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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.
(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