The Mark II version of Deep Purple, made up of vocalist Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover, keyboardist Jon Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and drummer Ian Paice, released four albums during their first incarnation from 1970-1973. Fireball was the second of the four, and while it contained three superior songs and remains a good release in its own right, it was the weakest of the four.
Fireball was released in between In Rock and Machine Head and suffered in comparison to both. It was also a little more experimental than the other Mark II releases, which moved the group away from their hard rock strength. Some of the songs are repetitive in places and at times, Blackmore and Lord don’t mesh as well as usual, as each they seem to be going in different directions.
You can’t argue with commercial success, and Fireball was all of that and more. It was a good sized hit in the United States but in their home country, it elevated the band to superstar status as it topped the U.K. albums chart.
When Deep Purple was good, it was very good and there were several songs that ranked as excellent additions to their catalogue and legacy. “Strange Kind Of Woman” featured a nice double guitar solo by Blackmore and was one of their hard rock classics. “The Mule” returned the band to their frenetic rock attack that it had introduced on their previous album. “Anyone’s Daughter” was an experiment that was at least interesting, as it was an acoustic based story song with some piano lines in support and remains somewhat unique in their long history.
Back in the day, I saw the Mark II Deep Purple perform in concert, and the title song remains in my memory bank. It was far superior to the studio version. The Lord-Blackmore duel on keyboards and guitar was more alive and energetic.
It was the three longest songs that caused the album to drag a bit. “No No No” contained a fine Gillan vocal but the song cannot overcome the aforementioned repetitiveness of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar runs. “Fools” clocked in at over eight minutes but would have been better served at about half that length, as it felt like the band was just grinding it out. “No One Came” is an average song at best and as the closing track, it felt as if the band was just going through the motions to finish the album.
Fireball is the early Mark II album that I have listened too the least down through the years. When exploring their music, it is not the place to start but rather an album to fill in the gaps. The state of today’s technology allows a person to download the superior tracks and then move on.