Deep Purple – Definitive “The End” (Darker Than Blue DTB 279/280)

Definitive “The End” (Darker Than Blue DTB 279/280)

Koseinenkin Kaikan, Osaka, Japan – June 29, 1973

Disc 1 (41:37) Intro, Highway Star, Smoke On The Water, Strange Kind Of Woman, Child In Time

Disc 2 (45:44) Lazy, Drum Solo / The Mule, Space Truckin’, Applause, Ian Gillan Closing Speech

It’s interesting that the seeds that led to the demise of the Mark II version of Deep Purple were planted back in 1971 when Ritchie Blackmore felt that singer Ian Gillan’s vocal style was too “restrictive”, likewise Gillan did not subscribe to the idea of the guitar being the most important aspect of Purple. Certainly some of the tension could be attributed to the demand for the band on the live circuit as well as demand for more studio records. By the time Purple entered 1972 they had a hit album on hand with the now iconic Machine Head and several tours booked for the USA, UK, and their first ever visit to Japan. As if all of that was not enough they would begin to write and record what would become the Who Do You Think We Are record and release their first live album, Made In Japan. With their internal relationship breaking down, Ian Gillan would send a letter of resignation to the band’s management and would ultimately agree to honor the live commitments that would stretch into the summer of 1973.

Somehow Mark II Deep Purple would finish their swan song (for over decade that is) and forge through the adversity. The band’s management was in fear of losing the band all together and desperately tried to keep them together, Blackmore agreed to stay with one condition, Roger Glover must also leave the band. A heartbroken Glover would tell of his last conversation with The Man In Black following the last concert in Japan, the recording featured here: “He came up to me and shook my hand. He said, ‘Look it’s nothing personal but it’s what I believe is right for the band’, and funnily enough I accepted that. The strange thing is I didn’t feel any animosity towards Ritchie”. He would, however, feel like he was betrayed by the management and Lord and Paice, curiously he would work again with Blackmore 7 years later when he joined Rainbow. (For my research I referred to the CD booklet of the remaster of Who Do We Think We Are? and the book from the excellent Listen, Learn, Read On box set).

These two paragraphs are just a brief bit of the background for this new release by the Darker Than Blue label, the last stand of the Mark II line up of Deep Purple for 12 years. With the band’s first trip to Japan the previous summer being so successful and resulting in the release of the landmark live album Made In Japan, Deep Purple made a return visit in the summer of 1973 for an originally planned six date tour that would see the band return to Tokyo and Osaka plus dates in Hiroshima and Nagoya. Like the previous tour, demand was high and the mania of Japanese fans at a fever pitch, so much that the group’s performance at the first Tokyo show caused a riot after the band elected to not perform an encore, the damage done at the Budokan forced an immediate cancellation of the second date on June 26.

The recording featured here is from the last date on the tour and the second of two concerts on the same day, the early show being a make up gig for the canceled second date in Tokyo. This new title features a new digital transfer directly from the master tape and some gentle tape mastering and restoration to bring what is advertised as the definitive version of “The End”. Of course this recording has circulated for years, an early vinyl title was released as Gillan / Glover’s Last (To-Kei DG 14) and several versions have come out on compact disc, Last Live 1973 (MN35-1091/1092), The End, Good-Bye (TNT Studio TNT-930130/1), “The End” (Darker Than Blue DTB 031/032), and its re-release “The End” (Darker Than Blue DTB 201/202).

Curiously, I do not have a version of this historic performance in my collection so was quite intrigued with this release. WGPSEC was kind enough to make and send me a copy of “The End” (Darker Than Blue DTB 031/032) to use for comparison, this also being the last version of this concert reviewed here on CMR. The recording from Osaka is very good and at times excellent, the 2,400 theatre was an intimate venue with excellent acoustics and by the sound of the recording, the taper was in a good position near the stage. The sound is very well balanced with all instruments and vocals easily distinguished in the mix. The bass does occasionally slightly distort the lower end but overall the recording has a nice range of frequencies. The audience is well behaved and the atmosphere is very well represented. When I compare this new version with DTB 031/032 it is easy to hear the difference, the frequency range is far wider in this release as is the overall clarity of sound and there is still a very minor bit of tape hiss which one would expect common with a tape that is 47 years old. It does sound like the sound volume has been slightly boosted over the older DTB 031/032, the highs are crisp and the low end is still great and the overall effect is like seeing a window before and after you clean it, since this is a direct transfer of the master tape, I couldn’t imagine the sound ever improving and certainly lives up to the definitive moniker.

The performance is a mixed bag, Highway Star and Smoke On The Water are pretty decent, both feature tight playing yet more standard versions, far from the spirited improvisations the group was known for. As Gerard points out in his review, Gillan seems to mumble a bit in his between song banter, as clear as this recording is, you do struggle making out what he is saying. Strange Kind Of Woman has a nice little noodle jam at the beginning, Lord and Paice try to push Ritchie a bit but it doesn’t work. This song has long been a favorite, but this version is so uninspired it makes me almost laugh. Ian seems to forget the lyrics and while Blackmore plays a pretty decent solo, but by the time they get to the call and response part, he just blows Gillan’s sparring efforts off.

The first part of Child In Time continues the trend, Blackmore seems to purposely ruin the beginning by playing off key, it’s really a shame as the audience in Osaka give it a huge ovation when Ian introduces it. He stops playing during Lord’s organ piece before his main solo and then plays a ripping solo that is fast and very aggressive, certainly his best solo of the evening. I wonder if Gillan had briefly left the stage during his “solo spot”. Surprisingly the second half of the song is really good, drama at its very best with Ian hitting his trademark wails without hesitation.

The crowd are very respectful and possibly a bit underwhelmed even as the band try and draw them in with a jam before Lazy that screams clap along, shout and scream. Certainly one of Blackmore’s favorite riffs, he would carry it into his days beyond Purple. Of special note should be Roger Glover, he is basically playing his last show with the band that gave him fame, being the consummate professional he plays a very spirit concert, he is extremely tight with Paice during Lazy, a foundation for Blackmore and Lord to solo over. The song would feature Ian Paice’s drum solo, love his playing and along with Bill Ward of Black Sabbath is certainly one of the better drummers in Rock.

Space Truckin’ has the long lead in with Jon Lord playing a bit of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, popularized by Elvis of course, and Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love, Blackmore is no where to be found until he enters into the second riff of the song proper. As mentioned in GS’s review, Glover gets a cool solo and just as the band get into the Mandrake Root jam part Lord plays Happy Birthday to Paice, the audience recognize they are getting into the usually intense jam portion and applaud, yet to no avail. Blackmore is mostly absent from the song and Jon Lord is forced to noodle, after the song grounds to a fortunate close, Gillan remarks “The end”. The entire nearly six minutes of applause is recorded as is Gillan’s final speech…”All I want to say to all of you is thank you, you were great, thank you all, thank you to those who organized our visit to Japan, thank you to the radio, the represented of all over the world as far as we’re concerned. Thank you, God bless you for everything you’ve given us…this is the last night, The End”.

The packaging consists of color and black and white shots from the actually concert on front, rear, and interior inserts. You get the numbered sticker and picture CD’s, the usual fare all housed in a slim lined jewel case. First off this is a really nice release and the sound is certainly an upgrade of the older DTB title. The performance is historic but does not hold up to repeated listens, much like the official release of the Graz April 3, 1975 show, the band just going through the motions trying to get through an uncomfortable position. Having listened to the older DTB title then going direct into this new title, I much prefer this title and am glad to add it to my collection.

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