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

SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.29 | 379 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Since discussion of Deep Purple is inevitably very lineup-specific, that's a good place to start. The guitarist is one Ritchie Blackmore, who would eventually become one of the fastest, most intoxicating guitarists in the rock world, but for now hasn't grown too far past copped licks from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix (though to be fair, he really did his homework well). The keyboardist is one Jon Lord, a solid (and eventually amazing) keyboardist whose one possible fatal flaw is a bit too much ambition - he apparently saw the band as a symphonic rock band, even if the other members didn't necessarily agree. On this album, this vision is limited to some lengthy pseudo-classical passages, while on the next couple of albums this vision would largely dominate the band's direction.

Ian Paice is behind the drums, and from the beginning proves to be the absolute perfect drummer for this group. Why is that, you may ask? It is because he has the technical skills and creativity to keep up with the rest of the group and follow the non-trivial rhythms that come with Blackmore and Lord solos, but also has the restraint to keep his drumming as the support of the band and to not attempt to dominate the sound (except, of course, for the occasional drum solo, sigh). In other words, none of this nonstop "Me Bonzo! Me see drum! Bonzo smash!" stuff that gets on my nerves with Led Zeppelin. But I digress. Rounding out the group are bassist Nick Simper, who is ok but largely indistinguishable, and Rod Evans, the lead singer, who sure does a good croon when the songs finally come around to vocal parts.

So what do all these parts add up to? They add up, in my opinion, to a band that's both quite impressive and quite average all at once. On the positive side, this band can play just fine - not only do the band members have solid technical skills, they sound and seem confident in their abilities to pull off their styles, not too creative amalgamations of other sources they may sometimes be, with a good understanding of what the hell it is they're doing, as well as with a nice amount of flair. On the minus side, both the originals and covers often feel a bit too much like exercises in style and technique; the originals sound like the band thought that having a song in a "poppy style" or "rock style" is enough, and the covers sound like the band just wanted to show off the cool things they could do with other people's tracks. This isn't to say the covers are necessarily bad exercises, of course - their cover of "Hush" by some guy named Joe South is freaking great, a nice upbeat pop song turned into a cross between a nice upbeat pop song and a trippy-as-hell anthem with all sorts of cool keyboard sounds and guitar wails and all those other things that make Purple Purple. Their cover of Cream's "I'm So Glad" is also quite enjoyable, even though it requires sitting through a lengthy Lord-driven introduction, which isn't awful but doesn't hold my attention long beyond a minute or so. The song itself kinda rules, though, if only because it's so faithful to the feel and vibe of the original, even though it doesn't sound like a carbon copy at all.

The other two covers are a little worse, though. "Help!," by John Lennon (of course), gets a pleasant-but-not-really-necessary intro and outro (consisting of the band slowly puttering on a quiet guitar theme), while the actual song is turned into a slooooooooow ballad climaxed by (of course) Jon and Ritchie each getting a chance at an anthemic solo. It's not bad, but six minutes is a bit much for such a thing, in my opinion. A bit much would be an understatement for the closing "Hey Joe," though, which starts off with a two-minute+ introduction that works off the rhythm of Ravel's Bolero (with all sorts of usual organ and guitar puttering - not that it's bad, just a bit aimless), before finally getting into the song, done at a slooooooow tempo as a soul ballad. Except for the parts that work off the themes of the introduction, of course. In other words, it takes 7:29 to get through freakin' "Hey Joe."

As for the originals, well, they're ok in their own way. "And the Address" is an alright opener, an instrumental that opens with a minute of organ effects before turning into acres of solos based around an occasional riff and subsequent groove. Fortunately, the riff is ok, and the solos are as entertaining as anything else on the record, so while this "song" is a bit too self-indulgent wanky, it's at least a decently done self-indulgent wanky. "Mandrake Root" is a straightup ripoff of "Foxey Lady," but a disturbingly enjoyable ripoff nontheless. And hey, the surf-rocker "Love Help Me" has some more great guitar wailing to go with the standard surf elements. On the other hand, "One More Rainy Day" is too sappy and flacid for my tastes, especially in the vocal parts, and definitely shows that the band didn't really know what it was doing in "conventional" songwriting. Not yet, anyway.

For all that, I wouldn't want to give this less than a solid ***. For all the ripoffs and unrestrained soloing, there's nevertheless a great deal of enthusiasm coming out of this album, and competent enthusiasm at that, that's quite infectious to yours truly. They kinda remind me, at this point, of the very first incarnation of Yes that would come into being a year later, albeit with their songwriting skills a little less developed, and that can't help but make me smile. At least a bit. Don't go running out to get this, but if you've filled up on Mk. II and want more Purple, this is a good place to turn.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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