Deep Purple have a new album out. Fans won’t be surprised, but others, who haven’t continued following the ongoing story of one of hard rock’s greatest bands, might be. You can check out the video from the first single below.
But new Deep Purple is not what we’re here for today. We do, after all, like the old stuff! We’re here to celebrate the band’s glory days, when they, together with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, helped create a new form of hard rock called heavy metal.
On a spectrum running from the blues-laden heaviness of Zeppelin to the dark, doom-laden heaviness of Sabbath, Deep Purple were closer to the Zeppelin end of things, although they were less earthy and organic, more machine-like in their riffing and metallic in their tone. Metallic as in clean and heavy. Deep Purple at their purest was heavy metal at its purest, and they began a thread that ran through New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) bands like Iron Maiden, into Metallica and beyond. I have to say the classical element that Jon Lord often brought to their sound was not my favourite part by a long shot, but it did at times add an element of epicness. And when they were epic, and at full-throttle, they created epic mayhem, and literally set a new pace for rock that probably wasn’t surpassed until Phil Taylor got his double kick drum going with Motörhead.
Here at ILYOS, we love Deep Purple’s epic mayhem more than we like their more progressive, bluesy, or even at later times, occasionally funky stuff. Call us headbangers if you want, but give us full-throttle every time. Here are our favourite twelve tracks from one of our favourite classic metal bands.
I said above that Deep Purple set the pace until Motörhead reached the accelerator, but “Fireball” shows they were almost there anyway. Ian Paice’s drumming here is unstoppable but also creates a great groove, and Jon Lord’s keys create a clean, shiny surface on which both the drums and Richie Blackmore’s guitar seems to skate. From the opening industrial sound (an air conditioner turning on, it sounds like an invasion firing up, which is perfect) to the riffing fade out, this is three and a half minutes of perfection – Deep Purple Mark II at their absolute best - that lives up to its title perfectly.
Not the classic line-up – Ian Gillan was gone, so this is Mark III, with both David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. But no matter – this is perhaps Purple’s greatest riff and the light and shade provided by the two vocalists really elevates it. Again, Paice is brilliant here, all stuttering rolls in the verses flattening out into a fast-cruise in the killer chorus. Even Lord’s Bach-inspired lines work well here and help kick out the jams in their own baroque kind of way.
Their first classic metal track. Forget the earlier heavy soul-pop of the earlier stuff like “Hush” in this context. This is where Purple got their metal on. The original single recording of the track was notably fuzzier than what was to come – the In Rock album version is a bit cleaner - and there’s more than a hint of Sabbath in this one. With a circling lick pinched from the Blues Magoos’ “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” running into bars of hard throbbing metallic thump, and an evil vibe that suggests the ‘Night’ in the title should have been spelt with a ‘K’, this is a real metal cornerstone.
The title says it all. This one is great, and an excellent opener for In Rock, but problematic. It starts splendidly with Blackmore and Paice making a godforsaken racket but nearly falters when Lord comes in and with some sleep-inducing organ. From there it leaps into heavy metal ‘50s rock licks and lines borrowed from Little Richard and Elvis – this sounds less like a song and more like a particularly well-developed jam - and is killer. But then that goddam organ comes in again like Lord is trying to start a jazz party in some medieval court of his dreams. Still, Blackmore eventually wins, and all is well. (Which is kind of the story of Deep Purple actually...)
More mindless fun – especially when the verses kick in with that punky lick borrowed from Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. But they take it elsewhere, and this time Blackmore and Lord work in perfect tandem, and there are plenty of opportunities for Gillan to do his high-pitched thing vocally. Opens Machine Head brilliantly.
Completing the triumvirate of Deep Purple dumbness, this is a mindless but fun rocker that suggests both science fiction and R. Crumb comix – two popular influences of the day – again with the guitar and organ working in perfect tandem. The drum solo that Paice seems intent on starting is diverted and so the track heads towards its ending with Gillan fabulously and mindlessly screeching the title over and over. Closes Machine Head brilliantly!
“Flight of the Rat”
An unsung classic from In Rock with a sheet-metal riff that would have done Iggy & the Stooges proud. Lord makes his organ solo sound like lasers slashing out at these rats in the dark, and is very cool. Indeed, any songs about rats are cool.
“Woman From Tokyo”
Getting a bit cocky and strutty here – I reckon Gene Simmons got a bit of his vocal styling from Gillan on this one – and overall it’s probably the side of Deep Purple that the guys from Foreigner dug. It’s Gillan, but maybe has more of a Coverdale vibe. Yes, we prefer the flat out rockers – but this is one of their better ones in this style. Catchy even! From Who Do We Think We Are, the oft-overlooked final album by Mark II. Gillan and bass player Roger Glover would soon be gone.
“Smoke on the Water”
I was actually in two minds as to whether include this as everybody’s heard it too much, and I reckon it’s kind of lightweight for these guys. The Stooges did better with much the same riff a couple of years earlier on “Loose”, and the keys give it a jazzy vibe that is not very metal. But hey, this is a Deep Purple list, and it’s from Machine Head, so I guess it has to be here.
“Hard Lovin’ Man”
Another lesser-known ripsnorter from In Rock, which most fans seem to the think is their best album. It’s the most heavily represented in this list – and we could easily have included “Bloodsucker”, “Living Wreck’ or “Into The Fire” from it instead of this one - so, I guess we concur. And no we haven’t included “Child Of Time”, despite it being many folks’ In Rock fave, because it’s too long and bluesy. It’s full-throttle for us!
“Might Just Take Your Life”
Perhaps a bit more bluesy and structured like “Woman From Tokyo”, this one lacks the thunder but is a really good song with a great groove. The second best track from Burn, Coverdale came into his own with this one.
Bluesy, but evil-sounding enough to be metal. Great rhythmic use of the keys. Given the strength of Fireball overall, and the fact that its title track is undoubtedly Deep Purple’s most excellent rocker, it’s surprising that this is only the second track from the album in our selection, but there ya go. “Strange Kind of Woman”, which as recorded at the same session and actually replaced “Demon’s Eye” on the album in the US, is a cool one but it sounds like a Troggs pastiche, and that’s not really metal.
And here as promised is the new tune “Nothing At All”, from the new Deep Purple album Whoosh! Still featuring key Mark II members Paice, Glover and Gillan, as well as long time guitarist Steve Morse, old-time fans might want to check it out if they haven’t already.
So, there you have it. if you want to hear more of the hits and classics, we suggest you listen to the Deep Purple: Platinum Collection on Spotify:
Listen to Deep Purple on Apple Music: