The first three Deep Purple albums showed potential, but they are somewhat patchy in places. It wasn't until some important changes were made that the band became the rock monster everyone is familiar with. So here we go anyway, get the air guitar out and let's rock....
Shades Of Deep Purple (1968)
This was a really vibrant debut from later to be monster rockers Deep Purple. Yes, it is very much a product of its psychedelic age, but it gives a real portent of things to come. I like it a lot. It is full of energy and power - psychedelic, rock and blues merging wonderfully. Yes’s Rick Wakeman has said that it is his favourite album of all time.
After a slow keyboard build-up, the instrumental And The Address bursts out into some solid Purple riffing and soloing - guitars and organ giving it their all in great style. This was a really powerful way to introduce themselves to an unsuspecting public. Next up is the first Purple classic- Hush. What a truly great track this is, with its catchy “na na na” vocal refrain and original vocalist Rod Evans supplying a confident vocal, and a deeper one than subsequent singer Ian Gillan would have. It reminds me a bit of the material that those 1967-68 US garage rock bands released.
One More Rainy Day is very late sixties, psychedelic, trippy rock. The sixties-psych vibe is continued on the proggy, neo-classical Prelude: Happiness-I’m So Glad, which is dominated by the cover of Cream’s I’m So Glad. The whole thing is just so very 1968. Jon Lord’s trademark swirling organ is well to the fore on this. Mandrake Root has some great Hendrix-style riffs and a grinding bluesy sound that I love. The interplay between drummer Ian Paice and Jon Lord is outstanding for two such young musicians. Up next is a cover of The Beatles’ Help - given a hippy, Eastern-sounding and really slowed-down makeover. Does it work? Yes and no. It is always a bit of a problem when artists cover such well-known songs. Richie Blackmore contributes a searing guitar solo, though. Love Help Me is an example of heavy rock-pop that provides one of the album’s most commercial moments before the album closes with a grandiose cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. I prefer this to Help, and Evans’s vocal is excellent. Purple’s deafeningly-loud live shows from the period were roundly slagged off by critics at the time, but they stuck with it, rightly so. Just as listeners should do with this album.
The Book Of Taliesyn (1968)
Incidentally, it was the first release on Harvest Records, which would go on to showcase many UK prog rock bands.
Listen, Learn, Read On is a deep, muscular rocker with some fine drums, again, from the precocious Ian Paice and a sonorous vocal from Rod Evans. The lyrics are in keeping with the album's somewhat pretentious title, but no matter really, as it the rock that matters. Richie Blackmore's mid-song guitar solo is positively searing, as was now usual. There are a lot of the foundations for the band's future sound to be found here. Wring That Neck is an organ-driven instrumental that again features some killer guitar. This was early-era Purple at their thumping best. Now we get one of Deep Purple's most surprising covers - if not the most surprising - in Neil Diamond's Kentucky Woman. It is covered in a style that is simultaneously heavy and poppy. I have to say that I bloody well love it. Jon Lord's crazy organ solo is sort of like The Doors meeting Bach. You have to love it, don't you? Exposition - We Can Work It Out begins with some rumbling instrumental rock that then morphs into a rock meets psychedelia cover of The Beatles song. Once more, this is a convincing cover that highlights the band's ability to improvise and turn virtually anything into massive, organ-drums-guitar heavy rockers.
A superb, rubbery bass line introduces the gently insistent Shield, a song that demonstrates the varied nature of this phase of the group's music. It is trippy and psychedelically sonorous in that drugged-up 1968 fashion. It is one of those tracks that just makes you scream "1968". The guitar and drums freaky bit near the end is deliciously psychedelic. Anthem is a most odd Deep Purple number, being a very late sixties harmonious rock ballad that drifts off into some pleasant enough soloing, but loses the heavy rock edge of the rest of the album. Evans's voice sounds like a cross between Elvis and Scott Walker. The final track is a lengthy cover of Ike & Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High that takes over four minutes of doom-laden organ noodling before the vocal part of the song arrives. When it eventually kicks off around five minutes in, it is convincing, but it didn't half take a long time to get there. It has its interesting points, as did the previous track, but I prefer the first half of the album along with all of the previous release.
Deep Purple (1969)
For their third album, Deep Purple largely dispensed with the covering of songs - only one is a cover - and it was their most proggy album, merging their natural heavy rock instincts with prog’s complexity and intellectualism (some would say pretension). It tends to get categorised as a prog rock record, something that subsequent albums from the band certainly would never be.
Chasing Shadows is a shuffling, chunky rocker, interjected with some choppy riffs and a vocal from Rod Evans that almost sounded new romantically haughty at times. It also features some fine drum work near the end. Blind is a slow but robust rock ballad very much of its time, utilising what sounds like a harpsichord. Lalena was a cover of a Donovan song and is delivered in a slow, bluesy style with a nice groove to it, but not too much in the way of heavy rocking. Jon Lord’s organ solo is excellent, however. Fault Line is a fuzzy, feedback-drenched instrumental that morphs into the firm-bodied heavy rock grind of The Painter. The rock continues on the heads-down, bar-room bluesy boogie Of Why Didn’t Rosemary? The song wondered why - inspired by the movie Rosemary’s Baby - that Rosemary didn’t take the pill in typical Purple dodgy lyrics fashion.
Bird Has Flown is probably the last psychedelic song the group did - the sub-genre was fast becoming old hat. It chugs along nicely, though, with a strong sixties atmosphere. April was a twelve minute proggy workout driven along by the organ, acoustic guitars and massed choral backing vocals. It also features some Elizabethan-sounding instrumental breaks that only served to emphasise the track’s prog pretensions. Come on lads, you’re not Yes - get back to rocking. On this track, they take eight minutes to do that.
** An interesting non-album track is the very late sixties-sounding heavy rock of Emmaretta, which was an unsuccessful single. Soon after the album’s release, Blackmore and Lord, eventually joined by Paice, carried out a characteristically heavy rock band coup and ousted Evans and bassist Nick Simper from the band. As it happened, it would prove to be the best thing they did. The next album would be worlds apart from this.
Deep Purple were a heavy rock band influenced by blues, rock n roll and, at times classical music. They were not as bluesy as Led Zeppelin, but they were rockier in places and their music was based a lot around keyboardist Jon Lord’s swirling organ riffs. As a teenager in the early 1970s, I despised Deep Purple and the boys who carried their albums around under their arms at school all day long, for no other reason than to show what great musical taste they had (or didn’t have in my opinion). Preferring Mott The Hoople and David Bowie, I found Deep Purple’s long-haired heavy rock posturing tiresome, even at such a tender age. However, time has proved to be a great healer, and by my thirties, I re-assessed them, favourably.
Child In Time is classic Deep Purple - ten minutes long, featuring changes in mood, vocal screaming, guitar solos, organ riffs. It was everything an old punk like me hated, but listening to it now, you have to say it is damn good. All five members come to the party, and how. It defines the genre, before Smoke On The Water would do so even more a couple of years later. Flight Of The Rat includes both a drum and an organ virtuoso part, what once seemed like indulgence now seems like great musicians enjoying themselves. Who am I to criticise it? So I don’t. I just let it rock. This is seven minutes of bona fide virile rock, essential stuff. A band who knew what they were doing at the top of their game. Jon Lord’s madcap organ solo is something to behold. Then Ritchie Blackmore comes in with some killer guitar. He even gets a bit funky at the end, in tandem with the drums. Fair play to them, very few did this sort of thing better, if any. Into The Fire is a chugging, clunky slow paced drum-heavy broody rocker, with some pretty predictable riffs. Nothing special but you can never dispute Purple’s sheer power. Nice guitar solo in the middle though.
** Some editions include the single, Black Night, which was a catchy number with one of those singalong guitar riffs. In conclusion, a listen to this every now and again is certainly not a bad thing.
Despite some critics, particularly at the time, condemning this album for not being as full on rock as In Rock (probably because of the incongruous presence of Anyone's Daughter), there is still bucketloads of classic Deep Purple rock on here.
The Mule is a fantastic vehicle for each member's finest playing. Ian Paice's drums are excellent on here. While being a powerful drummer, in my view he has more subtlety, on occasions than John Bonham, with whom he was invariably compared. As a teenager in the early-mid seventies, I hated this stuff, preferring my glam rock, Bowie, Roxy Music and Mott the Hoople. In later years, however, I have got into it somewhat, acknowledging that these guys could play, for sure. A fugue-like, churchy organ introduces the eight-minute Fools where Purple leave their bluesier roots behind for a while and go a bit "progressive". The track is indulgent, to an extent, but it contains some serious rock power. Just check out the bit a couple of minutes in when the guitar and drums kick in properly for the first time. Yes, it goes a bit "proggy" in the middle, but what the hell, I still like it. No-One Came is just sheer Purple power, six minutes of muscular, thumping heavy bluesy rock. There is more superb organ and huge riffage in this track. Deep Purple. They are what they are, nobody did this sort of thing as well as they did. This was actually a really good album, in my view anyway. In many ways, I find it more polished than In Rock and it definitely has a better sound quality.
There were four truly classic Deep Purple albums - In Rock (1970); Fireball (1971); this one from 1972 and Burn from 1974. This is possibly the most popular and, in many ways, is the band at their absolute peak. The band were all about huge drums, mighty guitar riffs, wailing vocals and frenetic, church organist gone crazy keyboards. They were the best at what they did - big heavy, clunky, bluesy, powerful rock in its most essential form.
Never Before starts with some rhythmic but muscular drums and an almost funky guitar intro before we get a classic Gillan vocal - "my woman, a bad woman...." in true seventies, long haired, be-denimmed style. Then, of course, there is the iconic Smoke On The Water with that riff that has inspired ten billion plus air guitar poses. Apart from the riff, I have always loved the percussion on it, and Jon Lord's punchy, swirling organ. Gillan's vocal is peerless, it goes without saying. A true classic of its genre. It is still loved by many all these years later. There really is nothing better. The sound on this latest remaster is breathtakingly powerful. Lazy starts with Jon Lord doing his mad church organ thing, like a demented professor of music before the band kicks in and Gillan's bluesy vocals don't arrive until after four and a half minutes. Some blues harmonica joins in and we get the purest bit of blues rock from the band on the album. Space Truckin' is a glorious, riffy closer with Ritchie Blackmore commanding the whole thing from beginning to end, driving a stake into one's heart. This is, without a doubt, one of the finest hard rock albums of all time. A fine example of its genre.
Who Do We Think We Are? (1973)
This was the final album from Deep Purple’s largely accepted purple period, so to speak. The group were bickering and on the point of going their separate ways. While it has good points, you can pick up on the discord. There is a bit of a laziness to the whole thing.
Woman From Tokyo is certainly not the product of a band in the edge of imploding - it a copper-bottomed Purple serving of riff-laden rock that is also not without its subtle moments of piano-bass interplay. It is the last great track from the classic Purple line up and easily the best on the album, without question. Mary Long is riffily very strong but lyrically appalling. Its casual sexism is a complete embarrassment, really, and I am not the sort of person who gets too bothered about that sort of thing from heavy rockers, usually. I love the riffs though. Super Trouper (not the ABBA song) is a chunky but very going through the motions rocker that is nothing special. It features a killer Blackmore guitar solo, however and some stonking bass. Ian Paice's drums are awesome too, but that goes without saying, doesn't it? Similarly, the lively rock ‘n’ roll of Smooth Dancer is perfectly ok, making my speakers shake, but it is not really quite the match of anything on the previous albums. Jon Lord’s organ solo is top notch as always, though. Rat Bat Blue rocks solidly enough, albeit in an unspectacular way. It is probably the album’s second best track.
Place In Line is a slow chugging piece of blues rock with a tired-sounding vocal from Ian Gillan. It sort of works, though. Our Lady is, once again, nothing more than ordinary. Overall, however, the albums stills packs a punch, less than perfect Purple is still Purple. Singer Gillan and bassist Roger Glover would leave soon after this album’s release and the band’s halcyon days were over.
** Painted Horse is a fine, lively but bluesy non-album track that should have been on the album.
This was when it all changed for Deep Purple - singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover left the band, acrimoniously and were replaced by previously unknown David Coverdale on lead vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass. I remember at the time what a huge fuss the music media made of Coverdale's appointment.
Anyway, Coverdale had a deeper, grittier voice than Gillan and the band's sound started to change, leaving behind their slight prog hints and going full on heavy, bluesy rock boogie, with a few hints of rock funk in there too. Notably, Hughes shared lead vocals with Coverdale at times too, impressively. The album was a different kind of Deep Purple album and they had sort of become a different group from the splintered one that had released the half-baked Who Do We Think We Are a few months earlier. This variant of the group should be assessed separately from the one that all but finished with Machine Head. I have always quite liked the album though it has an energy, an enthusiasm and a nice, bluesy solidity to the sound that I really appreciate.
Burn is a chugging, heavy opener that is fast and furious enough to satisfy most heavy fans at the time. It seems to be a long time fan favourite so who I am to disagree. Look, it's chock-full of vigour, God-wonderful madcap organ breaks and is extremely vibrant, but it does not quite rival Highway Star as an opener, for me. Actually, listening to it again I can see why some feel it matches that track, though. Maybe I've been a bit unfair to it. Yes, I have - it fucking rocks. Sorry if I have misled you. Might Just Take Your Life slows the tempo down a bit, but it is still delightfully chunky and heavy, in a Free-Bad Company sort of way, with David Coverdale sounding a hell of a lot like Paul Rodgers. It has a great Jon Lord organ solo on it, recalling the good old days. Lay Down, Stay Down is a refreshingly robust serving of heavy rock boogie as Purple started to morph into what Whitesnake would go on to sound like. Sail Away continues the muscular, industrial Free-style vibe on a deep, bassy grinder. It features a funky, spacey keyboard solo passage which adds a different sound to before.
A frantic, funky-ish beat can be found on the intense You Fool No One. Some great guitar work appears half way through that showed that temperamental Richie Blackmore hadn't completely lost his mojo. The singers sound a bit like Cream on I Feel Free at one point in the vocals. What's Going On Here is a Status Quo-esque piece of thumping boogie that includes some rollicking bar-room piano. Mistreated is the album's big, blues rock number, with Coverdale going full on Rodgers in telling his woman that he has been abused and mistreated - a common heavy rock conceit. Whatever, it makes for a massive monster of a track. Some people dismiss the closer, the spacey, keyboard and drums-driven instrumental, "A" 200. Not me, I think its excellent, full of weird sounds and great drums from the underrated Ian Paice. Equally impressive is the funky and bassy instrumental non-album 'b' side track, Coronarius Redig. I left any minor dalliance I had with Deep Purple after this album, but it was not a bad one to finish with.