Check This Out: “Shades of Deep Purple”


Deep Purple (Parlophone [UK], 1968)

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Growing up in the late ’80’s-early ’90’s, I always equated Deep Purple with heavy metal. I guess the grinding thump of “Smoke On the Water” coupled with seeing their name on the backs of guy’s jean jackets alongside Ozzy Osbourne, et al. helped foster that perception. But their first album, Shades of Deep Purple, while it does grind, is all mean, psychedelic blues-rock.

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The cover as it was seen in the US on the Tetragrammaton (?) label.

Chris Curtis was the drummer for the UK band The Searchers. After his time in that outfit, he got an idea; he wanted to create a band called “Roundabout” that would feature a rotating line-up of world class players. He was able to interest capital in his idea and he and his investors assembled a group. Then, the investors/managers jettisoned Curtis; his erratic behaviour and LSD use rendered him redundant.

But the band that had been assembled looked good and the “rotating member” idea went the way of Chris Curtis. However, Curtis had recruited the two future stalwarts of the band; organist Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. The band eventually changed their name, using the title of Blackmore’s grandmother’s favourite song.

Jon Lord’s classical training rears it’s head from time to time on Shades of Deep Purple and it serves as good counterpoint on what is essentially a hard-driving, psychedelic blues-rock work-out. The standout track is the band’s cover of “Hush”. Originally recorded by Billy Joe Royal, “Hush” had been written by Joe South, a Grammy-winning artist who had also penned “Down in the Boondocks”, “Games People Play” (Grammy winner), “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” and “Rose Garden”, the monster smash and Grammy-award winner recorded by Lynn Anderson. DP’s “Hush” is solid, punctuated by Lord’s stuttering organ licks. “Hush” was also recorded by The Partridge Family and – wait for it – Milli Vanilli (?!).

The rest of Shades of Deep Purple sees the band going into Vanilla Fudge territory, giving heavy, psychedelic treatments to “I’m So Glad” (Cream), “Help!” (the Beatles) and “Hey, Joe” (Jimi Hendrix). It’s a fantastic album so check it out if you can find it. While you’re at it, I can recommend Deep Purple’s follow-up album, The Book of Taliesyn, which features their covers of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”, the Beatles’ “We Can Work it Out” and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High”. Deep Purple’s “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” have been heard recently on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood”.


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