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EMI box set
The Highway Star

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Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
Disc 5
Disc 6

Garry Smith

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Nearly as perfect as Kylie

Listen Learn Read On is such a massive package that a comprehensive review would be far too big. In short, it is a wonderful box set, with enough in the way of unreleased tracks and rarities to please the most hardened of Deep Purple collectors. It represents good value for money for everyone from the Deep Purple novice to the completist collector.

This review summarises the main goodies on offer.

Starting with the music - this falls into three categories:

  • previously released and common
  • previously released and rare
  • previously unreleased.

Many of the previously released tracks have been remastered for this collection. (They hopefully remastered the rest of the tracks on those albums whilst they were at it!) Many of the "previously unreleased" tracks have been available on bootlegs, but not with the sound quality in which they are presented here.

Previously unreleased

Here is a list of the previously unreleased tracks:

  • Ricochet (an early version of Speed King) - BBC, 11 August 1969
  • Wring That Neck - Montreux, 4 October 1969 - the complete show will be the next release on the Sonic Zoom label
  • Jam Stew - BBC, 31 August 1969 - not the same as the version on the In Rock remaster
  • Speed King - BBC, 31 August 1969
  • Hard Lovin' Man - BBC, 21 April 1970
  • Bloodsucker - BBC, 21 April 1970
  • Living Wreck - BBC, 21 April 1970
  • Mandrake Root - listed as Aachen 1970, but is in fact from the Scandinavian Nights CD (not video) show in Stockholm on 12 November 1970 - this is classed as "unreleased" because it is taken from a newly-discovered four-track master, and the sound is much improved over the Scandinavian Nights version
  • Child In Time - BBC, 23 September 1970
  • Jon Lord interview / Black Night - BBC, 23 September 1970
  • Into The Fire - BBC, 23 September 1970
  • Fools - extract from 1971 - Fireball outtake with Ian Gillan ad-libbing vocals as he learns the song
  • Black Night - Tokyo, 17 August 1972 - the only hitherto unreleased track from the three Made In Japan / Live In Japan concerts
  • Mary Long - 1973 - Roger Glover remix from 1999 which couldn't be fitted onto the rerelease of WDWTWA
  • Mistreated - San Diego, 9 April 1974 - included because of Ritchie's "awesome guitar opening" - a wee bit rough in sound quality
  • Space Truckin' - Kilburn, 22 May 1974 - the final missing track from Live in London
  • Highball Shooter (instrumental) - 1974 - an early studio version, before the vocals were added and the guitar mixed well down or erased.

Quite a list, isn't it?

I have a couple of bootlegs of BBC tracks - BBC Stew and BBC Radio Tracks. There's also one called Rarest At The BBC which I believe is virtually a copy of one of the others. I compared - mostly by date, not by listening - the BBC tracks now officially available on this box set and on the rereleased Mk 1 albums against the tracks on the bootlegs.

The official releases seem to include virtually all of the bootleg tracks, and in better quality, too. There's only one that I'm not sure about - a version of Emmaretta dated 11 February 1969 that appears on BBC Radio Tracks. From listening, I can't tell if this is the same or different from the BBC versions which have been officially released. In addition, BBC Stew has a 1-minute interview (with Rod, IIRC) preceding Hey Joe which hasn't made it onto the official releases.

But, to summarise, don't lose any sleep tracking down the bootlegs. Buy the official releases. Of course, I could be wrong - and there could be BBC tracks which I don't know about. If so, let me know, and we'll correct this review.


Now to the rarities. Of course, one man's rarity is something that another man has been listening to for 30 years. So the definition of a rarity used here is "something you won't have if you only have the official studio albums and live albums - including re-released/remastered versions where available." Previously-released tracks which have been remastered especially for this album have not been counted as rarities. So what does that leave us? Here goes:

  • all of the pre-Purple tracks - disc 1, tracks 1 to 10
  • Bird Has Flown - by Mk 2, BBC, 17 August 1969 - "first time on CD" - previously only on the vinyl EP New Live & Rare Vol 3
  • Hush and the Concerto 3rd Movement encore - Royal Albert Hall, 24 September 1969 - Hush has been previously available, and both are now readily available on the reissues of the original Concerto
  • Grabsplatter - BBC, 23 September 1970 - (see Bird Has Flown) at last I can retire my crackly vinyl copy of New Live & Rare Vol 3
  • No No No and Highway Star - September 1971 - the German TV versions (edited versions of these appear in the On The Road box set and on the Blackmore Profile Vol.1 CD)
  • Smoke On The Water and Never Before - Machine Head quadraphonic mixes
  • Stormbringer, Soldier of Fortune and Hold On - Stormbringer quadraphonic mixes.


A few words about the book. Page size is 13x25cm (to fit inside the box), and there are 112 pages. As Simon Robinson acknowledges, much of it is an amalgam of Chris Charlesworths's Illustrated Biography and the liner notes from the rereleased/remastered albums. After all, there are only so many ways that you can tell the same story. However, the book contains much information that I didn't know - plus lots of cuttings, pictures and memorabilia which I hadn't seen before - so it amounts to much more than the mere sum of its parts!

The Illustrated Biography had a diary list of gigs running down the side of each page. That's not in this book, but Simon does refer to the forthcoming concert diary book Day By Night, by "historical consultant" Nigel Young. That can't come soon enough - I'll have a signed copy for Christmas, please Nigel :-)


That's about it. The whole thing is one of the most beautifully-produced little packages that you've ever seen. Well, OK, maybe it's not quite up there with Kylie Minogue. But it's a pleasure just to hold it in your hands, feel its weight, stroke its cover - no, not Kylie, the box set. The content - music and book - is first rate.

It is a shining example of how a box set should be put together, to appeal and provide value to everyone from the novice to the completist. I'd award it full marks, except that only Allah can achieve perfection. So, in the traditions of Islamic art, the incorrect date and venue for Mandrake Root must have been a deliberate error. Right, Mr Robinson?

What more needs to be said?. Just BUY IT!

Garry Smith

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