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Deep Purple - Shades Of Deep Purple CD (album) cover

SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.30 | 535 ratings

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Mogorva
5 stars ".vibrant flashes in my mind remind me of a foregone time."

Most members of the archives are about two decades removed from the sixties; twenty years of proposed retrospect that, in the eyes of metal's hardened beast, only sporadically enjoys reconsideration. A time of bell-bottoms, drug-culture, and 15 color TVs, so what does this epoch offer a musical style that barely existed even in the seventies, right up to its far-off cusp of the '80s? Punk never fails to realize its '60s roots, embracing even the most miniscule and transitional of influence like victory, bruised chin held high, from The Who and The Kinks to Les Goths, Deviants, The Ugly Ducklings, The Breakers, Richard & The Young Lions, and many more that strafed the bottom layer of radar. Apparently, metal doesn't want anything to do with the decade that sprouted the universe's most celebrated concert, fired the first shot in a revolution of sexuality, and saw us take the Moon as our own.

Commonly a victim of youthful repression nowadays, the '60s was a significant one-way, multi-dimensional cycle in music's lifetime. Music's lifetime.one-way in its horizontal surge forward that has looked back over forty five years but never returned, multi-dimensional in its groundbreaking musical contraption that stumbled bravely across rock's primary colors of beat, r&b, psychedelia, and progressivism. Time, steadfast in its livelihood, shows no mercy. Change folds and draws another unavoidable, unsympathetic hand. Soon beat and psych dwindle as r&b and progressive flourish. Elementary rock hardens, becomes jagged, more unforgiving. And eventually dark. Alas, it's unfortunate some musical styles are often judged not by what motivates them intrinsically, but what the lyrics are about. "All they ever sing about is love and tulips, man". Yep, and teddybears and picnics and '66 Corvettes - oh so metal. Well, in a short time to come, certain attitudes toward rock will transmute, evolve with a bitter edge, and relocate to dangerous, foreboding places the endless summer of The Beach Boys would never have admitted existed, let alone tread. But this is still in the future, and I'm getting ahead of myself. Come '68, very few bands were shroud in darkness. Hard rock itself barely eked out an existence, still crimson with the blood of new life that was (in fact) always present, conscious in a diluted state of oppression, shackled by the chart-born chains of 'pop' that were rattled fleetingly by the style's brutish underbreath. But instead of concerning ourselves with how dark or ominous a style is, let's just worry about the style's base self.

Oh, and early '80s metal isn't winning any awards with its lyrical gravity either.

Shades of. is the band at their most simplistic and expected, the line-up (now known as the Mk 1 line-up) coalescing from less-than-haughty sources, the most prominent being Nick Simper and Jon Lord coming off a '67 hit single with The Flower Pot Men while Ritchie Blackmore shortly backed Screaming Lord Sutch. Recorded in a single weekend in May '68, this hurried album fuses rock's four corners to the same foundation, offering minimal leadership to new styles and is steeped in cover tunes. Ordinarily a description such as this would be an album's death knell, or at least the average and forgettable arrival of one, but somewhere within these grooves stirred a questionable chemistry that somehow got off the ground, ignored the abusive number of non-originals that was the common result of a band insecure in its own songwriting wares, and managed to survive until the vaunted Mk 2 membership. I'm not going to sit here and tell you there are ocean voyages of cognition swirling throughout Shades of.. At a time when innovation wasn't the day's top order to record companies and a few catchy hooks ornamenting an original work or found premeditated in a cover could aid a group's chart ascension (as "Hush", the Joe South invention, already had), songwriting may have only been as good as the ears that heard it.

Shades of. is a testimony to the cover's widespread acceptance even then, adorned with no less than four rewrites, some more daring than others, the most prevalent being the near chart-topping (#4 in the US) "Hush", a more keyboard-laden rendition I'm sure everyone has heard at one time or another. The cover of Skip James's "I'm So Glad" glides smoothly over the verses and chorus, but during the instrumental phase extrapolates an already tempestuous song (for '31), meanwhile "Hey Joe", already recorded to the hilt by other artists that wound up a freak hit for a new-on-the-solo-scene Hendrix, is redirected at times with bolero-style keys and a Holst-like march, but much of the time travels parallel to Jimi's blues-wrought arrangement. The best would come with the Beatles's "Help", depressing the original's eager pop appeal with Rod Evans's melancholic drawl, a wicked keyboard blur, and a more cerebral ideal more suited toward the lyrics, remindful of Vanilla Fudge 's dreary, mood-enervating rendition of The Supremes's "You Keep Me Hanging On" of the previous year. Word has it the band received a praising call from Paul McCartney shortly afterward, a thrill for them no doubt.

Despite some recollections, with the dreamily plush "One More Rainy Day" and up-grooved "Love Help Me" the only full-blown original pop tunes on the disk, Shades Of. isn't the sugar snack it's sometimes regarded as. But even these songs are well constructed if not mainstream-ly so, sounding like any one of the hundred or so songs populating a Nuggets box set.

"Mandrake Root" and "Prelude: Happiness" are epic in their holographic daze as sure-handed Jon Lord, perhaps the most toweringly-executed player on this thing, lays down the songs' non-corroded progressivism with his mazy Hammond, Ian Paice backing him up with chaotic tribal percussion while Ritchie Blackmore, not yet the renown string sorcerer, throws some fuzzy garage chops into the fray. It's within this pair of tunes that this lp's weight of hard rock is hatched through a creation of keyboards and drums that oddly succeed over guitars, heaviness yet blind and writhing like most newborns, somewhat realized previously by the likes of Blue Cheer, Velvet Underground, and some valiant efforts from Hendrix, and great monolithic side-starter "Mandrake Root" holds the only fleeting, pre-patented "Smoke on the Water"-like sneer on the platter. Opening instrumental "And the Address" allows Lord and Blackmore to share equal ground, spotlighting a guitar-driven element that isn't as invasive on the lp as one would have expected nowadays, hindsight withstanding.

For what this album is, it's quite good. For what this album isn't, well, what can you expect from five guys that, prior to this, had only been playing with each other as a whole for about five months, rushed by two London businessmen to record not only a debut single, but a debut full-lengther (that would peak at #24 in the US, mind you). Only briefly with keyboard-urged zaniness does Shades Of. scrape itself on hard rock, let alone metal, but the brainstem for it all is here, and I don't mind looking upon this era as not only a metal victory, but in gracious, magical retrospect that I can only consume within the confines of stories told by those who were there.

Mogorva | 5/5 |

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