We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, David Live, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, Donny Hathaway Live, The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Performance – Rockin The Fillmore, Live Wire – Blues Power, Waiting For Columbus, Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out and Live at Leeds. I would be proud to have any of them in my collection.
Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put it right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
The best sides tended to have the same qualities. They were huge, open, clear, transparent, rich, tubey and natural.
And of course they rocked, with startling dynamics, massive amounts of bass and a full-bodied midrange. The better the pressing the more the instruments jumped right out of the speakers. Live in your listening room was the sound we were after, and this copy delivers like nothing you have ever heard.
Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought MARTIN BIRCH along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.
Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. This is a combination the likes of which we have never heard.
Child In Time
Smoke On The Water
Strange Kind of Woman
Recorded over three nights in August 1972, Deep Purple’s Made in Japan was the record that brought the band to headliner status in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it remains a landmark in the history of heavy metal music… 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 recognized the breakthrough, propelling the original double LP into the U.S. Top Ten and sales over a million copies.
The response from critics was favourable. John Tiven, writing in Rolling Stone said “Made in Japan is Purple’s definitive metal monster, a spark-filled execution…”
Subsequently, a readers’ poll in the magazine declared the album to be the sixth best live album of all time, adding the band have performed “countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.”
Recent reviews have been equally positive. Rock author Daniel Bukszpan claimed the album is “widely acknowledged as one of the greatest live albums of all time.”
Goldmine magazine said the album “defined Deep Purple even as it redefined the concept of the live album.”
Deep Purple author Dave Thompson wrote “the standing of Deep Purple’s first (and finest) live album had scarcely diminished in the quarter-century since its release.”
The band were well known for their strong stage act, and had privately recorded several shows, or broadcast them on radio, but were unenthusiastic about recording a live album until their Japanese record company decided it would be good for publicity. They insisted on supervising the live production, including using Martin Birch, who had previously collaborated with the band, as engineer, and were not particularly interested in the album’s release, even after recording.
The album was an immediate commercial success, particularly in the US, where it was accompanied by the top five hit “Smoke on the Water”, and became a steady seller throughout the 1970s. The album had a strong critical reception and continues to attract praise. A Rolling Stone readers’ poll in 2012 ranked Made in Japan the sixth best live album of all time.
The band’s live setlist had been revamped at the start of the year, immediately after recording Machine Head, and that album made up a substantial proportion of new material. Although the setlist remained the same for most of the year, opening with “Highway Star” and closing with “Lazy” and “Space Truckin'”, the band’s musical skill and structure meant there was sufficient improvisation within the songs to keep things fresh.