It is somewhat ironic then that by the time 1973 came around DP were actually beginning to resemble that idea for a musical roundabout as once again it was all change in the vocalist and bass player departments. Gillan stepped from the roundabout of his own free will, although if we’re truthful he probably expected them to try harder to talk him out of it and Glover was given one almighty shove courtesy of the man in black. The rights and wrongs of this decision have been discussed many times over the years and there are still those who refuse to accept this line up and the one that followed as proper DP. That is a great shame and those who refuse to acknowledge the Coverdale era DP are missing out on some great music. (Trust me there are some people around and I know of at least one who has still steadfastly refused to listen to this or any of the post #2 albums). Who knows what kind of a follow up to Who Do We Think We Are #2 would have made if they’d have been given the opportunity. Would it have been as good as Burn – probably. Would it have been better than Burn – probably not.
Before we get sidetracked lets get back to the roundabout. The bass player section was quickly filled by Glenn Hughes from Trapeze who initially wanted to do the lead vocals as well. This idea was not acceptable to Blackmore so it was quickly thwarted and the quest began to find a front man. Depending on who you talk to and what you read just about everyone was in the frame at one point but the man who was the red hot favourite was Paul Rodgers from Free.(It is probably worth pointing out here that Paul Rodgers is my all time favourite singer without question and when I think about how close he came to joining my favourite group it still sends me on wild dreams of wonder! I would still to this day love to hear Blackmore and Rodgers make an album together.) I don’t believe they ever expected Rodgers to turn them down and it was probably the shock that made them take the risk they did. And it shouldn’t be underestimated what a huge risk it was at the time for a band of the stature of DP to take on a complete unknown to replace Ian Gillan. Whatever you think about the decision to end #2 you have to admit that Blackmore, Lord and Paice had one hell of a lot of bottle (and faith in their own ability)to go down the route they did – replacing arguably the best frontman in rock at the time with a northern boutique salesman who’d never even released a commercially available record. I am sure that despite all that has happened since David Coverdale realises what a huge debt of gratitude he owes them and the DP management. In quiet reflective moments (if he ever has them) he probably still doesn’t believe it himself.
So, history lesson over, on to the album. As has been well documented elsewhere the album does have a much more bluesy feel to it than the #2 albums. It surprises me however that more people don’t make the Rodgers connection. This album sounds in places like a heavy Free/Bad Company album. Imagine Free or Bad Company with a Hammond and Blackmore on guitar. This album came out in the same year as the first Bad Company album, a year after the final Free album Heartbreaker. Listen to the three albums and then hand on heart tell me you can’t imagine Paul Rodgers singing Burn, Might Just Take Your Life, Sail Away and above all Mistreated which is in many ways quite similar to the Free track Heartbreaker. I firmly belive that when Blackmore came up with the original ideas for these songs he did so expecting Rodgers to be doing the vocals.
Track by track then , the album opener Burn is a wonderful masterpiece of British rock which was also to become the new live set opener. It is hard to believe that this is coming from what is in effect a new band. Blackmore’s guitar and Lord’s keyboard work are superb and it is also hard to believe that Coverdale was so inexperienced at the time. Hughes’ has just enough vocal input into this song for my liking. On other tracks I think he does too much (a situation which would worsen on the follow up). Much has been made of the influence of George Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm which, accident or not, is no bad thing. For some reason Coverdales’ vocal delivery here puts me in mind of Scott Walkers’ Seventh Seal from Scott 4. I don’t know why, the songs are not really similar …… must be a singer thing! What follows next is something of a rarity, a DP track without a guitar solo. Jon Lord’s Hammond taking the lead on the bluesy Might Just Take Your Life which Coverdale claimed at the time was based on Chest Fever by The Band. Lay Down Stay Down is an out and out rocker with Lord on piano. This was actually the first track completed so is really the starting point of Coverdale’s professional career. Hughes takes too much of the vocal in my opinion but Blackmore plays a superb lengthy blues type solo. Next up Sail Away a soulful Free type song which has always been a personal favourite of mine. Again I would have preferred a solo vocal from Coverdale. Blackmore actually plays a little slide guitar on this during the fade out solo ….. brilliant. You Fool No One kicked off side 2 in the original vinyl days and it becomes clear quite quickly that this is the sort of DP song that would be extended to great lengths in a live setting. Another classic DP track that was more than just a song – it was a piece of music. What’s Goin’ On Here shows a continuation from #2 to #3 of the humerous lyric and is a basic rock n roll blues stomp, albeit a good one. Mistreated is undoubtedly the highlight of the whole album though and really needs nothing to be said about it other than go and listen to it …… right now, this minute!! A200 is a surprise ending as you wouldn’t think a band with two vocalists would need to record an instrumental on a 8 track album. That being said it is a reasonable track with a catchy riff. Still the albums lowlight though.
So there you have it, the first #3 album, the birth of an ego and rock god in David Coverdale. A brave new world or the beginning of the end. All Purple fans have their own opinion. For me its a 5 star classic, not quite as good as Machine Head or In Rock but better than all the others before or after. Number 3 on the Purple list, number 3 on the Coverdale list, number 18 on the all time list. Burn with Deep Purple!
First of all it is not really clear why the band chose to record again so quickly, they had not released two studio albums in the same year since the #1 days when that was the norm. The norm in the 70’s was very much of an album a year. There can only be two possible explainations – contractual obligation, which considering by this time they had their own Purple label is doubtful – or a desire to quickly bed in the new boys and get some fresh material for the live set. The second seems the most likely option but given the fact that the live set had stayed pretty much the same from late 71 until Gillan and Glover’s departure in the summer of 73 rapid changes of live set had never been something they had worried about before. Whatever the reasons, and whatever your feelings about this album are it would appear in retrospect to have been a mistake. One of the main differences between this album and Burn is the performance of Ritchie Blackmore. It is quite clear that at times on this album he is totally disinterested and is quite happy to let others take the lead. That is not the norm for the man in black. Another difference with Stormbringer is the length of the songs – they are far shorter than on previous albums and there are far fewer instrumental passages then normal. The other,and some will say main difference was the increasing influence and ego of one Glenn Hughes. Nobody is going to doubt Glenn Hughes ability, but who hypnotized him into thinking he was Stevie Wonder. He sang and wrote perfectly good rock songs with just enough funk and soul in them when in Trapeze. His vocal contribution to Burn wasn’t overly irritating but some of the #3 live shows are unlistenable in parts due to his constant squealing and at times on this album you just wish he would leave it to Coverdale. Blackmore quite clearly wasn’t impressed either and jumped ship soon after.
So what about the tracks then. Stormbringer I believe can be almost split in two. The title track, Lady Double Dealer, The Gypsy and Soldier Of Fortune wouldn’t have been overly out of place on Burn. The others wouldn’t have been out of place on Come Taste The Band. It is surely no coincidence that the first four were the ones that got into the live set.
Reading back what I have written so far it sounds at times as though I am not overly fond of this album. That couldn’t be further from the truth, there was a time when this was my most played DP album. The secret is (as with Come Taste The Band) not to think of it as a Deep Purple album. Just think of it as a very very good album made by a group of elite musicians who just happened to have been in Deep Purple.
Enter one Tommy Bolin ……….. quite possibly the most under-rated guitarist ever, certainly in the UK where he was given a torrid time.
I may as well come clean here before we go any further and make an admission or two. This is the first DP album I ever bought and in truth is possibly the first proper album I ever purchased which puts it at the top of a rather long list.
For that reason I have a rather special affection for it and will not hear a word said against it. Although I now own it on CD, if I take my vinyl version out of the rack the cover has its own smell that is etched in my memory. It will be there until the day I die and I know that many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean.
So on to the album then. The first thing to do if you want to listen to this album objectively is to forget all about the Gillan/Glover version of DP and to a certain extent the initial Mark 3 (Burn) sound. As I have said in an earlier review the previous album ‘Stormbringer’ started to move the DP sound away from rock and towards a more funky groove. What this album does is take the differing styles and marry them together. Something its predecessor never did. Blackmore had no interest in the funk/jazz type things Glenn Hughes and to a certain extent Coverdale were putting forward so just ignored them and left the rest of the band to it. That is why you could split ‘Stormbringer into’ two mini albums. The Blackmore half (Stormbringer/Lady Double Dealer/ Soldier Of Fortune/The Gypsy) ………. and the funky half (the rest).
With this album though, there is no such split. Bolin is as perfectly at home on the opening rock tracks Comin’ Home and Lady Luck as he is on the following full blown funk of Gettin’ Tighter. In fact this whole album showcases what an extraordinary talent Bolin had. Replacing Blackmore in DP in 1975 was a thankless task and there are many who still haven’t given this album the proper listening it deserves but his work throughout is never less than superb. He even has a vocal part in Dealer (a song which he would have done well to heed the advice of in retrospect). I Need Love is almost a precurser to Whitesnake and features yet more fantastic guitar work from Bolin. Drifter is as rocky as any Purple track ever was and the riff of Love Child is in some ways reminicent of Iron Man by Black Sabbath. This Time Around/Owed To G(ershswin) sees Jon Lord performing as well as on any Purple track and is quite possibly Glenn Hughes best ever contribution to the band. Bolin again is perfection. The closing ‘You Keep On Moving’ shows just how good the Coverdale/Hughes vocal combo could have been if it had been kept in check. The live shows from this line-up sometimes descend into meaningless noise thanks to Hughes’ incessant squealing and vocal acrobatics but thankfully on this studio recording he was kept very much in check and that has increased his overall contribution. (Less is definately more Mr Hughes ….. when will you ever learn).
There is no point me denying that I view this album through rose tinted glasses but despite the fact that it was recorded under the name of one of the biggest bands of all time it is something of a lost classic. Many purple fans disregard it …….. as as bigger fan of Purple as any I say don’t. You are depriving yourself of a musical masterpiece if you ignore this album . It doesn’t have to be Blackmore or Bolin in the same way as it doesn’t have to be Gillan or Coverdale. It can be Blackmore and Bolin, Gillan and Coverdale. They all contributed to the sound that was DP and you don’t have to disregard one to be a fan of the other.
This album sits just outside the Top 20 in my best albums of all time chart ………. if it was a sentimental favourite album chart it would be at #1.