The first two Deep Purple albums and hit singles had made the band stars in the United States, if not its home country of England. There was dissention developing, however, as founding members Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore, supported by drummer Ian Paice, wanted to take the group in a hard rock direction. Bassist Nick Simper and vocalist Rod Evans were opposed to this change of direction, which would result in their eventual ouster from the band.
Their third self-titled album, sometimes referred to as Deep Purple III, was released during June of 1969 in the United States and during November in the U.K. It was the least successful of their three early albums, in part because the group’s label, Tetragrammaton, was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Deep Purple was the least satisfying of their three early career releases, although it can also be considered their most adventurous. It was probably a better fit during the time period of its release as its music sounds a little dated today. Its disjointed, yet creative, nature, has been overshadowed by their hard rock popularity of the last four-plus decades. Shades Of Deep Purple and The Book Of Taliesyn provide more stability and are ultimately more satisfying overall than III’s meandering through a number of different styles and sounds. Still, if you want to hear something different from Deep Purple, then this is an album you may want to seek out.
The opening “Chasing Shadows” was a tight rock piece with a thundering drum foundation by Paice. The band would begin a number of their future albums in the same way. “Why Didn’t Rosemary” was almost a 1950s and early 1960s throwback, as Ritchie Blackmore contributes artful solos, which would soon become a band staple.
On the other hand, the 12-minute “April” was unlike just about anything else the band would ever record. It was divided into three parts. There is an opening instrumental with a long Blackmore guitar solo, a classical chamber orchestra section written by Jon Lord that contains no participation by any of the band members, then vocals, and finally, another guitar solo. I’m not sure how good it was but it was interesting.
Deep Purple covered the middle ground as well. “Blind” is a classical/rock song built around Lord’s keyboards. Donovan’s “Lalena” was the only cover song and was one of the most subdued and low-key performances of its career. It did not really fit the band’s persona. “Fault Line/The Painter” combined a short instrumental, followed by keyboards and more guitar solos. “Bird Has Flown” was psychedelic rock, which the group would soon leave behind.
Deep Purple found the band in a transition period. Blackmore’s guitar sound was moving front and center, with Jon Lord joining him in the beginning to create the basis for a long and successful career. The album was a fitting conclusion to the band’s formative years.