Deep Purple: Made In Japan - Album Of The Week Club review

Made In Japan showcases Deep Purple at the height of their powers, straddling an indelicate line between intense and indulgent, monstrous and meandering

Deep Purple - Made In Japan cover art
(Image: © Purple)

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Deep Purple - Made In Japan

Deep Purple - Made In Japan cover art

(Image credit: Purple)

Highway Star
Child in Time
Smoke on the Water
The Mule
Strange Kind of Woman
Space Truckin'

Japanese culture had barely touched Britain in the early 70s. The idea of a rock band playing gigs there was truly exotic. So Deep Purple's Made In Japan was a trailblazing release spawned in a far-away land; it had a mysterious, otherworldly cachet that other live albums, recorded in much more mundane locations, couldn’t match. It also helped that it was a double album, with a delicious, golden gatefold sleeve.

Deep Purple were at their peak, having released the career-defining Machine Head just months before. On Made In Japan they straddled a fine line between intense and indulgent, the four sides of vinyl giving them room to stretch – and we mean stretch. Incredibly there were only seven tracks; Highway Star, which opened side one, was the only one to clock in at under seven minutes. 

Side Four comprised a monstrous, 20-minute version of Space Truckin’The Mule, meanwhile, contained a six-minute Ian Paice drum solo. It might sound preposterous now, but back in the day we could only shake out heads disbelievingly at the sheer, unbridled brilliance of it all. 

“Of its ilk it’s still probably the best live rock’n’roll album ever made," says Paice. "And that’s putting everything Led Zeppelin have done, anything Black Sabbath may have done, Bad CompanyFree… As a tour de force of innovation and living on the edge and great playing with a fantastic sound, nothing comes close."

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Other albums released in December 1972

  • Octopus - Gentle Giant
  • Piledriver - Status Quo
  • The Grand Wazoo - Frank Zappa
  • Gypsy Cowboy - New Riders of the Purple Sage
  • You Are The Music... We’re Just The Band - Trapeze
  • R.E.O./T.W.O. - REO Speedwagon
  • World Woven - The Ides Of March
  • Framed - Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • World Woven - The Ides of March


What they said...

"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." (Rolling Stone

"By stretching out and going to extremes, Deep Purple pushed its music into the kind of deliberate excess that made heavy metal what it became, and their audience recognised the breakthrough, propelling the original double LP into the U.S. Top Ten and sales over a million copies." (AllMusic)

"Made in Japan will leave you thinking two things. One: There will never be any band quite as unique as Deep Purple, and two: Why should I even bother listening to their studio records again? What this band created in Japan in 1972, they, and certainly not anybody else, have ever equalled since. Forget In Rock. Forget Machine Head. If you were planning to ever get a single Deep Purple record, do yourself a favour and get this, as it tops literally everything they have ever done." (Sputnik Music)


What you said...

Robert T. Stewart: Best. Live. Album. Ever! I wore out this album listening to it so many times as a teenager. I ended up getting all my friends hooked on this album. One of the all time greatest albums. Funny, the one song I thought was the weakest was Smoke on the Water (although it's still a great song). Everything else (Highway Star, Space Trucking, Child in Time, etc.) were excellent. Great memories!

Andrew Bramah: Made In Japan is one of the best recorded live albums. Sound quality is peerless. It polarises views from self indulgent to mind blowing. Everyone is on top form. Roger Glover's bass underpins the whole performance. The best rhythm section in rock.

Keith Jenkin: One of the best live albums ever made. Incredibly the first time I ever heard Smoke On The Water was when I bought this album with one of my first ever record tokens. Playing a record till you wear it out is a often overused expression but with Made In Japan it really was the case and nearly 50 years on I still know every milli-second of this one by heart.

Tony Bickerdike: One of the best live albums out there, loved it then, love it now.

Uli Hassinger: Everything that has to be mentioned about that album is long time written down. One of the best live albums ever and certainly under the best 50 albums of all time. Every song is better than the studio version. The version of Smoke On The Water is a pure monument of rock. Lazy and Child In Time are breathtaking. The whole album is the testimony of a band full of exceptional musicians, all masters of their instruments. The scoreboard of this group should be expanded to 12 in this case.

Evan Sanders: Back in the 70s, Made In Japan was one of those albums that made people the envy of their group of friends, especially if they had the original UK import. Listening to it now, I think the opinions will diverge depending on which Deep Purple you prefer: the one with a list of tightly played rock anthems, or the one with the long technically proficient jams. I liked the latter version back in the 70s, but now I admit that the jams are on the long and less interesting side. Still a very good live album, but it doesn't stand the test of time in a modern age where live recordings are much more available. 7/10.

Adrian Bolster: My older brother had 24 Carat Purple on cassette so the Made In Japan versions of classic tracks were the first ones I heard as a kid. My ordinal copy with heavy vinyl was given to me by my mother for passing my Irish Intermediate Certificate. Definitive versions of Highway Star, Child In Time, Strange Kind Of Woman and Smoke On The Water with the intro. The studio versions are so dry. Even with the slightly extended versions still 10/10.

Wade Babineau: The album my uncle played on cassette during a road trip that got me into Deep Purple. Still give it a spin and still sounds awesome!

Chris Elliott: Greatest Hits ruined. It's a decent if overrated album. Jams, solos, all the boring stuff is there. The original material survives it all and you enjoy it, but I'd far rather just bung a Greatest Hits on... and you get a lot more songs in the time.

Gary Scott: The best versions of their songs are on this album, but I do agree that – as was common at the time – some of the songs were dragged out. Rather than have a whole side of Space Trucking we could have had more songs like Fireball, Demons Eye, Speed King and Black Night, which are all sadly missing here

Dave Morgan: The keyboard fanfare intro to Highway Star still gives me a shiver of anticipation even now, even though Space Trucking does drag a bit. A landmark release.

Nigel Taylor: A fantastic live album with the obvious connection between band members being off the scale, but being honest, who actually needs at 20-minute drum solo? An amazing album but one that is very much of its time. 8/10

Mark Herrington: A fantastic live album best listened to sitting comfortably with the lights down and volume turned up, and then you're transported, as if you were in the audience. Then, the peerless, elongated musicianship makes more sense and you can get lost in it. This and Live And Dangerous are two of the best live albums ever. 10/10.

Michael Ladd: The album gets more play than anything I own. I use it for my stationary biking sessions. It’s a workout that could kill! It’s just one long crescendo!

Adam Ranger: Regularly tops the polls for best live album ever, and it seems members of this group generally agree. Loved this album as a teenager but, personally, I have a few other contenders for that honour.

However, what do I think of this album now? Well, it is one hour 15 minutes long (originally) and contains just seven songs, so that tells you there are some extended songs!

It starts fantastically. Highway Star, Child In Time and Smoke On The Water are all excellent, with no unnecessary noodling. The Mule, if I am honest I would happily skip next time. Love Ian Paice, but six-minute drum solos are not that great to listen to. Strange Kind Of Woman is great for the first five minutes, but that extended five minutes of guitar and voice duel is a little tedious. Lazy is a great song on Machine Head and sounds OK here too, extended by three minutes or so, but I didn't loose interest. The final track is a near 20-minute version of Space Truckin' which is great here for about six minutes, but those other 13 minutes are really not worth my time.

I like live music. I don't want exact copies of the album versions when I see a live band. I like to see the band can really play without overdubs and mixing etc. No doubt Purple could really play at this time, but I feel a couple of shorter versions and an extra song or two would have made this album stellar rather than just good.

Greg Schwepe: Ahh, the mainstay of 70s rock, the live album. And if you’re lucky, maybe your favourite band put out a double live album. Even better! Some of these albums were meant to be souvenirs of a tour, some to emphasise their live shows after several lackluster studio albums (Kiss's Alive!), and some because the band had no idea it would take off like it did (Cheap Trick's At Budokan).

Enter Deep Purple with Made In Japan, which belongs on the long list of classic live albums, and if you read all the background on this one, they were not really interested in putting this out initially.

After starting to really get into music in my early teens and heading to the local record store to flip through the racks, I remember seeing this one as I got to the “D” section. I obviously knew Machine Head, because hey, who didn’t if you were at least a passing music fan. But then I saw Made In Japan. The cover showed the band in full concert mode; lit stage, Blackmore wielding his Strat in front of a wall of Marshalls, Jon Lord raking his Hammond, Paice and Glover holding down the bottom end, and Ian Gillan whacking some congas. Wow. Talk about judging a book by its cover; “Man, I bet this album totally rocks.” Flipping the album over and seeing the “Machine Head-heavy track listing. It was confirmed!

This album would not be owned by me (in any format) until some 30+ years later when I finally went and bought a ton of albums that artists I liked had stated “Yeah, that was the one for me that got me into rock…” This was one of those albums. The sad part was that I bought it on CD and not vinyl, unlike some other live albums from the 70s that I bought when they came out.

So there I was finally getting to listen to the album I saw the cover of a long time ago. And right at the start, it confirmed my suspicions. It totally rocked. Opening with Highway Star, Purple puts you on notice; this is truly a band defining album.

Depending on the band, the live album provides room for the band to stretch out and improvise, and add even more instrumental bonuses. There are no three-minute songs on this album, and that’s what makes it so good. Child In Time comes next and the screams of Ian Gillan prove his to be one of the most distinctive voices in rock, but he doesn’t always get credit for it.

Next up is the well known story of the adventures of the recording of an album next to Lake Geneva. The last three songs on the album are also extended versions of the original, with Lazy being the best of the bunch. The guitar and organ jam on the beginning of that are worth the price of admission and my favorite on the album.

I’m guessing that the super extended version of Space Truckin’ took up the entire side four of the vinyl album. That one probably could’ve been pared down to something slightly less than 20 minutes. I get a little bored with that one.

And after finally hearing this for the first time, I can also confirm what others already knew; this is a classic album with all the bells and whistles these double live albums are known for. Wished I would’ve grown up with this one like all my other 70s live favourites; Frampton Comes Alive, Double Live Gonzo, At Budokan, and One More From/For The Road. 9 out of 10.

Neil Immerz: Fantastic album from start to finish.

Keith Durnford: Great album, although some tracks were allowed to go on too long possibly. One if the first live albums I owned.

Mark Davies: Best live album ever. Opening track Highway Star sets the mood for the incredible musicianship to follow.

Fred Varcoe: One of the best live albums ever. I did actually see Deep Purple at the Budokan in Tokyo, but it was about 25 years after this recording and Blackmore was being a twat again, hiding behind the amps. Beware of reformed bands.

Gilbert Terpstra: So good. My gateway to rock too. I was just nine years old. Pure, no overdubs. No ProTools for that matter.

Markus Schley: The mother of all live albums.

Paul Cropper: Greatest live album ever. Contains the definitive versions of the classics Highway Star, Child In Time and Smoke On The Water.

Paul Flewitt: The blueprint for any live album put out since. This is a document of a seminal band at the peak of their powers. So, so good.

Adam McCann: One of the best live albums ever recorded. A band in their prime and on top form when they were untouchable. Although, personally these days I can do without extended jams, life's too short for 18 minutes of Space Truckin'.

Philip Qvist: One of the greatest live albums of all time and one that sits on my list of Top 5 Live Albums. I would say that this where the Mark II version hit its peak, with all five band members on top form.

Although the extended CD edition did come with three additional tracks, I would have preferred Speed King over The Mule (I guess drum solos was the big thing in the 70s), reduced Space Truckin' and included Black Night on the original record. That said, you can't fault the musicianship on either track.

My favourite tracks have to be Highway Star, Lazy, Child In Time and Ian Gillan getting the crowd going on Strange Kind Of Woman.

Along with In Rock and Machine Head, Made In Japan is the essential Deep Purple Mark II album that every household should own. Simply put, this is a fantastic album and an easy 9/10.

John Davidson: I'm probably going to swim against the tide here. While this does highlight some of the best of Deep Purple it also sees them at their most self-indulgent with previously tight songs extended well beyond the point of enjoyment with the addition of drum, organ and guitar/vocal solos that i'm no longer entranced by,.

Highway Star, Child In Time and Smoke On The Water are superb. The rest haven't aged so well. For live double albums I'd look to Live And Dangerous, Bursting Out or Strangers In The Night as examples of how to deliver a live best of. And for single volumes, Unleashed In The East and If You Want Blood

Dont get me wrong. I wore this out when I first heard it in the late 70s . But these days if I am going to listen to Deep Purple Mark II live I prefer the BBC in Concert 70-72 albums. The versions of Wring that Neck and Mandrake Root seem to earn their places better (maybe because I wasn't familair with the originals). Still an 8/10.


Final score: 8.96 (327 votes cast, total score 2931)

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