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Class 6(66)

Deep Purple: In rock

06/01/12  ||  Smalley

Introduction:

Ignorant reader: “Deep… purple? What the fuck is that, a new Crayon? Oh wait, I know them! They were like Iron Butterfly 2.0, right? You know, flash-in-the-pan rockers that had one iconic hit 40 years back, then vanished into irrelevance? Yeah, I really liked that one cool riff they wrote. Now, back to my Zeppelin and Ozzy-era Black Sabbat-”

THWACK!

Smalley: Apologies for that backhand, dear classic rock newb, but Deep Purple made a lot more than just one good song, as much as I love “Toke on the (bong)water”. They even charted with more than just that single, but the majority still remembers them as a one-hit wonder. Hell, Machine head isn’t even near their best album; from 68-75, they worked their asses off transitioning from one style of rock to the next, resulting in 9 good-to-great albums, with only one disappointment. I haven’t even listened to anything they’ve recorded since ’83, and they’ve still become my favorite classic/hard rock band, yes, even more than Led Zep. That last part is a matter of personal taste, but what isn’t is that 1970’s “In rock” is Deep Purple’s best album, bar none.

Songwriting

9. What I like about classic DP is their logical progression of styles, tied to the changing of singers; they were psychedelic-ish rock with Rod Evans during the trippy 60’s, experimented with funk/soul influences in the laid-back mid-70’s with David Coverdale, and made their heaviest stuff in the early 70’s with Ian Gillian, as peers like Sabbath were establishing the tenets of metal.

Kinda makes ‘em seem like trend-hoppers, doesn’t it? Fortunately, “In rock” proves otherwise as their debut with Gillian, since it’s full of infectious, high-energy, and yes, intelligently laid-out hard rockers, and avoids a single misstep in its 7 track-long rockslide. And it isn’t just guitar-driven, as there are plenty of moments where the keyboards or drums are allowed to speak out, giving us some good variation.

It also has this more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts phenomenon going on, where every element is just tapped into this sheer attitude, making you feel like a hard-drinkin’, hard-partyin’ badass just by listening to it. It isn’t all fun and games though, as the sober, epic “Child in time” gives us 10 methodical minutes of hard-ballad material, with lyrics that are (I think) about waiting for the Cold War to turn into nuclear winter. Wow maaan, heavy shit. Besides that, highlights include full-throttle opener “Speed king”, the surprisingly intricate “Flight of the rat”, and the pounding, mid-tempo “Into the fire”, but as I said before, they’re all good.

Production

5.5. The weak link of the album, as it sounds fucken fuzzy as all get-out. Yeah, I know it’s 41 years old, but I’ve heard albums older than this that weren’t this muddled. I kind of enjoy the snare drum sound and the incredible retro-ness of the keyboards, so I won’t dip down to 5 territory here. It was close, though.

Guitars

8.5. Ritchie Penismore handles the rhythm & lead guitar duties here, and while his riffing isn’t super-technical or anything like that, I can’t fault how consistently catchy and intuitive he always sound here. Feeling always wins over cold technical skill, right? Soloing-wise, he puts in the right sort of wild, gritty, attitude-filled work “In cock” needed, and the super, super long wailing during the mid-section of “Child in time” earns him an extra half-point. I would’ve liked hearing more solos, but eh.

Vocals

9. New vocalist Ian Gillian fits Purple’s new, straightforward hard rock here like a glove, with energetic, rowdy, and incredibly soulful work, spiced with plenty of variety like long notes, high-pitched shrieks, screams, and so on. He truly does use his voice as its own instrument here, and I can’t think of anyone else who would work better for IR. Extra kudos for those quiet/loud trade-offs and soft “croons” he pulls off on “Child in time”.

Bass

7. New bassist Roger Glover mostly just keeps pace with Blackmore’s riffing, but that’s okay, and there are a few quieter moments where he sticks out more and plays some decently interesting stuff, so I’ll go easy with his score.

Drums

9. Ian Paice is the only permanent member of DP throughout the years, and he probably has the most raw talent of any of ‘em too, and his drumming on “In rock” does not disappoint one lick; he keeps paice (hahaha?) with steady, catchy, unassuming back-up when needed, and lets loose with rapid, show-off fills whenever the songs need a lil’ more spice (and he does that a lot). I particularly love it when his fills have that real loose, ultra-entertaining bounce to them, like at around the 1:05 mark of “Speed king”; not enough drummers drum like that. Also, how the fuck can’t you love the gradually, ever increasing in speed, near-blastbeat tempo of his drum solo near the end of “Flight of the rat”? Kind of seems like a response to the overlong, somewhat-indulgent John Bonham solo from the previous year’s “Moby dick” (sorry Zeppelin!!!).

Keyboards

9. Even though it originated from the mind of Altmer, his idea to create a keyboards section in his Penises and words write-up makes such perfect sense for “rock”, that, well… I’m doing it myself. No big surprise there. Anyway, Jon Lord does a great job here of hanging back and just adding to the sound depth at times, but also often takes center stage with his retro-charming, Doors-y playing. The keyboard might seem like a relatively easy instrument to take up, but Lord’s work here is often so speedy, precise, and intense, I know I could never convincingly replicate it myself. So yeah, bad-ass performance on what is otherwise an often silly-sounding instrument; “Child in time” just wouldn’t be the same at all without him.

Lyrics

6. There’s some beautiful, evocative writing on “Child…”, but otherwise it’s just okay shit about speeding, love-making, partying, etc. here. The plagiarism of 50’s rock lyrics on “Speed king” doesn’t win them any points either.

Cover art

8. The quality of the coloring ain’t the best, but it is Deep Purple… in rock! Can’t ask for much more than that, right? You ask me, the country would be a lot better off with DP as our collective Prez. Oh yeah, and I dig how annoyed the guy in the middle looks, like he was pissed off for some reason at having to pose for his carving; have some team spirit, guy!

Logo

5. It’s okay… don’t really like how the band part kind of fuses with the album title.

Booklet

N/A.

Overall and ending rant

If you don’t like Deep Purple, you probably won’t be a happy camper in the coming months, as I plan on reviewing as many of their albums as I can, when I can. Then again, if don’t like Deep Purple, what the fucking fuck? Go get your opinion fixed, ASAP. As for everyone else, however, I hope you enjoy the coming ride, and hope you enjoyed this review of a great, influential hard rock classic, one which every metalhead is in debt to. Now, go pay yer fucken respects.

9,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1970
  • Label: Warner Bros.
  • Website: www.deep-purple.com
  • Band
  • Ian Gillan: vocals
  • Ritchie Blackmore: guitars
  • Roger Glover: bass
  • Jon Lord: keyboards
  • Ian Paice: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Speed King
  • 02. Bloodsucker
  • 03. Child In Time
  • 04. Flight Of The Rat
  • 05. Into The Fire
  • 06. Living Wreck
  • 07. Hard Lovin’ Man