The story behind this album is well known to most Deep Purple fans. The original Deep Purple line up was a sort of odd mix of pop, hard rock and psychedelia. And although they could be very good at times, all their albums prior to In Rock were decidely “hit and miss” affairs, and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. In 1970 they released a Jon Lord composed Concerto For Group & Orchestra, which is by any standards pushing the limits of what can be called rock. I happen to like the experiment a great deal, but the general rock fan of 1970 was left feeling a bit confused as to what Deep Purple actually were.
So for In Rock they strip it all down to basics, throw any whiff of artiness out the window, turn it up LOUD, and simply rock as hard as possible. And the result is an audio Krakatoa.
Even when I heard this when I was at school in the late 1980s, I was surprised at just how energetic it all was. Yes, in 1988, 1970 seemed like a long, long time ago! So hearing this “old band” (as I thought of them then) shriek and wail is something I certainly remember. (Unbeliavably some versions of this album have had the 2 minute guitar freakout to Speed King edited out) And now, 19 years after Ifirst heard it, I’m still struck at how fresh it all sounds. To be honest a lot of music from the late 1960s and early 1970s, as good as it is, sounds rather dated. Listening to many records of the era is like walking into the musical equivalent of an Egyptian tomb. You know there’s a lot of good stuff inside, but exploring it throws up a lot of dust, there’s cobwebs everywhere, and you know that in the end it’s a relic more than anything else. Listening to In Rock today however is like running along a Norwegian glacier in comparison!
Although true rock legend status would come with 1972s Machine Head, this album will for me remain as Deep Purple’s true landmark achievement.