Deep Purple - In Rock
So where does that leave this album? Well, it is a fine hard rock album, with its roots firmly in the sixties. The line up of the psychedelic Deep Purple rather delineated the format the band's music would take. Other bands tended to go either for a single guitarist or a lead and rhythm guitar line up. Deep Purple chose the twin format but replaced the rhythm guitar with a lead keyboards. This would not be without its problems. For a start, it fuelled the ego monster of whom I have already spoken. Second, Jon Lord's classical training needed to be put to one side for a full-blooded rock album to succeed; and third, the band needed a different kind of vocalist. And that's where they struck lucky in Ian Gillan.
But back to the format, and perhaps the most significant problem of all. Before the invention of the synthesiser, keyboards were heavily reliant on piano and organ. The organ sound was often a kind of tinny whine, lacking body and power, and this was frequently unable to compete in a twin lead line up with an electric guitar. But does that organ sound dated by now! The organ provided an alternative means of forming the riff, and allowed the guitars occasionally to take a back seat while the organ took over the task of driving a track along. John Lord makes the transition from a virtuoso tinkling to full-on rock with some skill and panache. He puts body into an instrument which had potentially severe limitations for the style of music the band wanted to play. In a less competent a musician than he, this would not have been possible. That this album can still be appreciated is testament to his ability more than anything else.
And yet, in spite of the inherent flaws, it works on so many of the tracks. "Child in Time" is the standout track, and deservedly gets the anthemic accolade it richly deserves. Few tracks have encapsulated the anticipation and excitement of the crescendo as a much as this. The first time you hear it, you wait with bursting anticipation for what is coming. Subsequent listens enable you to anticipate the iconic scream of Ian Gillan.
As for the remainder of the album, well "Speed King" and "Hard Lovin' Man" are also great tracks, and the addition of the single "Black Night" is welcome on this remastered and expanded CD. But the album has not worn well. Just listen to the keyboards which, while played with skill and finesse, deploy a sound which is just so dated. It is a product of its time and though good for reminiscing, does not get the highest accolade because of it.
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