Sunday, May 10, 2009

Deep Purple In Rock

I have raved about my love for the wild, noisy, heavy sounds of DP several times already, and I was thrilled to finally find a good price on the extended CD of this, the debut release of DP Mach II.

Coming off of the high from the original line-up’s massive hit, “Hush”, the members were none-the-less having personal issues and opted for some new blood. Pulling singer Ian Gillian and bassist Roger Glover from a relatively unknown band, Episode Six, DP created their most well-known and rockin’ line-up. Gillian’s unique voice came to define 70’s heavy metal and Glover was a terrific bassist and a gifted songwriter who immediately contributed to many of the great songs on this album.

The extended CDs of DP have been of universally high caliber and this is no exception. The sound and mix is, if anything, even better than the vinyl versions – which always had super tones all around. Adding a slew of bonus tracks makes this a wonderful find at any price.

This CD was a surprise right from the start as “Speed King” opens with an extended instrumental section that was left off of the American version – which is a crime as it is supremely beautiful noise! “Speed King” is, of course, their predecessor to “Highway Star” and damn near as majestically rockin’ as that anthem. A fantastic start to any record and a cool introduction to Glover’s riff writing! Dig the lyrical references to r’n’r history, also!

Somehow managing to meld intricate licks with a mid-tempo, head-banging groove, “Bloodsucker” shows off the group’s interaction and tightness while still rockin’! Stealing from It’s a Beautiful Day’s “Bombay Calling” for the basic chord progression of “Child in Time”, the band forms a dynamic and powerful showcase for Gillian’s shrieks and wails with many ebbs and flows and excellent playing throughout. Blackmore gives a stand-out performance on this take, which was often extended greatly in live shows and on their Live in Japan release. The rhythm section really cooks behind the solo break – Glover locks in with Paice to form one of the best bass/drum teams in heavy metal.

Back to the basic rock with “Flight of the Rat” which opens with heavy power chords from Ritchie and shows that while the band were all virtuosos, the songs were often based on fairly simple chords progressions that they expounded on. Blackmore throws in some wild riffs and even some harmony guitar lines. Not one of their most memorable, but a solid rocker with a terrific guitar solo and even some funky wah wah playing!

Another fantastic head-banging riffer is “Into the Fire” – powerful as hell, short and sweet, and certain to get you movin’! Paice’s drums slowly fade in to open “Living Wreck”, an anti-groupie tune with another rockin’ groove over which Jon Lord adds cascades of sounds from his ultra-rhythmic organ, sounding a little like Goldie McJohn from Steppenwolf.

There is plenty of terrific noise on this record and “Hard Lovin’ Man” opens with bounties from everyone. Ritche’s galloping guitar allows Lord to open up on the distorted and cacophonous keyboard while Gillian sings his single-entendre lyrics. Gillian is an incredible vocalist, but is certainly no poet – the words are, overall, the epitome of banal heavy metal. But, what teenager couldn’t relate to that?!

This makes the liner notes all that much funnier as the band talks about throwing together “Black Night” and how they purposely picked out nonsensical rhymes just to complete the tune. I, for one, never really noticed the difference between this and any of their other songs!! Anyway, this non-LP track was the single that the record label demanded from these sessions, though I don’t really see it as that much more commercial than anything else – other than the fact that they stole the main riff from the Blues Magoos hit “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”! It’s a fine tune, but I don’t think it got any American airplay, though it helped to propel the new line-up into the spotlight overseas.

The bonus tracks start with a different take on “Speed King” with Lord on piano instead of organ, that was previously issued as a b-side to “Black Night”. The album version is definitely superior, with more energy and intensity, though this is cool in its differences.

I had never heard “Cry Free” before, which was left off of the album despite the band recording numerous takes. It’s not bad, but I don’t blame them for picking this as the one to exclude. “Jam Stew” is another unreleased number that has cool energy and apparently they planned on this being a complete song, but never put lyrics to it. The bonus version of “Flight of the Rat” is not very distinctive though – I don’t really hear much variation.

There is yet another mix of “Speed King” – Glover is obviously and justifiably proud of this tune – with the noise intro, but again, as with the final take of “Black Night”, not dramatically changed. Still cool to hear the Glover’s mixes and I think there are some additions to the solos, which are always cool.

Also included is a multi-paged booklet with the story of the transition & recording and tons of terrific early photos. The shots of Glover without his trademark hat and beard (both of which he seemingly has worn non-stop since) are almost worth the price by themselves!

This release is definitely right up their with Machine Head as the best of Deep Purple. Get this extended CD for all the fun extras!