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Deep Purple - Fireball CD (album) cover

FIREBALL

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.77 | 823 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Expensive Paternity Suits and Cheap Sex Gags

I think my cat was fathered by Ian Gillan. Over the years 'Sparky' has been regaled with the vocal gymnastics of Arthur Brown, Peter Hamill, Demetrio Stratos et al without so much as batting a feline eyelid but whenever he hears Gillan, the little critter squats transfixed in front of the stereo as if held in some sort of voodoo love ray. Veterinary science has failed us gentlemen.

This album often suffers a 'Malcolm in the Middle' syndrome as it appears between those two bookends of every heavy rock collection In Rock and Machine Head and although not as distinguished as its elder or younger siblings, is still deserving of cuddles (and the odd thrashing when appropriate - call it 'tough love' if you prefer)

Fireball - one of my favourite Purple tracks ever, whipped along unsparingly by Paice and Glover's incendiary high tempo groove and a snarling delivery by Gillan picked up by Lord's spitting organ chops and Blackmore's toxic strat injections. For reasons best known to myself, the intro always reminds me of a lurching elevator/lift stop? The short teasing break prefacing Lord's thrilling staccato organ solo is perhaps one of the greatest exploitations of tension and release in popular music.

- Dad, what does great heavy rock sound like? -

- This SOB -

No, No, No - Featuring a lovely bluesy phrase from Blackmore and a good melody but such is the slapdash nature of the arrangement, this song does tend to outstay its welcome. Although not deserving of any napalm death, it could have benefited from some judicious weeding methinks. The slide guitar excursion just doesn't go anywhere and despite a delicious percussive organ tone dialled up on the Hammond for Lord's solo, this reeks of fixing bald tyres by just pumping in more air.

Demon's Eye - Purple always conspired to make blues techniques practically invisible and in their lavishly manicured hands such stock devices just don't sound as 'off the shelf' as the competition. Rather incongruously the intro here sends an echo that may have been picked up by Queen for You Make Me Live? In comparison to the legions of guitarists he inspired I am always surprised at how little distortion there is in Ritchie's lead sound. His wannabes and apprentices playing is usually buried beneath a thick topping of fuzzy fudge served straight from the freezer, but the master's voice is very cleanly articulated with a warm and gently overdriven tone.

Anyone's Daughter - Country Rock (albeit phonetically) was never a wise destination for Deep Purple even when clearly vacationing as they are on this rather self-conscious pastiche. Gillan's appropriation of 'hick' suffers from a botched translation of Texan drawl via the Officer's Mess at Sandhurst. Good fun but so is writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro.

The Mule - Something of a delightful oddity, as it sounds far older than from 1971, being a mostly instrumental oriental inflected trippy 'thang' inhabiting a world familiar to Barrett era Floyd. What lyrics there are appear to be of the Lucifer was my pet's hairdresser variety and I suspect that Gillan can be heard drilling a hole with his tongue in his barefaced cheek. (but try telling that to Sparky) In the live realm it became the basis of an Ian Paice drum solo and depending on which source you believe, the studio version drum solo tracks were erased by mistake.(I prefer to believe economic editing was deployed by the Noise Abatement Society)

Fools - The long intro conjures up very evocative imagery of erm...Five young Englishmen with individual and collective writer's block proving that symptomatic of this creative malaise, less is less. The song itself is a medium paced plodder with an unwavering cyclic design and all the contrasting dynamics of grey gulls depicted against a grey sky Ritchie does conjure up a nice 'lone viola' texture via skilled use of his volume pot but together with those arid stretches where they just leave Paice's stripped down backbeat on its own, DP are hopelessly stuck.

No One Came - Down Tools industrial action by the porn stars guild? Not so alas, but instead a Hendrix drenched rawker representing the 'funkier' side of Purple to wonderful effect. Ian Gillan utilises 'speaking on pitch' here quite brilliantly and I only wish he had deployed same on Anyone's Daughter as it may have redeemed the latter a tad. There is a smidgen of the Doors in the organ timbre contributed by Jon Lord but whether this is deliberate or not is debatable. Listening again to the phrasing and accents of Blackmore's yummy solo, I was struck by what a palpable influence he was on another of my favourite guitarists (Zal Cleminson of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band) Strange how I never picked up on this before?.

Strange Kind of Woman - For the sake of completeness I'm gonna include this as part of the original album as it wasn't on the UK version but appeared on the US equivalent. Every pub/garage/bedroom/abattoir/hair band has probably attempted this by way of a flimsy cover and it's not hard to see why. A truly classic and very simple boogie sourced song that even my dad bobs his head along appreciatively to.

- Aye son, much better than that dancey boppy keech ye get nooadays -

On closer inspection however, the lyrics reveal themselves to be at complete odds with such septuagenarian approval:

-She finally said she loved me, I wed her in a hurry, no more callers and I glowed with pride I'm dreaming I feel like screaming I won my woman just before she died-

In this contra parallel Purple universe, do hookers who fall in love die from a broken heart?

Fireball is a very solid and worthwhile heavy rock album, no contest. There are better in the band's discography but for all its flaws, listening to a burned out Purple in their prime is still a damn sight more attractive than suffering the pitiful spectacle of endorsing the mediocrity of men but a kick in the backside off my dad's age.

- Right on son -

Me *** Sparky *****

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |

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