Ah… Deep Purple, now that’s what I call Maximum Rock And Roll. And Highway Star is the maximum maximum. Also, it comes with a perfect live recording. When I say “Deep Purple” I refer, of course, to any iteration of the band that included Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, and Ian Gillan.
Did I say “iteration”? Yeah, they had a lot, and some were mostly cashing in on a profitable hard-rock franchise. Fortunately, you can ignore all that crap, just buy one album and you’ll have all the Deep Purple anyone needs: Made In Japan. Along with Highway Star, it has masterful versions of Smoke on the Water, Lazy, Space Truckin”, and especially Child In Time, which may edge the others in musical depth, but doesn’t approach the raw Dionysian power of Highway Star. That’s a safe thing to say because it’s not clear that any other piece of music ever recorded does either.
What can you say about a bunch of major-progression blues chords played really fast with a thunderous back-beat, behind a throaty howl from the singer alternating with razor-sharp guitar breaks? Oh, I already did: Maximum Rock And Roll.
The album itself is an interesting story: Their label insisted on capturing the Japanese tour live so the band insisted on bringing in their fave producer. But then they lost interest and only bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice showed up to pitch in on the production. So there are no overdubs, yay; just like it sounded to the audience in Osaka on August 16, 1972 only probably better.
I saw the same roster perform this in 1984; the sound was a little muddy, but it was still a hell of a show.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify. There’s no really excellent live video of this song, but this take (B&W, starts 1:10 in) from 1972 in Denmark is OK. But for divine madness, you really want to want to hear the Made in Japan version.