4.5 out of 5 Stars!
This is probably—and sadly—one of Deep Purple’s most underrated albums, often dismissed by the critics and usually rated poorly by fans of the group. Then again, after the previous releases of Made In Japan and Machine Head, just about anything this talented group of individuals had produced would have likely been less-than-enthusiastically received. After all, without another brilliant and memorable (and forever-classic) opening riff for a track such as Machine Head’s “Smoke On The Water” included on this album, most people wrote this off as a bunch of “filler tracks” with perhaps one or two decent songs tossed in for good measure.
Yet in truth, the riffs for tracks such as “Woman From Toyko” or “Rat Bat Blue” are equally as brilliant and memorable (and were not as annoyingly overplayed by US radio) as the riff to “Smoke On The Water”—or at least they are to these ears.
Of course, I’m prejudiced in the fact that this is one of the very first albums I ever purchased. Nostalgia plays a big part in my feelings toward this album, so forgive me for that. Nevertheless, to me, Ian Gillan is nothing short of a vocal god, and his trademark screams on “Rat Bat Blue,” “Place In Line,” “Woman From Tokyo,” and the urgency he employs with his voice on “Smooth Dancer,” not to mention the sarcasm that slices through his smooth vibrato on “Mary Long,” all conspired to influence me to pursue a musical career as a lead vocalist. Indeed, this album will forever remain one of my all-time favorites because of his performance and what it personally inspired me to achieve in my own life.
Also note: The studio outtake track “Painted Horse” is, I see, finally included in the remastered versions of this album. I have owned this track for a long while, what with it being included on the Powerhouse album (just another of the gazillions of compilations issued only for greed) and have long admired it. Why was it not included on the original album’s release, considering the album itself was so damned short? Well, truth be told, it definitely WAS an outtake in the sense that the style of music doesn’t “jive” with the other material on this last MK. II album. But damn it, I do love this song, a rather swaying, laid-back bluesy track featuring Gillan’s harmonica and some interesting Blackmore solos. Nope, it’s definitely not a “fit” with the other tracks that eventually made up this album, but a track worth seeking, if for nothing else but fun.
Deep Purple, Mark II—probably one of the finest groups in history. I can certainly live with a few “naff tracks,” as some people feel are included on this album, since they are, without a doubt, better than the majority of garbage being produced these days. Give me the classics any ol’ day!