Deep Purple – Shades of Deep Purple
Deep Purple’s debut 50 years ago today was part of a significant shift in rock music toward sub-genres including hard rock, metal, and prog. Shades of Deep Purple is all of that, and since we’re still in the middle of 1968, it has a psychedelic feel as well. And, it’s drenched in Jon Lord’s trademark Hammond C3 organ with that beautiful distorted sound.
The album was released on the Tetragrammaton label in the US, and on Parlophone in the UK in September. The debut was not received well in the UK. With the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath yet to appear, Deep Purple were considered rather out-of-place in the UK music scene. They were, as one British review claimed, the “poor man’s Vanilla Fudge,” i.e., too American sounding. Deep Purple were indeed unabashed Vanilla Fudge fans.
However, as these things often go, it came down in large part to promotion. And in the US (where they were referred to as “the English Vanilla Fudge,” and it was a compliment), the decision to release Hush as a single instead of their slowed-down, sloggy version of the Beatles’ Help, turned out to be a stroke of genius (or luck). The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a solid catalyst for the album, which reached #24 on the album chart.
Four of the eight songs are originals, plus the aforementioned Help, Joe South’s Hush, Skip James’s I’m So Glad (which was recorded by Cream the year before), and the oft-covered Hey Joe by Billy Roberts.
Modern critiques have been mostly positive on both sides of the Atlantic. Bruce Eder writes in AllMusic:
Ritchie Blackmore never sounded less at ease as a guitarist than he does on this album, and the sound mix doesn’t exactly favor the heavier side of his playing, but the rhythm section of Nick Simper and Ian Paice rumble forward, and Jon Lord’s organ flourishes, weaving classical riffs, and unexpected arabesques into “I’m So Glad,” which sounds rather majestic here…
Also, none other than Rick Wakeman said that Shades of Deep Purple is his favorite British album of all time. And that’s good enough for me.
- And the Address
- One More Rainy Day
- Prelude: Happiness/I’m So Glad
- Mandrake Root
- Love Help Me
- Hey Joe