Man, so I got the inspiration for writing about Deep Purple again, quite on a whim, on the 27th of this month, when I wrote about them on the 25th of January, and the 22nd of February. Apparently late in the month I tend to feel like I have to get my Deep Purple on!
Well, though Deep Purple certainly has a large enough discography to check out every single month, the “best” lineup, MKII, put out only 4 albums (and one incredible live album), of which this is the second (the first being In Rock and third being Machine Head, which we’ve already covered):
Indeed, Fireball is a force to be reckoned with among 70′s brit-rock albums, and despite the fact that it’s overshadowed in the band’s catalogue by Machine Head, which was released only 6 months afterward, it’s got all the energy and some to spare.
Like the other albums, Fireball puts its best foot forward with the fast, driving, heavy, and double-bass-pedal-tastic title track. I have made no secrets about how much I enjoy songs that start with really kickin’ beats where the other instruments have to keep up, and this album delivers on that. The other instruments, of course, make catching up with Ian Paice’s amazing drumming seem like no feat at all. Of course, like most fireballs, this one burns hot but is gone after only 3 1/2 minutes, which is incredibly short for a Deep Purple tune, I gotta tell ya.
The next tune, also reminiscent of the other albums, is a bluesy jam, only unlike the other albums, it’s called “No No No” instead of something different. It’s catchy all around, but the chorus in particular will stick with you unless your mind is made of the purest teflon:
Have we got our freedom? No, no, no
Is it getting better? No, no, no
Do we love each other? No, no, no
Must we wait forever? No, no, no
Of all the Deep Purple songs dealing with protesting… well, whatever’s around… this one is probably my favorite. Not my favorite is one that will come with the 4th album in the MKII lineup, but that’s an entry for the late part of another month.
The third song… varies heavily depending on which country you bought this album in. If you bought it or downloaded it in America, you either got the version with “Strange Kind Of Woman”, or if you bought the most recent special edition, or the original version in the UK or Japan, you got “Demon’s Eye” as your third track. Of course, if you have the special edition, you have both songs, but “Demon’s Eye” is going to come up third.
“Demon’s Eye” starts off with that lovely distorted keyboard sound pounding away at a chord that the guitar joins, followed by Ian’s trademark over-the-top vocals, all set in a dire minor-key blues boogie. Interestingly enough, “Strange Kind Of Woman” is also a boogie, so it’s interesting to note that you’ve got 2 songs of similar length, both of which with nearly the same beat, only one is a song about not wanting a woman because she’s “sly like a demon’s eye” (I don’t know either), and the other is about really wanting a woman despite her being really resistant to the singer’s uhh, obvious charm. Then again, “Strange Kind Of Woman” has that last line “I won my woman just before she died”, which kind of puts an abrupt tragic spin on what started as a tale of trying to win a woman’s heart, but such is the way of rock n’ roll. You’re gonna have the occasional song where the subject, object, or everyone dies. You’ll just have to accept it.
“Anyone’s Daughter”, the pan-continental fourth song, is rather unique among its compatriots in the Deep Purple MKII discography. It’s a country-sounding jig featuring some quite good finger-picking from noted wizard Ritchie Blackmore, and also a 7th-chord heavy electric piano part. It’s immensely catchy, and then the vocals come in, and they’re not rock vocals at all! He sings the song perfectly clearly, which is good because the lyrics are fantastic. It’s about sleeping with the wrong kind of women because they’re someone important’s daughter, until the song’s ending, of course, which is a great metaphor for denouncing authority figures in society or something, I don’t know.
The next song is quite different as an album song than as a live song, where it has had a sure spot in for nearly 40 years now. The reason it is such a concert staple is because it is home to a 6-10 minute drum solo from the afore-mentioned super drummer, Ian Paice. It starts with a cool, sweeping drum beat and the tune being played by guitar and keyboard while the bass line rolls away. It’s a decent enough song, but definitely a spectacle when played live. According to Ian Gillan, it’s a song about “Lucifer, and all his friends”. Again, it’s hard to have any decent rock without the devil getting in there somewhere. Replacing the extended drum solo, in the album version, is a guitar solo and fancy drum part that then goes back to normal while the guitar solo continues to pound away. Again, drum solo, much more impressive.
After “The Mule” is a song called “Fools”, which is 8 minutes long so strap yourself in. It’s a tune mainly centered around a riff established again by the keyboard and guitar working in tandem. Those two work really well together, I should mention. The vocals come in with a soft and very in-the-background “Ahhhhh, I’m crying”, and you know you’re in for one of the more “progressive” songs that pervaded Deep Purple’s otherwise rather metallic repetoire. If you’ve got a spare 2 minutes to wait for the rocking part of the song to come in, I promise it’s well worth it. Just try not to fall asleep, otherwise that first guitar hit might wake you up unpleasantly. I kind of really love the line:
Rocks and stones won’t bruise my soul
But tears will leave a stain
It’s cheese but it’s good cheese. By the way, at around the 4 1/2 minute mark, you can get your pillow ready, because Ritchie Blackmore is going to perform, for you, his impression of a bad cello player by basically combining “tapping” on the fret board to get the notes and using the volume notes to fade every note in, with a little assistance from Jon Lord, the keyboardist. This was apparently an unescapable part of the live show as well, and smacks of pretension, but that’s Ritchie Blackmore for ya.
It should also be noted that “The Mule” and “Fools” are mixed up in name and track number on the Zune download of the special edition of this album. Zune buyers, beware! You’ll have to re-adjust the ID3 yourself, fool.
Finally, an extra-deep guitar note brings us the song “No One Came”, a song about being a old rock star who has lost all relevance who continues to pound away despite the fact that “no one came”. I would love to jab Ian Gillan at this one, but in fact the band is still selling out stadiums and, at least in Japan, they’re still very impressed. They’re on tour there right now, as I understand! So… well played!
And that’s Fireball. Another album that seems short, but you probably lost about 5 years off your life listening to the fake cello in “Fools” so the album has lengthened itself relative to the remainder of your life here on Earth. The band says “you’re welcome”.