on 4 June 2014
And so, after what seems like years of waiting…
Correction! After LITERALLY years of waiting, the previously labelled “40th anniversary” release of Made In Japan has finally arrived. And not without contention, given the apparent confusion about the numerous - and potentially superfluous - formats that have been released. Something that, to be honest, has not been helped by Amazon grouping reviews of all the formats together, which makes it even more difficult to find the review of the format you’re interested in.
So just to be clear, I own the 9 disk vinyl box-set ("Made In Japan [VINYL]") which forms the basis for this review.
Deep Purple’s “Made In Japan” is rightly considered to be one of THE all-time classic live albums and, being more than 40 years old, this re-release will no doubt generate interest from an eclectic range of people. So I thought it might be useful to begin this review with my recommendations for the version that you might like to consider.
1. You aren’t overly familiar with the material and would like to add this “classic album” to your collection. You have a tendency to think that the production value of music has deteriorated over time, and nod knowingly when you read a review that includes the phrases “Loudness War”, “Compressed Waveform” and/or “Kevin Shirley is rubbish”. You should consider the Single CD version (or the standard vinyl version). This includes the 7 track album in remastered form, without any remix tinkering (see * below for disclaimer).
2. Similar to 1, but you’re potentially in a younger demographic and think that Beats Headphones are the pinnacle of audiophile technology. You hate it when an older song starts on Spotify and you can’t hear it properly because it’s so much quieter than the song which played before. You should consider the Double CD version. The 7 original tracks have been remixed by Kevin Shirley, and if there’s a Loudness War to be won, The Caveman’s the man to win it. Nobody, including staff at Universal, actually know why the second disk of all encores from the three shows was included in this set. You may well find it fairly superfluous to your needs; particularly as it includes different versions of the same 3 songs, which have been remixed differently to the main disk; they are at different volume and reverse stereo orientation. Do check out Black Night @ Tokyo, though, which is well worth a listen and deserves to be in any Deep Purple “Best Of”.
3. You've owned this album for ever, and love it so much you want to buy it again. While you might want to consider options 1 or 2 you might also think about digging the original out of the attic and giving it a spin. Was there anything wrong with it before? * Be aware that both the remaster and remix of the “original album” have songs faded into each other (as per 1998 remaster), which was not the case on the original. This has led to some minor(ish) editing and the intro to Child In Time suffers a little due to the faded applause from the previous song.
4. You spend a lot of your life worrying that your reclining theatre chair is possibly a few inches from the stereo sweet-spot in your purpose built hi-fi studio. You know without a shadow of doubt that “Linear pulse-code modulation” is essential to listening pleasure, despite your friends reminding you of the tinnitus you’ve suffered in your left ear since that Rainbow concert in 1980 (before they went all pop-rock). It’s possible that you would consider the HD Blu-ray audio. This includes both remaster of the original and the Kevin Shirley remix, but does not include the encores. Just be aware that this is a stereo, not 5.1, mix and that – depending on location – you may be able to download this via alternative purchase options.
5. You’re a Deep Purple fan or collector who needs to own the full “three concert” set. You’ve spent the last 30 or so years explaining to everyone who will listen that sound waves are analogue, and cannot be adequately represented in a series of 1’s and 0’s on a silver (or blue) disk. You are really, really, prepared for your 9 disk listening extravaganza to be interrupted every 20 minutes or so while you turn over that precious black wax (15 times across the full set). You’re likely to want the set I'm reviewing here, but please do read on…
6. Like 4, you want it all but you are quite happy listening to music in digital form. CD is good enough for home, mp3 is good enough for on the road. You need the 5 disk CD/DVD set. And that’s probably what I should have bought!!!
Well! Now you have my thoughts on the version that might suit you, perhaps I should actually review the product I purchased.
I should start by simply saying that I consider the audio content exceptional. I have loved, loved... “did I say loved?” listening to it. While the 3 disk “Live In Japan” 90’s release had its place at the time, this is so superior and it’s just wonderful to be able to listen to each show seamlessly, with the only break being between main set and encore. I am genuinely so impressed with the work that Martin Pullan has done here. Has anyone else noticed that very faint conversation taking place (in Japanese) during one of quieter moments in Space Truckin’ (Tokyo)? Like a review of any top-tier bottle of red, there will minor quibbles and individual preferences, but overall this is spot on.
As for the music itself, I’m sure that if you’re considering the full three concert set you’ll already be familiar enough with the material; even if just the original. The three shows basically had the same set-list so each is only really differentiated by the improvisations that Purple always worked with and you will no doubt have your own favourites.
So why, then, do I only feel that this set deserves three stars? Well, truth be told, it’s because the overall package left me feeling a little disappointed and flat for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, having read other reviews, there appears to be a reasonable degree of dissatisfaction with the download options. US purchases appear to have no access to downloadable digital formats. For me, I have been able to use the included code to download the full three shows in mp3 format; which is perfect for portable listening. But the HD downloads publicised on the box and on-line advertisements are limited to the equivalent of the Blu-ray (remaster and remix of 7 track original album, without encores). While I wanted the option of listening to the vinyl, I frequently listen to music in digital lossless form at home and believed that this option was available for all of the musical content included on the disks.
Secondly, the box-set inclusions are not that impressive or well designed. The vinyl is packaged in three, oddly coloured (not quite as bad as they appear on the promo pictures) gate-fold sleeves; two disks on one side and one on the other. The “etched” disks are all the same, being the greetings/signatures you may have seen in the original Japanese version. And the only other inclusion is the book, which in this set is soft cover (it’s hard cover in the CD/DVD set). While I’m not totally against the content of this, it could have been better with a bit more research and expert input on the tour/release history. Finally, to my mind, being the most expensive option, it is hard to understand why the inclusions are not as comprehensive or well presented as the CD/DVD set. In particular, why exclude the 7” when this surely compliments a vinyl set more than a CD/DVD?
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have rushed into the pre-ordering quite so quickly, and should have bought the CD/DVD set. You might wish to consider the same.
PS For those interested in the history of the “Loudness War”, conflict began in August 1972 with these words…. “Can we have everything louder than everything else”.