Final Black (Darker Than Blue 052)
Koseinenkin Hall, Osaka, Japan – June 27th, 1973
Highway Star, Smoke On The Water, Strange Kind Of Woman, Child In Time, Lazy, drum solo, The Mule, Space Truckin’, Black Night
Final Black is the latest release on the Deep Purple label Darker Than Blue. It contains an eighty-minute tape of the Deep Purple Mk II’s penultimate show in Osaka on June 27th, 1973. This is the same tape source that was released before on the two disc set A Night Of The Machine (TNT Studio TNT-940150/151) . This new tape source sounds better, but the label cannot decide if this is an audience or a soundboard recording. It could be a soundboard because there is no audience interference. In fact, the audience sounds very far away, a common trait for many soundboards. But the balance suggests a recorder in a very good position to pick up the mix of the instruments very well and is a good aural image of what the audience hears. The only cut in the tape is a fade out between “The Mule” and “Space Truckin'” and a cut between that and the encore “Black Night” enabling Darker Than Blue to fit the entire show onto one disc.
The first song “Highway Star” sounds very distorted and dull. Gillan’s mic wasn’t working at first and he doesn’t come in until 1:20, eliminating the first couple of verses. By the time Blackmore plays the opening to “Smoke On The Water” the tape clears up considerably and becomes a very good and clear mono recording. Darker Than Blue, who in the past have gone easy on mastering the tapes they use, are a bit heavy handed trying to improve the fidelity of this tape. Like with Siréne’s Pink Floyd title Lunatic Songs, there are hints during quieter passages of the metallic residue in the upper frequencies that spoil what is an overall listenable tape. The issue isn’t as pronounced as some of the titles that were released many years ago, but one assumes that labels are now getting away from this problem and this leaves collectors, even those in Japan, wondering why this is occurring with labels that have previously avoided such concerns.
Another issue is the actual date of this performance. The label and most sources list the Japan tour as: June 23rd in Hiroshima, June 24th in Nagoya, June 25th in Tokyo, and two shows, June 27th and June 29th in Osaka. But at least one source lists a different itinerary: June 23rd in Hiroshima, June 24th in Nagoya, June 25th and June 27th in Tokyo with a scheduled June 28th date in Osaka cancelled and rescheduled for the following day, making two shows on June 29th. Since Gillan mentions Osaka in his opening comments it definitely is from that city, but the discussion leads to whether or not this is really June 27th or an early show for June 29th. In the known June 29th show they mention Ian Paice’s birthday, but not on this tape which makes this tape lean towards June 27th.
Many of the shows in Europe and the U.S. earlier in the year represent Deep Purple at their best, but the Japanese shows, except for the June 25th Tokyo date, do not. The final MK II show on June 29th is a strange affair, but the concert on Final Black is decidedly mediocre. It isn’t bad as such, but it is uninspired with Blackmore being the main culprit. “Mary Long,” the only song from the new album Who Do We Think We Are to be included in the set list at this time, is dropped as well as “Speed King” and the encore “Lucille,” and the show is the same as Made In Japan from their visit to the country the previous year. “Highway Star,” without the opening vocals, crawls on stage but “Smoke On The Water” is an improvement.
“Strange Kind Of Woman” features some great Ian Gillan shrieks as he tries to get the quiet audience into the music. “Child In Time” is introduced as a song with a “great melody.” This song, with deference to “Space Truckin'” and “Mandrake Root,” is perhaps Deep Purple’s greatest stage piece. They lyrics are sentimental and not corny, and when the tempo speeds up and Blackmore takes off the song becomes very formidable and he plays his best solo in this show during the song. The opening organ to “Lazy” is very loud in the mix, but is toned down before Ian Paice’s seven-minute drum solo. The song ends with two minutes of “The Mule.” The set closer “Space Truckin'” is twenty minutes long but even Lord sounds tired in this version. There are no classical ad-libs and very little violence done to the Hammond organ, but does add interesting melodies over the chugging rhythm.
Blackmore adds his part before the song runs out of energy and stops. Gillan sounds surprised as he says “goodnight” at the song’s conclusion. The tape fades out and in again for the only encore of the evening “Black Night.” It is on this track especially where the metallic residue is most annoying and ruins what is a very good rendition of the piece. The band actually do sound interested and Lord especially delivers an effective Hammond organ solo in the middle. Final Night is limited to three hundred copies with nice glossy paper inserts, but the sound quality, uninspired performance and the heavy-handed remastering make this recommended for the die hard Deep Purple collector.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)