Note: I’ve just been busy so don’t worry; I’m not neglecting the band’s 1984 and post catalog. I plan on reviewing those albums as well.
Deep Purple is typically associated with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as one of the primary creators of hard rock and heavy metal. Ritchie Blackmore’s crunchy, heavy riffs served as a foil for Jon Lord’s distorted Hammond organ blasts while singer Ian Gillan belted out twisted lyrics in his big, brawny voice and anyone who listens to classic rock radio is familiar with hits such as “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water.” But it wasn’t always that way.
The group formed in 1967 as Roundabout and Blackmore, Lord and drummer Ian Paice were originally joined by croony lead singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper. The band made three albums of psychedelia/prog/blues/classical/rock under the Tetragrammaton label (EMI/Parliaphone in Europe) scoring a huge hit with a cover of “Hush” before replacing Evans and Simper with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover from Episode Six. After a quick detour into playing with an orchestra, the band unleashed a series of awesome metal/proto-metal/heavy rock albums.
Then Gillan and Blackmore couldn’t get along so they got future Whitesnake singer David Coverdale when he was just an unknown along with Glenn Hughes of Trapeze to sing and play bass. The band turned into more of a funky, coke-fueled, 70s cock rock band for a few albums before Blackmore had enough and started Rainbow. They made one more album with Tommy Bolin and called it a day.
Shades of Deep Purple – Tetragrammaton – 1968
Their record label was owned by Bill Cosby! How do you like that?
The debut Deep Purple LP is easily their most psychedelic as one might expect considering it was released right at the height of druggy hippy era. But one thing is for sure; the members of Deep Purple come fully armed with their technical skills. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice can jam! Blackmore is a skilled, bluesy player with a more than obvious nod to Hendrix but not without his own, unique style and Lord is classically trained. I don’t know that much about Paice’s drumming except that he does all kinds of awesome rolls and fills. Original singer Rod Evans has a pleasant if a bit dull, mid-range croony voice which might come as a surprise for people used to Ian Gillan’s shouting and bassist Nick Simper is a normal rock bassist, doing just a little more than playing the route notes.
Shades of Deep Purple consists of eight tunes, four of which are covers. On the covers, in a manner similar to Vanilla Fudge, Deep Purple gussy up normal rock and pop songs with extended psychedelic and baroque passages. The lead guitar/organ interplay might also evoke comparisons with Iron Butterfly. Some of the jamming goes on so long you almost forget the original song that the group is covering! But that’s okay because the solos aren’t just a bunch of pointless note wanking; they actually go somewhere and create dramatic tension. The other most obvious comparison is with Cream especially with driving, heavier tunes such as instrumental, opening cut “And the Address” and similarly heavy rocker “Mandrake Route.” I also want to note that when I say “heavy”, I’m talking 60s psychedelia not the crunchy hard rock/heavy metal of the MK II lineup. They’re still a long way from making that kind of music at this point.
The big hit on the album is the group’s energetic, groovy cover of Joe South’s “Hush”, which immediately and briefly catapulted the band into the big time before they dropped off just as quickly.
Other noteworthy aspects of the album include:
“I’m So Glad” – extremely catchy and melodic cover of a 1931 Skip James song with chords played as arpeggios
“One More Rainy Day” – hippy-dippy, la-de-da, girl-with-flowers-in-her-hair-dancing-in-the-field cheesiness
“Help” – turning the once uptempo, energetic folk rocker into a slow, dreary ballad
“Love Help Me” – completely out of place but totally awesome, high energy, psychedelic surf rocker
“Hey Joe” – fun Spanish-scale, conquistador music surrounding an otherwise straightforward cover
The Book of Taliesyn – Tetragrammaton – 1968
The Purple saga continues with their slightly better sophomore release The Book of Taliesyn. Like its predecessor the sound pulls from a variety of sources but the quintessential ingredients of Ritchie Blackmore’s acid blues guitar and Jon Lord’s dramatic organ remain intact. The sound is also ever so slightly harder and rockin’ and less psychedelic and hippie-ish with Blackmore turning up the distortion. There is no hokey, “Summer of love” inspired shite like “One More Rainy Day.”
Judging by the cover, you’d think they’d gone all King Crimsony before King Crimson even came out. But that’s a ruse. The only allusions to fantasy and renaissance era dorkiness are opening track “Listen, Learn, Read On” and side two opening track “The Shield.” “Listen, Learn, Read On” was apparently inspired by the 6th century poet of the album’s namesake – that’s what wiki said anyway – but it honestly rocks with a charging drumbeat and distorted guitars and is the first indication that the Purple are going in a louder, heavier direction.
After that there’s the straight ahead 4/4 blues jam called “Hard Road” and their popular cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” – which, for a Neil Diamond song is pretty damn rockin’! Then side one ends with a medley containing the epic, dramatic Purple penned intro “Exposition” followed by a slightly expanded cover of the Beatles classic “We Can Work It Out.”
Side two kicks off with the Iron Butterfly, keyboard rocker “The Shield.” It’s neat, melodic and tells the tale of some people who live on a hill and are protected by a shield of some sort. Among other things it has some interesting percussion. After that we have a somber, misty-eyed ballad called “Anthem” in which Rod Evans especially sounds like a 1950s crooner; the vocal melody that goes, “if only I could see you-oo” is honestly very pretty. The song then turns into a classical jam with Lord and Blackmore soloing against a violin before it goes back to its original, soft rock vibe. The album concludes with a gnarly, ten minute cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” complete with lengthy, 2001: A Spacey Odyssey, “Also sprach Zarathustra” introduction and includes the expected Ritchie Blackmore guitar solos.
Deep Purple – Tetragrammaton – 1969
Interesting that they decided to name their third album after the band. I can only guess it might have to do with the fact that the majority of the material on the album is original and the group is really finding their voice. The only cover is of Donovan’s “Lalena” which, sad to say, is also the most boring song on the album with Rod Evans’ soulless crooning on a listless, emotionless ballad.
But why focus on the bad? This is easily my favorite MK I Deep Purple album. It rocks the hardest and the songs are the most interesting of the three. It basically picks up where The Book of Taliesyn left off and, like its predecessor, draws from a bunch of different influences but still remains clearly focused on the skills of Ritchie Blackmore’s even more acidy sounding guitar, Jon Lord’s diverse set of organ tones, Ian Paice’s wicked drumming and the interplay between the three.
The album opens with what I easily consider my favorite MK I (or any, really) Deep Purple song, “Chasing Shadows.” It sounds like the nightmarish cover looks as Rod Evans guides you through his bad dream (or acid trip?) and is driven by evil, Haitien, hoodoo voodoo drums which you might have heard in some old zombie movie. So freakin’ cool! It’s followed by “Blind”, which makes fantastic use of the harpsichord sound to create that Mid evil vibe. Then there’s the dull as dirt “Lalena” before side one ends with a medley featuring the acid guitar, backwards drum intro “Fault Line” and the energetic, groove rocker, “The Painter.”
Side two begins with “Why Didn’t Rosemary?”, another straight ahead, 4/4 blues jam with lyrics inspired by Rosemary’s Baby – “Why didn’t Rosemary ever take the pill?” (get it?). It’s followed by the pounding, wah-wah fueled, Hendrix/Cream-esque hard rocker “Bird Has Flown.” After that the album concludes with the 12 minute, mega opus “April” which contains multiple sections, starting with a dual tracked acoustic/electric guitar plus keyboard, classical intro which is then followed by a full on classical section containing violins, violas, cellos, oboes and clarinets – your parents will think their degenerate, long haired freak son is listening to classical music because he IS!!! – and a final, melancholy rock section in which Rod Evans croons about April being a sad time or something. I’m all for this early Deep Purple but, again, I listen to Deep Purple to rock out so thankfully they would drop this sort thing and change tracks.
After Deep Purple came out, Rod Evans and Nick Simper hit the road and Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice recruited the mighty Ian Gillan on vocals and his Episode Six band mate Roger Glover on bass and we all know how that turned out!
Concerto for Group and Orchestra – Tetragrammaton – 1969
What a weird way to introduce a new lineup. I’d like to find out what the thinking was behind this and who green lighted this project because I can’t imagine who the audience for this thing was supposed to be. I’m going to wager that classical aficionados prefer the masters over some keyboardist named Jon Lord from some rock band that was only marginally popular at this point. Furthermore, since Deep Purple was only marginally popular, did the label think Concerto for Group and Orchestra was the best way to win the band some new fans?
Concerto for Group and Orchestra was indeed the first of its kind in that it presented a hard rock band performing live with a symphony orchestra, specifically the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra live at the Albert Hall. However, unlike future bands like Kiss and Metallica who did this type of thing, Deep Purple didn’t play their own songs and have them embellished with orchestral arrangements. Nope, as indicated by the title, Jon Lord wrote the entire concerto.
And big ups to him for that because I don’t typically use the cliched term “self indulgent” but I can’t think of a better word in this case. It’s basically just classical music with a rock band chiming in to say, “hey! we’re a rock band!” I’m no classical musical expert so I can’t tell if this is “good” classical music or if this is a beginner’s composition. What I can say is that when you have an entire orchestra and then you have one guitarist, one bassist, one keyboardist and one drummer, who do you think is going to dominate the performance?
I don’t want to sound negative in my assessment of Concerto for Group and Orchestra. When Deep Purple start playing, shit starts rockin’ and there are neat parts where the orchestra and band harmonize together; these parts are the most interesting as is when the orchestra plays the crescendos. I also enjoy the parts where the orchestra goes, “BOOM, BOOM” and band answers back in kind. But, during those pretty, quiet parts, I can picture Ritchie Blackmore standing around, whistling, waiting for his chance to start wailing away.
Side two begins with Lord playing some mellower shit on his keyboard in harmony with the orchestra, which I assume excited him more than say, any other member of the group. Again there are more jammy moments between the band and orchestra with Lord’s Hammond getting particularly noodly and proggy and Blackmore playing those Mid evil scales and there are some more crescendos scattered throughout. Also Ian Paice uses some neat clinky, clanky percussion towards the end as well. The funniest thing though is that Ian Gillan sings about two lines on the entire record; something about seeing some woman and her seeing him back and I think I heard the word “sword” in their somewhere as well. As evidenced by his claim that he wrote the lyrics the night before performing, I’m going to guess Concerto… wasn’t exactly his dream project. But thankfully, they would go back to the drawing board right after this.
Deep Purple in Rock – Warner Bros. – 1970
“Black Night” isn’t on this album?!
Almost as if the last three years didn’t happen, Deep Purple in Rock can be considered Deep Purple’s second debut album. Although the band still contains three original members, many consider …in Rock to be the true start of Deep Purple, placing them right along side Sabbath and Zeppelin as early progenitors of METAL!!!
Just a brief comparison between the three, where Sabbath was probably heavier and gloomier and Zeppelin had a sexy, cock rock swagger and groove, Deep Purple is simply the toughest and most aggressive of the three and possibly the most aggressive band in the era before there was punk, hardcore or thrash. The only other band that seemed to rock as hard as Deep Purple was maybe the MC5 or the Stooges and the only singers that came close to the level of aggression of Ian Gillan’s was maybe Rob Tyner or Iggy Pop. Unlike Ozzy’s monotonous singing (which fits Sabbath’s music really well, mind you) or Robert Plant’s high pitched operatic howl, Ian Gillan belted out the lyrics in a tough, brawny manner while still managing to hit notes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lemmy or James Hetfield took a cue or two from Gillan (“into the fiyyya”, “jump in the fiyyya”?).
Now I understand that Deep Purple is pretty tame by today’s standards but even the most jaded metal heads can’t deny the opening power riffs of “Speed King” and not think, “wow, this came out in 1970?” Actually, on the U.S. version they cut off the long intro for some stupid reason. Either way though Deep Purple in Rock contains seven original tunes filled with Ritchie Blackmore’s wicked ass, mean as nails, heavy riffs and Jon Lord’s various Hammond organ melodies all of which are pounded out in various tempos and grooves – saving the heaviest and best for last with “Hard Lovin’ Man” and its awesome, “der-digga-der-digga”, metal galloping. Side two opener “Flight of the Rat” would be considered a fast song – perhaps even a bit punky – and I absolutely love that catchy melody Blackmore does at the end of each verse. And I tell ya, as much as I love Blackmore’s blooozy solos, I even more get a kick out of Lord’s distorted organ with all those discordant notes that sound like they’re crashing into each other! What other band from the era did that?
Some things I want to point out are that opening cut “Speed King” might be tough for some to get into because it seems like Gillan is shouting the lyrics without any sort of rhythm at all; I’ve gotten used to it plus it sounds cool when he yells, “Good golly Miss Molly!” “Child in Time” is a melancholy, 10 minute epic ballad which has some Vietnam era social commentary. Also the lyrics for “Living Wreck” are weird! I’ll reprint them for you and you tell me what this song is about.
You came along for a weekend
But you only stayed for one night
You pulled out your hair
You took out your teeth
Oh I almost died of fright
You’d better do something for your own sake
Ah you know you’re a living wreck
You said you were a virgin
Full of promise and mystery
But I know that you
Would bring me down
‘Cos everyone calls you big G
You’d better do something for your own sake
Yes it’s a shame
ah you know you’re a living wreck
What’s that about? An old woman posing as a groupie? Who the hell is “big G”? Arrrghggh!!!
Fireball – Warner Bros. – 1971
Fire! Fire! Deep Purple sure like fire! You’ve got “Into the Fire”, “Fireball”, “Burn” and “Smoke on the Water” and there’s even a lyric from this album that goes “laugh as the flames eat their burning remains.” Plus they even considered calling themselves Fire at one point.
“Demon’s Eye”?! What the heck is that? I bought the American version goddammit!
Damn, the opening title track is a scorcher! Once again let me stress that Sabbath may have been heavier with their drop D tone but if you want a soundtrack to deliberately drive as fast as possible into a brick wall, then “Fireball” is the perfect song. To me it qualifies as thrash or, at very least, Motorhead-style punk metal nearly a decade earlier. I don’t care what it’s about since it’s probably about a chick that’s a “fireball” (oo, clever!) but damn if it doesn’t tear. Especially those awesome, chaotic drum rolls at the beginning and that crazy, noisy thing that Jon Lord does right before the organ solo!
Although not quite as heavy as its predecessor and with two particularly weird tracks – “Anyone’s Daughter” and “The Mule”, which I’ll discuss momentarily – Fireball is still a terrific hard rock record full of all the good stuff one comes to expect from Deep Purple. Aside from the aforementioned opening title cut, the album has killer blues metal tunes like “No No No” with social commentary in lyrics such as “they talk about creating but all they do is kill/they say they’re gonna mend it but they never will” and the surprisingly bitter and angry heavy rocker “Fools”, which outdoes “War Pigs” in the topical, anti-war theme department. Also there’s album closer “No One Came”, a chugging number about the disappointment experienced on the road to stardom.
I’m torn though. For the whole of my life, I’ve listened to the American version of Fireball which contains “Strange Kind of Women”, a good yet bizarre song about a guy visiting a whore over and over again and winning her heart right before she dies (old age? syphilis?) but what’s this down and dirty bluesy rocker called “Demon’s Eye”? Eh it’s good, I’ll take it but I guess I’d just rather have both!
Then there are the two weird songs. “Anyone’s Daughter” is a fun, bouncy, steel guitar/boogie piano country rocker about a long haired degenerate going around banging “anyone’s daughter” until he scores a “rich man’s daughter.” I particularly like the lyrics: “I can hear your tales and lies/you say I’m dumb and scraggy/but man this dumb and scraggy/is your daughter’s baby’s daddy.” Oh lawdy… The other one is “The Mule”, a proggy song filled with constant drum rolls and psychedelic effects placed on the guitar and organ, almost like a throwback to an earlier Deep Purple era; it’s still a great song though.
Machine Head – Warner Bros. – 1972
If you consider yourself a rock or metal fan and Machine Head isn’t part of your collection, you’re wrong.
I first heard Deep Purple on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack way back in ’96 when I was merely 12 years old. By that point I was already a fan of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Aerosmith (I had yet to get into Blue Oyster Cult but I soon did!) but on the soundtrack is this song called “Highway Star” with this “duh-duh-duh-duh”, upper middle tempo, driving metal riff and this guy shouting atop of it and I thought, “that’s a bit heavy for the 70s, isn’t it?”
Black Sabbath may have been heavier with their drop D riffs but you can’t really rock out or bang your head to their stuff most of the time. They’re known for being slow and doomy. Of course the lyrics to “Highway Star” are a bit silly but as far as I know the “cars and girls” theme could be a joke. Who cares? The song rocks.
Regardless Machine Head is the Deep Purple album that made me a fan and it should for everybody. It really isn’t all that different from last two albums; it’s just really, freakin’ good! The big hit is of course “Smoke on the Water”, the classic rock radio staple which tells the tale of a concert in Switzerland gone awry on the account of a “stupid with a flare gun” who “burned the place to the ground” and how the day was saved with the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio. The riff is an absolute classic, a cliche even and is practically every beginning guitarist’s first learned riff (either that or “Iron Man”). The song chugs along before the wicked guitar solo which is backed by these marching drums. I’m sure you’ve heard it.
But that’s not all! There’s the slower, groovier number “Maybe I’m a Leo”, the galloping, metal tale of a man freezing to death in the Swiss Alps, “Pictures of Home” – check out that awesome bass solo! -, the catchy as all hell woman lament “Never Before”, the wicked blues jam “Lazy” and, of course, the pounding, intergalactic head banger “Space Truckin'” (later to be covered by the Meatmen!!!), which is one of my favorite Purple tunes. And check out the neat drumming at the end of the song!
Made in Japan – Warner Bros. – 1972
I’m not sure but did Made in Japan launch the double live album craze?
Deep Purple have released a lot of live albums and I doubt I’m gonna get or listen to every single one of ’em because life is too short even if they are one of my favorite bands.
But, to ignore this classic, would be a crime, see as Made in Japan not only encapsulates a tough, mean heavy rock band at the peak of their powers in the concert setting, it also just sounds so good! Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar sounds heavier, rawer and louder on the live album and it’s booming out of my left speaker while Lord’s organ/keyboard is comin’ out my right and Ian Gillan is just a yellin’ all over the place.
Recorded on two separate nights – August, 16th and 17th 1972, first night in Osaka, second in Tokyo – the double album contains one song from Deep Purple in Rock, two from Fireball (American version) and four from Machine Head but, as evidenced by the song count and album length, it’s no surprise that Deep Purple expand some of the original compositions with extended jams.
A few points to make:
1. Even though I already mentioned that the live album is heavier than studio albums from where the songs came, “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'” sound especially brutal in the live setting.
2. Before the start of “The Mule”, Ian Gillan says, “can I have everything louder than everything else?” Ya here that, Lemmy?
3. The live version of the “The Mule” is heavier and less psychedelic sounding than the album version. It also just serves as a segue into a drum solo.
4. Extended blues jam during “Strange Kind of Woman” but more importantly extended Ian Gillan shouting of “OWWWWWW!!! OWWW!!! OWWW!!!” followed by singer/audience shouting match of “HEY!”
5. Wicked cool, noisy Hammond organ intro to “Lazy” which briefly includes “Louie, Louie.” Also, I don’t recall the album version of “Lazy” having a harmonica on it.
6. “Space Truckin'” takes up an entire side with a big, ol’, dramatic and speedy, marching drum and organ jam – and man, can Jon Lord squeeze some crazy noises out of that thing! – as its lengthy quota, briefly throwing in the somber, quiet part of “Fools”, followed by a big crescendo and more speedy jamming only with guitar instead of organ. Then the album ends.
My only complaint is that there are fade outs between a couple of the songs.
Who Do We Think We Are – Warner Bros. – 1973
The deliberately narcissistic album title couldn’t negate the fact that there was mounting tension between Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore which resulted in Who Do We Think We Are being the final MK II Deep Purple album (for 11 years anyway).
Unfortunately it’s not the strongest way to go out. I’m not saying it’s BAD either; just that the songs aren’t as strong and don’t stand out as much as before. Most classic rock listeners will recognize and enjoy the album’s opening track, “Woman from Tokyo”, a slightly more commercial version of what the band usually does especially since Lord plays bluesy, boogie piano rather than crunchy Hammond on the track.
Then it’s back to good ol’ heavy stuff we’ve come to expect from Deep Purple, including the awesome, head banging classics “Mary Long” and “Smooth Dancer” and slower, more grooving blues metal tunes like “Super Trooper” and “Rat Bat Blue” (or rather “Rat bat bat bat bat bluuueee!”) (which gets fast by the end anyway). Then the album takes a couple of unusual though not particularly compelling turns at the end with the “Bad to the Bone”-style dullness of “Place in Line”, which is thankfully curtailed by a more ass kicking quota and the semi ballad “Our Lady.” I looked on allmusic. com to find a description for “Our Lady.” They call it gospel. Fine, “Our Lady” is gospel with loud guitars; it’s still a pretty boring album closer.
As you can tell, Who Do We Think We Are is not my favorite collection of Deep Purple tunes. I love some of ’em but I feel like they did this type of stuff better on earlier albums. Some of the lyrics are pretty interesting though. “Mary Long” is a dual attack on those hypocritical and homophobic keepers of public decency Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford while “Smooth Dancer” is Gillan’s swipe at Blackmore. I’m still confused what “Place in Line” about though. Although I don’t care too much for the music, I’m curious to know what Ian Gillan is going on about; is it just a song about people struggling to get along trying to find their place in the world or is there something more specific? There must be something more to it if it goes, “nine long years I’ve been in line getting nowhere.”
Again, for the most part, the songs on Who Do We Think We Are aren’t bad and some like “Mary Long” and “Smooth Dancer” are pretty damn good but, I just wish Jon Lord did more on this album. He’s on it but he just sounds like a normal keyboardist save for pretty wicked solos on “Smooth Dancer” and “Place in Line.”
Either way, shortly after Who Do We Think We Are came out, Ian Gillan left the band because he couldn’t get along with Ritchie Blackmore. In turn, for some reason, Blackmore made an ultimatum that forced Roger Glover out of the band as well. In their places, they recruited future Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and Trapeze bassist Glenn Hughes. You’ll have to read onto part three to see how that worked out!
Burn – Warner Bros. – 1974
One look at the cover and one listen to the opening track might give the impression that the only difference between the Gillan/Glover and Coverdale/Hughes lineup is the guy belting out the lyrics but that’s a complete red herring.
Indeed the song “Burn” is a wicked, fast paced opener that almost single handedly redeems the weaker moments of Who Do We Think We Are with its killer riff, tight drumming (lotsa killer fills on this one!) and awesome organ solo not to mention newcomer David Coverdale’s powerful lead vocal – Whitesnake connection notwithstanding, David Coverdale is a great singer albeit with a bit more of a generic 70s rock voice – but it’s the only song on the album which evokes the heavy rock of the MK II albums.
If you listen to Burn in hopes of hearing another …in Rock, Fireball or Machine Head, prepare for major disappointment. HOWEVER, if you came for awesometastic, melodic and catchy 70s boogie rock, cock rock, funk rock and blues rock, then, my friend, you’re in hella luck! Yes this is the cliched 70s rock stuff that your hillbilly parents listen to with the cowbells and the dirty, sexist lyrics – I’m particularly looking at “Lay Down, Stay Down”, a great song when you don’t know what Coverdale and Hughes are yelling about – but damn are these songs good! Part of the extra level of melody comes from the fact that both Coverdale and Hughes sing on the album and oftentimes harmonize together.
Aside from “Burn”, the only other song that seems a bit out of place is album closer “‘A’ 200”, a still really good but really strange moog filled prog rock instrumental similar to say, “Who Are You?” by Black Sabbath. The second track “Might Just Take Your Life” at least somewhat resembles the MK II lineup’s more commercial side like in “Woman from Tokyo” and the lyrics to “What’s Goin’ on Here” sound like something Ian Gillan might have written with its humorous tale of a lost night of drunken escapades. Oh wait, he DID write a song about that when he wrote “Trashed” for Sabbath’s Born Again album.
But don’t expect the heavy guitar riffs like the ones on previous albums. Blackmore’s guitar is oftentimes way less distorted this time around going for a bluesier tone in several songs. Also, I have to admit that both David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes have more of a range than Ian Gillan and their alternating vocal ranges on different lines adds more dimension to the singing especially on the funky “You Fool No One.” This may fly in the face of people who like their music rough and tough but it does make for a more pleasant listening experience when singers can, ya know, sing (not saying Ian Gillan couldn’t, okay?). Just listen to Coverdale stretch is vocal chords on the slooow, bluuuesy “Mistreated.” Also listen to that guitar wail and picture the ladiez in the audience getting wetter with each pained note.
Yeah, the lyrics are pretty stupid, I guess. Not that Ian Gillan didn’t write songs about fuckin’ and whores either but he also took the time to spit venom and wax his annoyance in songs like “No No No” and “Mary Long.” The only thing Coverdale and Hughes wax their annoyance about is cheatin’ and mistreatin’ broads. Well “Burn” is a horror themed song about an evil, devil woman from hell, “Might Just Take Your Life” is about some lone killer guy and “Sail Away” kinda has a message even though it’s a generic, stupid one.
Live at the California Jam – Purple – 1996
This album has gone by several names including California Jamming, California Jam 1974 and Live at the Ontario Speedway but, regardless of what your particular copy is called, this is a recording of Deep Purple’s legendary, April 6, 1974 performance at the California Jam festival (also featuring Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Eagles, Rare Earth, Seals & Crofts and Earth, Wind and Fire among others) in which Ritchie Blackmore angrily attacked a camera man with his guitar for getting between him and the audience and then set his amp on fire, causing it to explode.
Stormbringer – Capitol – 1974
Apparently Ritchie Blackmore wasn’t super interested in the recording of the Stormbringer album. This strikes as me as odd for two reasons. The first one is that his writing credit is on nearly every song, which is also strange because he said that he hates funky soul music. But the second thing is that the music on the first Rainbow album sounds quite a bit like what went on Burn and Stormbringer (albeit minus the funkier parts) rather than what was on Machine Head.
Just like with Burn, Stormbringer totally fakes you out. It has a fantasy themed cover and the opening track is a killer metal tune whose only big departure from the Deep Purple of old is Jon Lord’s use of proggy Moog tones to kick off the song. After that it’s heavy riffs, pounding drums and shouted vocals about some dark, evil fantasy stuff inspired by Michael Moorecock. This song and the speedy rocker “Lady Double Dealer” are the only heavy rock songs on the entire album.
The rest of Stormbringer is influenced by blues, soul, gospel and funk; if you didn’t know any better, you’d think Deep Purple had replaced Coverdale and Hughes with American soul singers! On the majority of the record, Blackmore uses a clean, non-distorted tone, making generous use of his bottle neck slide guitar for that perfect hillbillyish twang and only occasionally turns up the juice in certain spots. Regardless I find this music just as melodic, catchy and tuneful as the Burn LP. A younger me would have balked at a song like “High Ball Shooter” with its gospel church organ, cowbell and bottle neck sliding filled soul rock but I think it’s a great song! In fact I can’t find a problem with any of the songs on the album.
“Love Don’t Mean a Thing” is soulful FM rock, “You Can’t Do It Right (With the One You Love)” is totally butt shake funky, “Holy Man” is like a gospel ballad and “Hold On” could seriously be mistaken for an R&B soul song found on a station that a rock fan would never turn to. The last two tracks on the album are at least vaguely reminiscent of the Deep Purple of old; “The Gypsy” isn’t heavy but it is a bluesy rock tune with a memorable guitar hook and “Soldier of Fortune”, the album’s other top track, is a melancholy ballad that’s very pretty.
Just like on Burn, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes really stretch their vocal chords, trade lines and harmonize together doing that soul thang (ya know, “ba-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-bay, wow!”). I’m sure you’ve heard Whitesnake and know what David Coverdale sounds like but, if not, Coverdale is the one with the lower range. In fact, I didn’t mention this before but it is a little surprising hearing that kind of voice from a scrawny, wussy looking guy like that.
As much as I like the album, two ingredients that are sorely missed or rather underused are Jon Lord’s and Ian Paice’s respective instruments. It seems right after “Stormbringer”, there is not much place for their brand of lunacy; Lord’s awesome distorted Hammond blasts and crazy solos or Paice’s pounding rhythms and fills. Their musicianship is fine but these type of songs don’t give them much space to jam out.
And it’s this new, non-jamming, not as loud Deep Purple approach that resulted in Ritchie Blackmore bidding adieu to start Rainbow. who, strangely didn’t seem much louder, heavier or jammier than this version of Deep Purple…
MK III: The Final Concerts – Eagle – 1996
Recorded live on April 3, 4 and 7 of 1975 with the first two nights in Austria and the third in France, MK III: The Final Concerts, as the title cleverly implies, contains recordings of the final gigs performed by the third Deep Purple lineup. Ritchie Blackmore would go off to Rainbow land with the “man on the silver mountain”, Ronnie mothafuckin’ James Dio (!!!) while Deep Purple would make one final run with American guitarist and junkie Tommy Bolin.
This neat double CD set contains performance of three songs from Machine Head, three from Burn and three from Stormbringer along with some blues song called “Going Down” written by some guy named Don Nix as the intro to “Highway Star.” The performances are typically energetic and top notch, the sound is bright and loud and, thankfully, the material they chose from the Coverdale/Hughes albums is the more rockin’ stuff rather the funkier or soulful stuff; specifically “Burn”, “Stormbringer”, “Lady Double Dealer” and “Gypsy.”
In addition to rockers, we get a mega detour into the sexy slow bluuuues of “Mistreated”, which is extended to include a tortured guitar solo and a crotch thrusting, fuckfest of an extended vocal performance from Coverdale in which he implores the sluts in the audience to “keep on rockin’ him.” Also “You Fool No One”, the one tune with a funk beat, sounds harder than the album version.
Some things to note:
1. David Coverdale sounds way breathier live than in the studio. He also sings the majority of the time giving only a little bit of airtime to a coked out Glenn Hughes.
2. A few bars of “Lazy” at the beginning of “Smoke on the Water.”
3. Glenn Hughes goes a little too coke crazy on “Smoke on the Water” and extends the “…to the ground” line to “…to the GROUUUUNNDD, WOOO!!!”
4. WTF extended gospel quota added to the end of “Smoke on the Water” including a bunch of “why don’t CAAALLL me baby?” and “save the WORLD!!!” and “CAN YA HEAR ME, BABY, WOO!!!” gibberish
5. Church organ solo at the beginning of “You Fool No One”
6. Drum solo at the end of “You Fool No One”
7. Extended jam following the drum solo in “You Fool No One” containing a few bars from “The Mule”
8. A ridiculously long intro to “Space Truckin'” which includes more of Hughes’ high pitch, gospel inspired shrieking and Jon Lord playing the 2001: A Space Odyssey “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” thingy
9. Extended jam in the middle of “Space Truckin'” which includes parts of different songs including “Child in Time”, Coverdale and Hughes improvising some lines, Hughes noodling away on his bass and shrieking “WOOO HOOO”, Lord making some wicked cool futuristic sounds on his machine and Paice constantly tapping the rim of his snare to let the audience know the crescendo is coming (and not a moment too soon!)
10. Coverdale predicts his classy approach in Whitesnake by editing his own words into “Highway Star” (“she’s got big, fat titties and everything”).
Come Taste the Band – Capitol – 1975
Personally speaking, if you’re not anchored by what Deep Purple should sound like (i.e. MK II), then this last batch of more commercial, radio friendly songs is just as enjoyable as those on the last couple of albums and even rocks a bit harder even if they have dumb as shit lyrics and generic FM rock titles like “Comin’ Home”, “Lady Luck”, “Gettin’ Tighter”, “Dealer”, “I Need Love”, “Drifter” or “Love Child.”
Known by fans across the globe as “The Tommy Bolin album” (actually not really), Come Taste the Band would be Deep Purple’s final studio album for nine years. Ritchie Blackmore had left Deep Purple to rock ‘n’ roll with Ronnie Dio in Rainbow and the group recruited American guitarist Tommy Bolin (if you must know, he played in the James Gang, Patch of Blue, Zephyr, Energy, Billy Cobham, Alphonse Mouzon and Moxy along with releasing a couple solo albums), who apparently dyed his hair two different colors and did a lot of smack.
I guess it was David Coverdale who convinced Jon Lord to continue the group because he and Tommy Bolin wrote nearly every song on Come Taste the Band. For the most part, the album sounds like a mix between early Whitesnake, the James Gang and some non-descript 70s hard rock band with a couple of particularly funky songs such as “I Need Love” and “Love Child” thrown into the mix. Unlike Burn and Stormbringer, where the songs seem to jump around stylistically, nearly every song on Come Taste the Band can be described as mainstream hard rock. While not the pounding metal of yesteryear, Tommy Bolin can still play some mean distorted cock rock riffs and bluesy solos while throwing in some bottle neck blues for good measure.
The one exception is “This Time Around/Ode to G”, primarily a piano driven, R&B/soul ballad which turns into a sort of dark, heavy prog thing in its second half. But, for the most part, these songs are just FM hard rock songs with concise arrangements geared, at least in my mind, to showcase David Coverdale’s and Glenn Hughes’ caterwauling and Tommy Bolin’s guitar wailing. There’s very little in the way of showcasing Jon Lord’s or Ian Paice’s individual talents if you get me. Lord plays more whirling Moog synth than organ or something you’d find on a funk record and Paice, while a very good drummer, doesn’t do his crazy, wicked pounding or fills that characterized his earlier work.
Regardless though, as I just said, it is a very good pot smokin’, beer guzzlin’, “leave your brain at home” 70s rock record. In the year after this album came out, Deep Purple came to an end, David Coverdale started Whitesnake with Jon Lord, Tommy Bolin died of a smack overdose and Ian Paice and Glenn Hughes continued on in various projects until Paice, Lord and the rest of the MK II saw dollar signs ahead.