When singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover departed Deep Purple, they left two huge holes in a band at the peak of its career. Fans were aghast. Gillan has one of the most distinctive voices in rock, so how do you fill those shoes? With two singers, that’s how. And not two half-assed singers, two excellent singers who would enjoy long and fruitful careers beyond Deep Purple. Joining original members Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice were an unknown singer with a huge voice, David Coverdale (who would go on to Whitesnake fame), and Glenn Hughes, a veteran bassist who also had a great voice. The new tag-team vocal duo would prove to be an excellent formula and their debut together, 1973’s Burn, was a resounding success.
Coverdale was a husky-voiced blues howler while Hughes was a more slick, traditional rocker who could reach the upper-ranges needed to cover some of the older material. Thankfully, neither was a Gillan clone, which lent the new lineup a distinctive sound. Together, they trade off smoothly and the combination sounds spot on and never forced. Their harmonies are so tight; it's a shame the combo only lasted a short time.
The band went into this album on the tails of an album that had floundered somewhat -- not to mention with 2/5ths of the band gone. They really needed to deliver something special to stay on top of their game. New singers aside, there's no doubt that they're on top of their game from the opening guitar lick of “Burn”, a balls-out rocker à la “Highway Star.” Hughes and Coverdale trade leads and Ritchie Blackmore's guitar solo is absolutely on fire. From the outset, it's clear that the band took a note from its own book and from the winning formula of
Additionally, they also avoided some of the classically inspired arrangements that had almost become an albatross around their necks and expanded their sound into new and more varied realms -- and it works. “Lay Down, Stay Down” is a Humble Pie-style rocker, and “What's Goin' On Here” is a big departure from what we've come to expect from Deep Purple, a riotous boogie-woogie free-for-all featuring Jon Lord pounding out some amazing barrelhouse piano and killer harmonies by Hughes and Coverdale. “You Fool No One” sounds a bit like
The highlight of the album is the dark, rumbling blues number “Mistreated.” Coverdale takes the spotlight on the vocals and delivers a phenomenal performance. As usual, Blackmore's guitar work on this track clearly shows why he has achieved a god-like status for old-school rockers.