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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Deep Purple

The Early Years

Review by Bruce Stringer

At just under 78 minutes, EMI's first CD compilation of the much-underrated Mark I line-up sees a bold collection taken from Deep Purple's first 3 LPs remastered with astounding clarity and a song collection that confirms the pioneering integrity of the fore fathers of British heavy metal.

Carefully compiled from the Tetragrammaton tapes, the 14 tracks include outtakes, alternate versions and remixes and stands as an insightful abbreviated guide to the recent remastered re-releases of Shades of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn and the band's self-titled master piece. It's a great stand alone 60's compilation and fits nicely into the history of Purple.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
And The Address
With a 1-minute intro akin to Barrett-era Floyd, Purple burst through the speakers with an instrumental that indicates the constructive elements of Lord's organ, Blackmore's virtuoso prowess and Paice's energetic skin work along with the soon-to-be-ousted Nick Simper on bass. Great stuff, however it seems ironic that vocalist Rod Evans sits it out on the opener to the DP catalogue!
Hush
This is an alternate version of the classic pop song (made famous in recent years by Kula Shaker, who literally robbed it note for note) and much-loved Mark I single. In fact, the Gillan-Glover / Mark II format re-recorded this song for their Nobody's Perfect release shortly before Gillan left... to return again.
Mandrake Root
Impressive bluesy riffs and high energy levels made this a mandatory Purple number in their early repertoire staying well into the Gillan-Glover era. Acting as a launch pad for sonic overload and improvisation, "Mandrake Root" contains some incredible improvisation and player synchronicity for its day. I absolutely dig this song.
I'm So Glad
Compared to Cream's version, this lacks a certain energy and has never been a favourite of mine.However, in the context of Purple's evolution, the song demonstrates a solid, tight band chemistry and has an ease about it that makes it listenable - especially the first 2 and a ½ minutes of musical interplay. The vocals tend towards a more 60's pop style which may be the only fault, in retrospect, as the band builds up to an edgy rock pace making Rod Evan's performance slightly out of place.
Hey Joe
Removing itself from the Hendrix version and taking what would normally be considered a simpler blues song into bolero territory, the guys succeed in breathing their classically laced thematics into this alternate rendition. Again, 2 and a ½ minutes later, the piece moves into the vocal sections taking this closer to the Roy Buchanan version (yet to be recorded). Blackmore plays it smooth and has that great Strat tone. Finally given the space to let loose and play some of his most exciting lead work to date, the man in black shows us what he's capable of:- the legato, tremolo-thrashed soloing that fans would come to expect of him.
Kentucky Woman
This is a brilliant and very cool Neil Diamond track (- what a guy!) and an alternative to the CD release already available. Apparently not a big hit when it was first released as a single, (which simply defies belief) but this would in fact have set Purple up away from the singles market and into rock history. It's high energy and testament to both Purple and Diamond as simply great in their respective arts.
Listen, Learn, Read On
This one is ambitious in its vocal conceptualisation, yet musically one-step ahead. It becomes clear on songs like this that the core of Blackmore-Lord-Paice were simply out growing Evans and Simper (although, Simper more on a personality level than bass ability which at times is quite astounding). "Listen…" is quite interesting in retrospect but has never been a favourite of mine.
Shield
With a 'shield' lyrical metaphor and a cool 60's groove over which Lord hits out the piano keys (doubling his organ riffs), this song is pretty much bass driven. With the exception of some more aggressive bends and solo passages, Blackmore plays his subtle side, almost composing rather than soloing. Nice rhythmic percussion also opens the song up within its 6 minutes.
Wring That Neck
Another classic instrumental from The Deep Purple, as they were (sometimes mistakenly) known. Temporary inclusion of the 70's Mark II sets and an exciting riffy 12/8 piece, this is a BBC recording (also included in the recent remastered releases) and the band apparently drew criticism on its studio release due to it not living up to this version! It is exciting and proves that the guys could sometimes be a better 60's instrumental group than a vocal one. With that said it is unfortunate the BBC version has a cut ending.
Anthem
A middle of the road vocal piece, this is not their most interesting song, but it does include some nice vocal harmonies and mellotron playing. It also serves as a prelude to what would shortly appear on the sublime Concerto for Group and Orchestra album with some very classy classical organ and bass runs leading into a building orchestral piece. Blackmore, not exactly on fire, includes some of his trademark phrases. Returning to the vocals this ends on Lord's say-so.
Bird Has Flown
"Bird Has Flown" is one of the band's rockier moments and sounds suspiciously like Hendrix. Great riffs and the vocals work in unison to make this an instant favourite. The band may have survived longer in this incarnation if they had followed in this vein, yet may not have gone on to take their legendary mantle of originality. It is taken from the self-titled album - the best by Mark I in my eyes, with not an average song in sight. It has some fantastic tension building towards the end, taking it back away from the blues territory and ending on a crescendo of tight, energetic rock.
Blind
Now, only Purple could rock with a Harpsichord! Remixed and including a brief spoken studio bit at the start, "Blind" - a wholly Lord composition - is moody and melancholy yet retains a noticeable Purple sound. Rod Evans oozes emotion and really sells his vocal talents. Blackmore's only appearance is at 2:20 for a ravaging but brief wah solo before disappearing. It's an elegant piece in its "Love Is Blue" / "Greensleeves " nostalgic renaissance quality and includes some texturally tasteful rolls from Ian Paice's drum kit. It has nice bass work, also.
Why Didn't Rosemary
Along similar lines to "Bird Has Flown" and having the lyrical content one would assume of a "Hey Joe" blues sound-alike, this piece is also one of my favourites, for Blackmore plays it cool and the band are pumping along at a tight 12/8 pace. It may not be the most original song in their catalogue but it is a great track in its own right. Its 12-bar style has a groove and the guys' chemistry really shows up.
Lalena (instrumental version)
The original version of this has never been a favourite of mine, however in a historical context this piece offers valuable insight into the lighter side of the group. The piece is tastefully recorded and it seems that it is Simper's bass playing that holds the band together. It makes a nice inclusion on this compilation, enlightening the listener to the musical diversity of the early years of Deep Purple.
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