By Phyllis Pollack
43 years after the release of Deep Purple’s first album, this week’s reissues of band’s first three albums by Eagle Rock Entertainment, respectively Shades of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn and their 1969 self-titled disc, demonstrate the beginning of a long musical trail that would become a permanent fixture of hard rock.
Initially powered by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, percussionist Ian Paice, bass player Nick Simpler and lead singer Rod Evans, on their debut album, the shades are opened, revealing a mix of Brit psychedelia mixed with other influences, while being experimental enough to influence others.
The instrumental introduction heard on Deep Purple’s debut album showed the strength of Lord’s keyboard that would mate power and melody, as rhythm further propelled the track. It is hard not to believe that Jimi Hendrix’s hypnotic rhythmic vamps did not lure the band into constructing the rhythmic moves on the album’s opener. Of all the songs on the album, this track pays the most detail to rhythm guitar grooves.
Their music was much harder than many rock groups that would arise in the ‘70’s with keyboards, and that would be labeled as prog rock.
The album’s first song is followed by the smash hit “Hush,” still played relentlessly on radio stations throughout the world. Taking on a the melody originally recorded by Billy Joe Royal, Purple’s version features Blackmore’s soloing through much of the song.
“One More Rainy Day” is a pleasant track, with more of a sentimental feel to it, with lighter guitar, more nonchalant feel to it.
“Happiness” shifts the focus to the keyboards, with its lofty rhythmic and tempo changes. Softer and airy moments set off the album’s track, “I’m So Glad” (not to be confused with the song of the same title by Chris Brown), with its own fluctuations in pulse, cadences and dynamics. The guitar gets heavier, revealing a melodically darker side of the band, particularly from Blackmore, who then makes a turn into softer and more pastel playing. Throughout all of these musical changes, the versatility of Paice’s drumming is exposed.
The guitar riff at the beginning of “Mandrake Root” has a strong similarity to the rhythmic hook of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” which was released the year before “Shades.” Ironically, both songs were purportedly about drug use, although Hendrix denied that was what his track was about. None of the lyrics from “Mandrake Root” directly address drugs, with the exception of the title. A long instrumental jam lures within the song, slinking through its hooks.
The band’s remake of the Beatles’ single “Help,” the theme song from the Fab Four’s film, was translated by Deep Purple into a ballad. With studio added harmonies from Evans, and a brief, almost bluesy guitar solo, the song concludes with some brief, experimental soloing from Blackmore.
The resonance on the Brit Invasion rocker “Love Help Me” is the most uptempo track on the album, with its mods meets rockers-cum psychedelic patterns.
Among the bonus tracks on the reissue is an outtake, the demanding, keyboard heavy “Shadows.”
A version of “Hey Joe” is also among the extras, recorded at a BBC Top Gear session. The song had already been recorded by Hendrix in 1966, and the year before that, by the Los Angeles group, The Leaves. Given Hendrix’s proficiency, it was a brave move for Blackmore to take on the song. While Blackmore was certainly proficient, Hendrix could never be outdone. The song ends with a weighty keyboard line, with Deep Purple, emblazoning their unique stamp on another cover.
The bonus version of “Hush” that appears on the album is a lighter performance than their initial studio version, and it was recorded live for an American television appearance.
The band’s sophomore album, The Book of Taliesyn, ws released only four months after the band’s debut disc. Its onset reveals a harder sound with its track “Listen, Learn, Read On.” The slight echo with Rod Evans’ vocals make the British singer appear somewhat conscious of the Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, as Evans slows down his vocals, making them more deliberate than usual, and at times, close to spoken word. Perhaps it was the fact that both bands had keyboards that coaxed Evans into slightly switching up his style of delivery for this track.
In many ways, arguably the Deep Purple had more in common with Vanilla Fudge than the Doors, noting the choices of songs they covered and other considerations.
The instrumental “Wring That Neck” has Lord at the lead and center of the flow of this track, at least until Blackmore’s guitar solo. It should be noted that when it was first released, the American version of the album had the song labeled as “Hard Road.”
The ironic rendition of “Kentucky Woman” is set at an accelerated pace, resulting in an instrumentally hyper version of the Neil Diamond classic. The guitar solo is rock hard, but the rest of the song focuses largely on its rhythm. There is an extensive keyboard solo interjected into it, making it a far different work than Diamond’s recording. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE BELOW THIS ADVERTISEMENT.
The band takes the title of the Chuck Berry penned song “Roll Over Beethoven” seriously, by way of a cover version of The Beatles song “We Can Work It Out,” which has the prelude “Exposition,” a live sampling of Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7. A guitar rhythm vamps over the keyboards, until breaking into the Lennon-McCartney song. A soft touch is added to the song, making it in yet another way, very different from the Beatles version. Blackmore’s soloing adds a conversely heaviness to parts of the song. A short interlude that feels prescient of their future 1972 Machine Head album is also added into the mix. Machine Head would have a very different line-up, with Simper and Evans leaving the group after their third album, and the enlisting of Roger Glover and Ian Gillian into the Deep Purple.
The band’s offering “Shield” is relatively mellow, with some interesting percussion. The long and windy solo from Blackmore is arguably one of his finest up to that time period.
“Anthem” features some rhythm played on acoustic guitar, while “River Deep, Mountain High,” co-written by Phil Spector, offers a very different feel. After plodding, if not heavy keyboards are joined by some brief, but fantastic playing by Blackmore, the long introduction potentially leave the listener clueless that they are going to hear a song recorded by Ike and Tina Turner. Musical non-sequiturs were one of the quirkiest ingredients of early Deep Purple. While the song lacks the funkiness of the Turners, it offers a look into the roots of Deep Purple, and what inspired the band in their early years.
The bonus tracks on the reissue of Taliesyn include a studio outtake of “Oh No No No,” a work co-written by Leon Russell.
“It’s All Over,” another track recorded at a BBC Top gear session, has Blackmore crossing over into some blues. While many British guitarists, including Jimi Page, Jeff Beck and Keith Richards, had long been heavily playing blues, and Eric Clapton had joined the Bluesbreakers in 1965, with other guitarists already clearly following their lead playing blues licks, this is the first time that Blackmore embraced them on record, at least to the extent that he did on this song.
“Hey Bop A Re Bop” is an energetic track, and a nice inclusion on the reissue, worthy of checking out the reissue to hear it.
Other bonus tracks are a BBC Top Gear session of “Wring That Neck,” and a remixed instrumental outtake, titled “Playground.”
The reissue of Deep Purple’s self-titled album, released this week, presents the final album from the band’s original line-up.
Its first song “Chasing Shadows,” followed by “Blind,” woul
d be overshadowed by their remake of Donovan’s “chartbusting “Lalena.” The keyboards became less psychedelic on this album, and more straight-ahead rock.
The band’s track “Fault Line” was inspired by their experiencing an earthquake in Los Angeles. It is arguably here that Blackmore shows his darkest, most metal side up to that point in time on record. With a rhythm much like that in “Hush,” the musically unpredictable band seemed to have discovered here the musical direction in which they would proceed in the future. Blackmore is at the helm throughout this track. Lord’s keyboards on take a more hard rock rhythmic feel, and seem to directly meld more directly with Blackmore’s guitar than ever before, with this convergence adding further to the band’s harder sound.
While their song “The Painter,” is heavily comprised of a 12 bar blues, enmeshed with hard rock. While Evans never threw himself into a blues delivery, in the sense of his contemporaries like Terry Reid, Lord is among the band members that show he has a feel for the blues here. Blackmore throws down with an agile guitar solo combining blues and hard rock. The track is one of the album’s highlights. BBC version is also included on the album.
“The Bird Has Flown” is largely based on a rhythm riff, and an alternate version is also offered on the reissue.
The sedate “April” is an extensively long composition, performed by Blackmore, and which features an orchestra in the song.
Two versions of the rocker “Emaretta” are included as album extras, as well as a BBC radio session recording of “Lalena.” Blackmore’s soloing is hard and heavy, as it hints at the course would take in the future.
43 years subsequent to their initial release, these three newly reissued and remastered discs offer a colorful look back at the initial recordings of Deep Purple.