Hard rock icon Deep Purple came into existence because of a musician who never played with the band. Chad Curtis, former drummer of the British Invasion group The Searchers, decided to form a band called Roundabout. He first recruited keyboardist Jon Lord and then guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. He then withdrew from the project but Lord and Blackmore decided to carry on.
They recruited bassist Nick Simper, vocalist Rod Evans, and drummer Ian Paice, and the new band was complete. A name change was in order and Deep Purple was chosen because it was the name of Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother’s favorite song.
The original line-up lasted for three albums. They made little impact in their home country of Great Britain but found commercial success in the United States, beginning with their first release, Shades Of Deep Purple, which was issued in July of 1968.
Looking back on this first release, and the two that followed, they were far different from the hard rock releases that would follow and sell close to 100 million albums worldwide. While the roots of their hard rock sound could be heard in places, there was also a distinct psychedelic sound present, which was representative of the era.
Rod Evans and Nick Simper may not have been Roger Glover and Ian Gillan, but for three albums they were an important part of the band and helped to create the music that would launch their success.
Shades of Deep Purple is a somewhat forgotten album in their large hard rock catalogue, but it remains a fine release. The sound is diverse as original and cover songs combine psychedelic music with hard rock and early progressive rock into a pleasant but disjointed whole.
It is appropriate that Jon Lord’s organ flourishes led off the first track of the first Deep Purple album. Indeed it is his keyboards that were the dominant instrument on many of the tracks. “And The Address” was an upbeat classical rock piece that blasted out of the speakers as Blackmore’s guitar and Paice’s drums quickly entered the mix.
The best known track, then and now, was a cover of the Joe South song, “Hush.” Released as a single, it would reach number four on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart in the United States and was the song that launched their career. They would never have a single chart higher in the United States. It was psychedelic music at its best with a memorable beat.
“Mandrake Root” was written by Blackmore, Lord, and Paice, and had an improvisational/jam like feel to it. It was the type of hard rock that the band would become famous for in the future.
The cover songs ranged from the ordinary to very good. “I’m So Glad,” associated with Cream, was presented in the same format. “Hey Joe” does not measure up to Jimi Hendrix’s rendition. The Beatles song, “Help,” was a very creative cover. They slowed the tempo down to an almost plodding pace until it was far removed from The Beatles original intent for the song.
Shades Of Deep Purple was a creative and very good debut album from a band that would go on to a legendary career. The music may be different from classic Deep Purple, but it stands the test of time well and is well worth a listen to anyone interested in the band or the era.