On July 17, 1968, "Deep Purple" released their debut album - "Shades Of Deep Purple".
As in self-fulfilling prophecy, it seems that the name of the album also foretold its contents, since indeed it is only a "silhouette" of what this mighty band will become.
The album was recorded in just three days and includes four original songs and four cover versions. Listening to the album reveals a band that is still in the process of forming itself, a band that is looking for its DNA and which is not yet no what is the musical direction it wants to hold.
The musical style of the album ranges from Pop to Progressive rock and Psychedelia, and these genres are well heard already on initial listening to the album, but also from the title of the songs themselves, with half of the album featuring cover versions.
The main influence on the band at the time was that of "Vanilla Fudge", which used to perform cover versions of "poppy" songs, while slowing them down and making them more dramatic and bluesy, for a more psychedelic sound. These influences are well heard in the cover versions of the songs "Hush" and "Help".
Additional influences on the band came from the variety of classical music, especially in the introduction to the song "I'm So Glad" called "Prelude: Happiness" and also in the middle of the cover version of the song "Hey Joe".
It is interesting to note that buds for the heavy rock that will only come with the formation of the band's MKII lineup in the early seventies, can be found already in the opening track "And the Address" and also in "Mandrake Root", over which the spirit of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover hovers above. By the way, a track called "And the Address" will also seal the album "Whoosh!", released by the band in 2020.
The album's story begins in 1967, when drummer Chris Curtis of "The Searchers" came up with the idea. He will form a band called "Roundabout", which as its name implies. A circle of musicians that will be replaced each time, with Curtis forming the permanent base around which the entire ensemble will revolve, just like cars in a "Roundabout".
In December 1967, the band included Curtis as drummer, Jon Lord (Curtis' roommate) on keyboards and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar. After a short time, Curtis lost interest in the band and left Blackmore and Lord to locate the other musicians who would complete the lineup. Nick Simper, Lord's friend, was soon recruited as bass player and later Rod Evans as singer. Rumor has it that Rod Stewart was also among those auditioned for the singer’s position but did not fit the band’s requirements. The last to complete the lineup was drummer Ian Paice, who came through his friend, singer Rod Evans.
The band's first rehearsals for the band's MKI took place in early 1968 and included the instrumental pieces "And the Address" and "Mandrake Root", written by Lord and Blackmore. During rehearsals Evans wrote lyrics for "Mandrake Root", which was also the name of the band Blackmore tried to form in Germany before "Roundabout". It's a bluesy-psychedelic piece whose last two thirds include a sort of jam session that demonstrates the virtuosity of the band members, especially Jon Lord. The main riff in the song is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and illustrates Ritchie Blackmore's admiration for the guitar idol.
The third song the band worked on, was the cover version of "Help!", by "the Beatles". Thus was at the request of the band's manager Chris Curtis, who wanted the band to perform a cover version of one of the Beatles' songs. From the initial listening to the song, one can notice the psychedelic influences and the "facelift" that the song received, being extended from two minutes in "the Beatles'" version to six minutes in the "Roundabout" composition.
The fourth song the band worked on was "I'm So Glad", a song by blues artist Skip James which becomes none following the cover version given to it by "Cream". This song also received a serious "facelift" being connected to the instrumental overture "Prelude: Happiness" influenced by the work "Scheherazade", by composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
The fifth song the band worked on in rehearsals was Billy Roberts' "Hey Joe", which become famous following the "The Jimi Hendrix Experience" version. This song also shows the Progressive and Psychedelic influence on the band. The song includes excerpts from the work "Miller's Dance, suite no. 2, part 2" by the composer Manuel de Falla, performed in a manner reminiscent of the work "Boléro" by Maurice Ravel.
Another cover version the band worked on was the "hit" "Hush", a song Blackmore first heard a year earlier while in Germany. The song was written by Joe South for country singer Billy Joe Royal, which also contributed to the recurring mantra that made him famous - "Na na na na..." By the way, the howl of the jackal at the beginning of the song is the result of an effect that the recording technician found in the studio's effects database and decided to put at the beginning of the song, as well as the rain and thunder effect at the beginning of the song "One More Rainy Day". It's worth mentioning Jon Lord's special playing on the Hammond organ during the verses where he is "drumming" on the keyboards.
The last two songs written for the album are original songs by the band, in a more Poppy style. The piece "Love Help Me" was written by Rod Evans and Ritchie Blackmore during the recordings. The song features Simper's bold baseline and Blackmore's use of a wah wah effect. The song "One More Rainy Day" was written by Rod Evans and Jon Lord and was released as a b-side to the single "Hush".
To complete the picture, it should be noted that the band changed its name to "Deep Purple" only during the recordings for the album. "Deep Purple" was the name of a song by Peter DeRose that Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother really loved.
For Listening: Spotify