Review: "BOOTLEG SERIES" - box set with six Deep Purple bootlegs
IN YOUR TROUSERS
MADE IN JAPAN 2000
A Deep Purple concert. There's always that special atmosphere. You're waiting for the show to begin and the venue is packed with anticipation. The floor is already damp with spilt beer, and watching the stage crew prepare the equipment, you wonder just how exciting the show is going to be tonight. Countless Deep Purple shows have come and gone. They have all had something going for them, whether it was the blinding drum solo from Ian Paice, Jon Lord rocking his Hammond back and forth with such fervour you thought it was going to break down, the intricate and stunningly quiet guitar solo from Ritchie Blackmore which seemed to hold the entire audience in awe - or perhaps Ian Gillan's weird and wonderful stream-of-consciousness between-song banter which never stops baffling, with its unexpected twists and hilarious observations. Roger Glover was always there, steady as a rock, bobbing back and forth and never straying from that very neat place right in the pocket, as musicians put it. Steve Morse has lead the band from strength to strength for the past seven years (hey, Mark 2 spent only four years together from 69 to 73) and the live shows have had a somewhat different taste to them, but the excitement has always been there.
"Deep Purple Collectors Edition The Bootleg Series 1984-2000." Quite a mouthful, huh? Well, no matter how you look at it, this is quite a mouthful of Deep Purple. It should be enough to satisfy anyone who never could or would buy the original bootlegs. For the novices in bootleg collecting this is one very mouth-watering release - and it's cheap too! Six (almost complete - we'll get back to that) shows from the 1984-2000 era, supposedly repackaged with the original artwork, and supposedly "professionally remastered from audience sources." And what shows! Ignoring how much this stack would have set you back had you bought them one at a time over the years, the wealth of quality material alone here is fantastic.
The sound quality of all the shows present is very good. If you're unfamiliar with bootleg recordings, let your ears adjust over the first two or three songs and then pass judgement. You will not be disappointed. But obviously the material isn't for hi-fi buffs. It's for those who know and appreciate a good musical performance. We're in the absolute top range of bootlegs here though and you will be able to listen carefully to the performance of each musician, admiring the musicianship inherent in just about any Deep Purple show.
"Bootleg Series" kicks off with only the second of the very first reunion shows in Australia, "Highway Stars" from Adelaide November 30, 1984 (the very first show is reviewed here), and the band already appears in surprisingly good form. November 30 is Roger Glover's birthday so he duly gets a mention. Ian Gillan's sense of humour is already in full evidence here, introducing the old Rainbow re-work of Beethoven's Ninth "in Belgian, it's called 'cough'!" The Adelaide bootleg was my own very first Deep Purple bootleg back in 1985. The atmosphere and energy emanating from the grooves of that original double vinyl album were something of a revelation. It was my first taste of the reunited Deep Purple live onstage, and there was absolutely no doubt that these guys were back because they meant it. They do miss the occasional cue, but it's all good fun and Ian leads them through an at-the-time low profile show, which has now turned into a classic. Documenting the very early reunion shows, this show comes second to none.
The Stockholm 85 show off "Third Night" was another must-have bootleg at the time. The band did no less than three consecutive nights in Stockholm and this is the final of the three. Excellent sound and performance. Ian Gillan almost chokes on his mock German accent introducing "Under The Gun" and the band charges on unrelenting. The power is breathtaking. Has Ian Gillan developed a stutter? "Lazy" is "not the por-por-por-portable one, it's the one you ca-ca-can't carry." I suppose you’d better hear it on the CD! Another recommended show from this part of the "Perfect Strangers" tour would without a doubt be "The Perfect Live Album" from Zürich, Switzerland, July 14, 1985.
Moving up to "The House Of Blue Light" tour from 1987, "Hungary Days" features no less than an amalgamation of the first three shows of the tour. There is obvious editing between the songs here, but in collecting tracks from three different shows the bootleggers were able to present all the songs performed on the tour (save for the exclusive performance of "Mad Dog" in Portland, USA) and as such it's a very good deal. The sound is very good throughout, with a slight echo from the venue adding power to the recording. Witness how the opening taped intro to the show displays a style which became Ritchie Blackmore's way of life apres Purple. An alternative show with stunning performance from this tour is "Antiques Roadshow" from London, March 3, 1987.
The shortcomings of this box set are of course a fair few. Mark 2's last reunion tour together (before Joe Lynn Turner temporarily got the job) - the short but efficient European tour in 1988 - has been ignored. It was a tightly knit little tour, with a few exclusives in the set, namely incorporating a short "Space Truckin'" into "Knocking At Your Back Door", and seguing from "Hush" directly into "Speed King". Very energetic! Recommended listening: Kassel, Germany, September 24, 1988 (cassette only).
The 1991 "Slaves & Masters" tour has also been ignored completely. No matter what you think of Joe Lynn Turner who sang on that tour, the remaining four Mark 2 members revved up some serious musicianship on this tour, free of the restraining hard feelings that had prevailed on the last tour with Ian Gillan. The less said about Joe Lynn Turner's behaviour between the songs the better, but a couple of shows that include very exciting performances are "Last Night As German Masters" from Würzburg, Germany, February 23, 1991, and "São Paulo Master" from São Paulo, Brazil, August 21, 1991, the latter in excellent soundboard stereo.
Two of the bootlegs in "Bootleg Series" originally carried bonus tracks, all of which have been left off the box set. The first is "In Your Trousers" from Stockholm 93, in itself a classic bootleg with perhaps the best sound quality of any 1993 Deep Purple bootleg. As "Speed King" wasn't done at this show in Stockholm, and "Smoke On The Water" featured a long atmospheric guitar lead-in in Copenhagen the night before (November 12, 1993), the bootleggers included these two tracks as a bonus on the original "In Your Trousers" bootleg. They were of slightly inferior quality, which means absolutely nothing when you consider the performance at hand. Since there could obviously not have been any contractual problems (as there might have been with the South African radio session mentioned later), the omission of these tracks seems hard to justify. Consider on top of this the very slack editing when leaving out the bonus tracks; you can actually hear the band getting into the beginning of the first of the two Copenhagen tracks before the sound is faded out! This is not professional remastering. (Another debatable aspect of the mastering of "Bootleg Series" is the way the track layout of all the bootlegs has been unthinkingly copied. Hence "Space Truckin'" from Adelaide 84 is split into four different tracks to separate the solos, and the drum solo from Stockholm 85 is singled out as a separate track.)
Whatever you think of all this, Stockholm 93 was still one of the very best shows from that tour. Ritchie had long since handed in his resignation at the gig in Prague a couple of weeks earlier, and the atmosphere onstage was electric to say the least! Ritchie takes the band through a breathtaking version of "Anya" here, the band cutting it right back to let him fiddle away during the solo. Witness later how Ian Gillan carries the audience into an immaculate sing-along during "Smoke On The Water", with his hands alternately signalling the audience to sing one line at full volume, then whisper the next. Magical moments.
Deep Purple's short stint with Joe Satriani on guitar after Ritchie's untimely departure in November 1993 through to the summer of 1994 is another era ignored for this box set, probably for contractual reason. There are plenty of bootlegs out there, so if you must hear this, "Emptiness, Eagles And Snow" is an excellent title from Esbjerg, Denmark, June 4, 1994, with bonus tracks from two Swedish shows, all in very good sound quality.
The "Purpendicular" tour as such has also been ignored, but then again, you can't cram everything onto 12 CDs. What you can do though is ensure the best possible version of the shows included is chosen. The Fort Lauderdale 95 show was the first Deep Purple show with Steve Morse on guitar to be bootlegged on CD. There are no less than three different bootleg releases of this show. Sadly, "Bootleg Series" contains the incomplete version. This is the single most critical point of "Bootleg Series". The band premiered three new songs that night, songs yet to be recorded for "Purpendicular"; "Ted The Mechanic", "The Purpendicular Waltz" and "Soon Forgotten". The "Purple Sunshine" bootleg included in "Bootleg Series" omits not only the first part of "Lazy", but also "Soon Forgotten". The fact that "Soon Forgotten" has never appeared live again only makes this oversight so much more unforgivable.
For what it's worth, "Purple Sunshine" is a good quality document of a very early Steve Morse show with Deep Purple. The set list is a mix between the one employed on the "The Battle Rages On" tour in 1993 and the ones that later appeared on the "Purpendicular" tour. The show is a fascinating insight into a band in a transition period. Steve is clearly still finding his way around the old Purple songs, and the set has a very interesting structure with "The Battle Rages On" only the third song, and the encores of both "Highway Star", until now only ever a set opener, and "Smoke On The Water".
Originally "Purple Sunshine" also featured bonus tracks in the shape of a fascinating 17-minute acoustic session from South African radio. Only Steve Morse, Jon Lord and Roger Glover took part in this, Ian Paice being deemed too loud and Ian Gillan excusing himself with a "frog in his throat." They went through interesting instrumental versions of "Black Night", "Child In Time", "When A Blind Man Cries", "Woman From Tokyo" and a new song at the time titled "The Highlander". This later evolved into "The Aviator", but was a very interesting two-and-a-half minute workout in March 1995. For some unexplained reason this gem of a session has been omitted from the "Bootleg Series" version of "Purple Sunshine".
While "Live At The Olympia 1996" covered the "Purpendicular" tour very well, you might still want to check out other bootlegs from that tour. "Feel Like Screaming" from Reading, England, February 16, 1996 is a very early show which includes "Mary Long" and "Rat Bat Blue", both of which were soon dropped from the set. The quality is excellent, though after only a handful of gigs the band clearly hasn't quite taken to the road yet. Near the other end of the tour you can find "Fireball Into The Arena" from Tokyo, October 31, 1996 which includes "The Aviator".
Coming up to date, almost, the last show to feature here is "Made In Japan 2000" from Osaka, April 1, 2000. The sound quality and performance is (again) spotless and it's a very entertaining show with Ian Gillan spurring Roger Glover on to claim "Black Night" was written about black socks! "Left or right?" asks Ian. "Left." "Oh, that's right," says Ian, "Socks are always left, because they're not there when you need them, so they must be left somewhere..." The show includes blistering versions of "Into The Fire", first re-premiered (apres 1970's) at Lahr, Germany in 1997, "'69" and "Fools". The latter had only been introduced into the set a couple of weeks earlier at a Finnish show in Helsinki. In fact, there can be only two complaints over "Made In Japan 2000". The obsessed Japanese guy who keeps yelling out somewhere near the taper, and the omission of a lot of the "Abandon" tracks played earlier on the tour. The "Abandon" tour stretched for nearly two years, starting out back in the summer of 1998, and to hear more of the tracks off the album you'll need for instance the recommendable bootleg "You Need One" from Berlin, Germany, July 22, 1998. Not only does it include seven "Abandon" tracks including "Bludsucker", it is also of extremely good sound quality.
As for the box set packaging, the double CD sets all include the original back and front artwork (manipulated to account for omitted bonus tracks), but miss out on any extra inside material. It is also of note that the slimline 2CD jewelcases used are of the cheap variety you might find yourself substituting for sturdier ones when they fall apart after not much wear.
The world of collecting Deep Purple bootlegs is wide and complex. Each has his own favourite shows and thus any project as this will be down to subjective decisions in the planning stages. But at the end of the day - and especially so if this really turns out to be only the first of a number of such box sets - the shows available in "Bootleg Series" are all top-notch. And at the price (beware, the price does vary greatly, make sure you check all the online options - around US$ 40 is the best offer seen so far) this is a very worthwhile release aimed at those who don't already own the original bootlegs. Let's hope the powers that be get around to releasing unbootlegged material soon.