Deep Purple - This Time Around Live In Tokyo
I always felt I was a little different from the majority of Purple fans, and came out of the closet years ago. You see, I actually like ‘Last Concert In Japan’. I think it's a great album - always have done. OK, the fact that it was my first real Japanese import helped, but here was a chance to listen to the cream of the ‘Come Taste The Band’ tracks in a live setting. I got to know the album intimately. I know every ad-lib, whoop and holler, and could match every scream from both Coverdale and Hughes (although off-key of course!). I ended up picking up a second vinyl copy, and threw £20 over the counter in Tower Records for the import CD a few years back. When I joined the DPAS, my first letter asked if anyone knew if the rest of the ‘Last Concert’ tapes still existed.
Anyway, you all know the story by now. The final date in Japan - at the Budo-Kan in Tokyo on December 15th 1975 - was taped both officially and unofficially (the bootleg first appearing on vinyl under the title 'Get It While It Tastes') and the greatly edited single LP version of the show was released in Japan in March 1977. Now the complete show is available, as it was on the night, with no slight of hand, no dodgy edits and no running order re-arrangements; as with other such DPAS-related releases, what you get is the show as it happened, warts and all, as they say.
The first thing you notice is the preponderance of material aired from ‘Come Taste The Band’. Seven of the album's nine tracks were showcased on the night, a brave move considering the relatively poor sales of the album; by the time the US dates were recorded, the number of new songs had been considerably pared down. The second thing is that if you are familiar with 'Last Concert' you'll see that the bulk of the original album is drawn from the early part of the band's set. So, things get started with David Coverdale's screamed intro and THAT version of 'Burn', before giving way to 'Lady Luck' with its funky little guitar solo, and 'Love Child' which gives Jon Lord room to show off his particular skills.
The first ‘new' track is 'Gettin' Tighter', which at the best part of sixteen or so minutes not only eclipses the version on 'Foxbat' but also has more 'structure' than the American recording, and features more nice keyboard doodling, as well as the Hughes / Bolin interplay plus some fine vocals from the bassist.Up next is 'Smoke On The Water'. On the plus side, Glenn Hughes' 'Georgia..' snippet had been resurrected and reinstated, having being edited off the original vinyl release. But on the minus side... I guess I am the ultimate heretic; I don't really like the song, finding it rather dull. Live, it has a little more merit, but not the way MK.IV played it. In addition, Hughes' howling through 'Georgia..' adds absolutely nothing to 'Smoke..' and I still wonder why anyone actually let him do it in the first place. Still, it gives way to 'Wild Dogs', a classic in its own right and a marvellous showcase of Bolin's talents, both as a singer and a guitarist, as he wrenches out that final solo before the song crashes to an end.
'I Need Love' doesn't really work live, and you can see why it was soon dropped from the live set. Bereft of the classy fretboard overdubs on the studio version, it just plods along before Coverdale delivers what was to become in later years his 'Soldier of Fortune' trademark and Jon Lord embarks on the first of the set's lengthy solos (including the 'Woman From Tokyo' snippet that along with 'Soldier Of Fortune' was tacked to the end of 'Smoke' on the LP). As was the norm, Lord's spots are flawless and 'Lazy', complete with Ian Paice's drum solo; both solo spots are almost effortless in their execution, although as ever they mean more if you were actually there on the night.
Hughes steps up to introduce 'This Time Around / Owed To G', and delivers a superb vocal performance, before Paice thunders in and Bolin cuts loose on the instrumental passage. Things falter as his solo spot takes quite a time to get going, but as he warms up (or the nerves die down) he pulls off some nice touches before plunging effortlessly into 'Drifter'. Coverdale's lead vocals are spot on (Hughes sounds rather off-key in the background!), and by now Bolin is really firing on all eight. After loss of momentum arising from the middle set solos, the band is back in the groove once more. 'You Keep On Moving' was the highlight of 'Last Concert..' for me, and it still has all of its appeal. A beautiful piece with some deft flashes from Bolin, and that terrific solo from Lord, this version never fails to put a shiver up my spine. 'Stormbringer' closes the set proper, this version being very similar to the one on 'Foxbat', together with the extended (and perhaps unnecessary, given the powerful MK.III versions) ending. After such a set, it's a bit of a surprise and a disappointment that the sole encore is the no-frills version of 'Highway Star'.
There you have it. In summary, it you disliked 'Last Concert..' because of the ‘liberties' taken with the set, then this will restore your faith; on the other hand, if you liked the record, then you're going to love this new version. Coverdale is in fine form throughout (a much better performance than is in evidence on 'Foxbat'), Bolin pulls some real magic out of his guitar, Hughes and Paice are nice and tight and Lord is ever reliable, almost a hidden hand directing things from stage left. This to me is vintage Purple.
Niggles? One of the only other gripes is the lack of encores; hearing the material for the first time without a track list I expected more than just the single breakneck rendition of 'Highway Star'. I was still at school in Torquay in 1976; Liverpool and the rest of the Mk.IV dates were a long way from my home town, so I didn't get to see those legendary, shambolic final dates. It's over twenty years since my mates and I sat and wondered how it could all have turned so sour so quickly; now, having played this recording through from start to finish several times now, and still enjoying the class of material and the strength of the performances (both individual and as a whole) which at times crackle with energy, the question remains - how did things go so badly wrong within just three short months? Talk about chucking it all away....
This review appeared in Issue 52 of Darker Than Blue magazine, along with a detailed report on TOKYO '75.