Album of the Year | Albums | February 1, 2014

1970 – Deep Purple In Rock

Funnily enough, seminal though it is, I did actually have to think hard whether there was anything else in 1970 that warranted inclusion in my list ahead of In Rock. I suppose the truth is that it’s such an obvious choice that I felt uncomfortable picking it as my first selection. In the end though, there really is no contest.

Deep Purple In RockThe album kicks off with a cacophony of guitar, primarily, and band thrashing their way around an opening chord before fading into Jon Lord’s odd chromatic keyboard intro to Speed King. Then we get an earful of Ian Gillan. It’s a hell of an opening statement for an album, and must have seemed even more so back then.

One of the immediate things that always strikes me when I return to this album having not listened to it for a while is that as heavy and aggressive as it is, the proficiency of the playing really shines through. This isn’t like a lot of crude heavy rock and metal where the aggression seems to come first — this album is heavy, but also tight, dry, and punchy, and manages to get enough light and shade in without losing that hard edged focus.

In order to try to go toe-to-toe with Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar sound, Jon Lord ditched his Leslie speaker for much of the album and played through a heavily distorted guitar amp, without a much reverb or anything else to smooth out the edges. That much distortion makes a keyboard a remarkably unforgiving instrument to play and yet it’s skilfully and intelligently played and it really contributes to the sense of tightness of the album.

So, stand out tracks? Well Child In Time is, far more so than Smoke On The Water for me, the quintessential Deep Purple track of the era. The extended solos in the middle, Gillan’s vocal work which set the benchmark for rock screamers (though in the live versions he sounded if anything a little rougher and less sterile). Aside from that, they’re all great tracks but I think Flight of the Rat is an overlooked gem — very catchy and with some fabulous keyboard work and some unexpected changes of direction whenever it starts to sound in danger of getting stuck in a rut. Also worth mention is Living Wreck, in particular has got some glorious rhythm work by everyone, with Paice’s drums really shining.

On In Rock, Deep Purple were  firing on all cylinders and they sound like a band with a strong sense of identity and purpose, something that started to unravel as egos came more into play over time. While later albums touched highs in other ways, they never quite sustained the sense of intensity through an album the way they did here.

Tags: |Flattr this!

Leave a Reply