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Deep Purple - In Rock CD (album) cover

IN ROCK

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

4.29 | 838 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I'm no Deep Purple historian per se but I imagine that the following scenario isn't too far from the truth. After three interesting yet below average-selling prog rock-tinted LPs failed to keep their label afloat, the core members of the band decided big changes were necessary if they didn't want to fade into obscurity as just another group that scored a couple of hit singles in the late 60s. After securing a new contract with Warner Brothers they jettisoned crooner Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper and replaced them with Ian Gillian and Roger Glover. At that juncture I envision organist Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore sitting down and making a deal. They would record two albums, one Jon's way and the other Ritchie's and whichever generated the most buzz would determine the direction they would take from then on. Lord's amateurish "Concerto for Group and Orchestra" came out first and fell flat on its face. "Deep Purple In Rock" was released next and the issue was resolved permanently.

Blackmore was right to realize that bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Jeff Beck Group and The Jimi Hendrix Experience had opened up a whole new genre of popular music called hard rock and that there was an insatiable global audience that couldn't get enough of it. Ritchie calculated correctly that there was a very low tolerance for sweet ballads or restraint of any kind in this crowd, just a yearning for loud, guitar-based rock and roll with some ear-shattering vocals on top. When this album hit the racks and the airwaves in 1970 it attracted headbangers like bears to honey and stereo speakers were strained to (and beyond) their designed capabilities in millions of households and college dorm rooms as this barnburner spread like wildfire through a dry field.

"Speed King" hits like a hammer, emphatically pointing out the band's intent as Blackmore and Glover's shared riff dominates the track. In fact, you have to listen carefully to even hear Lord's organ until the quieter middle section arrives where he and Ritchie trade some tasteful solos. And then there's the new singer. Ian Gillian's unbelievable, powerful vocal style is something to behold. As he so eloquently informs us, "I'm a speed king/you got to hear me sing/I'm a speed king/see me fly." On the next song, "Bloodsucker," when Gillian wails "Aww, no, no, no." it sounds like he deliberately stuck his finger into a wall socket and a whole new style of rock vocalization was born. The song is not much more than a heavy rock progression where, again, the organ doesn't really appear until its designated lead break but it is still memorable because Ian yaps incoherently like a rabid Pomeranian throughout the final verse. It's a slice of insanity. But what follows is a defining moment in the evolution of majestic, bigger-than-life rock anthems. "Child In Time" is 10:15 of Bic-waving, grandiose rock music that takes the listener on a journey of drastic peaks and valleys as they lay down the gauntlet for the competition to match. Gillian is a master here, singing delicately at first, then screaming like a banshee being stretched across a torture wheel. During the uptempo shuffle midway through Ritchie shreds his guitar's fretboard like a maniac and you have no difficulty hearing him as his axe booms through. The whole build up sequence is then repeated and the ending is a frenzied, end-of-the-world extravaganza that sounds like they destroyed the studio.

On "Flight of the Rat" Deep Purple displays everything their new direction is to be. It has an infectious recurring lick and a snarling guitar lead from Blackmore, a distorted organ ride from Jon and a lot of snazzy drumming from Ian Paice from start to finish (complete with a drawn out concert-style ending). Next is "Into the Fire" which is little more than a funky jam with Gillian's unusually rough voice sounding like he's been hollering for a few weeks too many. "Living Wreck" follows and, as the insightful liner notes tell you, "It takes all sorts - support your local groupie." Unfortunately, the tune is nothing to write home about, although Lord's organ shrieks are a fine imitation of an infuriated mountain lion. "Hard Lovin' Man" is obviously penned with the stage in mind because here they pull out all the stops. There's no doubt that this is Ritchie's baby because in the end they drop everything but the guitar out of the mix for a few bars and then for the finale you get to experience Blackmore doing his best Hendrix mimicry with a beat-the-guitar-into-submission musical homicide.

In retrospect I'd say that Deep Purple's first four LPs are a lot more progressive than this one. It's still a landmark album but, with the exception of "Child In Time," there's more proto-metal to be heard than psychedelia or art rock. There's certainly no lack of energy or enthusiasm, though, and for those who like a little classic skull pounding from time to time, this is your ticket. 3.4 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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