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Listen, Learn, Reissue again!
on 31 July 2014
Hard Road takes its name from the alternate title of the track Wring That Neck. For some reason in the US, the track was originally issued as the former. Perhaps an apt title for a Mk1 box set as Purple were really just coming to grips with forming their sound/style that would eventually crystalize on the In Rock album in 1970.
So what does this box set include? Five discs covering their first three studio albums, including Shades of Deep Purple and Book Of Taliesyn in mono as well as stereo (the self titled 3rd album was never released in mono). Each disc is housed in a reproduction mini LP sleeve and the set is accompanied by a 48 page booklet. The whole set is actually very similar to the Deep Purple Originals 3CD box sets that were released in 1995/7.
Bonus tracks - Although there are loads of 'bonus' tracks here, most were already issued when the 3 albums were remastered in 2000. There are some 2003 remixes of tracks as extras too, though these tracks were originally released on The Early Years album issued in 2004. In fact discounting the mono mixes, there are only 3 unreleased tracks - Why Didn't Rosemary? (early instrumental take), The Bird Has Flown (early version, 2012 stereo mix) and a 2012 stereo mix of Emmaretta. Out of these three, the stereo mix of Emmaretta is great, Ritchie's guitar sounds a bit more seperate in the mix. I love this track and know every nuance so its great to hear it sounding remixed and slightly different. The guitar and drums are allowed to fight on beyond the fade out on this one - great stuff!
The mono mixes - I'm afraid they don't do it for me. Mono mixes were disappearing in 1968/9 and I'm pretty sure the Shades and Taliesyn monos are just fold downs from the stereo mixes. Both these albums were recorded very fast (especially Shades) and I don't think there would have been the time to do a dedicated mono mix. I can't hear any difference to the tracks that I already know in my head so well - I don't think we've got a Sgt Pepper stereo v mono situation here is all I'm saying!
The booklet - pretty good 48 page booklet, actually comparable to some of the EMI remaster booklets from Purple's later catalogue. Good overview of the Mk1 years and includes two recent interviews with bass player Nick Simper and original producer Derek Lawrence. Plenty of photos, foreign sleeve covers etc It gripes me slightly that Nick still slips in that he 'taught' Ritchie the Rick Nelson Summertime riff (which was used in Black Night eventually) - you may have shown him the riff Nick but he and the rest of the band had the know-how to do something with it when the chips were down!
Overall, is this set worth it? Two out of the three Mk1 albums are still going for a fiver on Amazon at the moment. You'll be able to get all 3 for a reasonable price for half the price of this set. If you want everything that was originally released in 68/9 (barring mono mixes) then get those.
If you get those three and still want the 2003 mixes used here as bonus tracks get The Early Years album which has even more mixes than this set.
If you want absolutely every (stereo) Mk1 track released then you'll have to get the 3 previously mentioned unreleased tracks too. Maybe you'll be able to download them individually? They're usually wise to that though.
Personally, I'll have no reason to listen to the mono mixes again. There is no new 'sounds' and I feel its audibly a step backwards from the stereo that fans of these albums already know. I'm sure there will be people that will disagree with that. If you're a completist you'll have to stump up for this set (or go and buy the LP's in mono, Shades was reissued earlier this year on RSD).
If this comes under the twenty quid mark then its worth it for the three studio albums, b-sides and the stereo mix of Emmaretta. Till then, stick with the three remastered studio albums.