In Rock by Deep Purple

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Deep Purple In RockThe famous Mark II lineup of Deep Purple launched their first pure rock album in a big way in 1970 with Deep Purple In Rock. This output was filled with dynamic and energetic songs which gave plenty of space for musical and vocal virtuosity while still sustaining the root rock and blues elements to attract the hard rock base the group built with their late sixties outputs. The result was their breakthrough album in Europe and the launch of the band’s short reign as hard rock superstars.

While the Mark I version of Deep Purple had some success in the US, their three albums had failed to break through in their home country of England. Lead vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were replaced in June 1969 by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover respectively. This new lineup’s first actual recording was the live Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a classical work composed by keyboardist Jon Lord and performed by the band along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Recording for the self-produced Deep Purple In Rock began in late 1969. Preceding the album’s release was the single “Hallelujah”, which failed to chart. “Black Night” was a second single which was released at the time of the album’s release (although not included on the album). This fared better and peaked at #2 on the UK charts, making it the first real hit for this version of the group.


In Rock by Deep Purple
Released: June 3, 1970 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Deep Purple
Recorded: IBC, De Lane Lea & Abbey Road Studios, London, October 1969–April 1970
Side One Side Two
Speed King
Bloodsucker
Child In Time
Flight of the Rat
Into the Fire
Living Wrck
Hard Lovin’ Man
Group Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Jon Lord – Organ, Keyboards
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums, Percussion

Lord’s opening church-like organ masks the rock frenzy which suddenly launches into an unabashed pre-punk rock rant of “Speed King”. The song does come down for a building lead section where keyboardist Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore trade lead licks before joining together in the riff that brings the track back up at the end. While the song is not a cover, Gillan borrowed several lines from popular oldies such as “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Tutti Frutti” and “The Battle of New Orleans”. “Bloodsucker” is a more moderate rocker and a bit less impressive than the opener, while still containing many areas for musical improv leads.

“Child in Time” is a true masterpiece throughout the entirety of its ten minutes of rock theatrics. From Lord’s jazzy organ intro to the building, séance like verses and vocal wails by Gillan, to the incredible middle jam section with a bluesy guitar lead by Blackmore. Lord adapted the track from a song called “Bombay Calling” by a group called It’s a Beautiful Day, which Deep Purple made completely its own with their impressive rock instrumentation. But the real focal point is Gillan’s voice, as his wails are orgasmic early and almost painful in the final stanza.

Deep PurpleWhile the most famous songs reside on side one, the true heart of this album is on side two. This all starts with the incredible “Flight of the Rat”, featuring fantastic guitar riffing in a pure rock frenzy, especially Lord and Blackmore during the middle jam section where they each have extended leads while Glover consistently holds it all together. A choppy, funked-out section follows the long section with everything stopping for two full seconds before starting over with a fourth verse. And as if that all wasn’t enough, it all concludes with a drum solo by Ian Paice, making this track a real band showcase.

“Into the Fire” has a doomy, King Crimson inspired intro and slow rocking through the slightly bluesy verses. Blackmore performs a slow, phased guitar solo on this track. “Living Wreck” starts with an excellent drum beat by Paice and sneaks a peek of a future Deep Purple sound as demonstrated on their 1971 album Fireball. The cat like, organ effect between verses can be a bit abrasive, but this is quickly forgotten by the fine musical interludes of the bridge. Of course, this dramatic and theatrical album must end in dramatic and theatrical fashion. “Hard Lovin’ Man” starts with a building jam based on Glover’s bass riff and, after a few standard rock verses, Lord’s piercing organ solo is almost beyond the sonic bounds and builds an uneasy tension as the rest of the band rocks behind.

Following the release of Deep Purple In Rock, the group went on an extended world tour, which established the group as one of the top hard rock acts in the world and set them up for much further success with later albums.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

 

Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple

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Perfect Strangers by Deep PurpleThrough the past half century of classic rock and roll, there have been scores (if not hundreds) of major group reunions, with very mixed results. However, there have been very few groups that returned with the same potency contemporary relevance as the comeback of Deep Purple in 1984, which commenced with the composing and recording of the Perfect Strangers album. Here, the classic “Mark II” lineup, which had not been together in over a decade, struck a “perfect” balance between their indelible classic sound of the early seventies and the emerging 80s hard rock sensibilities, such as the great clichés embedded within its lyrics (i.e. “it’s not the kill, it’s the thrill of the chase…”).

The prior album recorded by the successful and popular “Mark II” lineup, was the rather forgettable Who Do We Think We Are in 1973. The dissatisfaction with that album, ultimately led to the departure of lead vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist/producer Roger Glover. Glover was replaced by bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, and the group briefly debated continuing as a four-piece band, with Hughes also acting as lead vocalist. However, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore discovered the (then) unknown David Coverdale and liked his blues-tinged voice. This new (“Mark III”) lineup recorded two albums and embarked on a very successful tour in 1974, with the album Burn becoming only the second Top 10 album by the band. However, Blackmore was growing dissatisfied with the new funky and soul elements, and decided to leave in mid 1975. Still, the two original members, keyboardist John Lord and drummer Ian Paice decided to carry on and replaced Blackmore with Tommy Bolin (“Mark IV” lineup) for the studio album Come Taste the Band, which was released mere months before Deep Purple officially announced their break-up in 1976. Bolin tragically died of a drug overdose later that year.

The fact that Deep Purple reunited nearly a decade later is all the more remarkable due to the vast success of the individual members in the intervening years. Starting in 1975, Gillan formed the Ian Gillan Band and later formed a separate group named “Gillan” which put out several albums and had considerable success into the early 1980s. In 1983, Gillan joined the original members of Black Sabbath for a single year and single album, with the arrangement ending with the Deep Purple reunion. In Black Sabbath, Gillan replaced Ronnie James Dio, who ironically was the original singer of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, starting in 1975. Blackmore steered Rainbow through seven albums in eight years, with Glover joining on as bassist and producer for the final four of these albums in the early 1980s. Glover had earlier released two post-Deep Purple solo albums in the late 1970s. Lord and Paice formed the short-lived super group Paice Ashton Lord, which released the album Malice in Wonderland in 1977, before each moving on to other projects. Paice became the drummer for bluesman Gary Moore, while Lord joined Coverdale’s post-Deep Purple project, Whitesnake, recorded several albums with the band right through Slide It In in early 1984.

Rural Stowe, Vermont, USA was the unlikely location for the reunion of these five English rock stars. Here, the tracks for Perfect Strangers were composed and recorded in less than a month. Eight of these tracks made it on to the original record, with two more, the straight-up rocker “Not Responsible” and the extended instrumental “Son of Alerik”, appearing on later versions of the album.


Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple
Released: September 16, 1984 (Mercury)
Produced by: Roger Glover
Recorded: Horizons, Stowe, Vermont, August 1984
Side One Side Two
Knockin’ At Your Back Door
Under the Gun
Nobody’s Home
Mean Streak
Perfect Strangers
A Gypsy’s Kiss
Wasted Sunsets
Hungry Daze
Group Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals  |  Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
John Lord – Keyboards  |  Roger Glover – Bass  |  Ian Paice – Drums

Lord’s dramatic keyboard intro by Lord, borrowed heavily from the “Jaws” theme, is accented by a pulsating rhythm during the dramatic intro to “Knocking at Your Back Door”. This seven-minute album opener was quite the breath of fresh, classic rock air during the mid 1980s rock scene, and made an immediate impact with its classic yet modern (for 1984) sound. In all, the performance, rudiments, and picturesque lyrics are all excellent as is the long guitar lead by Blackmore to finish things up. “Under the Gun” is almost as equally impressive as the opener, albeit much less heralded. The thundering motor-drive of rhythm by Glover and Paice supports the repeated call-and-response between Blackmore and Lord, followed by the strong, harmonized riff through the verses.

“Nobody’s Home” is the only track on the album credited to all five band members (Lord and Paice rarely composed). A short synth intro is interrupted by another classic Deep Purple riff and a good lyrical catch line. While mainly vocal-driven by Gillan’s dynamic crooning, it contains that great old Blackmore-Lord dueling and a later organ solo which is wisely given much room to breathe. “Mean Streak” is the only song on the first side which is not completely excellent and, really, the lone weak link on the entire album. There is a nice upbeat chord progression, but it unfortunately all points towards the rather ho-hum hook.

Perfect Strangers singleThe beginning of side two returns to classic mode with the deep and profound title song “Perfect Strangers”. This song contains a quasi-heavy-metal drive but with great melody and a really cool and subtle passage to the post-chorus Eastern-style phrasing. The rhythm is steady throughout, leaving Gillan the room to vocally paint the pictures of the rich scenery of the lyrics about reincarnation and passing through time. “A Gypsy’s Kiss” comes in with a rhythm almost like rockabilly but quickly breaks into a frenzied beat. The most interesting section here is the multi-part instrumental, with Blackmore’s guitar lead over some very interesting rudiments before Lord doing both a synth and organ lead. This frantic track is reminiscent of those found on the group’s 1972 classic Machine Head.

“Wasted Sunsets” calms things down a bit as a dramatic ballad with long and moody guitar notes and leads and slow but effective riffs. The deep organ notes guide the moderate and measured rhythms on this track which is really a great showcase for Blackmore’s bluesy guitar. “Hungry Daze” finishes things up strong as an upbeat rock retrospective of the band’s earlier years. Here Gillan’s vocals are most dynamic and Paice provides a great drum section during an extended psychedelic section.

Perfect Strangers was a commercial success, charting in the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in six European countries, including the UK. This was followed up with a highly successful world tour that saw Deep Purple out-grossing every other artist except Bruce Springsteen in 1985. The Mark II lineup remained together for several subsequent years, releasing another studio album The House of Blue Light in 1987. However, the personnel shifts resumed near the end of the decade, resulting in even more “Mark X” lineups.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

 

Jesus Christ Superstar, a Rock Opera

Jesus Christ Superstar original rock operaBefore it was a theatre act, Broadway play, or motion picture, Jesus Christ Superstar was simply a 1970 rock album produced by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist by Tim Rice. The work is loosely based on the four Gospels’ accounts of the last weeks of the life of Jesus Christ, but takes much liberty in interpretting the philosophical and interpersonal dynamics between Jesus and his apostles, especially Judas Iscariot, the man who would ultimately betray him. The work largely follows the form of a traditional passion play but with a twentieth century interpretation with a focus on the psychology of Jesus and the other characters.

Webber and Rice had collaborated on several previous projects, starting with the 1965 musical The Likes of Us, which was actually shelved for four solid decades and not publicly performed until 2005. In 1968, the duo was commissioned to write a piece which became Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a retelling of story of the biblical figure Joseph, set to several musical styles. In 1969 Rice and Webber wrote a song for the Eurovision Song Contest called “Try It and See”, which was later rewritten as “King Herod’s Song” for Jesus Christ Superstar. Webber says has said the piece was written as a rock album from the outset and set out from the start to tell the story through the music itself. Musically, Webber took delight in exploring different keys and time signatures, while Rice came up with some clever wordplay which fused modern phrases with traditional terms.

On this original album, the part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan, lead vocalist of Deep Purple, while Judas Iscariot is performed by Murray Head. Both Englishmen were in their mid-twenties and had several years in the music business with limited success. After declining an invitation to join the band upon their formation, Gillan joined Deep Purple in mid 1969. A performance of the song “Child in Time” caught the ear of Rice, who contacted Gillan and offered him the role of Jesus. After just a few rehearsals with Rice and Webber, Gillan recorded his entire vocal contributions in one three hour session. Beyond his singing and songwriting skills, Murray Head was also a seasoned actor who won a leading role in the Oscar-nominated film Sunday Bloody Sunday in 1971. For the role of Mary Magdalene, a then relative unknown Yvonne Elliman was chosen. Elliman had just begun performing in clubs the previous year and would be one of the few players and singers to join the cast of the Broadway production in subsequent years.


Jesus Christ Superstar, Original Rock Opera
Released: September, 1970 (Decca)
Produced by: Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May 1972-August 1973
Side One Side Two
Overture
Heaven On Their Minds
What’s the Buzz / Strange Thing Mystifying
Everything’s Alright
This Jesus Must Die
Hosana
Simon Zealotes / Poor Jerusalem
Pilate’s Dream
The Temple
Everything’s Alright (Reprise)
I Don’t Know How to Love Him
Damned for All Time / Blood Money
Side Three Side Four
The Last Supper
Gethsemane
The Arrest
Peter’s Denial
Pilate and Christ
King Herod’s Song
Could We Start Again Please?
Judas’s Death
Trial Before Pilate
Superstar
The Crucifixion
John Nineteen: Forty-One
Vocal Cast & Roles
Ian Gillan – Jesus  |  Murray Head – Judas  |  Yvonne Elliman – Mary Magdalene
Paul Davis – Peter  |  Victor Brox – Caiaphas  |  Brian Keith – Annas
Barry Dennen – Pontius Pilate  |  Mike D’Abo – King Herod
Primary Musicians
Neil Hubbard – Guitars  |  Henry McCulloch – Guitars  |  Allan Spenner – Bass
Peter Robinson – Piano, Organ  |  Bruce Rowland – Drums, Percussion

The album starts with a heavily distorted guitar, setting the pace for the “rock” part of the rock opera before the actual overture kicks in with a musical sequence later repeated in the climatic “Trial Before Pilate”. “Heaven on Their Minds” a total funk/rock masterpiece sung solo by Murray Head as Judas with some great piano and organ by Peter Robinson and just a touch of strings for color. The story starts with Judas expressing concern over Jesus’ rising popularity and the inherent danger that brings in a land occupied by the Romans. “What’s the Buzz” introduces Jesus and the Apostles in a hippy-dippy kind of pop/hip song, absurdly
bringing the scene into the (then) modern age. Musically, the stratospheric bass by Alan Spenner brings the hyper jazz/funk to an extraordinary level.

Judas and Jesus have their first heated debate over the course of two tracks; “Strange Thing Mystifying” and “Everything’s Alright”. This debate concerns the appropriateness of Jesus consorting with Mary Magdeline, as Elliman offers a soft counter-balance to the argument with the verses of “Everything’s Alright”. The song is in a 5/4 time signature, offering the perfect rhythm to push it forward at a brisk pace for full effect and the vocal contrasts between Gillan, Head, and Elliman makes it a masterpiece. To close the original first side, the dark “This Jesus Must Die” is the most theatrical to this point as the conspirators are given dark and sinister vocals performed by Victor Brox as Caiaphas and Brian Keith as Annas and other performers as high priests. Halfway, the song picks up with a rock beat and the dialogue speaks of Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist who was put to death for his believes, a fate that the conspirators wish on Jesus.

The upbeat “Hosanna”, driven by strings, chorus, and a soaring melody begins Side 2 and symbolizes Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. “Simon Zealotes” and “Poor Jerusalem” reflect more of the competing philosophical vision. John Gustafson makes his only appearance on the album as Apostle Simon the Zealot, who suggests a revolution led by Jesus, offering power and glory to Jesus after a successful overthrow of the Roman occupation in an upbeat section backed by funk rhythms, led by piano and bass. Gillan’s reply as Jesus in “Poor Jerusalem” is more of a short piano ballad where Jesus rejects this suggestion, stating that none of his followers understands what true power is, nor do they understand his true message.

A bit of filler is thrown into the middle of the second side. “Pilate’s Dream” is a short, acoustic song that features Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, who foresees the trial and execution of Jesus along with the coming spread of Christianity. On “The Temple” the album gets a little lethargic and repetitive with the story of usary in the temple being a bit superfluous followed by Jesus being accosted by lepers, cripples, and beggars, all wanting to be healed.

Yvonne EllimanOne of the highlights of the first act, and the peak of Elliman’s involvement on the album is the short reprise of “Everything’s Alright” which leads into the soulful folk song “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”. Led by the dual acoustic guitars of future Roxy Music member Neil Hubbard and future member of Paul McCartney’s Wings Henry McCulloch, the song contains a laid back arrange which provides the perfect canvas to compliment Elliman’s fantastic vocals. The song itself became a Top 20 pop hit. “Damned for All Time” / “Blood Money” begins with a free form, distorted solo electric guitar followed in sequence by a chorus of flutes before a riff-driven rock section with Head on lead vocals. Accented by great horn sections, this production masterpiece aptly closes the first Act, even with some abrupt changes between the two parts of the medley. Thematically, the song deals with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to the high priest conspirators along with his internal conflict over the situation and hauntingly ends with an-almost Greek chorus speaking to Judas’ conscience.

Act II begins with “The Last Supper”, a self-contained, multi-part suite which masterfully blends the rock and theatrical elements. Alternating between the folk chorus of the Apostles and several other parts consistng of another spirited dialogue between Jesus and Judas, with Gillan and Head at top vocal form, accompanied by a great electric piano and more exquisite bass by Spenner. While dealing with Gospel text, Rice also uses drug references “What’s that in the bread, it’s gone to my head” and slows the Apostles chorus as they fade from drunkenness, unaware of the profound proclamation made by Jesus. “Gethsemane” is the real showcase for Gillan and the most like “Child In Time”, the Deep Purple song which got Gillan the gig in the first place. Starting with great acoustic guitar and bouncy bass, the song soon builds with much orchestral accompaniment and is, perhaps, the most dramatic part of the entire album dealing with Jesus’ own crisis of faith as he faces his immanent demise.

Ian Gillan“The Arrest” starts a long sequence in the second act where Jesus faces an all night ordeal leading to his crucifixion. The apostles slowly wake to find Jesus under arrest to the tune of “What’s the Buzz” followed by various vocal members playing almost like reporters and nice rock passages travels along with the movement of the arresting party as they go before the high priests. A slight deviation is taken in “Peter’s Denial” featuring Paul Davis as Jesus’ closest apostle confidant but distancing himself when confronted on three separate occasions. The end of the Side 3 is the most sticky sweet, show-tune-ish section of the album, as well as least rock oriented. Dennen returns as Pilate in an exaggerated, jazzy version of “Hosanna” named “Pilate and Christ”. Pilate “washes his hands” of the situation and sends Jesus to the Jewish King Herod, leading to the rendition of Webber and Rice’s ragtime “Try it and See”, performed by Mike D’Abo as Herod.

The final original side started “Could We Start Again Please?”, the only showcase for Elliman during the second act which doesn’t quite measure up to those in the first act and is almost set up like a pop song off the beaten path. “Judas’ Death” is a reprise of “Damned for All Time” and “Blood Money” with the same vocalists and Head’s vocals at top form as Judas’s guilt becomes overwhelming;

I have been splattered with innocent blood, I should be dragged through the slime and the mud…”

Head then does his own version as “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” before committing suicide to0 the sounds of the haunting Greek chorus.

The climax of the story is “Trial Before Pilate” which returns to the “Overture” a great sequence with wild, off key jazzy strings, synths, and horns and an intense dialogue between Gillan and Dennen with the crowd joining in as Pilate’s various thoughts on whether to release or crucify Jesus. A short rock break is taken with “The Thirty-Nine Lashes”, ending with a nice drum fill by Bruce Rowland. A final dialogue between Jesus and Pilate ensues with the crowd convincing Pilate to ultimately crucify Jesus; “I wash my hands of your demolition, die if you want to, you innocent puppet…” Although “Superstar” is supposed to be the focal point of the opera, it really pales in comparison to some of the other finer tracks. It does some nice chorus-driven hooks cut by one last funky track musically and a posthumous reappearance of Head’s Judas, now a ghost and some soulful female backup singers. The song, which is almost mocking in tone, did peak at number 14 on the Billboard pop charts in 1971. The album then kind of whimpers out in an anti-climatic fashion with the nearly psychedelic synth-experimentation of “The Crucifixion” followed by the calm, orchestral reprise of “Gethsemane” in “John Nineteen: Forty-One”.

Andrew Lloyd WebberAndrew Lloyd Webber originally thought the production would be limited to a niche audience, blocked out on either side by young people thinking it was uncool subject matter and religious people who would think it was too controversial. Then unexpectedly it rose to the top of the album charts, sparking a short arena tour and what Webber called “one of the worst productions he had ever seen on Broadway”. In fact, the only reason it was put on Broadway was to head off the various small theatre and school productions which had begun to sprout up in 1971.

Webber and Tim Rice collaborated once again with Evita in the late 1970s and Webber would go on to produce two of the most successful Broadway productions ever with Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, both debuting in the 1980s. Ian Gillan went on to meteoric success as frontman of Deep Purple, climaxing with the 1972 album Machine Head (our 1972 Album of the Year) before abruptly leaving the group in 1973, although he would reunite with Deep Purple several times in the future. Murray Head continued to act and record songs, with his biggest charting success being “One Night in Bangkok” in the mid 1980s. After her Broadway performances and role as Mary Magdelene in the 1974 Hollywood film of Jesus Christ Superstar, Yvonne Elliman sang on several Eric Clapton albums, most poingnently Slowhand in 1977, before a brief but successful disco/pop career, which included several Top 20 hits. She decided to dedicate herself to her two children in 1979 and has pretty much stayed out of the public spotlight since.

Over the past four decades, several different versions of Jesus Christ Superstar were produced spanning the entire spectrum of media, on every corner of the globe, making it one of the most popular universal productions ever. In May 2012, Webber launched a reality television show called Superstar where the UK public decided who would play the role of Jesus in an upcoming arena tour. Ben Forster was chosen and the arena tour, which began September 2012 and continues to this day (March 2013). Webber claims this tour most closely represents the original vision for the rock opera.

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R.A.

A Classic Rock Review Special Feature.

 

Machine Head by Deep Purple

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Album Of the Year, 1972

Machine Head by Deep PurpleDeep Purple is often overlooked as one of the truly great classic rock acts. This may be because they reigned during the prime of so many other great British rock groups who crowded out this band’s accomplishments. Or, perhaps it is because of the dizzying amount of lineup changes and their various “Mark XX” phases. In any case, this was a top-notch act and they were never better than they were on their 1972 classic Machine Head. This was the sixth overall studio album by the band and the third by their classic “Mark II” lineup, which consisted of Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover, and Ian Paice.

The album is famous on several fronts, but mostly due to circumstances surrounding its planned recording at Montreux Casino in Switzerland, a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and entertainment facilities. The Casino was slated to be closed for the winter after a final concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers on December 4, 1971, after which Deep Purple would begin recording. However, an audience fired a flare into the roof, sparking a fire which left the Casino in ashes. After an aborted attempt to record in another theatre, the band ended up recording the album in a couple of adjacent hallways and a bathroom at The Grand Hotel, outside Montreux, with the mobile recording unit owned by the Rolling Stones. The whole experience was memorialized in the hit song “Smoke On the Water”.

Musically, the album seems to strike the perfect balance between accessible hard rock and instrumental jams. Just about every track contains multiple leads showcasing the musical talents of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboard virtuoso Jon Lord, while remaining relatively short. upbeat, and melodic. This proved to be a potent formula for 1972 hard rock.


Machine Head by Deep Purple
Released: March 1972 (EMI)
Produced by: Deep Purple
Recorded: Grand Hotel, Montreux, Switzerland, December 1971
Side One Side Two
Highway Star
Maybe I’m a Leo
Pictures of Home
Never Before
Smoke On the Water
Lazy
Space Truckin’
Band Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Jon Lord – Keyboards
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums

The ultimate car song. “Highway Star” kicks off the album, taking the traditional Beach Boys’ subject matter of cars and girls to a whole new sonic level. The song was born when a curious reporter asked Blackmore to demonstrate how he composed a song. Both Blackmore and Lord have extended lead sections, with Lord’s borrowing heavily from Bach, all above a pulsating rhythm which would influence hard rock and heavy metal for decades to come. Vocalist Ian Gillan shoes off his dynamic singing, which rivaled anyone from the day save Zeppelin’sRobert Plant.

Speaking of Zeppelin, that band’s influence is definitely present in “Maybe I’m a Leo”, a riff-driven tune with deliberately slow but powerful drumming by Ian Paice. The curious thing here is why Gillan was so reserved on this palette which was custom made for high-pitched vocals to soar. Although all songs on Machine Head are officially credited to all five band members, this one was written mostly by bassist Roger Glover. “Pictures of Home” is Deep Purple at their most poignant, a driving rhythm topped by sweeping vocals pushing out deep lyrical motifs, all accented by the distinct, distorted Hammond organ of John Lord. Glover even gets a short bass solo in the middle section before Blackmore warms for lift-off before a surprising false stop and comeback makes the song all the more interesting. Side one concludes with “Never Before”, which has a funky intro that breaks into a pure riff-driven rock verse and a pretty standard hard rock song.

Deep Purple, early 1970s

One of the most popular songs by the band, “Smoke On the Water” also contains one of the most famous riffs in rock history. In fact, the band would play this up in concert by going through a short showcase of the “most famous riffs” before landing on this one as an intro to “Smoke On the Water”. The song intro builds with each member coming in at separate times before breaking into the verse with its literal story telling of the recording of this album. The title of the song was coined by Glover after he dreamed of smoke from casino fire spreading over Lake Geneva. The lyrics pay homage to “Funky Claude”, who is director of the Montreux Jazz Festival, Claude Nobs, who helped some of the audience escape the fire. A sculpture along the lake shore has been erected in Montreaux with the band’s name, song title, and the famous riff in musical notes.

“Lazy” is the most jam-oriented song on the album, with a long four and a half minute instrumental before finally reaching an upbeat blues arrangement during verses and choruses. The very start of the intro organ sounds a lot like the psychedelic Deep Purple of the late 1960s, but breaks into a very bluesy riff complete with boogie-bass by Glover. Naturally, Lord and Blackmore have their own lead sections during the jam and Gillan even adds a harmonica solo between the verses.

The album concludes with the fantastic “Space Truckin'”. The theme and lyrics sound like they describes a Saturday morning cartoon for cool kids and the music has contains choreographed parts during the verses and some frantic riffing during the chorus. But it is Paice who outshines everyone else with his top-notch drumming throughout this song. There is a very slight guitar lead during the bridge which quickly gives way to the percussive potpourri, as if Blackmore knew to step out the way of an oncoming train. The song leaves the listener begging for more as it fades out to finish the album.

Machine Head reached number 1 in the UK and number 7 in the US, remaining on the charts for over two years. More importantly was its influence on several rock bands spanning many genres and years. Deep Purple was at the top of their game but followed up with a weak 1973 effort, Who Do We Think We Are before Gillan left the band (for the first time) later that year.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1972 albums.

 

The House of Blue Light by Deep Purple

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The House of Blue Light by Deep PurpleThrough the years, Deep Purple went though a bunch of lineup changes with only drummer Ian Paice remaining with the band throughout all phases. In fact, there have been so many different versions of the band that a labeling system (MarkI, Mark II, Mark III, etc.) has been established, with most rock historians agreeing that the “Mark II” lineup was the most potent and significant. This Mark II lineup itself had three different phases, the first during the band’s most popular period 1969-1973, and the last for a single studio album in 1993. In between, the Mark II lineup had a significant “reunion” period from 1984 to 1988. The House of Blue Light came right in the heart of this Renaissance period for the band, adding a strong dose of classic rock legitimacy to an area dominated by modern trends and hair bands.

Following the surprise success of 1984’s Perfect Stranger, the band ran into difficulty getting the follow-up album recorded, with much of it re-recorded after unsatisfactory initial attempts. Bassist Roger Glover had spent much of the late seventies and early eighties working as a producer and began providing this service to the band once the Mark II lineup reunited. He chose a remote theatre in Northern Vermont to record the album using a mobile recording unit to try and find the appropriate atmosphere for the creative process. Still the band struggled to gel during recording and production and some earlier personal rifts began to resurface.

When the album was released in early 1987, there were distinct versions between LP/cassette and CD releases with the CD version offering some extensions to song lengths. Curiously, when the album was remastered for further digital publication, the shorter LP versions of the songs were preserved for future listeners.

 


The House of Blue Light by Deep Purple
Released: January 17, 1987 (Atco)
Produced by: Roger Glover & Deep Purple
Recorded: The Playhouse, Stowe, Vermont, 1986
Side One Side Two
Bad Attitude
The Unwritten Law
Call Of the Wild
Mad Dog
Black and White
Hard Lovin’ Woman
The Spanish Archer
Strangeways
Mitzi Dupree
Dead or Alive
Band Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
John Lord – Keyboards
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums, Percussion

 
On the first side of The House of Blue Light, the band seems to make a concerted effort to nail an ’80s-flavored rock radio hit and many have compared these songs to those by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore‘s band Rainbow, which had a lifespan between the two major Mark II runs. This is especially true with the bouncy song “Call Of the Wild”, an accessible keyboard driven tune with refined vocal hooks. “Mad Dog” and “Black and White” further this trend as upbeat, straight-forward eighties rockers that, frankly, could have been done by scores of bands less talented than Deep Purple.

One song that stands out is “The Unwritten Law”, which is intense, drum-driven, and dramatic. Vocalist Ian Gillan hearkens back to his dynamic younger years with vocal improvisation while Paice carries the day and adds further evidence that he is one of rock n roll’s most under-appreciated drummers. The album’s opener “Bad Attitude” features keyboardist Jon Lord and his signature sound of playing a Hammond organ through a Marshall stack to form one of the coolest rock tones.
 

 
The second side of the album is actually much more interesting. After the intense, riff-driven opener “Hard Lovin; Woman” comes the excellent “Spanish Archer”, with a surreal Eastern flavor provided by Blackmore. With all members player and singing with an intense, reckless abandonment, this song is a bona fide classic for any era of Deep Purple. “Strangeways” follows as a lyric-driven screed on society, which is cool and entertaining nonetheless.

The bluesy “Mitzi DuPree” is one of the more unique songs on any Deep Purple album as Gillen guides the listener through a literal story about an exotic woman over some tavern-style piano by Lord and cool bass by Glover.

Although the album was ultimately a commercial disappointment. the music of The House of Blue Light has stood up to the test of time well. Deep Purple kept their momentum through 1988 with the successful live album Nobody’s Perfect, before personal issues lead to Gillan leaving the band again for a short spell.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums.

 

Fireball by Deep Purple

Buy Fireball

I started this review planning to explain how this album set up Deep Purple for its, presumptively superior masterpiece, 1972’s Machine Head. But the more I’ve listened to Fireball in preparation for the review, the more I began to think that it may be just as good as it’s more famous and heralded successor. On this album, the band fuses influences from diverse contemporaries like Black Sabbath and The James Gang while perfecting their own distinct style, which they had started on the preceding album, Deep Purple In Rock.

Fireball contains seven songs, many of which are built around a basic riff and theme but extended by instrumental solo sections that are, in no way, boring or mundane. In most cases, these instrumentals are traded between guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and organist John Lord, both virtuoso players with well-refined sounds. Bassist Roger Glover also gets involved with a solo of his own in the opening title song, “Fireball”.

However, the musician that shines the brightest on this album is drummer Ian Paice. Perhaps the most underrated drummer during the classic rock era, Paice may not quite reach the talents of Keith Moon or John Bonham, but he is certainly not too far behind. The 1971 album is far ahead of its time, as many of the styles and techniques would be echoed by countless “hair bands” in the 1980s. But Paice’s drumming gives Fireball an edge that those future efforts would not contain, as few drummers can match such skills, something that apparent right from the very start of the album with his double-kick beat that introduces “Fireball”.
 


Fireball by Deep Purple
Released: July, 1971 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Deep Purple
Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, The Hermitage, & Olympic Studios, London
September, 1970 – July, 1971
Side One Side Two
Fireball
No, No, No
Demon’s Eye
Anyone’s Daughter
The Mule
Fools
No One Came
Musicians
Ian Gillan – Vocals
Jon Lord – Keyboards, Piano, Hammond Organ
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums

 
One of the signatures of this “Mark II” version of Deep Purple is that the songs possess great ambiance, Lead by the Blackmore/Lord, heavy guitar/distorted organ riffs. This ambiance makes a great canvas for the dynamic vocals of Ian Gillian. Although the “Mark I” version of the band put out three fine albums prior to his arrival in late 1969, Gillian proved to be the missing piece that completed the band and launched them into their finest run through the early seventies.
 

 
Surprisingly, the only “hit” song that came from these same recording sessions, “Strange Kind of Woman”, was left off the original album (it was added as a bonus track in later CD issues). Amazingly, aside from the title song and the bluesy “Demon’s Eye”, most of the original songs on Fireball remain unknown to anyone who doesn’t own actually the album, with little to no airplay on classic rock or AOR stations. So there are definitely some hidden gems to be discovered by the average listener.

“The Mule” is way ahead of it’s time. It fuses some clam 60s psychedelia with a wild, almost uncomfortable drum beat by Paice. “Fools” begins with a very calm, tension-building intro that harkens back to the earliest Deep Purple albums before launching into a crisp and heavy riff. It is surprising that this has not been redone. “No One Came” is a catchy, traveling-type groove, while “Anyone’s Daughter” is a surprising departure into country-rock with some slide guitar by Blackmore and an impressive, honky-tonk piano by Lord.

So, upon further review, Fireball is more than a mere stepping stone on the way to the masterpiece Machine Head, but is in fact a classic in its own right.

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1971 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversay of 1971 albums.