I bought this album while I was a college student, and my old battered vinyl copy still sits in my collection. It was one of the records I played almost to death during the late 1960s.
This was the progressive rock Deep Purple of vocalist Rod Evans, bassist Nick Simper, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice. Evans and Simper were important components in the development of the Deep Purple sound and its growing popularity. While they became somewhat forgotten due to the brilliance of their respective replacements, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, who helped elevate the band to superstar status, they were nevertheless essential to the group during the early period of its career.
Their debut album, Shades Of Deep Purple, and the single “Hush,” had been huge hits in the United States in 1968. A tour was planned, so the band hurried back into the studio to record their second album in order to not only cash in on its success but to have enough material to fill its live set.
The Book Of Taliesyn proved that their first album’s excellence was no fluke, as it was another album of fine progressive rock.
The band again combined cover songs with original compositions. The seven tracks were longer than the norm, with none being under four minutes, and four of the seven extended out beyond the six-minute mark. Jon Lord’s keyboards had dominated their first album but now Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing began to assert itself.
The group chose their cover songs wisely. Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” was a hard rocking version of the song and became a hit single in the USA. It created a medley of the Beatles tune “We Can Work It Out” and its own song, “Exposition.” It may not have been as creative as their slowed down and lonely version of “Help,” which appeared on their first album, but it was still a credible cover as the band changed the tempo once again.
The album closed with a ten-minute rendition of the classic “River Deep, Mountain High,” which has been covered by a variety of artists through the years. This was the track I tended to play the most often, as Lord, Blackmore, and Paice settled into an improvisational groove that was one of the highlights of the early period of its career.
The group’s original material also stands the test of time well. “Listen Learn Read” opened the album with a blast of Jon Lord’s keyboards, with Blackmore chipping in to fill in the sound. “Hard Rock,” retitled later on as “Wring That Neck,” was the song where Blackmore first began to assert himself as a guitarist.
The Book Of Taliesyn had sat on my shelf for a long time before this review. It will probably make an appearance every now and then, as it remains a fine early outing from Deep Purple. Some of the names may not be familiar today but the music was memorable.