Ok, I know I JUST did a writeup on Muse, so throwing Deep Purple MK II music in right after that is in danger of being too much rock, but I am willing to risk that for you. I have been a fan of Deep Purple for a couple of years now (though a fan of Highway Star the song ever since its inclusion in the Super Nintendo racing masterpiece Rock N’ Roll Racing) , especially the “Mk II” lineup, which included Ian Gillan on vocals, Ritchie Blackmoore on guitar, Roger Glover on bass, Jon Lord on keys, and last but most certainly first, the ever-present Ian Paice on drums. Of the few albums (4, I think?) that this lineup put out, I have a lot of trouble deciding between the band’s Magnum Opus, Machine Head, and the album which directly precedes it, In Rock, which has what I consider one of the undisputed best album covers in history:
Albums like this are a little harder to write-up, I feel, because the fair, objective reviewer in me would simply repeat the word “YES!” about 1000 times to convey his true feelings about In Rock. I feel that that’s cheating, so I’ll do my best to describe what’s really going on here.
The first song, “Speed King” is a bit of a spiritual predecessor to “Highway Star”, in that it’s a song about partying and having a good time wrapped loosely around a central idea of moving really fast, presumably in a car. The first stanza refers to about 3 different rock songs, at least that I can tell:
Good golly, said little miss molly
When she was rockin in the house of blue light
Tutti frutti was oh so rooty
When she was rockin to the east and west
Lucille was oh so real
When she didnt do her daddies will
Come on baby, drive me crazy–do it, do it
The band, at this point, covered some old rock songs like “Lucille” so it’s a matter of course that they would pay omage to their forefathers. The song does what I love for a rock album to do: just drops you into the middle of the rock with no warning (I found out, however, that this is simply due to the American release cutting out the minute-long intro to the song, bastards) and doesn’t let up for quite a while, even when the song slows down to a jazzy drum beat with a light organ solo, you still know that the rock is coming right back. One of the main features of this song and perhaps most of Deep Purple’s early album is the “searing vocals” of Ian Gillan, one of the best screamers of rock when screaming was at its high-point (no pun intended). However, the vocals do not take the center stage, there’s still a smoking rhythm section (my favorite of the period aside from The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and the combination of distorted keyboards and distorted guitars to compete with. At least in the case of In Rock, those elements all come together perfectly, and give no indication of the ego-battles that would drive the band apart so many times that it’s a wonder they’re still around today. Still, that’s a story for another album.
The next song, “Bloodsucker”, again features very prominent, screamy vocals (especially the song’s hook, the “AHHH NO NO NO”, man I love that), but the bluesy guitar riffs that give way to a wicked cool solo halfway through bring it right up to the same level. The vocals just might win this one, over all, since towards the end they’re filtered through some really cool sweeping effects. It’s all right though, the guitar gets its turn in the next song.
“Child In Time” is a 10-minute long jam that starts off slow because that’s the only way to introduce the incredible instrumental jam halfway through. The vocals play an important, yet brief, part though as Ian hits some of his highest notes right before the song goes crazy/nuts. This song is so incredible I can’t hardly believe it’s real, but the live performance is even better. Seriously best 20 minutes you can spend watching a single song. I think this must be why some people label Deep Purple as “progressive” sometimes. Just in case the instrumental break wasn’t completely awesome enough for you, the song explodes at the end, which is the only way to really end a proper rock song, in my opinion.
This song may leave you feeling like this album may be far too intense for normal listening, which is why the “feel good” major keys prevail over the next portion of the listening experience. “Flight Of The Rat” is great in its own right, namely for the rotation of punchy solos from the keyboards and guitars, all kept together by a great upbeat rhythm delivered by Roger Glover and quite possibly my favorite drummer still alive today: Ian Paice, who gets his own little funk thing going right at the 5 minute mark and again at the 6 minute mark and AGAIN at the 7 minute mark of the song. It’s hard to call them proper “solos” however, since the average Ian Paice solo is about 6 minutes long on its own (if you’re wondering where his shirt is in that video, he rocked it off around the 3rd song).
The next song, “Into The Fire”, is a chunky, plodding straight-up rock number. If “metal” had been invented by this album’s time, one might consider it an early metal song. It’s not a particular favorite of mine, it’s at least mercifully short at about 3 1/2 minutes. Also, it serves as a great segue into the radical change of style between “Flight Of The Rat” and the super-funky “Living Wreck”, which contains one my absolute favorite bassline on the album and perhaps in Deep Purple’s entire catalogue. Man, what a song, the right combination of blues, funk, and some crazy-ass organ blats.
The final song (what, only 7 songs?) is a bit of a psychedelic track featuring lots of noise against a driving beat, with Ian Gillan once again bringing out the big screamy notes that had been a little more low-key in the songs between “Child In Time” and this one. Since apparently Jon Lord’s favorite keyboard solos have to do with crashy sounds and lots of chaos, this is probably his favorite track on the album, especially since he gets the most solo time. Honestly, since the song doesn’t change much and is about 8 minutes long, it’s kind of easy to pass this one up unless you are a really big fan of noisy solos.
This album in general is great though, and certainly cheap enough if you pick up the CD version released in ’95. I may have to check out the 25th Anniversary edition, however, since it has “Black Night” on it, which is a pretty great track. Well, until tomorrow!