Slide It In by Whitesnake

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Slide It In by WhitesnakeWhitesnake made its first real splash with the release of their sixth album, Slide It In in 1984. Although the album was far from a blockbuster hit, a second version of the album finally established Whitesnake in America and set the stage for greater future success. Under the tutelage of producer Martin Birch, the group found the perfect sound for the mid-eighties hard rock audience. However, this pivotal album for the band was actually constructed during a time of shifting personnel for Whitesnake, with lineup shifts around founder and front man David Coverdale before, during, and after the record’s production.

In 1978, Coverdale founded Whitesnake as a solo project following his brief gig as Deep Purple’s lead vocalist. The new band’s earliest sound utilized some of the blues-rock basics of British groups years earlier. Joining Coverdale in this new band was fellow Deep Purple member Jon Lord on keyboards, guitarist Micky Moody, and a rotating rhythm section. Whitesnake’s first four albums did well in the UK but failed to make any waves in the US. In 1981 guitarist Mel Galley, who had spent a dozen years with the band Trapeze, became the group’s second guitarist and was on board for the recording of the 1982 release Saints and Sinners, the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album to date.

First recorded in late 1983, Slide It In cam out as two distinct mixes, each with differing personnel. After the group’s new American label Geffen objected to the “flat sounding” mix on the UK release, Coverdale fired Moody and bassist Colin Hodgkinson and had their parts re-recorded by new members John Sykes and Neil Murray respectively, before the entire album was re-mixed and re-sequenced for a U.S. release. While the newer mix was sonically superior overall, some fans lament that it diminishes the presence of Lord’s keyboards and the overall bass guitar.


Slide It In by Whitesnake
Released: January 1984 (Geffen)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: 1983
Side One Side Two
Slide It In
Slow and Easy
Love Ain’t No Stranger
All or Nothing
Gambler
Guilty of Love
Hungry for Love
Give Me More Time
Spit It Out
Standing In the Shadow
Group Musicians
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Mel Galley – Guitars, Vocals
Jon Lord – Keyboards
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell Drums

An AC/DC inspired riff and beat on the opening title song is contrasted by Coverdale’s distinctly non-AC/DC vocals on this track of rock raunch to the core with not-so-subtle lyrics. “Slide It In” is really an entertaining and melodic musical showcase with a good guitar lead by Moody under an alternate chord structure. Co-written by Moody, “Slow an’ Easy” is a track of pure rock drama, slowly unfolding with every note, breath, and rudimentary beat. Built on a diverse collection of guitar motifs, the track takes nearly two and a half minutes until it finally gets to the hook, which contains claps and chants, perfectly setting it up for future arena shows. Held together by Powell’s precise drumming, once fully realized this song never relents from its drive, which helped propel the song into the Top 20 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Next up in the parade of classic rock gems is “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, which starts with long synths accompanied by an acoustic guitar, before ultimately kicking into a steady rocker, While there are no real “power ballads” on Slide It In, the short intro verses on this track may be as close as the group gets. “All or Nothing” is pure hard rock in the spirit of groups like Rainbow, solidly built on a heavy metal riff by Galley with dramatic vocal wails by Coverdale and a consistent jam drive throughout. The fine first side closes with “Gambler”, which may be the perfect Whitesnake song as a moody track with rotating riffs and great keys. Vocally, Coverdale shows much range within each verse, while the lead section contains back-to-back solos by Lord and Galley, continuing the great hard rock parade.

Unfortunately, the second side is not as potent as the first. It starts with “Guilty of Love”, an upbeat rock song which was the first recorded for the album and released as a single in mid 1983. With this, the song was the only one produced by Eddie Kramer. The similarly titled “Hungry for Love” is slightly better than its predecessor due to a better rock jam by the musicians and cool bluesy riff lines by Galley and Murray. “Give Me More Time” is very melodic and well put together and sounds like it should have been a hit song. Constructed in pristine fashion from verse to pre-chorus to chorus, with a great lead section that contains a harmonized lead by Galley over wild drumming by Powell.

“Spit It Out” continues where the previous song left off, but with the sharp return to sexual gratuitousness. Still, the song is solid musically with nice mid-section built on a rapid hi-hat beat by Powell and slight guitar strumming by Galley before it explodes back for the guitar lead. The album concludes with the apt, steady, and slightly dark rocker, “Standing In the Shadow”. While the track pales in comparison to songs earlier on the album, it is probably the best of Coverdale’s several solo compositions on the album.

Slide It In did squeak into the Top 40 in America, while reaching the Top 10 in the UK, eventually reaching double platinum in sales. However, the personnel shifts continued as Lord joined a reunited Deep Purple and Powell joined the revamped super group Emerson, Lake, and Powell. Coverdale and Sykes later composed and recorded the blockbuster 1987 album Whitesnake, but Coverdale then fired the entire band for the more “photogenic” younger group that appeared in all the late eighties videos.

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1984 Images

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

 

Deep Purple 1968 Albums

Buy Shades of Deep Purple
Buy The Book of Taliesyn

Deep Purple 1968 AlbumsDeep Purple arrived on the music scene like a tornado in 1968. Conceived as a super group called Roundabout in 1967, the band went through much personnel shifting before the renamed quintet was in place in early 1968. Within that year, the group would record and release their first two albums, Shades of Deep Purple and The Book of Taliesyn. Both of these albums involved a fusion of long instrumental jams, original interpretations of famous cover songs, and a handful of originals written by band members. In between the prolific writing and recording, Deep Purple also went on extensive tours of Europe and opened for Cream at the height of that band’s popularity.

The group’s debut, Shades of Deep Purple was released in the summer of ’68. Although it didn’t gain much attention or sales in the their native UK, it was a success in the US, where it fit better stylistically. The grandiose fusions of cover songs with long introductions were some of the earliest examples of progressive rock with just a hint of sixties psychedelic music. Also, the group’s American upstart label, Tetragrammaton, was actively looking for a British band to work with on their new label and offered much more affirmative support to this brand new band than an established British label would have done.

Like the debut album, The Book of Taliesyn was produced by Derek Lawrence and it follows the same psychedelic/progressive rock template of the debut, with the exception of a few notable originals. The title of this album was taken from a 14th century Welsh manuscript which contained poems attributed to the 6th-century poet Taliesin. After this album was released in October ’68, Deep Purple embarked on a rather excessive tour in the United States.


Shades of Deep Purple by Deep Purple
Released: July, 1968 (Tetragrammaton)
Produced by: Derek Lawrence
Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, London, May 11-13, 1968
Side One Side Two
And the Address
Hush
One More Rainy Day
Prelude: Happiness/I’m So Glad
Mandrake Root
Help!
Love Help Me
Hey Joe
The Book of Taliesyn by Deep Purple
Released: December 11, 1968 (Tetragrammaton)
Produced by: Derek Lawrence
Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, London, August-October 1968
Side One Side Two
Listen, Learn, Read On
Wring That Neck
Kentucky Woman
Exposition / We Can Work It Out
Shield
Anthem
River Deep, Mountain High
Band Musicians (Both Albums)
Rod Evans – Lead Vocals
John Lord – Organ, Keyboards, Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Nick Simplar – Bass, Vocals
Ian Paice – Drums

 

The instrumental “And the Address” starts off Shades of Deep Purple with organist Jon Lord‘s long, low rotating rumble. This accelerates to a higher pitch after about a minute-long intro before breaking into the main rock riff by Ritchie Blackmore with a whining guitar lead and a later, faster lead by Lord, showing Deep Purple was about this dynamic duo right from the very beginning.

Shades of Deep Purple“Hush” was Deep Purple’s biggest early hit as well as a hard rock classic. With the thumping bass line by Nick Simplar, the “Na-Na” vocal hook, and a fluctuating organ solo by Lord which seems to be constantly searching to find its end before finally reaching resolution with the final verse. “Hush” was written by American songwriter Joe South and was a minor hit for Billy Joe Royal in 1967. The Deep Purple version was a much bigger hit, peaking at #4 in the US and #2 in Canada.

A whistle organ brings in upbeat, sixties-flavored “One More Rainy Day”, featuring crooning vocals by Rod Evans, an interesting, bouncy bass line by Simper, and well-animated drum fills by Ian Paice, but virtually no presence at all by Blackmore’s guitar. Side one closes with the jam/cover medley of “Prelude: Happiness/I’m So Glad”. This second great instrumental contains a fantastic drum march/roll and a very dramatic climax before it all resolves with the calm riff of Skip James’s “I’m So Glad”, which is not all that different from Cream’s earlier version on their 1966 debut album, Fresh Cream, but with just a bit more restless tension.

The second side of the debut begins the strong blues-based heavy rocker “Mandrake Root”, featuring Evans deep vocals and a driving rhythm section backing up the frantic lead by Lord. Later, Blackmore abruptly interrupts with an effect-laden, Eastern-inspired lead section of his own on this song which got its title from a hallucinogenic plant. “Help!” is the best cover from these early albums, with a real moody and quasi-psychedelic keyboard intro which leads into a subtle and quiet entry into the finger-picked guitar of the first verse. Evans provides very soulful vocals, probably his best vocals on the debut album, and after using the original Beatles’ intro as a bridge, the song breaks into a showcase section of Lord’s and Blackmore’s talents before dissolving softly in a return to the intro. “Love Help Me” is an original by Blackmore and Evans that is very similar in approach to “Hush”, but tilts more towards sixties music flourishes and vocals and seems to suffer production-wise as much of the instrumentation gets lost in the mix and Blackmore’s short wah-wah guitar leads are way out front. Closing the album is another jam/cover with an instrumental reprise of “Mandrake Root” before morphing into the oft-covered “Hey Joe”, which almost feels like an afterthought, as it pretty much mimics the Jimi Hendrix version but in a more laid back fashion.

On the debut albums, many of the highlights came during the original re-interpretations of these cover songs. However, on The Book of Taliesyn, it is the Deep Purple originals which really stand out. “Listen, Learn, Read On” is the default title song of the album with a heavy reverb on Evans’ vocals and a manical driving drum beat by Paice in between measured riffs and leads by Blackmore. “Wring That Neck” is an upbeat, bluesy instrumental jam that was an instant classic. Starting with Lord’s uniquely distorted organ riff and moving through a few inspired guitar solos by Blackmore (some completely solo), the piece continuously returns to the infectious main riff. “Wring That Neck” was released as a single from the album and is a true preview of “Mark II” Deep Purple of years forward.

The Book of TaliesynThe other single from the album was the cover of Neil diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”, which is driven by the pulsating bass of Simplar and the crazy drumming of Paice. While this song did reach the Top 40, it was considered a failure by the label because it was nowhere near as big a success as “Hush” had been earlier in the year. Another jam/cover medley follows with the near program piece of “Exposition”, complete with drum rolls behind deliberate guitar riffing. After going through a few very intense iterations, the piece dissolves into a groovy beat led by Simplar’s bass and the Beatles’ hit “We Can Work It Out”.

On the second side of The Book of Taliesyn, Deep Purple breaks away from the mode of their first album with a couple of truly original songs, which really make this album diverse and interesting. “Shield” builds on Paice’s drums, followed by a bass riff, guitar overlay, and piano by Lord. The vocals are very laid back and measured and the song’s best parts are when the piano and guitar harmonize for a slow but powerful riff. A percussion section in the middle leads to a partially improvised jam section and the ending percussion reprisal contains cool, rounded bass notes by Simplar. “Anthem” is a fine acoustic ballad with a great chorus harmonized hook. It’s only flaw is a production flaw, where the entire arrangement suddenly drops out for Lord’s organ intro into a middle string section, showing the groups classical leanings. This middle section also contains a great lead by Blackmore, which sounds like something Brian May might perform, and when full band returns it is at top form with a second back-to-back guitar lead by Blackmore and fantastic drumming by Paice. “River Deep, Mountain High” is the climatic ending to The Book of Taliesyn with more musical drama, including a musical mock-up of the title score to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey before building into the frantic groove of the soul cover of this hit by Ike & Tina Turner.

Keeping up a tremendous scale of production, Deep Purple recorded and released their third album in 12 months, in early 1969, However, the fledgling Tetragrammaton Records was starting to fizzle out and could offer only lackluster promotion, causing that album to sell poorly. Further, the band was starting move in a heavier musical direction, which resulted in the replacement of Evans and Simpler and the end of Deep Purple’s “Mark I” era.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.

 

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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1972 Images

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

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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.