DEEP PURPLE: THIS TIME AROUND - LIVE IN TOKYO

By Jim Sheridan

For some twenty years, the album Last Concert In Japan served as the final gasp of Deep Purple Mark IV, the final 1970’s incarnation of that classic band. While the studio album Come Taste the Band was a fresh blast of energy that has aged well, the live album did not receive much welcome. It offered precious little new material, highlighting instead songs that had already appeared on Made In Japan at their best. It had minimal packaging, and the sonic quality was flat; many postulated that it had come the mix-down of the Japanese film of the same show. In addition, it was not note-for-note faithful to the Blackmore songs that did appear, and it dabbled with entirely new and unPurple sounds.

The fans’ decision was ultimately informed by Last Concert In Japan, a rush-job which had Tommy’s guitar lines turned down. To most, Last Concert In Japan was incontrovertible evidence against Mark IV and Bolin, and the stories grew: from “He had no feeling in his arm from a bad heroin fix” to “He was playing only open chords throughout whilst Jon Lord covered for him”; all of the usual 1970’s rag mag rumors. The actual music performed in that show would disprove the latter rumor, but more than half of the show had been left off the album.

Luckily, the power of archival memory has arisen to set the record straight. The master tapes of the December 15, 1975 concert in Tokyo, only the band’s thirteenth show with this line-up, have been rediscovered, remixed, and remastered to stunning effect. While still not up to Bolin’s best live recorded work — that title would have to be held by the likes of Zephyr: Live.

This Time Around has much to offer, and can certainly take its place beside the King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Deep Purple set. The band has a brash, aggressive sound, and a comparison with the KBFH show reveals that this risk-taking group never played things the same way twice.

In terms of sonic clarity, the new Last Concert In Japan, renamed This Time Around actually has much better sound than the King Biscuit CD. This multi-track recording offers clear definition to each instrument. While the original Last Concert In Japan had a flat sound with the guitar mixed low, here Bolin’s sound is up with that of the rest of the band. The vocals are much more distinct also, and the attack of Ian Paice and Jon Lord is particularly impressive.

The wealth of songs is equally great. The original lcij had offered a few songs not on the KBFH disc “Wild Dogs,” “You Keep On Moving” — but here on This Time Around we get MORE new songs otherwise not available elsewhere live: “I Need Love” and “Drifter.” These four songs are valuable not only because this is the only CD that contains them, but especially because they are Mark IV songs, and the band played those songs with much more fire and finesse than they did the older songs. Indeed, this show is heavy on the new songs; almost the entire Come Taste the Band album appears here. The show kicks off with the powerful one-two of “Burn” and “Lady Luck” before moving into the Jon Lord showcase of “Love Child.” These are followed by “Getting’ Tighter,” Bolin’s aggressive rhythm playing markedly different than the take on KBFH. The band takes time to jam around the middle section, with Tommy doing plenty of muted chicken picking to get the feet moving. Tommy and Glenn engage in a spirited bass/guitar duet, and then a vocal/guitar duel, and Jon Lord shines throughout. It is on tracks like this one that the new remix shines. Each instrument can be heard clearly and distinctly for maximum sonic impact. This is an epic version of the Mark IV hard rocking Bolin/Hughes song.

“Smoke On The Water/Georgia On My Mind” follows, with Bolin and Lord creating some funky interplay on the coda. And then “Wild Dogs” arrives, the centerpiece of the show in many ways. Bolin’s vocal is right on, and his guitar solo soars into the stratosphere, propelled by a band that is clearly into it. At the end of the track, Deep Purple Mark IV roar through a few extended runs of the chordal riff like a champion taking a victory lap. This may be the best live version of this Bolin classic, and the punch that this new version of it has puts the old one to shame. More new material follows in “I Need Love,” and then the band takes an extended journey. David Coverdale gets to shine on “Soldier of Fortune,” and then Jon Lord takes his solo stretch, which segues into a ramshackle “Lazy.” At the heart of “Lazy” is Ian Paice’s drum solo, which he delivers with sharp authority.

Glenn Hughes’ vocal showcase This Time Around again finds Hughes in good form, and leads into the dissonant crunch of “Owed to G.” Tommy gets some shred in here that definitely proves that Jon Lord was not taking all the solos!! In the unaccompanied Bolin solo segment, Tommy works his effects unit, creating an avant garde soundscape that sounds more like something from a progressive rock band, more Crimson than Purple. In truth, it is the kind of thing that would have fit in perfectly with his work in Zephyr. He moves through a segment of the “Love Child” rhythm before segueing back into more cosmic stew, from which the band storms into “Drifter.” The vocals soar on the somber “You Keep On Moving,” a great example of the new edge that the band had, a blend of music that no other version of Deep Purple would have been able to concoct. “Stormbringer” raises the tempo quite a few notches, and the Mark II classic “Highway Star” wraps the show up at a peak adrenaline level.

As This Time Around, the Last Concert In Japan set has finally been assembled and produced the way it should have been. Rather than being evidence of how much a classic band had slipped, it truly shows — especially on the Mark IV originals — how far this line-up could have gone. With epic performances from the band, and with many flashes of the brilliance that made Tommy Bolin a legend, this set demands to be heard over and over again.

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