The Deep Purple of 1970 was far different from the Deep Purple of just the year before. Bassist Nick Simper and vocalist Rod Evans had been fired, and bassist Roger Glover and vocalist Ian Gillan had been selected to replace them. They joined holdovers Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, and Ian Paice to form the best-known lineup of the band, referred to as “Mark II.” Gone also was the psychedelic rock, cover songs, and disjointed albums of experimentation. In their place was a brand of hard rock that would strike a chord with millions of fans down through the years. Their musical journey, along with such bands as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, would change the face of music with their high energy and bone crunching brand of rock.
Deep Purple In Rock, released during June of 1970, was not an overwhelming commercial success in the United States but proved to be their breakthrough release in their native country, as it reached number four on the U.K. album charts.
With this album, they developed a distinctive sound that was different from most of their contemporaries. The speed of many of their songs, plus the combination the organ/guitar blitz, set them apart from most of the music of the day. It proved to be a winning combination.
“Speed King” leads off the album in hyper-drive, and immediately announces to the music world that this Is a far different Deep Purple from their “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” days. Gillan shrieks, “I’m a speed king, see me fly,” as Blackmore and Lord challenge each other with guitar and keyboards. Blackmore’s guitar style on this track established his and Deep Purple’s sound for years to come.
“Bloodsucker” is all Blackmore. While Gillan provides a credible vocal, it is Blackmore’s continuing quest to establish himself as a force in rock music that drives the song. The song also looked ahead to his future group, Rainbow.
Side one of the original vinyl release ended with the classic “Child In Time.” This ten minute tour-de-force remains one of their signature songs. It features one of the best vocals of Gillan’s career. The instrumental sound runs counter to the harmony as Blackmore and Lord provide one of their more creative duets of their career together.
The second side of the release, while good, is not as overall strong as the first. “Into The Fire” and “Living Wreck” both have odd structures, and while Blackmore and Gillan give competent performances, they did not match anything on the first part of the album. “Flight Of The Rat” is the side’s best track as it returned the band to its frenetic mode. The album comes to an end with the weakest track as “Hard Lovin’” seems to find the band exhausted.
Deep Purple In Rock would establish the band as one of the leading practitioners of hard rock, a position they still occupy over four decades later. It is an album that has held up well down through the years and is always worth a listen or two. Just don’t forget to turn up the volume all the way. It can be earth-shaking.