Metallica's Lars Ulrich: My 15 Favorite Metal and Hard Rock Albums

Drummer goes deep on classics ranging from AC/DC's 'Let There Be Rock' to System of a Down's 'Toxicity'

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Deep Purple, 'Made in Japan' (1972)
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Deep Purple, 'Made in Japan' (1972)

Deep Purple obviously had a handful of insane songs, from "Highway Star" to "Smoke on the Water" to "Speed King" to all the rest of them. But there's probably no other band in rock where the difference between the album versions and the live versions are more radical. Made in Japan is the first record from Deep Purple that I had my hands on, and I got to know all the songs. On vinyl, there were two songs per side on Sides One, Two and Three, and then on Side Four, it's just one song: "Space Truckin'" – almost 20 minutes' worth. And then when I subsequently got the albums over the next couple years, I got Machine Head and was like, "Wow. 'Space Truckin' on Machine Head is three minutes long. Where did the other 17 minutes come from?" It had a sense of exploration.

It all came together for Deep Purple with the five of them onstage. When you see the video footage, you can see they're all playing off each other. You know when Blackmore's done soloing, he raises his right hand, that's the signal for the drummer, Ian Paice, to come into the next part. Everything's completely free-from, but it's not hippie-trippy, space-age, "Let's take mushrooms for four hours," or whatever. There's a cohesiveness to it and it still connects, but every live version's different. Every concert was different. You never knew how many bars the soloists were gonna take and run with and all that stuff.

There's something in the air, those three shows – they played two shows in Osaka and one show in Tokyo, in August of 1972 – where they're just at their most ferocious. The guitar solo in "Child in Time," I've played it for jazz purists who get off on Ornette Coleman and crazy Miles Davis stuff, and the interplay between Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice is almost jazz-like. And at the same time, with songs like "Highway Star," you've obviously got down-picking, riff-chugging at the very forefront of that, but it's about the energy. This is a band that had a lot of internal friction. So when it came together onstage, and there was this push and pull, where they're almost all trying to upstage each other, and they're pushing each other, prodding each other and trying to out-do each other, it just makes for an incredible, ferocious listening pleasure.

There's a live album that came out maybe 10, 15 years ago called Deep Purple Live in Japan that has all three of those gigs in their entirety. So if you hear three nights in a row of "Highway Star," "Child in Time," "Space Truckin'," "Lazy" and "Strange Kind of Woman," the difference in the guitar solos and the drumming and the vocals is unbelievable.

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