The 25 Best Loud Rock Albums of the 70s

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I often joke that I went from being Eddie Punk to Eddie Trunk, but that seems about right. A decade ago, I was this punk rock guy, who “hated Pink Floyd” and all other progressive rock, hard rock, and heavy metal (except, of course, for Motörhead, who it’s debatable what side of the rock fence they even fall on), resurrecting the tired belief that somehow lousy musicianship is virtuous, while good musicianship is a way for you to say you’re better than your audience.

But then, something changed. Motörhead led me to Hawkwind. Hawkwind was one of John Lydon’s favorite bands, along with Alice Cooper, Can, and Van der Graaf Generator, and later it turned out that John Lydon didn’t hate Pink Floyd after all. That was just a put on! In fact, he and Roger Waters are buddies, who hang out together from time to time, or so I’ve read. On top of that, like a lot of punks, I got into doom metal thanks to this band called Pentagram, who all of a sudden got kinda popular thanks to the release of a bunch of their early demos. That of course led me right to Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and any other band that could be labeled as heavy rock or proto-metal; and, since much of that came from or crosses over with psychedelia and progressive rock, well, you can figure out the rest.

Now I’m obsessed with the 70s. I picture myself as the teenager with long hair and mutton chops, wearing my denim vest, bell bottoms, and Dr. Who t-shirt, coming home from a drive-in theater, that just showed The Brotherhood of Satan, to sit in a wood paneled basement, that has Frank Frazetta, Ken Kelly, and Boris Vallejo posters on the wall, and play Dungeons & Dragons or Pong, watch old horror movies or Star Trek reruns on a black and white TV, or read Creepy, EerieVampirella, or Castle of Frankenstein magazines or Conan or Michael Moorcock paperbacks, while smoking a bowl, and having Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath, or Alice Cooper playing in the background. Ah, yeah, good ol’ 70s fantasy…

70s loud rock is, of course, any rock music that came out in the 70s and is loud. That’s the only criteria. It can be basic, three chord glam rock, super complicated progressive rock, standard hard rock, early heavy metal, or bluesy Southern rock; just as long as it’s loud, and it’s rock. And, though I do like Yes, Pink Floyd, and many other progressive rock bands, many of them don’t qualify as loud rock, since they don’t use enough loud, distorted guitars. Got it?

Some bands I never even thought about including, but people probably think I should, are Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Queen, Rush, Aerosmith, Bad Company, Free, the Who, and Van Halen.

Some bands I thought about including, but just could not find a space for, are Cactus, Bloodrock, Captain Beyond, Sir Lord Baltimore, Warhorse, Humble Pie, James Gang, Jerusalem, Jericho, Josephus, Grand Funk Railroad, Status Quo, Montrose, Mountain, Trapeze, Leaf Hound, Hard Stuff, Lucifer’s Friend, Night Sun, Elias Hulk, Zior, Spooky Tooth, Suck, Bang, Buffalo, Coloured Balls, Buster Brown, Rose Tattoo, Quartz, Horse, Fuzzy Duck, Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, Armageddon, Dust, Pink Fairies, Widowmaker, Blues Creation, the Flower Travelin’ Band, Elf, Toad, and Eloy.

With that said, here are my top 25 loud rock albums of the 70s:

25. Slade – Slayed? – Polydor – 1972

Before Kiss, the New York Dolls, and AC/DC, there was Slade, who, in a rock world that was becoming increasingly dominated by arty progressive rock bands, gleefully played deliberately “stoopid”, basic rock songs, that consist of blocky, distorted major chords, bouncy 4/4 beats, and big, singalong choruses. Their music was designed to be played on the jukebox at the local pubs that the blokes would go to after a long, hard day at the factory. Or, as the opening couplet at the beginning of “The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazee” says, “I say we all get our kicks playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band/there’s nothing like the feeling when you give it all you’ve got/and people wanna shake you by the hand.” Yep, unlike Kiss, who borrowed a thing or two from Slade and boasted about private planes and limousines, guitarist/singer Noddy Holder, lead guitarist Dave Hill, bassist Jim Lea, and drummer Don Powell just wanted a handshake and possibly a pat on the back for bringing the people some rock ‘n’ roll. Why didn’t they become more popular in the U.S. like AC/DC? Not enough dick jokes? On their previous album, Play It Loud, Slade dressed like skinheads. But when glam happened, they grew their hair out, replaced the Doc Martins with platform boots, put on ridiculous costumes, such as Hill’s “Super Yob” suit and Holder’s Mad Hatter costume, and scored a hit with their double live album Slade Alive!. It’s also funny to note how, in the androgynous and graceful world of glam, Slade came off like a big, clumsy gorilla; there is NOTHING androgynous about Slade. Slade would release a lot of great albums, not to mention a movie, but the album I think that truly encapsulates their raison d’etre is Slayed?, the one where all ten song titles are spelled wrong on the back; one of those is of course “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, which is the second Slade song to be covered by Quiet RiotThe first is “Cum on Feel the Noize”, which is not on Slayed?, but on their next LP, a singles collection called Sladest. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that the originals are better.

24. New York Dolls – New York Dolls – Mercury/Polygram 1973

Gene Simmons astutely pointed out that the Rolling Stones, the New York Dolls, and Aerosmith all pretty much do the same thing. Ya know, they all have the pouty lipped, effeminate lead singer, who prances around onstage, doing his exaggerated, limp-wristed, girly movies, and the lead guitarist, who acts like he don’t care ’bout nuthin’ man, commanding all of the audience’s attention, while the rhythm guitarist, bassist, and drummer function as the group’s metronome. Of course, the Dolls also wore gobs of makeup and thrift store rags, making them look like cheap New York street whores, and were supposed to be the big, “break-out” group from New York’s glitter/glam scene, which also included Kiss, Twisted Sister, Joey Ramone’s pre-Ramones band, Sniper, and a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of, like the Brats, the Planets, Luger, and Street Punk. However, while middle America could embrace an Alice Cooper, with his snakes and guillotines, and Kiss, with their over the top, Kabuki style make up and science fiction costumes, the Dolls were just a little too… gaaaa… girly. So, they made two albums, New York Dolls and Too Much too Soon, and fell apart. Like Kiss and Slade, the Dolls played basic, three-chord rock, throwing in copious amounts of Chuck Berry/Keith Richards style guitar leads for good measure; except, of course, not on “Lonely Planet Boy”, which is an acoustic number. But, unlike those other two bands, they eschewed the big, easy to remember choruses and celebratory feel, for a less overt pop song structure and tales of the shady characters they encountered on the streets of New York. David Johansen sounds like a “street” Mick Jagger, singing about personality crises, gloomy kids shooting up dope, lonely planet boys, Vietnamese babies, outcasts who think of themselves as Frankenstein, trash, bad girls, subway trains, and jet boys. And their cover of “Pills” by Bo Diddly, with its “rock ‘n’ roll nurse” motif, perfectly fits within their hardened worldview. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that New York Dolls was produced by Todd Rundgren, who apparently wasn’t very fond of the group, or that Malcolm McLaren managed the Dolls before he managed the Sex Pistols, or that lead guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan started pioneering early punk band the Heartbreakers.

23. Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla – Gull- 1974

Like the Scorpions, UFO, and Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest began as something rather different from what they became more widely known for; which is, of course, helping create the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with aggressively fast metal songs, that consist of “chugga-chugga” riffs, blazing lead guitar solos, and comic book-inspired science fiction and horror lyrics; okay, and the occasional homosexual dog whistle (yeah, I didn’t know what a “Jawbreaker” was until I googled it either). But, before all that, Judas Priest was a Zeppelin-inspired heavy rock band, that came from Birmingham, England, the same working class, factory city from which Black Sabbath are from. By the time they released Rocka Rolla, their debut LP, which was produced by Roger Bain, who also did the first three Sabbath albums, along with a couple of Budgie LPs, 4/5 of their classic lineup was in place (the drummer position would always be in flux). Before adopting the studs and leather from the gay clubs, singer Rob Halford, who sounds considerably calmer on Rocka Rolla, than he would on later Priest albums, lead guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill, and, in the case of their first album, drummer John Hinch looked like a typical, post-hippie, 70s rock band, with all their scarves and rags, like they’re some traveling group of rock ‘n’ roll Gypsies or something. Just LOOK at Rob Halford with that long hair that goes down to his ass and K.K. Downing with that hat, which makes him look like a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Isn’t that funny? Rocka Rolla has seven tracks, one of which is a ten minute, multi-part suite, and another, which is a soft ‘n’ pretty instrumental piece called “Caviar and Meths”, that I guess was supposed to be longer before Roger Bain took liberties with it. “Run of the Mill” is an eight minute long, somber ballad; the Sabbath-y “Dying to Meet You” is an anti-war song, that has a galloping second part, that sounds too happy for the subject matter at hand; and “One for the Road”, “Rocka Rolla”, and “Never Satisfied” deliver the bluesy, heavy rock goods. Judas Priest, however, no longer do.

22. MC5 – Back in the USA – Atlantic – 1970

I’m still not totally sure why MC5 gets lumped in with punk rock. It can’t be because of their music, can it? Their first album, Kick Out the Jams, sounds like Blue Cheer, who are pretty pummeling, but nobody calls them punk. Their third album, High Time, sounds like Grand Funk Railroad. And it certainly can’t just be because of their leftist, “revolutionary” politics, something that they magically adopted overnight when they hired manager and “spiritual adviser” John Sinclair to help sell their loud and heavy brand of rock to the hippies. Can it just be because of their assholish behavior, like when they wrote a “fuck you” letter in some underground newspaper to the Hudson’s department store for not carrying Kick Out the Jams because of the use of the word “motherfucker” at the beginning of the song “Kick Out the Jams”, signing it with the logo of their record label, Elektra, causing Hudson’s to no longer carry Elektra product and getting the group tossed off the label? Jim Morrison acted pretty obnoxious, and nobody calls the Doors a punk band. On top of that, the members of the MC5 were “disowned” by the “revolution” when their next label, Atlantic, bought every member of the group a new sports car. Some Communists they turned out to be, with their love of burgers and American muscle cars! Granted, singer Rob Tyner, lead guitarist Wayne Kramer, rhythm guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson were against the Vietnam war, as they so blatantly express in the rave up “The American Ruse”, but what band at the time wasn’t? And even if they had anti-war or even leftist views, punk rock wasn’t some left wing hippie movement in the first place. It was about writing short, catchy rock ‘n’ roll songs with sick, disgusting subject matter; at least until the Clash tried to ruin it with their Marxist bullshit. So, what makes MC5 “punk” or even “proto-punk”? Beats me. The songs on Back in the USA are short, punchy, and fast, and, with 11 of them, the album clocks in at a brisk 28 minutes, which is a stark departure from the heavy, psychedelic, bluesy metal of Kick Out the Jams. It opens with a cover of the Little Richard classic “Tutti Frutti”, closes with a cover of the Chuck Berry classic “Back in the USA”, and has nine killer, catchy cuts in between. One of those is “Looking at You”, which the band originally recorded for their first single in 1967 and was later covered by the Damned. Another is the Fred “Sonic” Smith sung, acoustic/electric pop rock of “Shakin’ Street.” Another is “The Human Being Lawnmower”, which has a whole bunch of parts and changes in the span of two and a half minutes. And another is the “I formed a rock ‘n’ roll band to get pussy” anthem “Teenage Lust”, which has this classy verse: “then one day I had the perfect plan/I’ll shake my ass and sing in a rock ‘n’ roll band/from now on, there’ll be no compromising/’cause rock ‘n’ roll music is the best advertising.” Yeah, THAT’S really progressive, eh? I also like the fun hand claps in “Call Me Animal.” The album even has a ballad called “Let Me Try”, which I often skipped when driving in my car because it’s not short and fast like the other songs, even though it’s still good. And there are a few others as well that I quite enjoy.  But, hoo boy, when I lived in Grand Rapids, I listened to Back in the USA in my car a LOT. I mean a lot lot. “Back in the USA” would end, and “Tutti Frutti” would start, and I’d just listen to Back in the USA over and over and over again on loop. And I suggest you do the same.

21. Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent – Epic – 1975

I think it’s absolutely appalling that any time a person mentions that he likes Ted Nugent, he has to preface it with, “but I don’t agree with his views!” Like, so? You don’t hear people doing that when they talk about Crass or the Dead Kennedys, so why do they have to give disclaimers for liking the Nuge? Since when did your voting record prevent you from enjoying the killer guitar playing in “Stranglehold”? It’s times like these that make me want to go back to the 70s, when you could enjoy music without worrying about explaining yourself. Anyway, Ted Nugent is the excellent debut solo LP from guitar slingin’, Motor City madman Ted Nugent, who had recently dropped the Amboy Dukes moniker, yet kept Dukes bass player Rob Grange alongside him, and recruited lead singer and second guitarist Derek St. Holms and drummer Cliff Davies. The aforementioned “Stranglehold” is quite the guitar workout, and for someone who claims to be a clean livin’ man, he sure provided a helluva soundtrack to smoke some ganja to, with that pulsating bass, that seems as though it’s mixed louder than the guitar, and all those “wah-wah” effects, especially during the lengthy, jammy part. After “Stranglehold”, the album goes into “full-on” rock mode with “Stormtroopin'”, a clarion call for the second amendment if there ever was one, the ballin’ boogie rock anthem “Hey Baby”, a few more catchy and energetic rock tunes, and the incredibly fast and punky “Motorcity Madhouse.” Though, I’ve always wondered, who ARE the “Snakeskin Cowboys”?

20. Scorpions – Taken by Force – RCA – 1977

Can you believe that the Scorpions have been around since 1965, seven years before they released their heavy, psychedelic, progressive rock debut, Lonesome Crow, which was produced by Kraut rock pioneer Conny Plank and features Michael Schenker, younger brother of rhythm guitarist Rudolph Schenker, on lead guitar? Some may be shocked that I chose Taken by Force as my favorite Scorpions album instead of Lonesome Crow, but hey! The other surprising thing about the Scorps is that there exists that group of people, myself included, that loves the bejeezus out of the Uli Jon Roth era of the group’s career; before they transitioned into an international, arena rock sensation with hit singles that you are all well of aware of. Don’t get me wrong; Lovedrive, on which Michael Schenker briefly returned to play on a couple of tracks, Animal MagnetismBlackout, and Love at First Sting are great albums, but this earlier stuff has that gritty 70s hard rock feel, that only a seeming lack of commercial ambition could produce. Just listen to the mean and angry riffs on “The Sails of Charon” or the headbanging, metallic crunch of “He’s a Woman – She’s a Man”, and you’ll see what I mean. I was going to congratulate the album for not having a single ballad, but then I forgot about the closing track, “Born to Touch Your Feelings”, which is a seven minute long ballad, and has a bunch of broads talking over each other in different languages. I guess better one ballad, than the FIVE that are on In Trance. Also, Taken by Force doesn’t have a picture naked little girl on the cover.

19. Uriah Heep – …Very ‘eavy …Very ‘umble – Vertigo – 1970

If there’s one band that exemplifies what people find funny about 70s rock, then of course, it’s Uriah Heep.  Like Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser of Blue Öyster Cult, Uriah Heep singer David Byron has a sleazy, cocaine snorting, porno star mustache, and a voice that is only slightly less wussy than that of Jon Anderson of Yes. But, if I actually did have a problem with David Byron’s singing, then I wouldn’t have included Uriah Heep on this list. And, of course, I could have picked the obvious choice, Demons and Wizards, as their best album, as it is quite good, and it would have put two albums with a Roger Dean cover on this list, but I chose their first LP, …Very ‘eavy …Very ‘umble, instead. In the States, …Very ‘eavy … Very ‘umble was released with the title of Uriah Heep, and had the awesome, crushing heavy number “Bird of Prey”, an alternate recording of which would lead off the group’s next LP, Salisbury, replace the ass boring “Lucy Blues”; but even with two songs that I’m not particularly fond of – the other being “Come Away Melinda” – on the British release, there’s still plenty of hard rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock to enjoy. On opening cut “Gypsy” and on second to last track “I’ll Keep on Trying”, guitarist Mick Box plays the crunchy riffs and solos, while Ken Hensley makes a bunch of noise with his Hammond organ, and Byron sings the lyrics in his over the top, melodramatic way, complete with “ah-ah-ah-ah”‘s. The songs “Walking in Your Shadow”, “Dreammare”, and “Real Turned On” are bluesy heavy rock guitar workouts, that have Hensley joining box on slide guitar. Although, I will say that, “Dreammare” does seem far too happy to be about a man that’s being haunted by demons, and it would have made more sense for the lyrics of “Dreammare” to be matched with the “scary” minor note music of “I’ll Keep on Trying.” That’s of course a minor complaint. The final track, “Wake Up (Set Your Sights)”, is also kind of odd, in that it’s a jazzy prog tune, that sounds like some sort of protest song, with lyrics about “standing up for your rights” and to “stop this killing.” But it’s still a good jam, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?

18. Mott the Hoople – Mott – Columbia – 1973

Ian Hunter is David Bowie without the arty pretenses. Now, before you say, “hey, asshole, David Bowie wrote ‘All the Young Dudes’, and without him, blah blah blah…” Shaddup, I KNOW without David Bowie’s help, Mott the Hoople would have broken up and languished in obscurity, only to be discovered years later by geeky collectors such as myself, but isn’t that kinda what happened anyway? Who really talks about ’em, other than, I dunno, Rodney Bingenheimer when reminiscing about the early/mid 70s Sunset Strip scene, where guys dressed like girls, thinking that that would get the girls? Anyway, Mott the Hoople perform big, glammy rock ‘n’ roll, that alternates between Elton John-style boogie-woogie (opening track “All the Way from Memphis” and the appropriately titled “Honaloochie Boogie”), hard rock (“Whizz Kid”, “Violence”, “Drivin’ Sister”, and “I’m a Cadillac”), and power ballads (“Hymn for the Dudes”, the also appropriately titled “Ballad of Mott the Hoople”, and album closer “I Wish I Was Your Mother”), but with the added elements of saxophone, backup vocals, and piano, so their music has that nostalgic, 1950s, theatrical feel. They should have done the soundtrack for Phantom of the Paradise. Like Bowie and Marc Bolan, Ian Hunter sounds thoroughly British. Like Elton John, he’s a piano playing lead singer. And unlike Bowie, he writes good songs. BURN. Okay, I like some Bowie songs, including the one he wrote for Hoople, but I still think his “meh” songs outnumber his “hell yeah” songs. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that, after Mott the Hoople broke up, guitarist Mick Ralphs started Bad Company.

17. Rainbow – Rising – Polydor – 1976

I still consider Rising, the second Rainbow album, to be Ronnie James Dio’s career masterpiece. The ingredients were just there. I wouldn’t consider it Ritchie Blackmore’s masterpiece because of all the albums he’s done with Deep Purple. But for Dio, who was a small man with a big voice, I consider it to be the best thing he’s ever laid his vocals to. The first Rainbow album isn’t bad; featuring the classic “Man on the Silver Mountain.” But with Rising, the combination of Blackmore’s riffs and leads, Dio’s powerful and somewhat melodramatic singing, Tony Cary’s prominent, but not overpowering synthesizer swooshes (except on “Stargazer”), and the new rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Cozy Powell, Rainbow created a fantasy metal classic to satisfy one’s unashamedly nerdy Renaissance/Dungeons & Dragons obsessions. On top of that, I looove the Ken Kelly cover art, hooee! At 33 minutes, and with six songs, it’s a little short. But, short length and small song count is beside the point when you have material like “Tarot Woman”, with its minute long Moog intro and “welcome to the fair” mystique; or the “scary” and “demonic” “Sign of the Wolf”; or the mystical wizard anthem “Stargazer.” And the best is saved for last; closing track “A Light in the Black” is proto-Judas Priest, epic speed metal, that pre-dates the New Wave of British Heavy Metal by a couple of years, and features the kind of progressive/classical guitar solo that would become a staple of Iron Maiden songwriting. The two other songs, “Starstruck” and “Do You Close Your Eyes”, are straight-forward hard rock, but no worse for it. After a live album, On Stage, and another studio album, the also very good Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dio would be off to spread his demons, wizards, swords, and sorcery message in Black Sabbath.

16. Nazareth – Razamanaz – A&M – 1973

Here is another band that’s criminally underrated thanks to the radio only playing their two most popular songs. The fact is that Scottish hard rock legends Nazareth released a series of really great records, leading up to and past their big, commercial breakthrough Hair of the Dog. My favorite is their third, Razamanaz, which among other things, was produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover and features covers of Leon Russell’s “Alcatraz” and Woodie Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man”, both of which are better than their originals, since their originals weren’t being pumped through loud Marshall stacks. I know that seems rather superficial because a good song is just a good song, but Nazareth understand how to adapt the music of folky, bluesy, singer-songwriter people to the hard rock format, and singer Dan McCafferty belts out the lyrics in that tough, yet melodic way, which shows just how much a really good singer can affect how a song sounds. No diss on Leon Russell, mind you, whose version is a very good piece of country blues honky-tonk. On “Vigilante Man”, along with the humorous boogie rock tunes “Woke Up This Morning” and “Bad Bad Boy”, guitarist Manny Charlton shows off his bluesy, bottleneck slide guitar skills. Then you have the rippin’, opening cut, “Razamanaz”, the similarly rippin’ “Too Bad too Sad”, the Bo Diddly jungle beat in “Night Woman”, the dark, demonic, and scaaaaaary “Sold My Soul” (“So I cried in desperation/bowed to evil sorcery”), and the bittersweet album closer “Broke Down Angel.” I don’t know if anyone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that the Meatmen covered “Razamanaz.”

15. Motörhead – Motörhead – Chiswick – 1977

As of this writing, it would have been four days short of two years since Lemmy passed away; that is, only four days after his 70th birthday. But, ohhhh, what a legacy he left behind! I think I can safely call myself a hardcore Lemmy fan, owning just about everything he did, from his stuff with the Rockin’ Vickers, his LP with Sam Gopal, the pair of records he did with the Headcat, and of course every Hawkwind and Motörhead album. Anyone who knows the Motörhead story knows that they recorded a full length LP prior to Motörhead called On Parole, that didn’t actually come out until 1979, four years after it was recorded, and featured original guitarist Larry Wallis, who came from the Pink Fairies and briefly played in UFO. But, on the Motörhead LP, the classic lineup – Lemmy on bass and lead vocals, Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar and backup vocals, and Philthy Animal Taylor on drums – was in place, and ready to play loud, fast, heavy, blues based rock. The CD version of Motörhead has five extra tracks, but we don’t grade on curves, and thankfully the eight songs that make up the original Motörhead LP are just as good as the bonus material. All three songs that Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind are on Motörhead, along with several new songs, that were co-written with Clarke and Taylor, and a cover of the blues standard “The Train Kept A-Rollin'”, which pummels the daylights out of both the Yardbirds and Aerosmith versions. After listening to the opening track, “Motorhead”, it’s easy to see why punks took to the group in spite of their shaggy manes and seemingly outdated Hell’s Angles attire; the album continues with the punky “Vibrator”, which is sung from the first perspective of a vibrator. But then the album moves into slower, bluesier material like “Iron Horse/Born to Lose”, “White Line Fever”, and “Keep Us on the Road”, the last of which has a killer bass solo. Overall, it’s not my favorite Motörhead LP, since the best was yet to come, but as a cult heavy rock album, that was released amidst the burgeoning punk scene, it delivers the goods.

14. Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock – Warner Bros. – 1970

It took me a lotta soul searching and coin flipping to decide between whether to include Deep Purple in Rock or Machine Head on this here list, but the Gods have made their decision, and they’re sticking with it. Probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve heard “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water” a few too many times in my life, while …in Rock contains seven lesser known cuts, that are just as good as, if not better than, those two overplayed tunes. Do I consider the upper tempo, crunchy, down-strummed, power chord rocker “Flight of the Rat” to be proto-thrash? “Fireball”, the title cut from their next album, most certainly is. In general, though, Deep Purple have re-invented themselves has a heavy rock band, whose guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and Hammond organ playing keyboardist Jon Lord are foils of each other, while singer Ian Gillan shouts over the din, and bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice pound out aggressive, yet groovy beats. Deep Purple in Rock is sorta like Deep Purple’s second debut album. Having been around since 1968 and releasing three LPs – Shades of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn, and Deep Purple – with original singer Rod Evans and original bassist Nick Simper, those two were told to take a hike, upon which, Evans formed Captain Beyond, and Simper joined Warhorse, and they were replaced by Gillan and Glover,who came from a psychedelic rock band called Episode Six, whose keyboardist and singer was this really hot chick named Gloria. Deep Purple then did a live album with an orchestra, appropriately titled Concerto for Group and Orchestra, heard Led Zeppelin, and went the heavy route. The album starts with a cacophony of random guitar and Hammond organ licks, almost as if to say, “we’re cleansing our pallets and starting anew!”, before the first crunching, distorted chord of “Speed King” comes crashing down, and Ian Gillan starts shouting a bunch of “good golly, Miss Molly”‘s and “tutti frutti’s” all over the riff; then the song calms down a bit, and Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore trade of improvised solos, as if their instruments are talking to each other. It’s neat! The somber, ten minute, anti-war epic “Child in Time” became a fan favorite, but what the heck is “Living Wreck” about? “You came along for a weekend/but you only stayed for one night/you pulled off your hair/you took out your teeth/Oh I almost died of fright.” Eek! On the other hand, the galloping, heavy metal closing track “Hard Lovin’ Man” appears to be about sex, though you can never be quite sure.

13. King Crimson – Red– Atlantic – 1974

I’m not one of these guys who jizzes all over everything that has Robert Fripp’s guitar noise on it. And I think that King Crimson have produced their share of unlistenable crap. On the other hand, King Crimson have also done some outstanding, genre-defining work. And it seems like they do it about once a decade. In the 60s, it was In the Court of the Crimson King; in the 70s, it was Red; and in the 80s, it was Discipline. King Crimson is essentially the Robert Fripp vanity band, and you can go to Wikipedia if you want to know who some of the Crimson alums are; we’re here to talk about Red dammit! And, on Red, Fripp is joined by future Asia bassist John Wetton and former Yes/future Genesis drummer Bill Bruford. The Fripp/Wetton/Bruford lineup had already done two albums prior – Larks’ Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black – and while I do enjoy those, Red is the trio’s masterpiece. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the five tracks on Red – “Red”, “Fallen Angel”, “One More Red Nightmare”, “Providence”, and “Starless” – take the listener though a head trip of fuzzed out acid guitar licks, multi-rhythmic percussion, bleating horns, whirring mellotron, and improvised violin scraping, going from quieter moments to full on crescendos, and containing a whole lotta complicated instrumental interplay. And, although it’s considered progressive rock, the influence of Red can be felt in much of post-hardcore, math rock, noise rock, and anything to come out of the indie scene that incorporates odd time signatures, multilayered percussion, and copious amounts of guitar noise; I’m not totally sure, but I think that the Jesus Lizard, Helmet, Nomeansno, Today Is the Day, Don Caballero, Drive Like Jehu, Polvo, and Slint might owe a bit of debt to Red. It is truly an ahead of its time record.

12. ZZ Top – Tres Hombres – Warner Bros. – 1973

Blues rock trio from Texasssssss…. hawt damn is Billy Gibbons an underrated guitar player! Whenever I hear “La Grange”, I picture a cowgirl in Daisy Dukes and a flannel shirt, that’s tied low enough for her to show off lotsa cleavage, riding a mechanical bull, as a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls hoot and holler. “Master of Sparks” is an amazing song and should have been a huge hit. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that Motörhead covered “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers.” I once smoked weed while sitting in a room at the Soaring Eagle casino with my part-Injun girlfriend Amanda, and we jammed this album. Then we went to the casino, and I lost a bunch of money playing the ZZ Top machine.

11. Sweet – Sweet Fanny Adams – RCA – 1974

I read in some magazine that Sweet wanted to play in front of denim-clad heavy metal fans, not teeny boppers, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled when singer Brian Connolly, guitarist/keyboardist Andy Scott, bassist Steve Priest, and drummer Mick Tucker hitched their wagon to the glam rock movement, allowing Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn to write the songs that everyone knows, like “Ballroom Blitz”, “Wig Wam Bam”, and “Hellraiser”, while writing the b-sides themselves. And it’s the b-sides along with their second album, Sweet Fanny Adams, that showed the other side of Sweet. The first Sweet album, Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be, was released in 1971 and contains a smattering of lightweight, bubblegum flavored songs, like the Archies inspired “Funny Funny”, while their second album, Sweet Fanny Adams, opens with a speed metal song called “Set Me Free.” Think I’m kidding? Listen to “Set Me Free”, with its high speed drumming, chugga-chugga riffs, and ripping, yet melodic guitar solos, back to back with “Exciter” by Judas Priest, and you’ll see what I mean. Of the other eight songs on Sweet Fanny Adams, five were written by the members of the band, two are Chapman/Chinn numbers, and one is a cover of “Peppermint Twist.” And let me tell you; Sweet are NOT a bunch of nice boys! Have you seen the lyrics to “Sweet F.A.”? “Well, it’s Friday night/and I need a fight/if she don’t spread/I’m gonna bust her head.” Nice! REAL Nice! Of the two Chapman/Chinn tunes, one is “No You Don’t”, a hard rock song with a musical tribute to “Pinball Wizard”, and the other is the lesbian glam rock anthem “AC-DC.” Of the band-penned originals, the ones that aren’t about busting a girl’s head for not fucking you, include the proto-punky glam number “Rebel Rouser”, the straight-forward hard rockers “Heartbreak Today” and “Restless”, and another chugga-chugga, proto-speed metal tune called “Into the Night”, that, like “Set Me Free”, sounds right at home among the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Sadly, in typical American record label fashion, tracks from Sweet Fanny Adams and its followup, Desolation Boulevard, were chopped off, combined with single songs, and placed onto a compilation album also called Desolation Boulevard, that was released in the States; and Americans were none the wiser.

10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox – Mercury – 1976

I know what you’re thinking; that I’m just trying to be contrarian for not choosing Jailbreak as my favorite Thin Lizzy album. But, seriously, how many more times can you listen to “The Boys Are Back in Town”? Except if you’re that one guy who played it until he got thrown out of a bar. But, assuming you’re not an annoying hipster, who can only enjoy things ironically, then I’m gonna point you to the album that came after Jailbreak as MY favorite Thin Lizzy album. Though, considering how damn consistently satisfying they are with their duel guitar, harmony laced brand of hard rock, I could have easily picked any album from Fighting through Black Rose: A Rock Legend (I guess even Jailbreak, since it has songs other than the “The Boys Are Back in Town”, like “Angel from the Coast”, “Cowboy Song”, or, like, “Jailbreak”); but I chose Johnny the Fox, and I’m stickin’ to my guns! The albums before Fighting have their enjoyable moments, but Thin Lizzy hadn’t really found their sound yet; too much soft rock and soul for my taste. And that includes the Nightlife LP, the first one with Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on duel guitars. The albums after Black Rose: A Rock Legend came out in the 80s, so even though they’re great, they’re disqualified for this list. The opening track, “Johnny”, whew, what a scorcher! It’s about this junky named Johnny, who robs a drugstore and shoots the cashier, then gets gunned down by the cops. Then the next song is called “Rocky”, which is about this guy named Rocky who wants to be a rock star. The third song, “Borderline”, is a soft song for the girls. The fourth track, “Don’t Believe a Word”, was a hit, but obviously not a big one, since most people don’t know it. And the next song is “Fool’s Gold”, which is a bittersweet rocker. Then the first song on side two is this funky jam called “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”, which I’m guessing is about the “Johnny” from the first song. I just described six out of the ten tracks. Oh, just listen to the album.

9. AC/DC – Powerage – Atlantic – 1978

Do you not already know what you need to know about AC/DC? Do you not know that the group was originally signed to the Australian Albert label, through which they released their first two LPs, High Voltage and TNT, before signing with Atlantic, who then proceeded to do selective surgery on every AC/DC album that came out, chopping off songs from one record, and putting them on other records? Ever wonder why “Problem Child” is on both Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap AND Let There Be Rock? Did you know that the Atlantic version of High Voltage actually contains seven songs from the Australian TNT LP and two songs from the Australian High Voltage LP? Pretty freakin’ confusing, eh? I actually bought the Australian TNT LP in nearly pristine condition from Herm at Vertigo in Grand Rapids for $8! Ain’t Herm a mensch? He TOTALLY knew he could have sold that sucker for like $100 on ebay, but he took the high road, selling it to one of his loyal customers, instead. Anyway, Powerage is my favorite AC/DC album; just nine killer deep cuts and nary a hit to be found; the most popular song on Powerage is “Gone Shootin'”, which you might have heard on the Beavis and Butthead Do America soundtrack. If you’re wondering why all of their songs sound the way they do, ya know, with that swing or that groove, that few other bands running the same three chord rock territory manage to accomplish, it’s because they’re written around the drums. Favorite tracks are “Down Payment Blues”, “Sin City”, and “What’s Next to the Moon.” Also, isn’t “Riff Raff” like really fast?

8. UFO – Force It – Polydor – 1975

PROOF that all you need to make your band really good is just hire a really good guitarist! UFO had already achieved something of a cult following with their first three albums, UFO 1, UFO 2: Flying, and UFO Live, in Japan (where else), but as enjoyable as their spacey jams might be, singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, and drummer Andy Parker realized that a 17-year-old, German guitar prodigy like Michael Schenker might be a bigger boon to them than the three adequate musicians that came before him, who made copious use of their “wah-wah” peddles, but not much else. Okay, that was harsh; I really like the first three UFO albums, and the group briefly had Larry Wallis, who would go on to join the Pink Fairies and become a founding member of Motörhead. But the fact remains that few compare to Schenker with his signature Flying V. With the release of their third album, Phenomenon, UFO dropped the space rock sound, replacing it with a straight forward hard rock/heavy metal approach, driven by Schenker’s catchy riffs and melodic solos. Pick your favorite Schenker era album; mine is Force It. The others are No Heavy Petting, Light Out, Obsession, and the double live album Strangers in the Night. Then Schenker quit, briefly re-joining the Scorpions, before starting the Michael Schenker Group, rejoining UFO, and then quitting again. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that that’s Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle on the cover of Force It, which has one great, angry, headbanging track after another, only interrupted by an acoustic ballad, which is also really great, and a couple of bittersweet numbers. And, what a guitar tone!

7. Atomic Rooster – Death Walks Behind You – Elektra – 1971

Lead by bipolar organist/singer Vincent Crane, Atomic Rooster began after Crane had a nervous breakdown and left the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, taking drummer Carl Palmer with him. After the first Atomic Rooster LP, the cleverly titled and guitar-free Atomic Roooster (yep, with three o’s), Palmer joined Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and original bassist Nick Graham left a big, gaping hole, which would never be filled, resulting in Crane having to play all of the bass parts on keyboard. By the time Rooster began making their second album, Death Walks Behind You, they were a much heavier band, with John Du Cann, formerly of the Attack and Andromeda, playing the distorted power chords and taking over on lead vocals, and Paul Hammond, who might or might not be related to the guy who invented the Hammond organ, playing drums. The dark, eerie atmosphere of Death Walks Behind You is set right away with its eight minute opening title cut, that starts with a descending minor note melody played on a piano, as the guitar plays little Psycho-like high pitch screech sounds, before the pummeling blues riff comes in, and Du Cann sings, “death walks behind you!” in his mocking tone. Sure, lyrics like, “lock the door, switch the light/you’ll be so afraid tonight/hide away from the bad/count the nine lives that you had/start to scream, shout for help/there is no one by your side/to forget what is done/seems so hard to carry on” seem a bit corny, outdated, and overwrought, but then again, it ain’t as if the lyrics for “Iron Man” have aged particularly well either. The next track, “VUG”, is just a fun instrumental workout, showcasing the talent of the three musicians; as is closing track, “Gershatzer.” And, the shuffling, kinda funky, and super catchy “Tomorrow Night” became a hit. “7 Streets” and “Sleeping for Years” are these heavy numbers, that bring back the negative tone of the opening cut, and “Nobody Else” is a depressing slow jam, which gets rockin’ in the second half. Sadly,  thanks to Crane’s insatiable appetite for musical progression, he fired every member of Atomic Rooster before they had a chance to capitalize on their hit, and moved his project into a funky soul direction.

6. Budgie – Never Turn Your Back on a Friend – MCA – 1973

There’s really not a whole lot to say about Budgie other than that they’re a power trio, and that they’re from Whales. Okay, all right, twist my arm, I’ll say more; in case you were wondering, a budgie is a parakeet, and glasses wearing bassist/singer Burke Shelley sounds like Geddy Lee. Also, Tony Bourge was the original guitarist, and Ray Phillips played drums, and they had funny song titles like “Hot as a Docker’s Arm Pit”, “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”, “You’re the Biggest Thing Since Powder’ed Milk”, and “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand”; the last two of which are ON the album I’m currently about to talk about! Otherwise, Budgie was AWESOME. I tell people that they were heavy like Sabbath, but grooved out like Zeppelin, and that they didn’t worry too much about that whole “musical progression” thing. This is why they probably never really had any hits, sticking with their blues based heavy rock and heavy metal formula, and occasionally throwing in a pretty, acoustic slow jam like “Riding My Nightmare.” But, who cares? Their albums all rock, and indeed, Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, with its Roger Dean cover art and its cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, is my favorite of the eleven official studio albums that they released. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that Metallica covered “Breadfan”, along with another Budgie song called “Crash Course in Brain Surgery”, that’s from a different album. Oh, and “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand” has a drum solo.

5. Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties – Columbia – 1974

First things first: the “cowbell” joke from Saturday Night Live isn’t funny. It’s just not, so stop saying it. Second of all, Blue Öyster Cult is weird, maaaan… I know the world at large knows ’em for their three big hits, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”, “Godzilla”, and “Burning for You”, and those ARE great songs, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that BOC were never a standard group of bar-cum-arena rockers that your baby boomer dad listens to; I mean, he might, but that’s neither here nor there. And I KNOW that, with his beard, Eric Bloom looks more like a film director or philosophy professor, than the singer of a band, and that guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser has a sleazy, cocaine snorting, porno star mustache, much like David Byron of Uriah Heep, but FORGIVE THEM!!! This WAS the 70s after all, and while some things looked cool, other things have dated. Thankfully, you can’t say that for the music of Blue Öyster Cult, at least on their first three albums. Hailing from New York, the group, which also consisted of keyboardist/guitarist Alan Lanier, bassist Joe Bouchard, and his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard, signed to Columbia, and released a trio of classic LPs; Blue Öyster Cult, Tyranny and Mutation, and Secret Treaties. Most fans agree that Secret Treaties is probably their best album. It’s not really “heavy metal”; in fact it’s not really “heavy” at all, and the drums sound like two little toothpicks tapping on a box of matches. But the guitars are distorted and hard edged, and Roeser plays basic, punky riffs, creepy little melodies. and jazzy leads, as Lanier accentuates the riffs with his keyboard playing and occasional synth solos, especially on the near progressive “Flaming Telepaths.” Like on the first two albums, BOC is basically doing a soundtrack to a Lovecraft story or something out of a Warren magazine; celestial beings, subhuman freaks,  people with telepathic power, harvesters of eyes, “Cagey Cretins”, “Astronomy”, and “doing it to your daughter on a dirt road”, as Eric Bloom so eloquently puts it in “Career of Evil.” Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that Metallica covered “Astronomy.” Also, the song “ME 262” is sung from the perspective of a Nazi fighter pilot and invents the colorful colloquial “heavy metal fruit.” Once the group hit pay dirt with Agents of Fortune in 1976, they would streamline their sound for the mainstream rubes, but thankfully they got weird again on Cultasaurus Erectus and Fire of Unknown Origin.

4. Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power – Columbia – 1973

It’s punk rock AND it’s cock rock! Many people consider the Stooges to be the first punk band, completely incongruous with the hippie trends of the late 60s and the progressive/metal/arena rock trends of the early 70s. I guess you could make that argument and be about 70% correct, but you could find the same level of primal aggression in Blue Cheer, the same level of pessimism in Frank Zappa, and the same basic garagey rock in the Sonics, the Count Five, or the Nazz. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Stooges are a fantastic band; they released two underground classics, The Stooges and Fun House, with the original lineup – singer Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, his brother, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander, along with saxophonist Steve MacKay on the second LP – before going on hiatus in 1971 when they were dropped by Elektra, and then were discovered by David Bowie shortly after. Initially, Bowie wanted to help Iggy Pop start a new band, flying him over to England and auditioning new musicians for him, but then Iggy insisted that his buddy, guitarist James Williamson, fly over as well, and the Asheton bothers joined soon after. Of course, now the band was called Iggy and the Stooges, and they had new management and a new label, and Ron Asheton was moved over to bass, allowing James Williamson to take over his original spot, but the Stooges were back. Running 34 minutes and containing eight cuts, Raw Power contains middle upper tempo, guitar fueled rock ‘n’ roll, over which Iggy Pop shouts antisocial sentiments like “I’m a street walkin’ with a heart full o’ napalm/I’m the runaway son of a nuclear a-bomb/I am the world’s forgotten boy/the one who searches and destroys!” in songs with titles like “Search and Destroy”, “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”, “Raw Power”, “Penetration”, and the perfectly named album closer “Death Trip.” James Williamson fills every space he can with his shrieking guitar leads, and the group soften things up a bit with the primarily acoustic number “Gimme Danger” and the slow blues jam “I Need Somebody.” They also throw in a fun, hand clappin’, butt shakin’ tune called “Shake Appeal.” Also, I like the 1996, over-the-top, “all in the red” mix more than the Bowie mix. Someone’s going to yell at me for not mentioning that Guns ‘n’ Roses covered “Raw Power.”

3. Hawkwind – Space Ritual – United Artists – 1973

“Dude, they’re the band that Lemmy was in before he started Motörhead!” is my standard opener before going into an endless tirade about the mighty Hawkwind, a band who I, shall we say, am more than just a casual fan of. Having started in 1969 and carrying on to this day, albeit with only one original member, guitarist Dave Brock, Hawkwind is similar to the Fall in that they flood the market with a bunch of albums, which confuse and intimidate the uninitiated out of ever wanting to jump aboard the ship, since they’re not sure what a good place to jump on even is. Of course, it’s slightly easier with Hawkwind, since you just go to the Lemmy albums first; Doremi Fasol Latido, Space Ritual, Hall of the Mountain Grill, and Warrior on the Edge of Time, the second of which was released in 1973, and is a double live LP that features most of the tunes from the LP right before it, one song from the pre-Lemmy album In Search of Space, a couple of new numbers, and a bunch of between song space gibberish about sonic attacks and seconds of forever; sadly, “Silver Machine”, the group’s most popular song and hit single, which Lemmy sang his first lead vocal on, and which made him Hawkwind’s most popular member during his brief tenure with the group, is not included. Space Ritual is surprisingly aggressive thanks to Simon King’s pounding percussion, Dave Brock’s three chord, “motorik” metal riffs, and Lemmy’s driving, proto-punk bass lines, especially on tracks like “Born to Go”, “Brainstorm”, “Lord of Light”, and “Master of the Universe.” And check out that bass solo on “Time We Left This World Today”! It’s also interesting how originally acoustic numbers from Doremi, “Space Is Deep” and “Down Through the Night”, were played as electric tunes and had bass and drum parts added to them. Throw in copious amounts of “wah-wah” solos, some sax bleating and flute blowing from Nik Turner, and some “wishy-wooshy” sounds created by Dikmik Davies and Del Detmar, and you have one hellova head banging, intergalactic trip through time and space to listen to while you stare at a blank, static filled TV screen after dropping acid or eating five pot cookies; if you’re into that type of thing, that is.

2. Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 – Warner Bros. – 1972

The kids today love their doom rock. And while it’s great that they’re at least ripping off one of the best bands, rather than one of the worst, they’re still missing the big picture. Black Sabbath weren’t only good because of Toni Iommi’s heavy, drop D riffs, but because they could also jam like nobody’s business. It’s hard to think of Sabbath without Iommi’s bluesy leads, Geezer Butler’s whirling, hypnotic bass lines, or Bill Ward’s jazzy drumming. And, with the monotonous, odd, and impossible to copy timbre of Ozzy’s voice, the formula was complete. Unlike their first three albums, Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master of Reality, Vol. 4 has no hits; just ten deep cuts, that make a good soundtrack for a trip into the abyss. On opening cut “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”, Ozzy informs the listener that he is but an insignificant speck in the universe, and that the world will continue turning long after he’s gone. The album gets a little less bleak with the second track, “Tomorrow’s Dream.” “Cornucopia” and “Under the Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes” have a couple of the heaviest opening riffs ever recorded. “Snowblind” is all about the cocaine, which is strange considering that Sabbath is a pot-smoker’s band. And “Supernaut” has science fiction lyrics about seeing the future and then leaving it behind. There are a couple of silly moments, like the sentimental vocal and piano ballad “Changes” and the proggy noise guitar piece “F/X.” And there’s also a pretty classical acoustic guitar instrumental called”Laguna Sunrise.” Otherwise, Vol.4 is Sabbath’s masterwork, or one of several, I guess.

1. Alice Cooper – Love It to Death – Warner Bros. – 1971

Known for his gaunt frame, “scary” jester and/or spider-eye makeup, theatrical stage show, golf enthusiasm, and alcoholism (though, it was revealed in the documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper that he also had a freebasing habit, which explains why he looked so emaciated between 1978-1983), Alice Cooper, the persona, was born on Love It to Death, the third album by Alice Cooper, the band, when it was released in 1971. After the Pretties for You and Easy Action albums, which were released on Frank Zappa’s Straight label, and contain a mix of psychedelia, hard rock, and free jazz, along with incomprehensible lyrical gibberish, Toronto based neophyte producer Bob Ezrin suggested that singer Alice Cooper (who was born Vincent Furnier, in case you were wondering), lead guitarist Glenn Buxton, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neil Smith focus on what they’re good at; Stones/Who/Yardbirds-inspired hard rock, with lyrics about teen angst, sex, and the macabre. Of course, the rest is history; “I’m Eighteen” became a huge hit, and the group, and later the man, went onto mega stardom, with a career that continues to this day. Love It to Death contains nine songs, eight originals and a hippie spoof cover of Rolf Harris’ “Sun Arise.” Of the originals, one is the nine minute long “Black Juju”, which is driven by a dark ‘n’ heavy riff, accompanied by a spooky church organ, and is sung from the perspective of a voodoo priest, who appears to be resurrecting the dead. Another is the six minute “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, which tells the tale of a man who is put away in an asylum for two weeks, gets let out, and then strangles a man to death; for the song, Alice recorded his vocal track while wearing a straight-jacket, and, to this day, performs the song in one as well. The rest of the album consists of short, sharp, and catchy rock tunes, like the spoiled brat anthem “Caught in a Dream”, the punky “Long Way to Go”, the burlesque-inspired hard rock of “Is It My Body?”, and what sounds like a caustic warning against moral degeneracy in “Hallowed Be My Name.” I never quite figured out if Alice is actually trying to deliver the warning himself, or if he’s singing from the perspective of a religious figure watching his flock go astray in lines like, “sluts and the hookers have taken your money/the queens are out dancing/but now they’re not funny/’cause there goes one walking/away with your sonny/cursing their lovers/cursing the bible/hallowed be my name/yelling at fathers/screaming at mothers/hallowed be my name.” And the next song is called “Second Coming”, which seems to be about a guy who is trying to not go to Hell or something. Did I mention that Alice Cooper is a Born Again Christian and a Republican?

Playlist 6/17/2016

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
Deep Purple – Shades of Deep Purple
The Who – A Quick One (deluxe expanded edition)
Swell Maps – A Trip to Marineville
X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
Alice Donut – Donut Comes Alive
Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Candlemass – Ancient Dreams
King Crimson – Discipline
Ufomammut – Eve
Fleetwood Mac – Mystery to Me

Deep Purple

deep_purple_mk_1
special introductory paragraph

Shades of Deep Purple

The Book of Taleisyn

Deep Purple

Concerto for Group and Orchestra

Deep Purple in Rock

Fireball

Machine Head

Made in Japan

Who Do We Think We Are

Burn

Live at the California Jam

Stormbringer

MK III: The Final Concerts

Come Taste the Band

Perfect Strangers
The House of Blue Light
Nobody’s Perfect
Slaves and Masters
The Battle Rages On
Come Hell or High Water
Purpendicular
Abandon
Bananas
Rapture from the Deep
Now What?!

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.

Eight years after that they got back together for more albums and member switcharoos.

Shades of Deep Purple – Tetragrammaton – 1968

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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

Minus a couple of dud spots (“One More Rainy Day” and “Help” for instance), a pretty auspicious start, I’d say!

The Book of Taliesyn – Tetragrammaton – 1968

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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.

So there you have it, no sophomore slump.

Deep Purple – Tetragrammaton – 1969

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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

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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

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“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!!!

This album rules.

Fireball – Warner Bros. – 1971

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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.

And that about covers it! Say, speaking of fire…

Machine Head – Warner Bros. – 1972

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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!

To sum it up, Machine Head is their masterpiece and what a cool cover!

Made in Japan – Warner Bros. – 1972

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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.

It’s also interesting to note that “Smoke on the Water” didn’t really become a massive FM hit until after the live version came out.

Who Do We Think We Are – Warner Bros. – 1973

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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

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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.

So yeah, rock out with your cock out to this one!

Live at the California Jam – Purple – 1996

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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.

Eh, I’m lazy. Just watch the concert.

Stormbringer – Capitol – 1974

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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

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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”).

Also alternate versions of “Mistreated” and “You Fool No One” appear as bonus tracks but I think you get the idea.

Come Taste the Band – Capitol – 1975

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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.