This 1974 album was released shortly after the departure of both Ian Gillan and excellent bassist Roger Glover in 1973, thus ending the Mk. II lineup (at least until 1984). On the Burn album, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (who cranks out some unbelievable leads), drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist John Lord were joined by new band members David Coverdale (lead vocals) and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes. To say the least, I was a little suspicious of the new Mk. III lineup. With respect to the new members, Glenn Hughes (like Roger) also used a trebly Rickenbacker bass (which is a major plus in my book), although he was not as technically advanced as Roger. David Coverdale however, really belts out and is an extremely powerful singer.
OK, so the new members fit in well enough, so what about the music? With the explosive opening of the title track Burn I was convinced that the band was forging onwards without missing a beat. All of the components that made Deep Purple great were in place, but there was something else too. The arrangements on Burn seemed a bit more complex than usual, and what was this? Bach influenced chord progressions? Toccata-like Hammond organ solos? Mini-moog synthesizer solos on a Deep Purple song? This was something a little different (much to the delight of this raving prog fan), and it appeared that the influences of prog giants like ELP had worked their way into the writing style of at least a few guys in the band, which are very much in evidence on the title track Burn. In fact, Burn stands as my all-time favorite Deep Purple tune because it is so proggy. Other tracks on the album that are different (and personal favorites) include Sail Away, which features more great work on the mini-moog and a highly syncopated 4/4 that makes the piece sound busier than it is; the experimental, mini-moog heavy track “A 200″ (which is named after a disinfectant and seems to be based on Mars from Gustav Holst’s Planets); and the spacey jam on Mistreated. For those of you that don’t like prog as much as I do, don’t worry – 90% of the album is comprised of the solid, well-played bluesy hard rock that made the band so famous.
As an aside, a lot of folks (including critics) have commented that Deep Purple employed funk styles in their music during this lineup. To be perfectly honest, I hear very little funk in any of the pieces on this album. My guess is that the “funkiness” is an artifact of the abundant use of a syncopated 4/4, which lends the pieces a little more “swing” than usual. For those of you that are afraid of funk music, fear not – this is hard rock, pure and simple. I should note that I have not listened to either Stormbringer (1974) or Come Taste the Band (1975). These two albums may very well be funky, but I am still not entirely convinced that Deep Purple will ever be mentioned in the same context as groups like Parliament Funkadelic or Sly and the Family Stone.
With respect to the remastered album, Rhino did a brilliant job. There is a 23-page booklet loaded with informational tidbits and color photos of the band. In that I am not entirely familiar with Deep Purple, I found the liner notes to be very helpful, but long-time followers of the band may dismiss them as “old hat”. In addition to the original album, there are five bonus tracks that were remixed in 2004 including the amazing instrumental Coronarias Redig (which was released as a b-side single), along with tracks from the original album. With respect to the remixed versions of the original tracks, they don’t sound terribly different.
All in all, this is a great album of hard rock that offers just enough spice and variety to draw prog rock fans like myself in. For Deep Purple fans that are interested, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released an album in 1973 entitled Solar Fire that you may also like. Although the album is closer to prog than hard rock, there are enough stylistic commonalities that it should be of interest.