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Mark-I reached success and recognition, becoming one of the most promising acts of the late-60’s British scene, a time of changes for rock music, which thanks to groups like this went to another level of difficulty and aggression, introducing heavy metal’s earliest stage. So Deep Purple had released by 1969 a couple of solid albums, on which their sound considerably evolved, though some of those times clichés were still notable. With this homonym third release, Blackmore & co. defined clearer their distinctive methodology and identity, focusing considerably on writing more advanced own songs with eclectic influences, getting rid of the Beatlemania touch progressively. Those were the times when the mainstream pop-rock big daddies started to decline in favor of a new sound and attitude these guys transcendentally contributed to develop with albums like this, another essential work.
These guys could’ve used and abused of the same effective formulas that made them famous, playing more stuff in the style of “Hush” to hit the charts and get more money and fame, though it’s obvious musicians of such level and excellence had other plans…Yeah, there are still some accessible straight-forward tunes here as “Painter”, very commercial and mellow - yet most of the record titles focus on greater challenge and ambition. Starting with the percussive exhibition of Ian Paice on the opening “Chasing Shadows”, an obscure, nearly hypnotic composition on which Deep Purple experiment with alternative textures and stratospheric vocals, reaching a vivid exotic climax, certainly distinct from anything else they tried before. The variety of styles incorporates more versatile influences from classical to baroque, particularly medieval stuff on the charming “Blind”, another unique piece presenting an unusual reminiscence from such different kind of music, combined with the trademark Purple progression. However, “April” is really where the group finds the higher challenge, a truly diverse composition with numerous sequences, including some Evans passionate words, more of the supreme Lord & Blackmore solos and unexpectedly elaborated orchestral arrangements, creating such magnificent piece of music of total talent and creativity. So they save the best for the last as you see, while more traditional casual tracks like the energetic bluesy “Why Didn’t Rosemary?” bring to the pack some fun and simplicity. Although that’s an exception to the rule on a record that evidently reaches a superb level of technique and musicianship on cuts as “Fault Line” or the also pretentious “Bird Has Flown” and their constantly varied structure-configuration and epic instrumental passages. You came to the wrong place if you were looking for fashionable easy-listening music.
Maybe Deep Purple ain’t introducing incredibly crucial changes to their sound yet but this doesn’t sound at all like a The Book Of Taliesyn sequel. This homonym record is when Blackmore & co. really started exploring and trying something new without leaving behind the omnipresent complexity that made their music peculiar among the rest. Yes, they already made use of an orchestra before, this time they give it more notable presence and control on the splendid “April” final section though, a very fresh idea because whether you believe it or not, there was a time when classical and rock music being brought together was an unknown concept nobody else ever tried till Mr. Lord conceived it and now everybody does it. They would develop further that idea that same year as we know; the addition of an orchestra anyway is another proof of the band’s growing determination to break the uniformity of typical 60’s rock patterns. Another memorable moment in the history of the group is when Ritchie met the wah-wah pedal, love at first sight that wouldn’t last long; he only made use of it on this record but damn, what an incendiary tone and texture! Guitar lines are so crude and brutal, solos with that cool effect sound like anything this guy ever played before, bringing to Deep Purple’s sophistication, art and discipline some outrageous feroticy and power. However, Blackmore respects the precision and harmony of the music without being out of tune or uncontrolled, you can easily notice how he directly mutes when Lord is playing some solo; they show a lot of respect for each other. The contribution of Paice on drums is also extraordinary as usual, as always, yet this time, on this album, he absolutely displays his entire skills on those very intricate percussive rhythms filled with detail and virtuosism, providing along with Nicky perfectly defined tempos, which ain’t just background support. This might be Evan’s most unforgettable effort too; delivering his most passionate performance on that Donovan cover, inevitably touching.
Deep Purple was such a consistent record, fantastic farewell of the original Mark-I line-up, which probably reached its finest hour before its imminent dissolution. Lord was the boss and Blackmore presented lots of interesting refreshing ideas about what the group should do next, so there was no place for Evan’s more and more persistent romance & love stories in the vein of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, either for the schemes Simper would materialize later with his own project Warhorse. The whole rock scene was going through severe changes, so did these guys who that same year would be playing with The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall with 2 new additions. Sadly, it all seemed to happen so suddenly this album remained forgotten and ignored for many years, some fans don’t even know of such thing as Mark-I…Whatever, no excuse to miss this fine record.
This is one of those albums, that even people who aren't Deep Purple fans can listen to and enjoy. This is one of the first albums to take the complexity and intellectual aspects of progressive rock, and merge them with the sheer power of metal. The result is arguably the first progressive metal album (High Tide didn't release their debut until a month later). The result is a truly great album.
Speaking of their mix of metal and progressive rock, no song better exemplifies this than "Bird Has Flown". On top of having this awesome mix, Rob Evans vocal performance here is among the best in all of progressive rock (not that he had much competition, prog rock isn't known for its vocals). The song is clearly very heavy, I'd argue heavy enough to truly be considered true metal, and obviously influenced Black Sabbath later on.
If you're not already a fan of Deep Purple, which if you need to look at this review I'll assume you're not, you may be surprised at how predominate Jon Lord's organ is. This is a trademark of Deep Purple's sound, and it's present here in abundance. It provides both melody and texture. This is one thing that may keep many metalheads away from this record, so I'd listen to some other Deep Purple before buying this, to make sure the "organ metal" sound is something you enjoy or not. That being said, Jon Lord's organ helps Deep Purple stand out.
Most songs here are about 5 minutes, bar the closer which is an astounding 12 minutes long. If you aren't okay with long compositions, this album will do you no favors. Again, listen to some of the songs and determine if you're okay with the long songs.
Despite finding a good balance between metal and progressive, I'd say the album will appeal more to progressive fans than to regular metal fans. The sound is a mixture of prog and metal, but compositionally it is 100% progressive, and if you're not a fan of progressive music already, there isn't much chance this album will convene you otherwise. The album is closer to Yes than to Black Sabbath. That being said, if you enjoy both metal and progressive rock, this album is a phenomenal piece of work, with many of its songs being true classics. This is more or less just the later day Deep Purple sound being put on to progressive rock compositions.
The Mark I Deep Purple albums tend to be overlooked, but I'm guessing that that is due to the derivative nature of the début, not the extremely diverse and interesting self titled effort. 'Shield' off of 'The Book Of Taliesyn' was brilliantly original, but 'Deep Purple' takes that, and makes nearly an entire album of that standard. Basically, if your planning to listen to this album, you're in for a treat.
The album opens by hitting you with the percussive blast that is 'Chasing Shadows', a song that is sure to get your jaw dropped by how much the band have matured and acquired a unique sound that still hasn't been recreated to this very day. The rest of the album shows just as much creativity, with songs like 'Blind' with its beautiful baroque motifs and the album highlight 'April' with it's 9 minute orchestral build up to a more traditional (but no less exciting) rocking closing section. The song-writing has took a turn for the masterful, as if they had been in the business for years upon years.
The quality of the song-writing is of course mirrored by the phenomenal performance that is delivered; Ritchie Blackmore shows a godly amount of soloing talent at the end of 'April', which has the earliest use of guitar sweeping I've heard (about 11:30), but he also shows a great quantity of skill in 'The Painter', with its great bluesy introduction. Rod Evans shows some impressive low singing at the 1:20 mark on 'Bird Has Flown' and displays some sublime singing on the lone cover on the album, 'Lalena' (which sounds a lot like a later Deep Purple song, 'When A Blind Man Cries'). Ian Paice exhibits some serious stamina on 'Chasing Shadows' and does some smooth fills throughout the album. Nick Simper doesn't have that many stand-out moments, but the bass-line on 'Fault Line' fills the low end very nicely. Jon Lord composed 'April', which is Mark I's 'Child In Time'; a magnificent epic that keeps you captivated throughout.
The production is very typical of the time; organic, ambient and quite fuzzy. The sound is not exceptional, but Deep Purple make the most out of what they've got.
In conclusion, this is Deep Purple's Mark I masterpiece, being the product of a matured and inspired band. Beware though, this is a completely different kind of album than 'In Rock' was, as this album may not offer you much in terms of head-banging material. As a result, this is recommended to fans of progressive rock, not classic heavy metal/hard rock.
(In Memoriam: Maestro Jon Lord. Old Uncle of Heavy Metal. Rot in Pieces).
Deep Purple's Mark I is a common point of dissension among fans and rock music scholars (if such a thing exists). For some, it's the seminal line-up, the root of what would become later a major force in traditional heavy metal for some. For others it's an unshaped hybrid with undefined pathways saved by a trio of talented guys (Blackmore, Lord, Paice). It's hard, yes it is, to make a stand and having a definition about this period in such a colourful band, almost as impossible to label as everything else because, hey, we are talking about the grandfathers of heavy metal (with Black Sabbath), if you know what I mean, and so sometimes it's difficult to understand moments like this one in any major band.
The history of Deep Purple's "Deep Purple" is, therefore, a little bit more complicated than the music itself. We must remember that with their debut album, the band obtained quite respectable sales and acclaim, especially in North America thanks to the major hit single "Hush". Later, they managed to re-enter the American market with "Kentucky Woman", but the tides were changing at that point. Psychedelia and progressive rock felt their decay at the end of the 60's and the sound of the band started to get obsolete.
Yet, this album easily can enter at the top line as one of the finest creations in classic progressive rock. Of course, we are in the Metal Archives and this shouldn't matter, but despite this we must admit and recognize the quality of this album. It's filled with inventiveness, creativity, and a sight of joy. The keyboarding makes the ruling point, driving the whole vehicle, yet the rest of the pieces work it out perfectly. A special mention goes out to Rod Evans who's usually underrated. I won't say he is the ultimate heavy metal singer, not even rock singer, but he fits perfectly with the style issued here, and he would do as well in a band like Iron Butterfly? Did? Didn't? Anyway, never mind.
The only bad stuff here would be the lack of "freshness", if there's any term. While DP do sound innovative and creative here, from time to time you get bored, or at least you say something like "hey, this is great, but I've heard it before". Weird? I bet, but it actually happens and it is funny because eventually the album grows on you and you figure out that, overall, it is great. Solid, creative, vivid...maybe, it repeats itself too much, but that's a forgivable mistake and in terms of Deep Purple Mk I, this would be their finest hour.
Remarkable songs among the nice average are 'Chasing Shadows', 'The Bird has Flown', 'April', and 'Why Didn't Rosemary'. And more than that, maybe they could put 'Chasing Shadows' or 'The Bird has Flown' into their nowadays-set list, cause those are very good, indeed. But you know, Gillan has strong opinions about songs he didn't write with DP (i.e. Burn or Stormbringer), but that's not our business, is it?
The year 1969 could be said to be when the band Deep Purple finally hit their stride. Cutting down on their covers of other artists material and developing their sound into the bluesy behemoth that would pioneer heavy metal, Deep Purple's self-titled third album shows the band somewhat moving out of their cage and doing some pretty adventurous things. Not to mention that they had a symphony and concerto in the works by this point, Deep Purple was meeting their artistic mark, and this record does tend to indicate this. However, as is evident from the numerous throwback tracks here, Deep Purple had not completely moved out into the open yet.
'Deep Purple' is essentially a mix between straightforward bluesy tracks, and more left-of- center art rock. Naturally, the artistic side of Deep Purple shines a little more brightly than does the blues, but overall, the band has a fairly tight grasp on both sides of their side. 'Chasing Shadows' has some very nice psychedelic undertones to it over a blanket of hard rock, and 'Shadows' gives a baroque classical vibe. Keyboardist Jon Lord's contributions really shine here, including an incredible orchestral arrangement in the middle of the largely instrumental final track 'April'. Apart from that, he really douses the songs with some great classical charm, made quite evident by his use of arpeggios and rich organs.
While pieces like the indomitable 'April' really show the band breaking free of rock convention (with parts that sound like they are paying homage to composer Ennio Morricone), there are still moments on this album where the rock is kept straightforward and energetic. While Deep Purple is still as rocking here as they are with their more complex moments, the musicianship doesn't feel quite as good and organic as it was on earlier albums. However, taken into consideration that the self-titled shows Deep Purple trying out new things, this can be excused. Ron Evan's voice is here instead of Ian Gillian who would join shortly after, but while this may not be the Purple's vocalist that we consider to be part of the canonical lineup, he does a good job here, hitting his mark and achieving a warm tone to his voice during the more mellowed moments.
Deep Purple's self-titled is a very good album, and a step forward for rock music at the time, although I would say that the band gets even better with their subsequent 'classic' records. A great piece of proto-metal and art rock.
Deep Purple has always been a band that was not afraid to try something different. Before this album they had released some fine Hendrix toned work along with a hit "Hush." Of course, we all know how Purple ended up after this. This release is very hard to find, but it is however a great album. I wouldn't necessarily call this album a "metal" album at all, it fits more in the progressive rock vein. This album to me marks the beginning of what Rod Evans would do with Captain Beyond 3 years later.
This album is definitely an odd blend of tracks, but it works. Songs like "Chasing Shadows" and "Blind" have a great progressive influence here. These two tracks are definitely in the King Crimson. Captain Beyond, Jethro Tull vein of songs. Then we have the ballad, "Lalena." It's a very slow and soft song from Purple, much like "When a Blind Man Cries" in their later years. "Fault Line" is definitely a filler, consisting of what sounds like a backmasked jam. This track leads into the Chuck Berry influenced, "The Painter." This song is a very lively track, and one of the best off of the album. "Why Didn't Rosemary" has a very similar beat to "Demon's Eye" off of the "Fireball" album. It is a great little blues themed number. "Bird Has Flown" sounds like a track that it is the same vein as the first two tracks. This track happens to be one of the catchiest songs on the album though, and is definitely a highlight. The last track, "April," is definitely interesting. This track last for 12 minutes starting with an organ intro leading into a classical guitar/piano interlude. This of course leads into a classic Deep Purple guitar/organ solo trade-off. About 5 minutes into this track comes an orchestral piece that lasts for about 4 mintues before trading off to Rod Evans singing over a classic Deep Purple sound. This song of course ends with one of Ritchie Blackmore's epic sweeping guitar solos, and then fades off into nothingness.
Overall, this is a great buy for a long time Deep Purple fan. This album may seem unusual for some fans, but is indeed a great album. Mixing psychedelic sounds with progressive and classical elements is what makes this album what it is. This unfortunately is the last album produced by the Mark I line-up, but of course "In Rock" isn't bad at all.
Highlights: Chasing Shadows, The Painter, Bird Has Flown, April