greatest ass-kicking machines rock'n'roll ever beheld would come close. This is the near ideal meeting point of balls-out energy and of technical perfection, where any inhibitions found in the studio versions of tracks are discarded and replaced with a primal need to do songs faster and heavier than one could probably imagine, and where solos and jams seemingly last forever but kick so much ass that they can win over any casual listener.

I'm really at a loss to describe how incredible most of these songs are. Ok, so I'm peeved that "The Mule" turns into a nine-minute excuse for Paice to have a drum solo (I'm sorry, but I just don't jive that well with endless drum solos). And I guess Lazy could stand some trimming - it's better than the studio version, since the organ intro (while slightly overlong) is eerie as hell in places (but also amusing, like in that place where those distorted organ chords blast out the riff to Louis Louis), and the jams that come out of the "main" part of the song give a nice dose of upbeat boogie, but ten minutes was certainly a bit much for such a piece. It's still really fun, though.

But the rest, oh man. I only have the 1-CD, seven-track version, even though there's apparently a 2-CD version that has the encores of the shows from which this CD was taken, but suffice it to say that the other five tracks justify the rating. As much as I enjoy the studio "Highway Star," there's no question which rendition I'd take with me to my island. Oh man, it's so fast, and so energetic, and so tight, and Ian's screaming is so perfect, and Lord's organ sounds like he staked his own life force to how cool he could make his solo, and Ritchie is divebombing and soloing like a madman and playing with his whammy bar like *insert Prindlesque self-abuse metaphor here* … I'm simply in awe. Man, if ever there was a justification for the whole metal genre, this might well be it.

Next is "Child in Time," where the solos seemingly go on for an eternity but never come within a solar system's reach of tedious, where every iota of the majestic tension of the original is preserved, and where Ian replicates the ridiculously high, ridiculously in-tune wails of the original so dead-on perfectly that I'm surprised the engineers didn't have to clean up a giant thudding sound from all the Japanese jaws hitting the ground at once. "Smoke on the Water" actually has Ritchie screwing up the initial riff, only to cover his tracks with perfect aplomb and make it almost seem intentional, after which the band basically rips down the house. And then, after the tedium of "The Mule," we get 9:50 of "A Strange Kind of Woman." How do you take a perfect blues-rock pop single and make it work at a length of ten minutes, you may ask? Well, the answer is let the rhythm section enter a tight mid-tempo groove, let Ritchie intermittently play lines over it, and let IAN IMITATE THEM PERFECTLY, NO MATTER HOW NON-TRIVIAL THEY ARE. Kinda like those imitations of Jimmy Page that Robert Plant would try in early Zep albums, except instead of just sorta matching the sound and largely just contributing an "eerie" mood, actually doing a dead-on imitation.

And then there's the closing "Space Truckin'," which actually gives "Highway Star" a run for its money as best of an amazing lot. Ok, we have the "main" portion of the song, done faster and more intensely than before, kicking more ass, etc. But does it end with Ian's "yeah yeah yeah" screams and a bit of repetition of the main riff? Not on your life! There's 15 minutes of jamming left, and it friggin' RULES. Paice and Glover enter into a mindblowingly intense rhythmic groove that seems like it could last forever without petering out (and I mean it - give me Ian Paice's pounding here over anything in John Bonham's whole career), Lord proceeds to coax every decent noise (and maybe some non-decent ones, depending on your perspective) possible out of his organ (before quoting the "Mandrake Root" jam), Ritchie does all sorts of whacky things, the band shuts down, the band starts up again and pounds its way to the finish … yup, that's one hell of a jam right there.

In short, if you care about rock'n'roll or heavy metal at all, you need this. If you've ever wondered why heavy metal shows in general became so ridiculously wanky in so many ways, it is because this album showed that it was possible for heavy metal to wank this much and still kick so much ass that it doesn't matter.

John McFerrin Music Reviews external-link.png

Classic Rock, Prog Rock and Many Others, Rated in Hexadecimal, 1999 - Whenever I Get A Life. "This is a guy that can inspire dangerous reactions in people." external-link.png
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