The Book Of Taliesyn

Deep Purple

Tetragrammaton, 1969

http://www.deeppurple.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/07/2008

Picking up where they left off with Shades Of Deep Purple, Deep Purple’s second album The Book Of Taliesyn provides a similar engaging mix of thoroughly transformed cover songs, engaging originals, and of course, a generous amount of instrumental sections designed to showcase the band’s considerable technical prowess.

The main difference this time is that the arrangements and musical ideas are more ambitious and more eccentric. This makes itself clear with a noticeably increased classical influence, which keyboardist/organist Jon Lord was pushing for the most.

This era of the band has a bit of a reputation for being directionless, since no particular musical style really dominates among the mish-mash, but I find that it lends these early albums an eclecticism that, matched with the member’s superb individual chops and effortless interplay, makes these discs more inviting to listen to than their supposed later classics. Never a dull moment, even when small missteps occur.

After a strange, tale-like, trippy half spoken-word opening track (“Listen, Learn, Read On”) and a thundering bluesy instrumental with a hypnotic groove (“Wring That Neck” --originally called “Hard Road” in the US), we reach the album’s hit, a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman.” Although it is the only song from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Book Of Taliesyn that has remained in the band’s repertoire, I find it to be the low point. It’s too normal to really fit in with its surroundings, being a straightforward pop song, and I find it melodically bland as well.

Things really start to get interesting with the fusion of the galloping classical instrumental “Exposition” (including Beethoven’s funeral march from his Eroica symphony and massive timpani smashes) and a schizophrenic take on the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” complete with haunting, Bee Gee-like vocal harmonies and a fast, driving section that foreshadows “Highway Star” a few years early.

Not content to merely sit back, the remaining three songs continue to raise the bar to epic proportions. The psychedelic, eerie, oddly arranged “Shield” is a fantastically innovative mid-tempo gem unlike anything else in the Deep Purple catalogue. At one point, Blackmore even unleashes a surprisingly atonal solo more commonly found in the works of experimental prog-rock bands like King Crimson.

Another Deep Purple original, “Anthem” is a complex multi-part suite, starting with a minor key melancholic melody expertly delivered by Evans’ smooth croon, followed by a gentle, hymn-like chorus. Unexpectedly, the middle section of the song consists of a Baroque organ and string quartet passage straight out of J.S. Bach’s playbook. An interesting layer is added when Blackmore adds some tasteful bluesy leads on top, creating quite an unusual mix.

Apparently, their thirst for bombast was not yet satiated, since the band ends the album with a near-symphonic, ten-minute cover of the Ike and Tina Turner classic “River Deep-Mountain High.” Once again a massive, classically influenced intro, this time with a theme reminiscent of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, sets an ominous tone before a typically charging interpretation of the cover song grabs all the attention, with some impressively nimble bass work by Nick Simper.

Like the debut, The Book Of Taliesyn is quite unlike the work that Deep Purple is known for today, but it is nevertheless a mostly excellent release by a young band determined to make its mark one way or another.

Rating: B+

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© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tetragrammaton, and is used for informational purposes only.