Not the Pazz and Jop 1972 – #18

Deep Purple – Made in Japan

I’m not the biggest fan of live albums. Live music is great, and when your favourite band takes a tight 5-minute tune and stretches it to 19:28, you are there for every repetitive second of it. On record, not so much: on your (hopefully) comfortable couch or behind the wheel of your (maybe) comfortable car, you sort of just want them to get on with it.

So, we have another Deep Purple record, with a fair bit of overlap with “Machine Head”: four of that album’s seven tracks get the live treatment. This time around it’s a seven-track double album, so you know there is at least one ridiculously long song that meanders with no apparent purpose. On this record it is “Space Truckin’”, a not very memorable “Machine Head” cut that came in at 4:31, now stretched to an almost unbearable 19:42. I lost interest long before the end, and it seemed the band might have, too, and as I strolled along the boardwalk, I stopped paying attention to the song and started thinking about what I was going to have for breakfast.

Otherwise, I liked the three tracks that were new to me – the Deep Purple canon being a mostly blank spot in my music listening history – and the length didn’t seem overdone even though each tops nine minutes. Blackmore’s playing still shines, and “Smoke on the Water” remains an unassailable classic. I just have a hard time accepting there wasn’t another record more worthy of the slot.

For my money, if you limited yourself to just picking another album that rocks, this spot in the Top 20 would’ve been much better allocated to Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4”, in which Ozzy Osbourne and company answer the question, “Is there a limit to how much drugs you can take and still make a kick-ass metal record?” with a resounding “No!” Favourite tracks include “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” and “Laguna Sunrise”. But the peak for these ears is “Changes”, which I knew from a soul version that serves as the theme song to the hysterical and obscene Netflix animated series “Big Mouth”. If, like me, you are mostly aware of Ozzy as the greatly dissipated force that became a TV star in the early 2000s, the grace with which he sings this gentle tale – written by a band member about the end of his marriage – will knock you off your feet. I doubt I’ll encounter any other Black Sabbath records on the formal portion of this journey, but I’m curious enough that I might check them out anyway.

(Originally posted on Facebook, August 25, 2021)

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