Live In Japan Complete (Darker Than Blue 044/045/046/047/048/049)
Disc 1, Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – August 15th, 1972: Highway Star, Smoke On The Water, Child In Time, The Mule, Strange Kind Of Woman
Disc 2: Lazy, Space Truckin’, Black Night, Speed King
Disc 3, Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – August 16th, 1972: Highway Star, Smoke On The Water, Child In Time, The Mule, Strange Kind Of Woman
Disc 4: Lazy, Space Truckin’, Black Night, Lucille
Disc 5, Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – August 17th, 1972: Highway Star, Smoke On The Water, Child In Time, The Mule, Strange Kind Of Woman
Disc 6: Lazy, Space Truckin’, Black Night, Speed King
Deep Purple’s legendary three concerts in Japan on their first visit to the far east were all professionally recorded and have been available for thirty years. The 2LP set Live In Japan, originally for the Japanese market only but gained world-wide release, is considered by some to be the best live album of any band to emerge from the seventies. Released just in time for the Christmas season, it edited together songs from all three nights. In 1993 a more complete, three compact disc version was released which devoted one disc for each show. Given the limitations of space each show is still incomplete. Two tracks, “Lazy” from the August 17th Tokyo show and “Black Night” from the August 16th Osaka tape appear on the 2002 six disc release Listen, Learn, Read On. The second track is important since it was previously unreleased.
Live In Japan Complete collects three good audience recordings and offers the most complete versions of these concerts spread over six cds. Not all of these sources offer the best sound quality, but they are all listenable. These three dates are the first Deep Purple played in the far east and account for the entire tour. The playing in these shows are one of the highlights of the Mark II line up and are an amazing contrast to their second tour of Japan almost a year later, which would be the last ones with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. Those concerts would have almost identical set lists but the tension within the band is obvious, especially in the final show in Osaka on June 29th, 1973 and documented on Darker Than Blue’s “The End” (Darker Than Blue 031/32).
The first Osaka show on the first two discs is the best sounding of the three. It is slightly distant but very clear and powerful. Given the difficulty in producing good audience tapes in the Festival Hall in Osaka, it is a minor miracle this is as good as it is. This tape appears on an obscure Japanese title called Syuusen Kinenbi on Murasaki Records 2CD. There are several minor cuts between some of the songs but is otherwise musically complete. “Smoke On The Water” is the only track from this night used for the Live In Japan LP. It begins with a short tune up before Gillan introduces “Highway Star” and the band are off and running. “Smoke On The Water” is described as a song from the same album discussing the events surrounding the recording of the LP. Paice gives a very energetic drum solo in his spot in “The Mule”. “Lazy” from Machine Head lasts for ten minutes but the song is an inchoate mess of styles that never really jell on stage. The audience senses this and never gets into the song. The do react loudly to the introduction to the set closer “Space Truckin'”, the highlight of the evening. Jon Lord plays a bit of “When The Saints Come Marching In” during the “Mandrake Root” section of “Space Truckin'”. “Black Night”, a very early song by the band, is played as the first encore. The second encore “Speed King” is introduced one of the very first things they did and a bunch of rock and roll numbers all stuck together. This song is a true pastiche of oldies including lines from “Rip It Up” and “Lucille”.
The second night in Osaka has received the most coverage in the past with the two disc set Burning Night on Good Believe (GB-002/3) and on Live In Japan (Darker Than Blue 005/006). Two early Italian releases, Live In Japan (Legend LCD127) and Live In Osaka 72 (DiscoMagic ONPD2348) are actually pirates utilizing material from the official release. “Highway Star”, “Child In Time”, “Strange Kind Of Woman” and “Space Truckin'” are on the Live In Japan LP and “Lucille”, the only variation in the set list appears as a bonus track on the anniversary edition. The audience recording is more distant than the first night but is richer and deeper. It has a small cut at 1:48 in “Lazy” but is otherwise complete. A bulk of the first live LP comes from this show for because this is definitely the best of the three nights. “Highway Star” is introduced as a “new song” about “fat Larry and his car.” “Smoke On The Water” is about the things that happened in Switzerland while recording that album and Blackmore plays amazing eastern sounding scales. “Child In Time” is delayed for prolonged tuning but Gillan especially delivers a poignant performance. “You’re only about four foot six so don’t worry about it. There is always somebody smaller than you”. “The Mule” is introduced as “about Lucifer and his friends”. Lord plays a bit of Dixie before the band begins the track. There is another long tuning before “Strange Kind of Woman” which, Gillan explains, is due to the time change. “Space Truckin'” doesn’t contain any hymns on this night but is pure Hammond experimentation.
The August 17th show is the only one of the three played in the capital Tokyo. This tape was released on Live In Japan 8.17.1972 (Masterport-018) and two songs, “The Mule” and “Lazy” appear on the Live In Japan LP. Two more tracks, “Black Night” and “Speed King” are included as a bonus on the anniversary edition. The taper was close to the stage but there are significant amounts of distortion, especially during the louder passages, making this the most difficult of the three to get through. There is a small cut and fade before “Strange Kind Of Woman” and a cut at 8:16 in “Lazy”. As an introduction to “Smoke One The Water”, Blackmore eschews the usual introductory riff in a different key but rather plays a bar of “God Save The Queen”. “Strange Kind Of Woman” is fantastic in this performance with Gillan giving a flawless response to Blackmore’s guitar until the latter throws in a popular sea shanty. There is another long delay before “Lazy” which, Gillan explains, is because they are “such rugged players”. Lord begins with song with a bomb dropping on the Budokan, as the band gets ready to play the song. “Space Truckin'” is introduced as a song about “space travel and rock and roll”.
It is similar to the second Osaka performance in construction and intensity. Lord does not play any classical pieces but is twenty minutes of chaotic quasi-noise followed by Blackmore’s attack on the guitar. It is a shame the tape is so distorted since this is a phenomenal version of the piece. Before “Black Night” there is a small cut in the tape as the promoter Mr. Goro Ito introduces the band again. Live In Japan Complete comes with a miniature reproduction of the twenty-two-page tour program which is a nice addition. Darker Than Blue didn’t try too hard to improve these tapes with excessive remastering but presenting the tapes as they are. The discs are housed in a six-disc fatboy jewel case and they use the same photograph on the cover as is on the official release offering some continuity. The most desirable product would be to have all three shows complete in perfectly mixed soundboard recordings. So far, although Deep Purple has been very generous by releasing many tapes from their archives, these have not yet surfaced.
Despite some of the limitations mentioned above these are all very listenable documents. This is of particular value since most of the tapes have not been widely booted in the past and those have are very old and hard to find. The label has released several impressive comprehensive Deep Purple sets over the past couple of years and this is another addition to an impressive catalogue. Made In Japan is an important live album in the history of rock and many consider it to be the absolute peak of this Deep Purple line-up, playing the best live versions of their greatest songs. In lieu of the band releasing the complete soundboards from all three shows, Live In Japan Complete fills in a considerable void. This title is limited to three hundred copies and for the committed fan this is definitely worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)