Photo: The Metal Years-there was more to Deep Purple than "Smoke on the Water" and "My Woman from Tokyo.& quot; But not much more.
Thursday, August 8, 2002
At one point in the ''70s, this British hard-rock group had three discs in the top 100 and was second only to Led Zeppelin as a concert draw. The reason for this massive success was their 1972 classic Machine Head , a metal tour-de force that featured their signature four chordal riff classic "Smoke on the Water" and their greatest track "Highway Star". This re-issue of the March 1973 album was the follow-up to Machine Head as has the same relationship to that disc as AC/DC''s For Those About to Rock We Salute You had to Back in Black-namely, a massive letdown.
For the same reasons, too. One powerhouse track per disc plus endless filler. AC/DC are and were more consistent and so the Purple crew''s fall off the musical map was more painful. Only "Woman From Tokyo" and the punchy lick underneath "Rat Bat Blue" are worth a damn, and the former hit song is basically a reprise of "Smoke on the Water" rhythmically and arrangement wise. It is a catchy number all the same, but not worth 15 bucks.
Because the rest ain''t much. "Mary Long" is preachy tripe, "Super Trooper" was snazzy to these ears at 17 but predictable 70''s plod now and the rest, outtakes and rarities included, reveal the Purple to be not even a patch on Zeppelin, Sabbath, Aerosmith or Humble Pie once Machine Head (or their 60''s hits "Hush" and "Kentucky Woman" or the intense "Speed King" from In Rock are off the player. Opt for Rhino''s Deep Purple boxed set Shades 1968-1998 instead, OK?
In a Word (1969- )
The quintessential progressive rock band and thirty plus years of it. To those that grew up with this British institution, there are two possible responses-either it conjures up hazy days of introspection plonked down in front of one''s stereo and marvelling at the band''s intricacies, or that of running as far away as possible from the fey declamations and swooping, arbitrary tempo/key changes, as they''re (Yes is) pretty much the antithesis of "rock and roll."
This collection and overview, five discs worth of it, covers the band''s entire career span, from their humble beginnings as a jazzy, hippie ensemble covering Beatles and Byrds obscurities, to their middle period of immense popularity when guitar wizard Steve Howe dominated the band, to their post Close to the Edge decline and ressurection with the cut and paste masterpiece "Owner of a Lonely Heart."
In retrospect, a few salient points. The much maligned session drummer Alan White, replacement for original pounder Bill Bruford kept a heartier pace than Bruford and stopped some of their weaker material from sinking, Howe''s guitar lines sound better today than ever as wonders of imagination and singer Jon Anderson''s warble is still the epitome of wimp-his chirp renders great songs like "Yours is No Disgrace" and the King Crimson-esque "Heart of the Sunrise" almost unbearable. Still, as THC-enhanced ephemera goes, classy stuff.
Machito and his Afro-Cuban All Stars
Mambo Mucho Mambo-the Complete Columbia Masters
Brassy, warm, and most assuredly not dated or corny, the music on this 20-song CD is as infectious and joyous today as it was 50 plus years ago. Senor Frank Raul Grillo, aka Machito, was the undisputed king of Afro-Cuban jazz, a sweet, sensuous take on the big band music of the late 40''s and early 50''s. Mixing the melodies and melodic sense of Cuban folk with ballroom friendly arrangements plus Latin percussion, this is great stuff, maybe the best of the last gasp of the big-bands, before Bebop and R&B buried the whole thing.
Quoting "Hava Nagila" (on "Holiday Mambo"), getting cute n'' clever on "Mambo A La Savoy", using Mitch Miller as guest on oboe (aye caramba!) on the "Oboe Mambo", swinging like Benny Goodman''s or even Count Basie''s wildest dream on "Sambia", this is a sure-fire party disc of total pleasure. Regardless of the age of the guests, no less, how many other platters can make that offer? And unlike the Brazilian stylings of a Xaviar Cugat or the street-like Tito Puente, there''s a certain pan-American patina about the music that gives it a charm like you rarely see anywhere-this is truly the music of the whole continent in its era, greater than a Miami Sound Machine or even a Santana could ever dream of. Seek it out, a must to possess.