May ’68; August ’68; January ’69
(Eagle Rock Ent)
Eagle Records puts out a good product … a great product, actually. They have a way a training their collective focus on bands whose albums have (tragically) gone out of print long ago, remastering them and making them better.
Today’s offering are the first three albums by hard rock pioneers Deep Purple. Long before Ian Gillian took the band to legendary heights, there was Rod Evans. Evans, more of a crooner than a screamer, had a great presence and fit in nicely among their peers: Jethro Tull, Cream, etc.
These first three albums were recorded and released in quick succession: May ’68 (released in July ’68), August ’68 (released in December ’68) and January ’69 (released in June ’69). That’s the way they did it back then boys and girls. In that short span of time, you hear the band branching out and developing, surely as a result of the musical revolution happening around them and their constant touring.
Shades of Deep Purple and The Book of Taliesyn offer heavy doses of the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene being pushed out of London in the late 1960s. As was the custom of the day, both predominantly feature interesting covers of popular tracks: “Hey Joe”, “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Help”, “We Can Work it Out” and “Hush.” The third album, Deep Purple, sees a shift to a more mainstream hard rock sound, featuring more originals that previously included and only one cover (Donovan’s “Lalena”). This album was poorly received by the music buying public and bass player Nick Simper and Rod Evans left the band. Ian Gillian (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass) would replace them shortly thereafter and the “classic” lineup of Deep Purple would commence.
The reissues are chockfull of bonus tracks (B-sides, BBC-sessions, outtakes and live cuts). Nice packaging too. These albums are a great reminder of how diligently bands used to work to develop a style and make themselves heard. Plus, it’s always nice, from an historical perspective, to be able to track the trajectory of a band through actual recordings.