Deep Purple have had a rough time gaining and retaining the status of being Kings of the Heavy Metal Set, and with the release of their last album, Who Do We Think We Are?, many critics rejected the fawnish fivesome for (1) trying to step out of their league with electronic-cum-Yes gizmos and melodic lines or (2) staying within the confines of their initial blockbuster, Deep Purple in Rock. If you’re expecting something new in terms of either approach or material from Made In Japan, you will be severely disappointed, but if you’re a diehard fan of the group and not too interested in any great diversification from their old style, Made In Japan is an assured treat. For Made In Japan is Purple’s definitive metal monster, a spark-filled execution of the typical Purple style.
Unlike Five Live Yardbirds or Humble Pie-Rocking the Fillmore, Deep Purple deems it unnecessary to play any new material on their live albums. The live versions of all the songs are played at a much quicker pace than they were in the studio. So when “Strange Kind of Woman” or “Lazy” comes over the radio, the average listener will be able to jump up and say, “How come they’re playing those Deep Purple records so fast?” only to be astounded when the Osaka audience’s applause appears at the end of the song. This album was originally intended to be released only in the United Kingdom, but when hundreds of thousands of copies of the import started selling in America at ten bucks a shot, Warners decided to get on the case and released it just a few months after Purple’s last LP.
As far as the artistic side of Made In Japan, Deep Purple have always been ace performers, rarely using any gimmicks other than their own volatile stage personalities. While Purple refuses to take themselves too seriously, all of the solos on Made In Japan are technically superior to most instrumental melodramatics one hears from supposedly more serious bands. Deep Purple is a tried-and-true Seventies group that has proven itself time and time again, a favorite of many a serious musician (for instance, the Strawbs’ Dave Cousins). While we still have to wait for their next release to know if they are going to continue at even keel, the fact is Made In Japan is here, it’s everything it should be and more, and Deep Purple can still cut the mustard in concert — so be it.