Deep Purple

Deep Purple

Creative Sounds, Ltd. Rec, 1969

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


This self-titled 1969 release by Deep Purple would be the third and last album recorded by the original line-up. Shortly after the studio sessions were completed, both singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were fired from the band for having “limitations” that were felt to be holding the band’s lofty ambitions back. How ironic, then, that Deep Purple’s future albums would turn out to be considerably less complex and experimental.

The great pity in all this is that Deep Purple is actually the best album of their long career. It finds the perfect synthesis of the aggressive, melodic, and innovative qualities that the band displayed on their first two excellent albums, Shades Of Deep Purple and The Book Of Taliesyn, and maintains astounding consistency throughout without a moment of filler.

“Chasing Shadows” welcomes the listener with surprising Latin percussion that propels the song forward alongside an urgently throbbing tribal bass riff, providing plenty of more evidence of Simper’s strong bass skills and mystifying me further regarding his unceremonious dismissal.

One of band’s career highlights is the ominously gothic chamber pop song “Blind,” which is built around Jon Lord’s wonderful harpsichord riffs and reflects his ever growing determination to incorporate a larger classical influence. I dare say it certainly must be one of the best examples of such attempts in rock music.

In keeping with their tendency to improve upon other artists’ work, the single cover song present on Deep Purple is “Lalena,, a sad, slow ballad that not only retains all the beauty of Donovan’s original from a year earlier but is elevated by Lord’s quietly haunting organ accompaniment and jazzy solo, Blackmore’s gentle, sparse guitar lines, and, of course, Evans’ ultra smooth voice. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another great track is the instrumental “Fault Line,” a fascinating and strange excursion into space rock with its backtracked drums and organ, a dramatic bass line evoking danger, and a scratchy guitar solo. This all too brief track flows directly into “The Painter,” an up-tempo bluesy barn-stormer that revisits the type of hypnotic groove found on their first big hit, “Hush,” from their debut album. Gotta love the bit where Lord makes video game noises with his organ.

An aggressive, chainsaw-like guitar riff blasts “Why Didn’t Rosemary,” another heavy blues rocker, into your cranium, paired with the equally powerful “Bird Has Flown,” which is soaked with adept wah-wah usage and a captivatingly odd psychedelic style provides quite the one-two punch. Stunning musicianship all round.

The album closes with the twelve minute epic “April.” It is a truly adventurous exercise in progressive rock that will take the listener on a mostly instrumental musical journey that the band unfortunately has never returned to since. This is music that is unrecognizable as Deep Purple to most people. It consists of three distinct sections: the first is a surprising spaghetti-western flavoured intro that Ennio Morricone would be proud of, followed by an orchestral classical interlude that shows quite a variety of influences from various periods in classical music, including at one point a mournful oboe melody and instrumentation that could be straight from any one of Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic operas. The first vocals are heard at nearly the nine-minute mark as the band reappears to close the album with another excellent, bombastic heavy rock track topped with a great vocal melody. As the final track, “April” perfectly foreshadows their next album, the insane Concerto For Group And Orchestra.

I should also note that the remastered version of the album contains an essential track that was a single-only release at the time, “Emmaretta,” a sexy musical morsel that shows Deep Purple delving full on into funk rock, with an ass-shaking bass line and “chicka chicka” guitar effects.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, Deep Purple would be the original line-up’s swan song, and they couldn’t have gone out on a higher note. This configuration of the band -- and this album in particular -- demonstrates their stunning and innovative musical abilities best, before they replaced Evans and Simper with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover (thereby cementing their most popular line-up) and decided to take the hard rock/proto-heavy metal route to large scale success. Evans would go on to form another critically acclaimed, yet commercially ignored, hard rock band in the early ‘70s called Captain Beyond before completely vanishing from the music industry around 1980. Apparently, even the members of Deep Purple have no idea as to his current whereabouts or what became of him.

For me, the music created by this early version of the band is by far the most interesting and technically accomplished, fueled by a bold vision. I urge you to put down that copy of Machine Head and give the sadly overlooked Deep Purple a chance. You might just never reach for their later material again.

Rating: A

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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 Creative Sounds, Ltd. Rec, and is used for informational purposes only.