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Familiar and Unfamiliar at the Same Time - 77%

Superchard, January 25th, 2019

With all the covers Deep Purple were doing on their earliest releases, it's no surprise that the band was able to crank out not one, but two full length albums in 1968. I'm not a fan of the structure of these releases being half comprised of covers and would've preferred a studio album that would've contained all the original songs on one album and a separate album for the covers, but the Rod Evans era of the band shan't be dismissed, especially from this point forward as intermingling with pop tunes such as the Neil Diamond "Kentucky Woman" are some of Deep Purple's most bizarre and progressive works. They're still not quite establishing what they would become known for on In Rock, and that makes these earlier releases especially juicy for long time fans of the band that want to experience what lead up to their more well known releases with Ian Gillan. It's based on The Book of Taliesin, a hippie oriented variation of Deep Purple, and just so happens to be Glenn Danzig's favorite Deep Purple album, The Book of Taliesyn.

Whatever Glenn Danzig sees in this release, or autothrall for that matter are a little over my head. It's not a bad album, I just wouldn't give it a near perfect score. Those covers really do drag it down for me. It's good to hear Deep Purple put their own spin on "Kentucky Woman". I can't say I'm a big Beatles fan, and their cover of "We Can Work it Out" doesn't really do much the original didn't already have going for it, they just lead into the song with their own psychedelic instrumental, "Exposition". Once again, just like the debut album, the musicians are great, Rod Evans silky smooth voice and the bands more laid back yet experimental approach really do give these albums some novelty, but I'm just not sold entirely. When Deep Purple lays down a magic mushroom track like "Shield" or the soulful ballad "Anthem", by all means I'm convinced that the potential is there, they haven't established the sound they'd become known for, but that's not to say their foundation is inferior, just frustratingly fixated on performing cover songs that don't play on their established progressive rock strengths all of the time.

I mean seriously, there's three solos happening in conjunction with one another on "Anthem" kicked off with a string quartet, an organ solo and Ritchie Blackmore then adding in his two cents. There's a drum ensemble outro to "Shield" that foreshadows the classical music training of Gentle Giant's 70's outputs. Hot damn, what I would put down on a proper Rod Evans release, and thankfully by their third album, we'd get precisely everything I could've ever hoped for from this first era. To be fair, The Book of Taliesyn is stronger than it's older brother with the liberties they take in the covers and if I'm being honest "Kentucky Woman" truly is the most memorable song on the album, so it's not as though there isn't any merit to them being here. Blackmore is still more or less developing his chops talented as he may be, but the focus isn't squarely on him so much this time around as it is on Jon Lord. If you're a sucker for his keyboard expertise, this is a great album that showcases a lighter Deep Purple that's full of his talents from start to finish, and you could even say Deep Purple sounds like a fuller band here than on much of their later albums, there tends to be much more layers going on at once here.

"River Deep, Mountain High" obviously takes a lot of liberties on the original pop song by Ike and Tina Turner. If there's one thing Deep Purple do fantastically well on their sophomore album, it's create a uniformity between all of the songs here. Even though the album is halfway comprised of cover tracks, Deep Purple definitely have their own unique sound that's consistent all the way that creates for a listening experience that manages to be familiar and unfamiliar simultaneously, and this album is just as innovative and fresh today as it was in 1968. A lot of bands today could use a little bit of crazy in their music to not sound so much like everyone else out there performing 3-5 minute songs with a guitar solo here, and a cliche structure. Listen, learn, read on!

Superchard gets super hard for:
Listen, Learn, Read On
Kentucky Woman

Swords And Shields - 80%

SweetLeaf95, December 1st, 2017

Following up Shades very quickly in the same year, Deep Purple would put out something of a similar record to their debut, but a rendition with some slight changes. The typical sixties idea of pumping out covers is still present, the psychedelic drive is all there, Jon Lord still takes the forefront of many tracks, and it's still geared in a bluesy direction. As great as The Book Of Taliesyn is, it doesn't hold up to the mind blowing grooves and amazing structure of the first.

First thing that jumps out at me is that this record isn't very warm sounding, and it backs off the "feel good" energy a little bit, filling that in with a more chilling hint in the music. This certainly isn't dark by any means, but minor keys are fairly present here and there, and there are no signs of any "surf" influence. More serious lyrics are brought to the table as well, some of it talking about things like struggles, but mostly sticking to medieval stories. "Shield" and "Anthem" are both great examples of all of this, probably my two favorite tracks. "Anthem" takes things a step further and utilizes violins and other string instruments, and this really authenticates the atmosphere.

Lord and Blackmore smear this with calm lead sections, giving it a more laid back feeling, with fewer complex or fast solos. Though this isn't completely absent, it's less prevalent. No complaints there, because it really matches everything that the band were clearly trying to go for on this record. What this will bring, however, is less catchy licks as well as fewer hooks to really bring me into it.

Purple's rendition of "Kentucky Woman" is incredible, quite possibly even better than Neil Diamonds. The only thing that confuses me with this, is that it really doesn't fit the theme or atmosphere of this record, and is just kinda stuck in the middle there. The mood is certainly changed when going from "Hard Road" to this, which doesn't flow very nicely. So great cover, odd placement. This disc also contains their second Beatles cover "We Can Work It Out", a pretty good one as well, and is a solid ending for the first side, especially with the little intro they threw in known as "Exposition". Perhaps this "book" is a step towards musical maturity; it's a great album, another essential one in my vinyl collection, and overall carries a cool atmosphere. It doesn't drop all the rhythm grooves and bluesy expertise, just takes it back a notch, and although I don't think it lives up to its predecessor, it's absolutely worth buying and hearing.

Deep Purple - The Book Of Taliesyn - 60%

ConorFynes, July 5th, 2011

The second album from Deep Purple is also one of their most underrated albums. Like 'Shades Of Deep Purple', fans look back on this record and dismiss it, in no small part due to the fact that it features more cover tracks. Although there is a greater wealth of original material here, it is hoped that a band would have started focusing solely on their own material by this point, but in any case, 'The Book Of Taliesyn' is a small step in the right direction for this archetypal hard rock ensemble. Another psychedelic-tinged, organ driven slice of hard rock, Deep Purple's music may still not have been golden at this point, but contrary to the disdain that the album has received, there is some great stuff to behold here.

All things considered, the album is fairly diverse for its time. 'Listen, Learn, Read On' has a few psychedelic effects on the vocals to make things sound a little spacier, and the lyrical themes revolve around medieval, fantasy based topics that really add to the charm of the band. 'Wring That Neck' is an instrumental that shows the heaviness of the band, as well as the great talent of their keyboardist (and brightest shining star at this point) Jon Lord. Richie Blackmore has some nice solos on this album finally, but it would be a while before he started really coming onto his own as the guitar hero he is considered today. 'Shield' and 'Anthem' are two strong tracks that aptly describe the band's sound at the time, even bringing sounds of classical music into the mix; something that was not heard much at the time. Deep Purple even bring their own unique sound to the Beatles cover 'We Can Work It Out', adding a long proggy instrumental introduction that really makes the track their own.

A problem that 'The Book Of Taliesyn' really does struggle with is the production, which often feels a little too ambitious given the technology at the time. While Deep Purple can't be put down for wanting to incorporate alot of sounds into their album, 'Taliesyn' does tend to get a little muddy and too distorted at times, especially with the dense organ sounds. Deep Purple's sophomore is a very good album, but this is a problem that does tend to take away from the ferocity of the performance, and there were parts where the production really felt as if it got in the way of enjoyment. Deep Purple would keep getting better from here, taking this potential and running with it a little more on their self-titled follow-up to this album. 'The Book Of Taliesyn' is a good album on its own merit though, and while it is not excellent or particularly engaging, Deep Purple does deserve more credit for this album than what they get.

Laying the foundations - 95%

autothrall, November 9th, 2009

Deep Purple is one of the best examples of a band who transformed from the very pinnacle of excellence (i.e. their early work) to the blackest, deepest pit of suck when they decided to start writing mainstream rock in the 80s. Stormbringer was pretty much the cutoff for me, and I try to envision a world in which the band ceased to exist after that. Conversely, I feel the band has been criminally underrated during its first decade, aside from "Smoke on the Water" and maybe "Highway Star", there are a lot of empty stares and blank check faces when it comes to this band. An unbearable travesty, seeing that they released an impressive list of albums in the 70s. The Book of Taliesyn is their second, named for the Welsh poet.

One of the fascinating things about this album was that a large chunk of it consists of covers. Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" is given a groovy rocking spin with some nice organ solos. Ike & Tina Turners' "River Deep Mountain High" is recreated with love, in fact I'd consider this the de facto version, Rod Evans' vocals do it a dirty psychedelic justice. The other cover here is the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" which comes in after the original "Exposition". This is likewise given the Purple treatment with a soulful but harder rocking style, full of 'freak out'.

As for the originals, each is a memorable slice of psychedelic rock with a dash DP's prototypical heavy metal leanings. "Listen, Learn, Read On" has some fuzzy, deep guitar grooves as it meanders between funk soul and searing rock & roll. Not far from The Doors, really, a vibe that persists throughout the album. Instrumental "Wring That Neck" steps in with a dual organ/guitar blues over a stepping bassline, it proceeds to burn through some solos and has a very live, raw feeling to it. "Exposition" is another instrumental, with more of an epic, shuffling soundtrack vibe. Killer organs and driving percussion define its thundering scope. "Shield" is one of my favorites, a mellow song with some percussive guitar picking simmered in pianos and moody vocal lines, lifting up slightly for its chorus. The final original track "Anthem" is highly bluesy and atmospheric, but possessing a majestic chorus. Sounds like the Doors and Beatles jamming with a really cool keyboard and violin bridge. Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord are all over this album.

And that's really the gist of it. If you fancy 60s-70s psychedelic rock which would help lay the foundation for the harder and heavier styles to come, you will find it worthwhile to track down just about anything Deep Purple previous to 1980. The Book of Taliesyn succeeds despite a rather large percentage of cover material, which was fairy common practice for an album in those days. It does share some similarities to other popular rock bands of its era: The Who, The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. If you have a natural attraction to this style, but missed Purple (they were never quite as popular), you should seriously think about tracking this down, as well as Shades of Deep Purple, In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head and the amazing Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Despite their age, they all sound great to this day.


kiss the strength of the shield! - 84%

Abominatrix, December 12th, 2003

When most people think of Deep purple, they think of the pounding '70s hard rock onslaught of "Machine Head" and other albums, so influential to Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate and others in the metal genre. Yet the band did not start out playing within that style. This, their second album, would probably come as a surprise to those expecting crunchy riffs and bluesy guitar pyrotechnics from Ritchie Blackmore, or Ian Gillan's distinctive wails. What we have here is a very solid piece of folk rock, with Jon Lord's organ taking centre stage for much of the proceedings, and Rod Evans doing a much more understated and subtle vocal performance than his successor. It all fits the music beautifully, and though noone could really call this music heavy, even for 1968, it does stand as a halmark of Deep Purple's creativity, even in their more humble beginnings. I've had this album for years, but only now seem to have discovered how wonderful it really fact, I can't stop listening to the damn thing. It has a very evident magical, fantastic feel to it, like the whole thing is being performed by a group of mystical bards or something. In fact, whilst listening to this last night under the heavy influence of THC, I came up for a term for this type of music, that being "wizard rock" (yes, I'm rather proud of that, so shut up.).
The magic is really evident in the first track, which is a fast (for this album) rocking number with a heavy dose of experimental wailings and ambience, in which Rod Evans exorts us to " on" from the great Book of Taliesyn. The production is just odd...sort of tinny, but very very clear, with a great deal of echo and reverb slathered over everything half the time. It works, somehow, and I really appreciate how full and well defined the bass sounds when you crank the volume. "Ring That Neck" is an instrumental showcasing Jon Lord's overwhelming keyboard talent...and if you are going to argue that this guy isn't the best keyboardist in any rock/metal band, you'll be completely wrong. This is probably the heaviest track on the album, actually, because the organ sounds pretty ballsy and dirty if you know what I mean...really loud and in your face. Next, we have one of a series of covers...this one being "Kentucky Woman", done by..Neil Diamond, I believe, though I could be mistaken. The covers here aren't just covers, though....they take the original melodies and chord structures, and turn the songs into huge and powerful epics that the original artists would never have dreamed of. This one isn't too adventurous, and is probably the weakest track on here, though it's still quite excellent. Rod Evans has a pretty inoffensive voice, but it sounds quite good all the same, with its deep crooning tones calling to mind, occasionally, some pop singers of the early '50s. "Exposition/We Can Work it Out" is, of course, a cover of the Beatles tune from a scant three years earlier, and this one is really spiced up with a host of new ideas and interwoven with some melodic and lyrical ideas of Deep Purple's own. And then we have "Shield"...fucking hell, this song is just awesome. The mystical vibe of the album culminates here folks, and the album is worth owning for this track alone. "So trust in your love, and Lucy of above / And let light pass like a wheel / Don't take the chance of life's hectic dance / Kiss the strength of the shield". Oh yess, this is definitely music of a very hippy nature, but who gives a damn. The original use of percussion, the intelligent counterpoint of organ and bass, and an utterly great harmonized vocal chorus make this song a totally forgotten classic. THe almost latin styled percussion is something that Deep Purple would experiment with again on the following album, but it's more subtle here and therefore better executed to my ears. "Anthem" is a wistful song with the vocals taking centre stage for the most part. It's probably the "oldest" sounding tune here as it has an almost rock/country sound to it, and the "ooooo woooo wooooooooo" backing vocals really reinforce this...but damn me if it still doesn't sound great. Finally, "River Deep, Mountain High", definitely a cover, though I've no idea from whence the original came, is a lengthy epic that's sort of a precursor, I guess, to the "Concerto for Group and Orchestra". It's quite experimental, and features some sudden and almost random sounding string flourishes which manage to sound quite out of place, yet because this album has so successfully established an atmosphere and run with it in a remarkable way, this doesn't come across as awkward as it normally would.
So whether this album had any sort of baring or influence on the metal scene is doubtful. I was rather mislead when I actually started my Deep Purple collection with this disc. I'm not really convinced that most fans of the '70s Purple will enjoy this, but do investigate it if you have an appreciation for some of the folkier, more experimental late '60s rock bands. Jon Lord's keyboards do of course set this apart from most of the other bands of that time, and they, if anything, are a reminder of what this band would turn into in a few years. Anyway, if you don't enjoy "The Shield", you're no friend of mine.