With the impending (and long….long overdue) induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, and all the ensuing shenanigans that will bring, this celebration of Deep Purple MKII,III & IV is a timely reminder of how both influential and underrated Purple were/are (still going strong today with a new studio album in the pipeline). 7 albums from three different line ups, all remastered from the original tapes on 180gm vinyl, containing the original inserts within replica sleeves, housed in an outer box sturdy enough to keep vinyl affectionados from fretting over their “precious”. Also, two albums from the reformed MKII line up, ‘Perfect Strangers’ and ‘House Of Blue Light’, get the remastered treatment for the first time.
The collection commences with perhaps the best known Deep Purple album, 1972’s ‘Machine Head’. Even if you are not a fan, then you will still have heard ‘Smoke On The Water’, and most likely the album opener, and in my opinion the best Deep Purple track of all time, ‘Highway Star’ (Joe Perry also regards it as his favourite Purple track, so I’m in good company). The album contains some of the best loved and most famous Deep Purple tracks of all time, with both ‘Lazy’ and ‘Space Truckin’ ‘ still making appearances in the live set even today, but ignore the other tracks on the album at your peril. ‘Maybe I’m A Leo’ is a groove-laden gem of a track, that has a cracking laid back feel, thanks mainly to the drum work of Ian Paice, and the keyboard solo mid-song from the late Jon Lord. ‘Pictures Of Home’ begins with a dynamic drum fill from Paice and has one of those instantly recognizable Blackmore intros that made the man in black a guitarist’s guitar hero, ‘Never Before’ has a really funky backbeat from Jon Lord and bassist Roger Glover, whilst Ian Gillan showcases the depth of his vocal abilities on this underrated deep cut. He always could scream with incredible power, but this is a restrained vocal performance that impresses even to this day.
The playing is incredible with some of the finest rock music that you will ever hear. The interplay between band members, especially on ‘Lazy’ and ‘Space Truckin’ ‘ is breathtaking. The remastered sound is clean and crisp, with audibles from the band clearly heard… the band counting in on ‘Highway Star’ as well as Gillan saying “Break a leg Frank!” on ‘Smoke On The Water’, in tribute to Frank Zappa, who had his leg broken when he was pulled from the stage by an over-zealous fan in London just days after losing all his equipment in the infamous fire in Montreux.
Released in 1973, ‘Who Do We Think We are? ‘is an album that splits the Deep Purple following right down the middle, with fans torn between claiming it to be either lacklustre, or a much maligned forgotten nugget. It has some great moments, opening track ‘Woman From Tokyo’ is a belter that should feature in any Deep Purple top ten tracks of all time. Another great performance from Paice, someone who shys away from the flash showmanship of many other drummers, in favour of keeping it tight and simple. ‘Mary Long’ is a typically British retort to the attitudes of two famous ‘crusaders’ protecting the nations morals back in the 70’s, Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford. ‘Our Lady’ is my favourite track on the album… quite trippy in a sense, with some fantastic work from the much missed Jon Lord, and in some places it has echoes of The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’ era, as does ‘Super Trouper’. ‘Smooth Dancer’ is Deep Purple by the numbers really, but ‘Rat Bat Blue’ makes up for it with some nice guitar licks from Blackmore, whilst ‘Place In Line’ is a slowed down blues jam that Gillan totally nails. Considering the growing fractious nature between Gillan and Blackmore, the album turned out better than it should have, but would prove to be the last outing from Deep Purple MKII until the reformation in 1984.
With newcomer David Coverdale and ex Trapeze bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes replacing Gillan and Glover, Deep Purple MKIII had a point to prove, and with the release of ‘Burn’ they firmly put any doubters in their place by producing a stone cold classic rock album that regularly flits in and out of my favourite top 2 Purple albums. With the exception of closing track ‘A200’, which strays a little bit too close to ELP territory for my liking, this is the album that could have spawned the immortal phrase “All killer, no filler”.
Beginning with a blistering Blackmore riff, equally matched by Jon Lord on one of his most memorable moments,’Burn’ is an incredible way to kick off, what could be perceived as, a comeback album. The then unknown Coverdale set down a marker with his throaty, bluesy vocals, with Glenn Hughes proving that he was no slouch in the vocal department either, and yet again Ian Paice just astounds with his unassuming drum work. Anyone who caught Slash and Myles Kennedy performing ‘Burn’ along with Glenn Hughes live in 2014 will surely testify that this is a killer track, even forty odd years after its initial release. What follows is a lesson in answering your critics. ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ highlights the dual vocal prowess that Purple now boasted with Glenn Hughes going toe to toe with Coverdale. ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’ is a masterful romp, on which Coverdale shines in amongst some illustrious company. ‘Sail Away’ is perhaps the track that caused all the ‘Funk Rock’ comparisons, yes it has a deep, bass heavy backbone throughout, but this is hardly Sly And The Family Stone, or George Clinton, so any accusations that Purple watered their sound down are way off mark. A slow burning Deep Purple classic. ‘You Fool No One’ has an almost Latin groove to it, with Paice doing what he does best – keeping the heart of the band beating, Blackmore is quite quiet in the background before he gradually gets pulled back into the song with some effortless soloing. ‘What’s Goin’ On Here’ has a feel of ‘Demons Eye’ (MKII gem from 1971) about it, before the band launch into the definitive blues rock jam of the 70’s – ‘Mistreated’. 7 minutes of a band at the top of their game, with one of Blackmore’s best ever performances, a classic in every sense of the word, so much so that both Rainbow and Whitesnake would feature it prominently in their live sets, and Glenn Hughes aired it to a fevered response on his tour with Doug Aldrich last year. A track worthy of the high praise, it commands, no matter who is performing it.
Building on the momentum garnered from ‘Burn’, the band quickly released what would prove to be the second, and last, album that the MKIII line up would produce, ‘Stormbringer’. The title track and album opener is another classic example of Purple delivering the goods. Dark and brooding, the song perhaps foretold the impending departure of Blackmore? ‘Love Don’t Mean A Thing’ is quite ponderous, Coverdale delivering what would become his throaty and heavy-sexual-breathing trademark vocal style. He was relishing his role within the band, but the same couldn’t be said of Ritchie Blackmore, as on many of the tracks he seems to go AWOL. ‘Holy Man’ is a decent song with a great vocal from Glenn Hughes, but Blackmore is resigned to a bit part. ‘Stormbringer’ is very much an album for the vocalists, great melodies from both Coverdale and Hughes, but lacks in the riff department. ‘Lady Double Dealer’ does try to redress the balance, with Blackmore pushed to the front again, but he still seems to be just going through the motions. ‘You Can’t Do It Right’ is lacklustre, whilst ‘High Ball Shooter’ could easily have been a throwaway track tacked on to make up the numbers. The album redeems itself with both ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Soldier Of Fortune’. Slower than the rest of the album, the tracks hint at the path Coverdale would go down, first with his solo albums, then with early Whitesnake. ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ is one of the earliest ballads that I can remember, and a genuine classic Coverdale moment that he still performs to this day. Adieu Ritchie.
So, Blackmore was out, and Tommy Bolin was in. An accomplished player, Bolin managed to help Deep Purple MKIV create an album that answered the question “how do you replace the irreplaceable?” with great aplomb. At the time criminally underrated, ‘Come Taste The Band’ suffered from the snide “Where’s Ritchie” comments, but if you take a step back and judge the album on it’s own merits, then you will quickly realise that it is a cracking album. Thankfully the guitars were back at the forefront, and Bolin delivered an understated performance that deserves recognition rather than hard knocks. ‘Comin’ Home’ has some incredible guitar work from Bolin, and the band just seem happier that the dark cloud of Blackmore was no longer hanging over them. ‘Lady Luck’ is another belter, and the band sound refreshed and re-energised with Bolin totally wailing on the track. ‘Getting’ Tighter’ features Hughes on vocals and is grooving along quite nicely… until the bass-slapping mid-song, which sticks out like a spare prick at a whore’s wedding! Thankfully, Bolin comes in with another blistering solo. ‘Dealer’ and ‘Drifter’ are heavier, more bluesier moments, with the latter echoing Free and Bad Company, but ‘This Time Around/Owed to G’ really stands out. Experimental and trippy, with Hughes providing the vocals over some beautiful free flowing guitar work from Bolin.
Sadly the tour to support the album was a disaster, with Bolin struggling with a heroin addiction that affected his playing, resulting in booing and catcalls from the crowd, Deep Purple were no more… until hell did indeed freeze over.
After 11 years or so,the MKII line up reunited to produce ‘Perfect Strangers’, and ended up with an album that crashed into the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic, and the following tour was an amazing success. The tension between Blackmore and Gillan was mostly kept in check, but always seemed to be bubbling under, check out the video for the title track and look out for some frosty looks from Blackmore.
The album is a triumph, although some of the tracks are very much steeped in the 80’s sounding generic rock that was very much the order of the day back then. ‘Under The Gun’ and ‘Mean Streak’ spring to mind… but this was Gillan and Blackmore back together again, so they could have farted in unison and I would have bought a ticket! Thankfully, the live gig I caught (with a Paul Rodgers-less Bad Company in support) was everything that I hoped it would be, and then some. ‘Knocking At Your Back Door’, ‘Nobody’s Home’, ‘A Gypsy’s Kiss’ and ‘Hungry Daze’ are all classic Purple that could easily have came from the glory days but the title track is the moment for me that I went….”Yeeeeeeeeeesssss“. Beginning with an incredible moment from Jon Lord, this is a slow burning monster of a track that I put in my top five Purple tracks of all time, almost Zeppelin-like, with it’s ‘Kashmir’ style guitar work, and featuring a classic, understated Gillan vocal performance, this is a tour de force with an unusually refrained showing from Blackmore.
After a few years the band went back into the studio and came out with ‘The House Of Blue Light’. If ‘Perfect Strangers’ only dipped it’s toes in the waters of 80’s generic, commercial rock, then this time the band were baptized in it! ‘Bad Attitude’ is like an outtake from the Yes 90125 sessions where the hammond organ has been replaced by a synth, ‘The Unwritten Law’ suffers from what sounds like an out of tune drum machine, if such a thing exists, and it seems to take forever before Ian Paice and Blackmore are allowed to actually express themselves. Being commercial for commercial’s sake doesn’t sit well with Purple. ‘Call Of The Wild’ rights some of the wrongs, but the effects added to the vocals ruin the track and ends up sounding like bad Hall & Oates. ‘Mad Dog’ and ‘Black And White’ are much better, as the synths seem to be turned off. ‘Spanish Archer’ has some great guitar on it, and Blackmore sounds like he is having a ball, as he does on the Eastern sounding ‘Strangeways’. ‘Mitzi Dupree’ ditches the 80’s sheen in favour of some blues piano and guitar licks. The fastest and heaviest track ‘Dead Or Alive’ is left to last, and helps raise the album to above average. A strangely disjointed album, that seems to be torn between two decades of differing musical styles, but the last four tracks rescue it from 1980’s hell.
The musical chairs that haunted Deep Purple would continue, with Gillan being sacked , Joe Lynn Turner coming in, then getting the heave-ho for a returning Gillan, before Blackmore buggered off again, making way for Steve Morse to join in 1994… and they all lived happily ever after, or did they ?.
Despite being part of the band for nearly 22 years, Steve Morse (along with current keyboard player Don Airey) has been omitted from the Deep Purple inductees at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame event, set to take place later this year, prompting this fabulous response from Gillan…
“This morning I got an invitation to a wedding from some dear old friends. Unfortunately my family was not invited and they said that I’d be required to sit next to my ex (we divorced decades ago) at the wedding feast, they were shocked when I called to thank them but declined the invitation.”
Who knows what will happen. Mind you I’d put money on Blackmore turning up to throw a spanner in the works. In the meantime forget about the histrionics between feuding band members, and instead focus your attention on some of the best hard rock that ever came from these shores, often imitated but never bettered – Deep Purple: Icons.
The Deep Purple Vinyl Collection 1972-1987 is released January 29th and can be ordered from the usual outlets as well as here.
Review: Dave Stott]]>