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DEEP PURPLE

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.62 | 391 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The first lineup's peak, no less. Apparently, while casual fans of the group have likely never even heard of it, there are many fans who (no kidding) consider this the band's best album ever; while I obviously don't agree with this assessment, I can definitely see where those fans are coming from. Whatever may be, this is definitely Deep Purple's "art-rock" peak, often effectively combining a restrained-yet-mature rock attack with classical passages and interesting studio tricks. Sometimes it gets dull (in my opinion) but there's really not one bad track on here.

The opening "Chasing Shadows," for instance, combines a very crisp, punchy pop song with an incredible percussion rhythm, the first real sign that Paice had developed a style of his own (as opposed to being a really good imitator of Mitch Mitchell). I'd like a little more Ritchie here, who's basically shoved into the background except for one nice solo, but what's here is fine, and Lord's organ solos show that he'd figured out how to make his endless solos go somewhere. Besides, Rod Evans sounds more convincing as a "rocker" on this track than he had on any part of the first two albums, so that's definitely something.

"Blind" is a pop ballad doesn't entertain that much (except for the harpsichord throughout - hey, if a good melody was attached, it could pass for Kinks! Well, maybe not), but the cover of the Donovan track "Lalena" is plenty entertaining, thanks to Evans' delivery. Oh sure, the lyrics have some lousy rhymes, but Evans makes the track emotional despite them almost by his lonesome; sure, the soft melody and organ solo help, too, yet it's definitely Rod's show here. No significant Ritchie dose, but I only notice that after the fact, as I'm too busy enjoying the track when it's on.

Up next is the traditional instrumental-leading-to-a-pop-song track, this time breaking the pattern by doing an original instead of a cover for the track. It also somewhat breaks the pattern by making the instrumental section really interesting - what the hell are these backwards cymbal noises (I think that's what it is, correct me if I'm wrong) doing back in 1969?? Add in a great fuzzy bass riff, some eerie organ noises and a quiet, menacing guitar part (before ending in a really whacky way), and you have something a hundred times as interesting as the corresponding instrumentals on the last two albums. The main song, "The Painter," then manages to rock like a mother in parts, with a fine groove augmented by (you guessed it) great guitar and organ solos that preview the entertaining work of Mk. II well, albeit at about half-speed.

And then ... more rock! "Why Didn't Rosemary?" is a fine fine piece of blues rock, a practically textbook example of how to make generic mid-tempo rock entertaining. Great guitar solos (Ritchie was getting ready to explode, you see)? Check. Great singing? Check. Great organ? Check. Great drum groove? Check. "Bird Has Flown" is a bit weaker to my ears, since I don't dig Evans' singing here as much as before, but it's definitely worth it if only for the background wah-wah.

Finally, there's "April," the big classical-meets-rock suite. Well, sorta - it's more a band- plays-moody-theme/leaves/orchestra-plays-classical-theme/leaves/band-comes-in-and- rocks suite. The ending "rock" part is a bit too tepid for my tastes (that is, it ostensibly "rocks out," but I can definitely agree with the assessment of some that there's not enough real fire to be found), but the initial theme that the band plays is extremely interesting - that is, if you're into slow, moody electric guitar notes over a somewhat martial acoustic- guitar+organ theme. The choir is a bit of a tacky touch, if you ask me, but whatever. The orchestra section is ok, too.

So that's the end of Deep Purple Mk. 1 - very, very good in some places, no worse than ok in others. Evans and Simper got fired sometime after this album was released, which is probably a good thing (considering that the "classic" Purple albums would hardly be possible with them in the lineup), but it should definitely not be said that they exited after a poor album. Unless, of course, you reeeeeally crave headbanging, in which case you should probably stay away for a while.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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