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Deep Purple - Fireball CD (album) cover


Deep Purple



3.79 | 853 ratings

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4 stars Sandwiched between two monumental achievements such as "In Rock" and "Machine Head", Fireball has all too often ended up being considered like a sort of poor relation, a decent enough album that is nevertheless not on a par with those two behemoths - which is a pity, because "Fireball" has a lot to offer to the discerning rock (and obviously prog) fan. Though lacking the ground-breaking impact of "In Rock", or the commercial potential of "Machine Head", it is a well-rounded, sophisticated album in which the strengths of the individual band members come to the fore in a more muted, yet equally effective way. The music always manages to keep the listener's attention alive through sheer class and clear sound, and Ian Gillan's trademark, ear-shattering screams are kept to a minimum, leaving room for some almost sensitive interpretations.

In spite of the (literally) incendiary title, "Fireball" offers many quiet, thoughtful moments. While he title-track opens the album with a punch similar to that delivered by "Speed King" or "Highway Star" - a fast-paced, Hammond-driven anthem with one of those riffs that stick in the mind - this is definitely not the shape of things to come. With the following track, "No, No, No", the pace slows down to a jagged, vaguely funky mid-tempo (album closer "No One Came" is also structured along similar lines); while "Demon's Eye" shows a different side to Gillan's more familiar, screamer persona - he sings in a distinctly lower register than we are used to, and his vocal delivery impeccably follows the twists and turns of the sinuous, somewhat moody track. Next comes the en endearingly infectious country send-up that is "Anyone's Daughter", dominated by a distinctive vocal performance by Gillan that reminds me of one of his best solo efforts, "No Laughing in Heaven" (from his "Future Shock" album).

From the point of view of the average prog fan, two tracks stand out from the rest: drum tour-de-force "The Mule", which unequivocally proves the highly underrated Ian Paice's strength and skill behind the skins; and "Fools", probably the band's proggiest track ever, and one of their unsung masterpieces. Introduced by Lord's unusually spaced-out organ, it develops into a hard-edged, guitar-driven rocker led by Gillan's masterful singing - then slows down again to an eerie, richly atmospheric, middle section which could have come straight out of some of Pink Floyd's early Seventies work. A magnificent song, and one that can make many a fan wonder about what Deep Purple could have become, had they chosen to follow a fully-fledged prog career path.

The 30th anniversary remastered edition includes some outtakes from the album recording sessions, and the two singles "Strange Kind of Woman" (one of the band's undisputed classics, immortalised by its explosive "Made in Japan" version), and the intriguing "I'm Alone", another showcase for Paice's talents. As some of the previous reviewers have already pointed out, this is definitely one of the best-ever Deep Purple remasters, adding further interest to an already strong album.

If I had another half-star at my disposal, I'd surely award "Fireball" 4.5 stars for being one of the band's strongest, most cohesive efforts. As to its prog quotient, if you are still wondering why Deep Purple have been included on this site, look no further than this. Highly recommended.

Raff | 4/5 |


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