Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

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Deep Purple/Rainbow

Reviewed on this page:
The Book Of Taliesyn - Deep Purple - Fireball - Machine Head - Who Do We Think We Are - Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Down To Earth - Bent Out Of Shape - Perfect Strangers - The Battle Rages On - Rapture Of The Deep

Formed in 1968, England's Deep Purple were one of the very worst progressive rock bands. To their credit, though, they realized this, and switched to hard rock in the early 70s, helping forge heavy metal with their inescapable riff tune "Smoke On The Water." A slew of personnel changes followed, with guitaist Ritchie Blackmore forming his own band and singer Ian Gillan heading into a variety of career embarassments, and the group fell apart completely in 1976. By 1984, the rebirth of heavy metal convinced the original lineup to reunite, and they've been together ever since (though Blackmore soon left again).

I always thought of Deep Purple as a band with one great radio hit and nothing else worth hearing. Well, upon further examination, I still think of them that way: far as I can hear, their discography contains few hidden gems and a lot of repetition. Though he got better as he went along, Blackmore's guitar solos are so frequently banal, I'm rethinking my long-held belief that Pete Townshend is rock's most overrated guitarist. Oddly, though, the band pulled itself together in the early 90s, and their recent stuff is actually better than the better-known "classics." As usual, I've listed solo projects where I know about them, even if I'm unlikely to review them any time soon. (DBW)

Ritchie Blackmore, guitar; Rod Evans, vocals; Jon Lord, organ; Ian Paice, drums; Nick Simper, bass. Evans and Simper left, 1970, replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover respectively. Gillan and Glover left, 1974, replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes respectively. Blackmore left, 1975, replaced by Tommy Bolin. Group disbanded, 1976. Reformed 1984 with Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice. Gillan left again, 1989, replaced by Joe Lynn Turner. Gillan returned again, 1991. Blackmore left again, 1992 or so, replaced first by Joe Satriani and then by Steve Morse.

Shades Of Deep Purple (1968)
The organ-suffused cover of Joe South's "Hush" was a hit single. The disc also contains lengthy versions of "Help!" and "Hey Joe," and a few originals. (DBW)

The Book Of Taliesyn (1968)
So bad it sounds like a practical joke - prog rock that's as incompetent as the Vanilla Fudge, yet takes itself as seriously as ELP. The opening "Listen, Learn, Read On" combines cheesy organ breaks, overdone echo, pompous spoken voiceover, poorly recorded drums, and an absurdly rapid fade - and it's the album's best track. The ten-minute cover of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High" must be heard to be believed, while the six-minute cover of "We Can Work It Out" can't be believed even after you hear it: both tracks open with aimless, rumbling instrumental pieces that bear no clear relationship to the actual song. The five-minute cover of Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" - a single - showcases Lord's skating-rink organ at appalling length, making Ray Manzarek seem concise by comparison. Blackmore doesn't overplay especially, mostly sticking to power chords and tossing an occasional random fill onto the bonfire. Alas, the originals are no improvement ("Anthem," with lounge lizard vocals from Evans, and an incongruous string quartet; the corny instrumental "Hard Road"), though the percussion-heavy "The Shield" at least makes an effort to hold your interest. This is the kind of record you listen to in slack-jawed amazement... but not very often. (DBW)

Deep Purple (1969)
In a sharp turnaround, the band wrote nearly everything, and some of it's actually good. There's some pretty decent blues riffing ("The Painter," "Why Didn't Rosemary?"), and the brief "Fault Line" is a groovy experiment, with heavy guitar over a backwards drum/organ vamp. "Chasing Shadows" has enough polyrhythmic percussion to put Santana to shame, though Evans spoils the track with his affected, echoey vocals. But there's still a lot of pself-indulgent psychedelia (the endless suite "April," with lengthy orchestral passages), while Donovan's silly love song "Lalena" is sappy and boasts an execrable key rhyme. And I don't know if it's an improvement, but Blackmore's discovered wah-wah, which he slathers on with abandon whether it fits the tune or not (the neo-classical, harpsichord-driven "Blind"). (DBW)

Concerto For Group And Orchestra (1970)
No, the Nice weren't the only ones to do it. In three movements, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Evans and Simper were gone, replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. (DBW)

Deep Purple In Rock (1970)

Fireball (1971)
Listening to these guys is giving me a new appreciation of Black Sabbath. Playing hard rock rather than prog, the group is less ridiculous but no more accomplished: the muddy bass and overdriven organ drown out the guitar, and the tunes are overlong ("No One Came") and simplistic (title track). "No No No" has a tasty, subtle lead guitar riff and an impressionistic middle - still, it wouldn't have made the cut on any Led Zeppelin record and is easily the best song here. "Strange Kind Of Woman" contains a lengthy quote from "Hush," which I hope was intentional; the record closes with the precious mock-Dylan practical joke "Anyone's Daughter." (DBW)

Machine Head (1972)
Far better than Fireball, but still no great shakes. The AOR hit "Highway Star" blends hard rock histrionics with prog keyboard fiddling, but without the charms of either. "Maybe I'm A Leo" is yet another blues jam; "Pictures Of Home" is a slower number based on an organ riff - Blackmore tries to save the day with a blistering solo, but then they commit the ultimate sin: a false ending on a song that was too long to begin with. "Lazy" and "Space Truckin'" are both based on endless repetition of brain-dead licks. But the Zappa-inspired "Smoke On The Water" is terrific: aside from the unforgettable flatted-fifth riff, Blackmore's surprisingly mellow guitar solo is a brilliant change of pace, and for once the organ is subtle enough to drive the tune without overwhelming it. (DBW)

Made In Japan (1973)
A live double album, mostly drawing from Machine Head. (DBW)

Who Do We Think We Are (1973)
"Woman From Tokyo" was the hit here, and it exemplifies the band's uneasy marriage of hard rock and prog: the otherwise kick-ass tune is saddled with a corny, spaced-out, group falsetto middle. Same story with "Super Trouper," a solid riff tune that's almost ruined by heavyhanded phasing, and they commit other early 70s sins, like an extended fade and absurdly stupid lyrics on "Mary Long." "Rat Bat Blue" is a decent blues jam despite a strong similarity to the Allmans' "One Way Out." There's not as much to be said for the turgid "Our Lady" (with Beatlesque wordless backing vocals) or the rambling "Place In Line," but it's as solid as any of the band's records from this period. (DBW)

Burn (1974)
Gillan and Glover were replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. (DBW)

Stormbringer (1974)
Gotta love a Michael Moorcock reference. (DBW)

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow (Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: 1975)
Blackmore split to start his own band, including hysterical singer Ronnie James Dio, Craig Gruber on bass, Mickey Lee Soule on keys and Gary Driscoll on drums. Supposedly this is their high point, and it's reasonably energetic hard rock ("Man On The Silver Mountain," with a "Smoke"-style one-note bass line) if generally unspectacular. "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves," despite the pretentious title, is a high point: a grin-inducing riff tune - though even that's damaged by a solo composed mainly of predictable string bends. "Catch The Rainbow" is a note-for-note ripoff of Hendrix's "Little Wing," same tempo and everything - I can't believe they didn't think anybody would notice that. Um, guys, he's the most famous rock guitarist of all time. At least Blackmore and Dio didn't pretend they wrote the Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad," which closes out the album. (DBW)

Come Taste The Band (1976)
Blackmore was quickly replaced by Tommy Bolin, who had previously replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang. The Purps called it quits after this release. (DBW)

Rising (Rainbow: 1976)
Blackmore and Dio fired the whole backing band, bringing in Jimmy Bain (bass), Tony Carey (keys) and Cozy Powell (drums). (DBW)

On Stage (Rainbow: 1977)

Long Live Rock 'N' Roll (Rainbow: 1978)
New faces included Bob Daisley (bass) and David Stone (keys). (DBW)

Down To Earth (Rainbow: 1979)
Dio left Rainbow to front Sabbath; in retaliation, Blackmore stole Sabbath's keyboardist Don Airey. He also brought in new vocalist Graham Bonnet, reunited with Glover, and put him in the producer's chair. The result is a terrifyingly generic late 70s rock record: Bonnet has Meat Loaf's blue-collar operatic quality, and Russ Ballard's "Since You've Been Gone" sounds like every Boston song you ever heard, only worse. There's even a cheesy keyboard homage to Close Encounters (the opening of "Eyes Of The World"). The opening "All Night Long" rocks in a KISS kind of way, though, despite the silly backing handclaps. (DBW)

Difficult To Cure (Rainbow: 1981)
Bonnett was gone, replaced by Joe Lynn Turner, and the new drummer was Bobby Rondinelli. (DBW)

Straight Between The Eyes (Rainbow: 1982)

In 1983, Gillan cut a record with Black Sabbath. (DBW)

Bent Out Of Shape (Rainbow: 1983)
Again, Blackmore couldn't keep his band together: new faces included David Rosenthal (keys) and Chuck Burgi (drums). Glover was still around, though: he played bass and produced, giving the record a grating corporate rock sound that's like Loverboy without the hooks ("Fool For The Night"). Turner sounds just like the singer from Foreigner, which doesn't help. Things improve a bit on the Blackmore showcases: "Anybody There" is a desolate, trebly solo feature, "Drinking With The Devil" is a showoffy multi-part epic. And on the dull rock numbers, Blackmore gets weirder, playing disjointed tuneless solos with lots of scraping and whammy, and no evident relationship to the song in question. It's fun to hear someone who's really into playing his instrument, even though the results aren't very engaging. After this, Rainbow broke up and Blackmore reformed Deep Purple. (DBW)

Perfect Strangers (1984)
The Machine Head lineup reunited, and produced probably the only reunion album that's as good as the band's original work. Mostly it's safe generic rock ("Mean Streak"), but that's actually a cut above the band's previous attempts to innovate. The single "Knocking At Your Back Door" - pounding 4/4 drums, sturdy if forgettable riff - is your basic Def Leppard song, though Blackmore throws in another tortured unmelodic solo - as if he'd learned how to solo by listening to "In The Evening." Traces of prog remain: the title track has some irregular time signatures; "Under The Gun" quotes a classical tune; the mini-suite "A Gypsy's Kiss" features guitar and organ playing Dueling Scales. And I've got to give them props for putting a pompous church organ at the beginning of side two: wasn't nobody doing that in 1984. If you liked the early 70s albums there's no reason to shy away from this one. (DBW)

The House Of Blue Light (1987)

Slaves And Masters (1990)
Joe Lynn Turner turned up as the new vocalist. (DBW)

The Battle Rages On... (1993)
Apparently the fans found this perfunctory and unimaginative, but I like it. Nearly every track has a satisfactory head-banging hook (title track, "Lick It Up"); nothing is insanely long (though "Anya" is a bit overdone); there are just enough keyboards to keep Blackmore in check but none of Lord's former excess. Produced by Thom Panunzio and Glover, and they keep the sound uncluttered while using choice gimmicks (the fading-in lead guitar at the beginning of "Nasty Piece Of Work," phasing on "One Man's Meat"). There's an assembly-line quality, sure, and nearly every tune has the same deliberate pace - the zippy "A Twist In The Tale" is an exception - but it does the job. The only true low point is the repetitious "Time To Kill," lyrically a retread of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (DBW)

Stranger In Us All (Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: 1995)
An all-new band apart from Blackmore: Doogie White (vocals), Paul Morris (keys), Greg Smith (bass) and John O'Reilly (drums), with Candice Night on backing vocals. (DBW)

Purpendicular (1996)
Blackmore had taken off again, replaced by Dixie Dregs founder Steve Morse. (DBW)

Abandon (1998)

Shadow Of The Moon (Blackmore's Night: 1998)
Blackmore and Candice Night formed a Renaissance folk duo - Blackmore plays acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin, etc. Ian Anderson adds flute to "Play Minstrel Play." Most of the tunes are originals, but there are also a few standards like "Greensleeves." (DBW)

Under A Violet Moon (Blackmore's Night: 1999)
More acoustic folk. (DBW)

Live At The Royal Albert Hall (2000)
Coming full circle, the Purps cut another record with a symphony orchestra. (DBW)

Fires At Midnight (Blackmore's Night: 2001)
A cover of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" was a single. (DBW)

Bananas (2003)
"Haunted" features string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster. (DBW)

Ghost Of A Rose (Blackmore's Night: 2003)
Two more covers: Joan Baez's "Diamonds And Rust" and Jethro Tull's "Rainbow Blues." (DBW)

Rapture Of The Deep (2005)
On "MTV," Gillan laments classic rock radio's propensity for sticking to familiar hits rather than anything new, and he's got a point: this album is more solid than the "classic period" records that represent the band on radio station playlists. The riffs are thunderous ("Back To Back"; the Zeptastic "Junkyard Blues"); the compositions are developed, with the bridges showing particular sophistication ("Before Time Began"); and as on The Battle Rages On, they rein in the running times. Also, Morse is a far better guitarist than Blackmore, with a deep bag of solo tricks ("Don't Let Go"; "MTV") and the intelligence to get musical mileage out of them. But the group's distinctive sound remains, as Don Airey (replacing Lord) lays prominent organ on nearly every tune ("Money Talks"), and Gillan's pinched tone and operatic reliance on vibrato are pleasantly unchanged. Every song is credited to the whole band; produced and engineered by Michael Bradford. (DBW)

The Village Lanterne (Blackmore's Night: 2006)

Winter Carols (Blackmore's Night: 2006)
No kidding, a Christmas album. (DBW)

Secret Voyage (Blackmore's Night: 2008)
With a new version of the Rainbow song "Rainbow Eyes." (DBW)

Now What?! (2013)
Maybe it's a case of mis-set expectations, but I found this a huge let-down compared to Battle and Rapture - Morse's solos are varied and sophisticated, but they're stranded in a wilderness of crummy vamps ("Hell To Pay") and pretension ("A Simple Song"). (DBW)

Geez, these reviewers are lazy.

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