As we delve further into the mystery surrounding Deep Purple’s lack of admission into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we run into what one might think are the strongest pieces of evidence that should have earned them top honors a long time ago.
There’s no doubt Deep Purple was one of the 1970s’ premier hard-rock bands. Just look at some of the facts: their live album Made in Japan consistently ranks near the top of many critics’ lists of all-time greatest live rock albums. They once held the record for World’s Loudest Band, and of course, they wrote “Smoke on the Water” — which opens with the most recognizable heavy-rock guitar riff ever. Yes, they’re often acknowledged as giants in their genre, but even nowadays there never seems to be much critical discussion of their work.
Part of the reason they get ignored is that for many years there weren’t a lot of easily available copies of outtakes and rarities, which are sometimes dispensable but often present another perspective from which to take the measure of an artist. This was to have been rectified by the album reissues which came out in the mid-1990s. However, despite being loaded up with B-sides, outtakes, alternate mixes, and studio snippets, they somehow failed to catch on with the general public or even most rock fans. It seems that only hardcore Deep Purple fans paid any attention to the reissues.
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Frankly, the reissues don’t really add much to the legend. In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head, Made in Japan and Who Do We Think We Are make up the crown jewels in the Deep Purple canon, so one would think in their expanded formats there would be something in the way of additional gems brought to light. Well, bassist Roger Glover remixes many tracks, and they do sound somewhat nicer, but you’d have to be paying close attention to notice much difference. All things considered, the collected B-sides and outtakes from the four studio albums made by the Mark II version of the band reveal themselves to be nothing more than just OK, also-ran tracks.
If nothing else, it’s nice to know that they picked the best songs first time around. Machine Head has the most solid and commercial sonic production — and it contains “Smoke on the Water.” Its worldwide success tends to overshadow its harder-rocking sibling In Rock, which many fans think was a better album. Fireball has its moments but feels sloppy in places. Who Do We think We Are, always considered to be the weak link here in terms of its writing, is at least sonically on par with its predecessor Machine Head; as well, both are a little slicker and more commercial than one might have expected from the godfathers of metal.
So, if you’ve the time and inclination, track these down in either their original formats or their expanded bonus tracks formats (if you’ve the cash), and hear another great band from back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Earplugs optional.