In early 1968 the five original members of Deep Purple started to rehearse. They didn’t have much by way of original material and it’s unlikely they could envision where the band would be in a few short years. They worked their way through Help, I’m So Glad and Hey Joe. Three well known songs. They were also working on a cover of a little known song Hush. They also were working their way through two instrumental jam numbers And The Address and Mandrake Root.
After three months of rehearsal, cutting some demos and some light touring the band was ready to record. It took only three days in May 1968 and the album was done. Two months later in the stores. In the United Kingdom and some parts of Europe it did poorly but powered by the albums single “Hush” the album did moderately well in the United States. The album seems primitive by todays standards and of course outside of the interplay between Jon Lord on organ and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar the album bears little semblance to the Deep Purple of a few years later. For those not familiar with early Deep Purple work think of the Vanilla Fudge or the Moody Blues. Still this is a fun album worth the occasional listen.
“And The Address” opens with a soaring organ flourish. Then drums and guitar come blasting in. It took a lot of spunk for the band to open their first album with an instrumental. For only a few months of playing together the band is remarkably tight. At the 2:25 mark the world of music is introduced to its first Ritchie Blackmore solo. An excellent introduction to what the band was all about and the back and forth with Lord and Blackmore was starting to lay down the template for further musical innovation.
“Hush” was a Joe South song that the band retooled and gave it a hard rock beat. It sounded great and was the bands first single ever. It was basically only a hit in the USA and Canada. This song gave Purple the credibility to tour the United States and was the stepping stone that kept their career moving along.
“One More Rainy Day” is a ponderous song that never really takes off. The record label liked it enough to use it as the B side to Hush but its easily forgettable.
“Prelude Happiness / I’m So Glad” is a two song combo. The prelude is more Lord/Blackmore material that sounds like it would have been well suited for a spaghetti western. The Prelude segues into “I’m So Glad” a song that was covered by many bands of the era most notable Cream. The Deep Purple starts out as a faithful to the original version but halfway through Blackmore lays down a blistering solo. The band did not embarrass themselves covering a song that they knew full well would be compared to Cream’s version.
“Mandrake Root” was originally an instrumental that the band added vocals to at a later date to avoid having to many instrumentals on the album. The keyboard part sounds vaguely like a piece of Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix. About two minutes into the song the band starts to really cook, a splash of thunder introduces the organ solo. This is the first time on the album Ian Paice gets to show a little something on drums and he doesn’t disappoint.
A little bit of keyboard cleverness opens “Help” the Beatles classic song. Whereas in I’m So Glad the band tried to use parts of the Cream version in Help they set off to make it their own song. They play it slower. Rod Evans, the singer, sells the song as an ode to depression. An original take on a classic song.
“Love Help Me” was one of the band’s original compositions. It’s up tempo and not that bad. It has a sixties feel to it with surfer music backing vocals at times. Half way through the song Ritchie Blackmore gives his wah wah pedal a little bit of a workout. He extends that on a later solo in the song.
“Hey Joe” closes the album. It opens with a Jon Lord organ piece and then a touch of guitar that are supposed to give the listener a feel of Mexico. Much like with their version of Help the band takes the song and makes it their own. It takes two and a half minutes for Rod Evans to weigh in on vocals. A new take on a classic song. The Blackmore guitar work is excellent.
For a first album Shades of Deep Purple works on many levels. The interplay between Blackmore and Lord that would be the hallmark of Deep Purple albums of the future like “In Rock“, “Fireball” and “Machine Head“.
Links to other Deep Purple reviews
Shades of Deep Purple , In Rock , Fireball , Machine Head , Burn , Stormbringer ,