Sound: When Deep Purple released "In Rock" in 1970, they virtually rewrote the book on what a hard rock band was supposed to sound like. Built around what has come to be known as the Mark II version of the band - vocalist Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice - the album contained some of the most influential guitar tones and riffs ever. Blackmore's Fender Stratocaster and beefed-up Marshalls - not to mention Paice's amazing drum sounds and Gillan's dynamic vocals - became the trademark combination for many guitar players that followed including most notably Yngwie Malmsteen. The subsequent three albums - "Fireball" (1971), "Machine Head" (1972) and "Who Do We Think We Are" (1973) - were also brilliant in shattering all kinds of sonic walls. In fact, this quartet of releases represents what many consider to be the zenith of Purple's creativity.
Those four albums have been assembled in a beautiful package by Audio Fidelity, the company best known for reissuing classic albums on 24K+ compact discs. Using the original vintage mixes from these four Deep Purple records, these are then played back on a custom-built desk. As great as these albums sounded on vinyl when they originally came out some 40+ years ago, they sound even better now. The CDs here not only embody all the beautiful warmth and organic qualities of the original analog recordings but mastered onto these special high quality 24-karat gold surface CDs guarantees that the surface is devoid of any kind of physical defect.
The sound here is remarkable. Somehow the guitars have even more panoramic beauty about them while the drums all but virtually jump out of the speakers. Even if you have the original versions of these four Purple records, you'll want this in your collection. // 9
Lyrics: While Ian Gillan's lyrics may not give Paul Simon or John Lennon any restless nights, the singer managed to come up with some pretty remarkable images. There are titles here such as "Flight Of the Rat," "Bloodsucker," and "Rat Bat Blue," anyone of which would find a home with metal artists today. Still, if Gillan never sang anything else in his career besides, "Smoke on the water/And fire in the sky," he would have made his mark as a lyricist. // 9
Overall Impression: Deep Purple have never gotten the notice that bands like Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin have. Sabbath have long been seen as the originators - or at least the most famous purveyors - of metal while Zeppelin have always laid claim to the kings of heavy blues rock. So where does that leave Purple? Maybe right in the middle. After listening to these four albums on Audio Fidelity, you realize that they combined a heaviness and a bluesiness all their own. Ian Paice has long flown under the radar as one of the best rock drummers ever and when you listen to the tracks here, you realize just how important he was to the band's sound - and just how amazing he was with a pair of sticks in his hand. Even guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has never garnered the kudos of musicians like Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix. But when you listen to the mindblowing solos he plays on these four albums and you hear - thanks to these Audio Fidelity recordings - the astonishing guitar tones he was producing way back in the early '70s, you will appreciate how unique and gifted a player he truly was.
This is a remarkable collection of the some of the greatest English hard rock ever created. The packaging is very cool and resembles sort of a metal box with raised iron welds. Each CD comes in a high-quality clear plastic jewel case and individual booklets for each album contain the original artwork for the vintage album. Additionally, there are only 5,000 box sets being pressed and each unit is individually numbered. // 9
- Steve Rosen (c) 2013