As 1973 dawned, Deep Purple was recognized as hard rock superstars. Their last two albums had topped the British charts and sold over two million copies in the United States. There was trouble in paradise, however, as by the end of the year the classic Mark II lineup of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, singer Ian Gillian, bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice would be gone until reuniting in 1984.
Who Do We Think We Are was the seventh studio album by Deep Purple. Released during January of 1973, it sent the Mark II group out in style.
In many ways the album has always been overshadowed by such studio classics as In Rock, Machine Head, and 1972’s platinum selling live album, Made in Japan. All of this is unfortunate, as the album is one of the band’s strongest and stands near the top of the Deep Purple catalogue in terms of quality.
This is a short release, clocking in at just over 34 minutes. The brevity of the album provides a tight structure for the group, particularly Blackmore and Lord, which for better or worse, was missing on many of their releases. The solos and improvisation were kept under control, which was a welcome change at the time.
The eternal Deep Purple song “Woman From Tokyo” kicks off the album. Crashing chords, subtle bass, good vocals, and a solid piano line, which connect the two parts of the song all add up to a memorable track.
Three better than average tracks complete side one of the original vinyl release. “May Long” has pulsating rhythms behind Gillan’s screeching vocal performance, plus the lyrics even tell a story. “Super Trooper” could have been longer but Blackmore establishes a melody and Jon Lord supports the guitar sound with some solid keyboard work. “Smooth Dancer” returns the group to the frenetic paced rock ‘n’ roll that had helped them gain their reputation. Here, however, it is Lord’s keyboards that propels the song along rather than Blackmore’s guitar.
The second side of the album is one of the better listening experiences in the band’s history. I have to admit that for some reason “Rat Bat Blue” remains my personal favorite Deep Purple song. Beauty is always in the eye, or in this case ear, of the beholder, and Blackmore’s opening guitar chords set the stage for Gillian’s vocals as it just rolls along for five minutes of rock bliss. “Place In Line” is a slower blues-oriented track that places the emphasis squarely on Gillan’s vocal. “Our Lady” is a sold Deep Purple concoction with Lord and Blackmore struggling for dominance.
Who Do We Think We Are is probably the Deep Purple album I have listened to the most down through the years. It remains a strong album nearly 40 years after its release as it provides some of the best hard rock of the era.