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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Albums You Can't Live Without: Deep Purple - Burn

For 2009, The Metal Minute is starting a new random feature called "Albums You Can't Live Without." While this will be an opinionated segment to the site, perhaps you might find value or share the sentiments presented or best of all, be moved to check something out you might not've had the opportunity to wrap your ears around in the past.

This new addition to The Metal Minute was inspired by the gift certificate purchase of Deep Purple's Burn at an annual buy-one-used-disc-get-one free sale, as I had the opportunity to fill certain gaps in my collection of artists from varying genres such as Paul Simon, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Hank Williams, Death Cab for Cutie, Genesis, Lynard Skynard, Enslaved, Entombed, Nada Surf and others.

Suffice it to say, I used to listen to Burn on cassette tape back in the eighties but I'd neglected to grab it on CD and wowzers, did that sucker blow me away all over again! Wonderful when an album has such power to replicate its impact.

Hope you enjoy...

The depature of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had naturally made Deep Purple and rock fans more than suspicious in 1974 when Burn arrived along with then-unknowns David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes in the camp.

On the face, the entire prospect leading to Burn had everything against it, however you might say the mojo was perfect, considering Deep Purple daringly brought in not just one outstanding new vocalist but two. Rolling their dice on the backs of Coverdale and Hughes, the latter of whom filled Glover's bass position with outstanding precision, Burn turned out to be that rare triumph of a band momentarily splintered of founding members.

You might say Burn was fated for greatness as it was recorded in the same studio in Montreaux, Switzerland where Machine Head was conceived. You have to laugh at Deep Purple's sense of humor at calling this album Burn in a locale that inspired the epochal hit "Smoke On the Water" from the Montreaux nightclub that was supposed to host them in one of the original jazz festivals tossed by Claude Nobs. The club, as history relays, was torched the night Deep Purple was scheduled to perform.

Cheeky as hell to call the album Burn, but Deep Purple embodied the album's namesake with scorching guitar solos from Ritchie Blackmore (this album undeniably captures some of his best licks and wails ever) and a red-hot rhythm section aided by Hughes' game bass work and Ian Paice's metahuman drumming, particularly otherworldly on the percussion-heavy "You Fool No One."

While Ian Gillan remains the quintessential Deep Purple vocalist no matter what era or revision period they've toiled through, you have to appreciate a young David Coverdale working his chops smoothly and confidently (devoid of any Robert Plant caterwauling which was his unfortunate stigma cast by scrutinizing rock fans during the eighties), while Glenn Hughes cleans up right behind him. The two exchange seamlessly together on the funky "Sail Away," which helped take Deep Purple into braver songwriting territories. Blackmore's solo is mesmerizing on this cut, even as the strutting rhythm and melody drips masculine sexuality without being bluntly perverse.

The title song "Burn" is one of Deep Purple's best openers, right on par with "Highway Star" and perhaps even more majestic at a longer pace with nifty neoclassical fuses by Blackmore and famed keyboardist Jon Lord. As "Might Just Take Your Life" is the most traditional Deep Purple tune on the album, the next song "Lay Down, Stay Down" is a snarling riff fest driven by a monster beat that keeps the album on full thrust. The song's primary melody would later be hijacked on Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers album with "Nobody's Home."

"What's Going On Here" is one of the best blues rock tunes of the seventies with flawless execution and a stout tag team on the mike from Coverdale and Hughes. Coverdale's shining moment on Burn, however, comes as lone vocalist on the slow-stepped yet powerful "Mistreated," a laggardly rock epic which set its own precedent of the day. Heavy and seductive, "Mistreated" is a crown jewel of its time and certainly most hard rock bands who followed this point owe "Mistreated" a debt, whether they covered it or fused it into their own work.

For my purposes, it's "You Fool No One" that leaves me slack-jawed due to the Latin-heavy calypso tempo driving it as hard as vintage Santana as much as it motivates the entire Deep Purple lineup in 1974 to mash out funk and salsa into its heavy rock infrastructure. Never mind the vocals tower in splendid crescendos at times--breathtaking enough--but Blackmore's freestyling can bring you straight to your knees in deference, while the band raises its game to give him a bouncing vibe to propel from. "You Fool No One" might be Deep Purple's most accomplished song from a sheer playing standpoint.

While Machine Head, In Rock and Fireball are considered the be-all-end-all albums of Deep Purple's long and bizarre career, certainly Burn deserves to be put high on the band's mantle of rock masterworks. If Burn suffers in any way, shape or form, it's the needless gonzo synth instrumental "'A' 200" which could've been spared and still left the album a genuine bargain at only seven songs. Bottom line, though, Burn doesn't deserve dismissal just because Gillan and Glover were absent from this inspired outing.

You might call Burn a temporary revenge if not the launching pad for Coverdale's future success and Glenn Hughes' ascension as one of the greatest vocalists in rock history. Both he and Coverdale came from soul backgrounds and what they brought to the table on Burn and later projects justify their presence in the scene, much less unnecessarily villainized replacements within a rock legend.


cjk_44 said...

Ray, this is a great new feature!

when I moved to the Albany, New York area for my last two years of high school I was schocked to learn that the high school library had a record collection and would allow the students to listen to them (via headphones, of course). "Burn" was one of the records in their collection. "Burn" was one of those albums that helped me get my homework done during the school day. this allowed me more time at home to suck at guitar playing.

previous to that experience my uncle was kind enough to give me his copy of Deep Purple's "Made in Japan" which I listened to often before I made that move to NY. come to think of it, "Made in Japan" has to be available on CD, right? now that would be a purchase that would fill in the gap of my collection as I attempt to replace vinyl/cassettes with CDs.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Appreciate the feedbck, bro. What a cool memory. I remember schools having record players and headphones, though most of the time it was those instructional albums, yick. I used to mow the year to Deepest Purple all the time on a walkman.

I know I saw Made in Japan on CD yesterday when I was burning the last of my gift certificate in the store

Anonymous said...

Burn is a masterwork. The mixing of Coverdale and Hughes is just profound. Perfected on Hold On from Stormbringer but also present here. Hughes is also a brilliant bass player. His 'walking' approach just lifts many of the songs.
This is the rock classic album of well forever.
Two of the best singers in history with Blackmore doing his best, before he well lost something