‘The combined talents of five young men extended to create realms of musical colour in shades of deep purple. There is Jon Lord,tall and slim, who paints with his electronic palette. Rod Evans, their mouthpiece, the romantic member of the team. Nick Simper the joker in the pack, who also plays the bass. On drums is Ian Paice whose sounds belie his gentle looks while Ritchie Blackmore speaks through his wild strings more eloquently thanI.’
Recorded over three days between 11th and 13th May 1968 at the Pye studios with Derek Lawrence at the production desk the album was largely made up of their current live set. The instrumental ‘And The Address’ kicks thing off and is a great early example of the way Blackmore and Lord compliment each other so well. The most well known track from the Mark I era a cover of the Joe South track ‘Hush’ follows and is a classic peice of late sixties rock/pop which reached number 4 on the US single chart and still stands up well against other hits of the era. As was borne out by the Kula Shaker version of a few years ago which was very similar indeed. The other covers on the album are a decent if unadventurous version of the Beatles ‘Help’, a Skip James track ‘I’m So Glad’ and a lengthy and impressive version of ‘Hey Joe’. Of the remaining group compositions on the album ‘One More Rainy Day’ and ‘Love Help Me’ are standard sixties pop songs and ‘Happiness’ is an instrumental prelude to ‘I’m So Glad’. The highlight of the album for me though is ‘Mandrake Root’. A track that would remain in the live set well into the Gillan/Glover era and at times be extended to over 30 minutes. The original recording here was a definite sign of things to come and is the first example of Deep Purple as a rock band.
On the whole then a good debut from a band that would become one of the most influential bands of the 70’s. Yes some of it sounds a little dated and as I said at the outset it is very much an album of the late sixties so if you are not a fan of that sound and only like the heavier 70s sound it may not appeal. But fans of Blackmore, Lord and Paice will be fascinated to hear them developing their sound. Purple fans who disregard this line up would do well to remember that tracks like ‘Mandrake Root’ were a vital stepping stone between the sixties pop sessions Blackmore and Lord had been doing and albums like ‘In Rock’ which they were producing less than 2 years later.
‘Taliesyn, bard of the fabulous court of King Arthur in beautiful Camelot responsible for providing all the entertainment and setting the various moods of the court. The Book Of Taliesyn is a modern representation of seven different feelings with musicians Ritchie, Rod,Ian, Nicky and Jon establishing the musical moods under the spiritual direction of Taliesyn.’
In many ways Taliesyn was a minor backward step from the first album. Structuraly it was almost identical being made up once again of a mixture of covers and original material. Whilst you could argue that the original material was on a par with the first album, the covers are undoubtedly much weaker with the uptempo hand-clap accompanied Kentucky Woman being the best by some way. The decision to record River Deep Mountain High seems bizarre to say the least and the track is the low point of an otherwise good album. The original material is of far more interest here though as there was a definite shift away from the 60s pop sound to more of a progressive album track feel. Listen Learn Read On is a very experimental track, not really an ideal opener but it is in truth difficult to pick a track that was opener material, (Wring That Neck would have been my choice but the band were probably reluctant to start with an instrumental again). The Shield is a similarly experimental and complex track which shows just how talented this line up of Purple was. Many people regard it as the highlight of Purple Mark I. For me though the highlights on this album are Anthem with Jon Lord playing mellotron and the absolute killer instrumental Wring That Neck (For some reason re-titled Hard Road in the US). I defy anyone to hear the track and not have the riff running through their head for the rest of the day or their life for that matter. Like Mandrake Root from the previous album Wring That Neck would stay in the live set for many years to come and be extended beyond the 30 minute mark. Its importance in the development of the 70s purple should not be underestimated.
During the recording of this album Blackmore, Lord and Paice decided that Rod Evans was struggling with the heavier material and needed replacing. Nick Simper too was declared surplus to requirements and they were subsequently replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, thus giving birth to the greatest ever band in the history of rock. In fact Gillan and Glover were already on board before this album was officially released in the UK.
Rod Evans is often given a bit of a rough deal by fans and press alike presumably because of the so called Deep Purple scam of 1980. However, it is worth pointing out that he was a vital member of the legend that is Deep Purple and his part in the building of that legend should not be forgotten. The early success of Hush in US was due as much to his 60s pop crooner delivery as the musical talents of Blackmore, Lord and Paice. Without that early success there is no guarantee that Blackmore, Lordand Paice would have stuck at it through three commercially unsuccessful albums. It was unfortunate for Evans that whilst Blackmore Lord and Paice were waiting to embrace the heavier sound with open arms he was much more at home with the soon to be outdated sixties sound. It is somewhat ironic that his final Purple album was probably his best individual performance and that his next musical project “Captain Beyond” is still regarded by many as a prog classic. The same can be said of Simper and “Warhorse”. With regard to the 80s scam looking back at it now it is difficult to see what the fuss was about ….. apart of course from the sub standard musicians involved. He was after all an original member of the band and there was no other Deep Purple around at the time. I am being purely mischevious here but you would think that a good lawyer would be able to argue that there is as much validity in a Deep Purple which features Rod Evans as the only original member as one which features only Ian Paice from the original line up. As if that would ever happen …. ooh ..err …. hmm….. maybe not !!