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The new EMI Deep Purple box set is the biggest single Deep Purple archive release ever issued. It tells the story of the group from their pre-Deep Purple days (with one track by each member before they joined) through to the split in 1976. It's also the first comprehensive box set in Europe.

Finding new and unissued material was always going to be difficult, as so much has already made its way onto the market. Despite this, a good proportion of rare and previously unavailable recordings have been included. Work started on the set in late 1999 with an initial listing put together by EMI and Simon Robinson, with the input of members of the DPAS following a request in Darker Than Blue magazine for suggestions.

The project was stalled in 2000 when plans for a set which also encompassed the reunion years had to be dropped, but progress began again at the end of that year.

In early 2001, EMI brought in Tim Chacksfield to help oversee the project (Tim and Simon having worked on the early remastered CD projects together). Simon, who has worked for a lot of reissue packaging designs over the years, also began work on page layouts and the text.

The idea was to update Chris Charlesworth's Illustrated Deep Purple Biography, long out of print. An agreement to buy the copyright to Chris's text was reached. Given the extra research, knowledge and material unearthed over the intervening years, the original text remains only in a few places, but if the odd paragraph seems familiar, now you know why.

As EMI began assembling tapes, a decision was also reached on the box format. As the accompanying book was going to be of some considerable size, the concern was that you'd have to struggle with an increasingly unwieldy package.

The more practical solution of housing the book inside in a slipcase was adopted. By early 2002, a version of the text was ready and further work on the picture and memorabilia research began, with unique access to EMI's archives.

Provisional track listings were shown to a number of DPAS members, and the feedback led to a number of changes. One good source of rare tracks were the so far unreleased BBC sessions. The remaining tapes were incomplete and of varying quality but it was felt that the performances were so good they deserved to be included despite the occasional quality concern.

By February, Abbey Road engineers were loading the various masters to begin serious work. Simon came up with a dozen or so reels or multi-track tapes which were uncatalogued, and a day at Abbey Road was booked to check these. The instrumental 'Highball Shooter' and 'Mandrake Root' from the Stockhom 1970 show on four track (which sounded stunning) were two surprise finds. It was also decided to add 'Space Trucking' from Kilburn 1974 to redress the balance of the box set. If the set seems light of Mk 1 and Mk 4 rarities, it's because most of these have already made it to CD.

The first full proof of the book then went out. Again a couple of DPAS members got heavily involved in checking this, as well as EMI's lawyers (it's one thing for Simon to rattle on in the DPAS magazine...!).

The final book (page size 250mm by 140mm) is 120 pages long, in full colour throughout. The band's story is told in detail, along with rare pictures and memorabilia.

EMI were keen to tie in with rescheduled Deep Purple shows but delays with mastering caused an over-run. It's never easy to please everyone but the rare material, together with a varied selection of existing album and single tracks (many of which have been subject to further remastering work), together with the book and overall high production values, make a set which should be a worthwhile addition to many people's shelves.

(adapted from promotional material prepared for the set).

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