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Deep Purple - The Book Of Taliesyn CD (album) cover

THE BOOK OF TALIESYN

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.17 | 369 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Symphonic progressive rock owes a debt to early Deep Purple. They were one of the first bands to attempt to meld orchestral concepts and themes with rock and roll. I'm aware that listening now to "The Book of Taliesyn" is like revisiting the Bronze Age of music production (when the luxury of eight recording tracks was considered state-of- the-art technology) but you can't deny the fact that in 1968 this group was bravely doing their best to open some new doors. They had managed to score a top five hit single with their snappy cover of Joe South's "Hush" from their debut but in those days one-hit wonders were a dime a dozen and it's doubtful that two people out of ten could have told you what the name of the band was. Yet that commercial success allowed them to go into the studio again, this time to try to make music that would set them apart from all the pretenders who would soon fade away.

"Listen, Learn, Read On" is a dynamic, adventurous song to start things off. The verses are spoken by vocalist Rod Evans from way down inside some very deep reverb and, while the effect sounds ridiculous today, it definitely gives the tune some gravity and drama. Considering the Camelot subject matter you might even call it medieval prog. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore provides one of his unconventional leads and drummer Ian Paice plays like a madman when necessary. Nick Simper even manages to throw in some psychedelic fuzz bass toward the end. "Wring that Neck" (or "Hard Road" as it was titled on the US release) is a rocking instrumental that holds up well even today. I've always thought the opening lick had to have been inspired by Woody Woodpecker's trademark laugh and I still feel that way about it. (For those of you too young to remember, WW was a wise-ass cartoon character that was as popular as Bugs Bunny back then.) Anyway, it features Jon Lord ripping into his Hammond organ and more blistering guitar work from Ritchie, including a tricky false ending. It's important to mention that, while most axe-men at that time were trying to imitate either Clapton or Hendrix, Blackmore didn't sound like either (or anyone else) and his solos were anything but typical. His work on this tune is a good example of his individual technique. Since they had gotten lucky with a song from across the pond earlier they cover yet another Yank's ditty next, Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman." With a beginning and end that reminds you of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, they perform a pretty straightforward rendition of the song except for the guitar and organ fills, of course. And it worked nearly as well as before by climbing to #38 on the charts. The following track is "Exposition," in which they take huge liberties with the second movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony. Again, though, it just goes to show that they were determined to blend classical with rock and roll rather than pop (as the Moody Blues were doing). It's an exciting prelude but, unfortunately, the main course of Lennon & McCartney's "We Can Work It Out" with its "groovy" feel doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. There are some nice vocal harmonies on the bridge and Lord flies across the keyboard on the organ ride but it's not enough to save the song from being a letdown. "The Shield" has a fast "walking" beat and a very intriguing musical theme that fluctuates between the minor and the major. It also has some Hammond- generated percussion (as utilized on "Hush") and another inventive guitar break. "Anthem" is a decent song but it tends to stray too far into cabaret for me. That being said, the middle section features a terrific baroque-sounding treatment impressively arranged by Jon. It's a great marriage of a string quartet with Blackmore's tasteful electric guitar that I wish had gone on a little longer. Since Kubrick's revolutionary film "2001: A Space Odyssey" opened that same year it's no surprise that the band incorporated Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" into the beginning of the final song. It fits what they were trying to do perfectly. But when they arrive at the singing part of "River Deep, Mountain High" they lose the big sound and the momentum they had built up fades away quickly. Ritchie adds some nice harmony guitar parts but when you compare Rod Evans' voice to Tina Turner's well. forget it. A big gong crash ends the album fittingly.

Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord had both studied classical music styles so it's only natural that they would take their band down this progressive road. Ritchie was quoted as saying that, while Jimi was the rage at the time, it was New York's Vanilla Fudge that had the most influence on them and it shows. Both groups were taking traditional song structures and enhancing them with other styles, creating their own epic versions of well-known tunes. I was still in my teens when this was released and I played the LP until the grooves wore out. Sadly, I was in the minority and mediocre sales of Deep Purple's early efforts were soon to convince them to steer towards a harder rock sound. But albums like this one sowed the very seeds that would soon grow into the symphonic progressive rock movement. It may not be a great album but it's good and a genuine trailblazer, nonetheless.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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