I remember as a teen, reading in the Guinness Book Of World Records, that Deep Purple set a new record, registering themselves as the loudest band on Earth – Purple’s live show in 1970 reportedly throwing out 110 decibels (thank you Marshall stacks!) of blistering sound at those brave enough to saunter front and center stage. Well, any band capable -and willing – of such auditory excess was one I had to hear. And I did, delving into the band’s back catalog and seeking out any live Deep Purple record I could. From Shades Of Deep Purple to Rapture Of The Deep, it’s been a tremendous hard rock ride. Now, I must share my findings.
Although Purple have undergone many lineup changes over the years, some things remain constant – the thick wall of Hammond organ and Ian Paice’s energetic and perfectly played drumming. Hammond and Paice have always blanketed the best of the band – some of the loudest and deliriously fabulous tracks in the rock catalog. Whether it be Ritchie Blackmore, Tommy Bolin or Steve Morse on guitar; Nick Simper, Roger Glover or Glenn Hughes on bass; Rod Evans, Ian Gillan or David Coverdale on vocals, or Jon Lord or Don Airey on keyboards, Deep Purple are as in rock as any band. And their sound is unmistakable. To celebrate, now, more than 40 years of great music, I’ve picked my 10 favorite songs, across a range of time and in no order. As they once said, “Come Taste The Band.”
1. “Child In Time” (In Rock) – The quintessential Ian Gillan vocal that, along with Jon Lord’s chording, builds up with an oh-so-slow burn. Just when you think Gillan couldn’t go one note higher, he goes five, and then another, and another, and another…
2. “Rat Rat Blue” (Who Do We Think We Are) – One of the nastiest grooves the band ever laid down, from the very underrated Who Do We Think We Are album.
3. “Mistreated” (Burn) – I still dig David Coverdale’s reading of this simmering blues number, really unlike anything else in the Deep Purple catalog. Though the lineup also featured the amazing talents of Glenn Hughes at the time, only Coverdale could put the stamp on this one.
4. “The Mule” (Fireball) – The cosmic sweep of sound from Ian Paice’s drumming and the wash of guitar from Blackmore make this the best “psychedelic” Purple tune in the catalog.
5. “Loosen My Strings” (Purpendicular) – Twelve years after Perfect Strangers, Purple came back with guitarist Steve Morse in tow and released the incredible Purpendicular album. Morse certainly re-energized the band, and this track shows the Purples once again smoking on the water.
6. “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” (Purpendicular) – The second standout track from Purpendicular ranks right there with any “classic” Deep Purple song you care to put on the table. The guitar could only be Morse, the vocal and lyrics only Gillan. Superb!
7. “Perfect Strangers” (Perfect Strangers) – Could this be the greatest Deep Purple track of them all? Jon Lord’s intro could petrify wood – and probably did. It’s like a Hammond organ having an orgasm.
8. “Highway Star” (Machine Head) – I hear you saying, “Where all the songs from Machine Head”? Well, most of them are still on that album, as far as I know. “Highway Star” houses my favorite Ritchie Blackmore solo of all, one that you and everyone can hum in their sleep. All the “classically influenced” guitarists that sprang up in the ‘80s owe a massive debt to this song – and Blackmore.
9. “Knocking At Your Back Door” (Perfect Strangers) – Ian Gillan’s wordplay culminated here into perfect rock and roll poetry. The second classic track off Perfect Strangers. Blackmore’s forbidding guitar pizzicatos open, before the maelstrom ensues.
10. “Lazy” (Machine Head) – This song was custom-made for live performance – with plenty of space for jamming and improv – and it became one of Deep Purple’s staple concert numbers. No one writes riffs like Blackmore. Great drumming by Paice (as always) and Gillan goes through the roof again.