Saturday, April 26, 2014

Deep Purple-The Rod Evans Years

In the 45 year history that is Deep Purple,  most associate the band with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover and of course Richie Blackmore.  Their history is full of classic albums and key songs that define classic rock, in some bar, some band is probably playing Smoke On The Water.   With Ian Gillan in band, Deep Purple is considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal but I never considered them heavy metal.  Hard rock maybe.

But before that Deep Purple may have figured in being one of the first progressive rock bands of the late 60s.  Long winded songs such as April and River Deep Mountain High, clocking around 10 minutes sound more prog rock than intended to be.  But back then, Deep Purple was still trying to find their own sound and vision.  For me, Rod Evans is one of the underrated rock vocalists, he could shout with the best of them, although he didn't process the banshee scream of Gillan.  Deep Purple relied a lot on cover versions, most notably The Beatles to which they covered We Can Work It Out and Help.  And even Donovan figured with Lalena, not one of my favorite DP numbers either, it's fairly boring.

Richie Blackmore goes all the way back to The Outlaws a UK band that recorded for the ill fated Joe Meek, one of the flawed genius producers in rock history.  Nick Simpler, the bass player was part of The Pirates with Johnny Kidd but the band was fueled by the classical leanings of Jon Lord and the anything goes drumming of Ian Paice, who remains the sole original member of Deep Purple. Paice reminds me of a more steady Keith Moon, bashing and crashing Paiste Cymbals all over the albums.  But it was Rod Evans who provided the vocals (with help with Simpler and even Lord himself).

Deep Purple originally recorded for Parlophone, a part of EMI Records and later their second album was issued via Harvest but in the US, their albums were released on Tetragrammaton Records, a label started up by Roy Silver, Bruce Campbell, Martin Deane  and Bill Cosby the comedian.
Out of all the artists that did record for this label, Deep Purple's album were the best selling of them all.  It all begins on Shades Of Deep Purple, a mix of hippie dippy, psychedelia rock and roll with an eye toward prog rock with the bolero beginning of Hey Joe and the free form freakout of I'm So Glad.  It has also their top five hit in Hush, (a Joe South cover) and the b side One More Rainy Day, which Richie Blackmore didn't care much for as the story goes.  Although fans consider Blackmore to be a guitar god, his out of tune leads are quite telling and half the time annoying, (Love Help Me, Hard Road from Book Of Taliesyn), however on Mandrake Root, another bizarre song with oddball lyrics, the second half of the song would resurface later on the 20 minute Space Truckin on Made In Japan and even Ian Gillan sang that song on the Portrait 1981 Deep Purple In Concert.  Gillan has been known to cover Hush as well.  Overall Shade Of Deep Purple is nowhere near of what they would be  when In Rock came out but for it's a good starter album.

The Book Of Taliesyn is Deep Purple's attempt to go prog rock and it begins with the speed prog of Listen Learn, Read On to which Ian Paice's relentless Moon style drumming is the highlight although the lyrics are nonsense.  Hard Road (Wring That Neck) is an instrumental led by Blackmore's offkey  playing but they do a in your face version of Kentucky Woman complete with Jon Lord keyboard solo and Evans barking out Yeah yeah Yeah YEAH and I love this song as well. Rest of the record hasn't held up very well over time although the Exposition/We Can Work It Out medley isn't bad. But I still think side 2's lineup of The Shield/Anthem/River Deep Mountain High is their prog rock move.  And a so so one at best.

The third and final Deep Purple album of the Evans/Simpler era, the S/T album is more experimental beginning with the percussion heavy Chasing Shadows, the awkward Blind and the backwards beat of Fault Line that goes into The Painter, album number 3 is more blues based and lesser on the Psychedelic pop rock. Some progressive rock is noted on Bird Has Flown (the single version is much much different) and April would actually begin Jon Lord's fascination with classical music to which he would force the band to do on the Concerto For Group And Orchestra that would feature the debut of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  Deep Purple the album sold poorly (#162)  and  poor distribution did not help. Blackmore was plotting to rid the band of Evans and Simpler for a new change in musical direction.  By then, Tetragrammaton wasn't in very good financial situation and Deep Purple would eventually be snapped up by Warner Brothers in the US.

Certainly Rod Evans would have never hit the high notes like Gillan could but for the time and songs at hand I think he held his own. He would move on to form Captain Beyond (which made two albums for Capricorn Records) and then managed to return to a Deep Purple styled band that was using the name Deep Purple while the original band was dormant in 1980.  The band was horrendous and Blackmore put a stop to that.  Since then Evans has disappeared into the night.  But what cannot be taken away is that the MK 1 lineup, does have some highlights.  And later reissues of the first three DP albums have come with bonus and live tracks to boot. 


Shades Of Deep Purple (UK Parlophone 1968) B+
Book Of Taliesyn (UK Harvest 1969) B+
Deep Purple (UK Harvest 1969) B+
Purple Passages (Warner Brothers 1972) B+
Very Best Of Deep Purple (Scepter 1974) B-