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Deep Purple

Shades 1968-1998

Rhino/Warner

Four discs (all colored purple, natch) with a bit-busting average running time of 78 minutes per, is a lot of Deep Purple, indeed. Sure, we're covering thirty years here, but it's doubtful that anyone except a handful of diehard fans crave this much music from a band that Rob Reiner must surely have studied closely before filming Spinal Tap . Don't tell Rhino though, because they understand that when dealing with Deep Purple, there is no such thing as too much. Hence this box.

   If the words "Deep Purple" elicit sniggling from the too-cool readers of Ink 19 , I dare you to find another band in the progressive heavy metal genre (a subdivision of music they practically invented, kiddo) with that kind of longevity. Or any genre, for that matter. Actually, the pseudo-box (it opens like a long thin book, then folds over revealing an inventive new way of packaging multi-disc sets) could be sub-titled the Jon Lord/Ian Paice Show, since the keyboardist and drummer are the only members to remain constant in the group through seven distinct incarnations and a career of ups and downs, along with personality clashes that make Fleetwood Mac look stable in comparison.

   I'll spare you the gory minutiae, but suffice it to say it's all here in excruciating detail, summed up in liner notes that are thankfully written with a dollop of tongue-in-cheekiness easily gleaned through the reams of information in the full color 56-page book. In fact, it's the specific track by track explanations that make this such a fun experience, even for the casual fan. Of course, the casual fan could probably get by with an edited, two-disc version of highlights from this monster. But that's not available -- yet. Nope, right now if you need more Purple than the previous eight (!) existing anthologies (none a full career retrospective), you're going to have to spring for this baby. It may not be the WHOLE enchilada, but it's damn close, and if anyone needs more Purple, I don't ever want to meet them.

   The remastered sound is terrific, the selections intelligent, the rarities well-chosen and generally worthwhile (at least to provide a historical perspective), and the extensive essays and notes are alone worth the price of admission. It's just the music that's tough to wade through.

   Never known for their subtlety, Jon Lord's over-the-top swirling, classically-based organ flourishes, Ritchie Blackmore's hamfisted guitar riffs, and Ian Gillan's overwrought vocal flights are the stuff that makes your parents wonder what all the racket is coming from their 17-year old's room. At least that was MY parents reaction when I was convinced that Deep Purple were the best band in the world back in 1973, when most Ink Nineteen readers were probably being conceived to this stuff. So maybe this comprehensive collection is a history lesson you kids need to take, if for no other reason than DP might actually be in your BLOOD, whether you realize it or not.

   OK, so you don't really need about a third of this 50-plus dollar bad boy to get the Deep Purple point. Especially since the succession of vocalists and guitarists who replaced Mssrs. Blackmore and Gillan through three decades as they threw shit fits and left the band only to show up on the DP doorstep a few years later, were not only horrible, they were ultimately forgettable. Heck, you could probably make due with the remastered versions of In Rock , Machine Head , and Made In Japan which have just been released on CD, and figure the rest out from there.

   But that would be missing the gist, because Deep Purple is about nothing except EXCESS. They're too busy, too loud, and lord knows too stupid to have thrown in the towel after vocalist Ian Gillan left in '74 (for the first time -- he's returned and disappeared three other times since then) to get crucified as the original Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar . Which makes it essential that you wade through all five and a half-hours (!) of this box to get pummeled with the full effect. No fair cheating by skipping through the David Coverdale pre-Whitenake years, buddy. That's part of the adventure.

   Too much Deep Purple? Absolutely! But isn't that exactly the point? Just ask mom and dad.

--Hal Horowitz