DEEP PURPLE: Shades 1968-1998 (Rhino / Warner Archives)

Deep Purple is/was arguably one of the founding fathers of metal. Sure, bands like Zeppelin, The Who, and others may have sold more albums over the years; but there's no denying Deep Purple their place in musical history--if for no other reason besides "Smoke on the Water." There aren't many songs that you can identify just by "denn denn dennn, denn denn DE NENNN." Even in print, you can tell what it is. The song is a true rock anthem.

Shades covers the band from their pseudo-psychedelic beginnings, through the band's most successful period (the 'Mark II' years--Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, and Jon Lord), the David Coverdale years, the often overlooked Tommy Bolin years, the 'Mark II' reunion years in the 80's, & the more recent incarnations with Joe Satriani and current fretmaster, Steve Morse. This 4CD compilation covers it all in chronological order, including rare demos, alternate takes, B-sides, live tracks, etc.

Disc one starts with the band's first hit single, "Hush," and serves up covers of The Beatles' "Help!" and Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman." Some of the material sounds dated now, but it gives you an excellent sense of the band's roots. Once you get to "Speed King" (from the In Rock album), things kick into high gear. "Child in Time" was an integral part of the band's concert repertoire for years. The studio version is included here; and while it lacks the raw power of the live versions, you still a sense of the group's intensity both onstage and off.

The second disc picks up with material from the band's Fireball album, and just keeps getting better. It's this CD, and part of the third, that is the real meat of the collection. By the time they released Machine Head, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore & company could do no wrong. With songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Highway Star," "Space Truckin'" or any of the other four tracks on this seminal album, Deep Purple was unstoppable. This was the band's definitive moment.

In August of 1972, the band toured Japan and recorded what many consider to be one of the greatest live albums ever, Made in Japan. If you grew up in the 70's and didn't have a copy of this album, there was something wrong. Disc three includes two tracks from this classic album, but it's hard to pick individual songs when you're dealing with perfection.

Who Do We Think We Are was the last album from the original Mark II lineup. Pressures were mounting within the band, and vocalist Ian Gillan soon announced that his days were numbered. Still the album produced great songs like "Woman From Tokyo," the experimental "Super Trooper" and "Rat Bat Blue" (unfortunately missing from this compilation).

Disc three also features a number of songs from the Coverdale years. "Burn," "Stormbringer" and the live version of "Lady Double Dealer" still sound as good as they did 25 years ago. Blackmore's soloing on "Burn" and "Stormbringer" is outstanding. The bad thing about disk three is that there are only two tracks with the late Tommy Bolin on guitar. True, he was only in the band for a short time, but he contributed a lot.

The band called it quits after Bolin died in 1976, but reformed in late 1984 with the original 'Mark II' lineup for the band's Perfect Strangers album & subsequent tour. The last CD picks up with one of their biggest hits from that album, "Knocking' at Your Back Door." Although (here in the states) they never quite matched their earlier popularity; they maintained a loyal following elsewhere around the world. Songs like "Bad Attitude" and "Fire in the Basement" easily rank with their best material, and the last disc gives the listener a good idea of what they've been missing.

Simply put, in terms of packaging, Shades 1968-1998 is awesome. The booklet is loaded with photos and information on every aspect of the band's history. It sounds great, and looks even better. All box sets should be as good as this one.

© 1999 Steve Marshall