Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Deep Purple In Rock - 50 Years Ago

Deep Purple In Rock (AM7)
Artist: Deep Purple
Producer: Deep Purple
Length: 43:30
Released: June 3, 1970
Tracks: 1) Speed King (5:52); 2) Bloodsucker (4:16); 3) Child in Time (10:18); 4) Flight of the Rat (7:53); 5) Into the Fire (3:30); 6) Living Wreck (4:31); 7) Hard Lovin´ Man (7:11)

Players: Ritchie Blackmore – guitar; Jon Lord – keyboards, organ; Ian Paice – drums, percussion; Ian Gillan – lead vocals; Roger Glover – bass

Often overlooked on the scene, despite several rounds of success, particularly in the U.K., Deep Purple began their long career as Roundabout. The idea, from former Searchers' drummer Chris Curtis, was to create a supergroup, centered on himself, in which other members would come and go, a process that would be key to the success of bands like King Crimson and later, Steely Dan. By 1968, the idea had flourished with a bevy of activity that included three studio LPs in the course of the year. Curtis would drift away, along with his idea, when Deep Purple, the band name adopted in 1968, signaled the demise of Roundabout. It was at that time that the band found pop success with the release of the top ten "Hush." DP fans refer to this line-up as Mark I, with the band taking a definitive pop stance.

Mark II was the band's most psychedelic venture, featuring core members Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, and Jon Lord, though they still hadn't really found its voice (literally and figuratively). With the demise of their initial U.S. record label, Tetragramatton, the band was at a breaking point. It was then, and maybe due to the band's misfortune, that Blackmore and Lord approached Paice with the idea of taking on a heavier sound. Blackmore has said that the band wanted to be a Vanilla Fudge clone. Early in 1969, Blackmore recruited Ian Gillian as Deep Purple's frontman, along with bassist, Roger Glover. And then a break came in September 1969 with Lord's Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a three-movement piece the band played at the Royal Albert Hall. Alongside Days of Future Passed and The Nice's Five Bridges, it was instrumental (forgive the pun) in rock orchestration. The LP charted in Britain for Deep Purple's first real taste of success in their homeland.

Then, of course, came their watershed moment, Deep Purple In Rock. In singer Ian Gillan, the band had found a charismatic and powerful vocalist who could go the distance with Glover who brought his songwriting skills to form on songs like "Speed King," the epic "Child In Time" and the monumentally heavy "Into The Fire."  It was this lineup that brought a sense of almost classical level musicianship and a relentless need for speed to hard rock – pretty good street cred.

Recorded in October 1969 and released June 3, 1970, In Rock was recorded in three separate studios across London. Opening track, "Speed King," began life as "Kneel and Pray" having been in the live set for months before it was attempted in a studio setting. The initial idea had come from Glover and was based on a riff he had similar to "Fire" by Jimi Hendrix. Musically the interplay between Blackmore and Lord in the middle part of the song sets the standard for the next four or five years and Gillan's vocal shows off one of metal's greatest vocalists. "Bloodsucker" is a slower but even heavier track. Lord's brief organ solo giving the song the light it needs before Blackmore riffs the track out.

"Child in Time" is, of course,e one the greatest studio recordings of all time (and indeed, the Made in Japan version later on, is among the most iconic live performances). Gillan displays every vocal quality he has from the gentle delivery of the lyric to the unbelievable power of his screams. The solos and musical passages are sublime. I still get a chill every time Blackmore launches into his solo and then into the almost machine gun-like frenzy that follows. Oddly, Ian Gillan has never been fond of the track and referred to his contribution as "yelling over a racket."

"Flight of the Rat" develops into another frenzied jam with a counterpoint vocal from Gillan with a gentler approach (one of the talents that would make his contribution to Jesus Christ Superstar the following year so stellar). The shortest track on the album, "Into The Fire" was in the live set with Ian Gillan introducing it as "rock and roll with its trousers down and back to front." While "Living Wreck" features some nice swirling organ from Lord and a slower solo from Blackmore, it is the LP's weakest track. "Hard lovin Man" was recorded January 1, 1970, so it's fitting that the track foreshadows the sound of the Deep Purple of the seventies. Another lengthy workout with lots of intricacies and solos for both Lord and Blackmore, it begins with what was to become a trademark Paice opening drum beat. The mayhem at the end of the track is a perfect ending to an album that heralded the arrival of heavy metal. 

My introduction to Gillan, though, was through Jesus Christ Superstar, a simply incredible performance.

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