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Every Deep Purple album, ranked from worst to best

Deep Purple’s albums ranked, from patchy Purple to purple patches, from iconic albums to the one Ritchie Blackmore dubbed “cattle grazing”



It’s approaching Christmas Day 1971. As a young teenager, this writer is eagerly looking forward to the morning of December 25, when among the presents under the tree will hopefully be a copy of Deep Purple’s latest album, Fireball.

Fast-forward 50 years to the present day. It’s approaching Christmas Day 2021. As an increasingly decrepit 60-something-year-old, this writer is perched on a stool in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, raising a toast to Deep Purple’s epic career. (Actually it’s the toaster that’s raising toast; I won’t be quaffing a brandy until noon at the earliest.) And FYI, I still own that original copy of Fireball

The story of Deep Purple is truly one of rock’s great soap operas. (No wonder they decided to put Fairy Liquid bubbles on the cover of 1973 album Who Do We Think We Are.) The band’s roots can be traced back to 1968 (some say 1967) when Searchers drummer Chris Curtis contacted London businessman Tony Edwards to pitch the idea of creating a British rock supergroup. Curtis had the foresight, but he also had a penchant for LSD and unpredictable behaviour – as evinced by his decision in ’69 to quit the music business and join the Inland Revenue. (Boy, were people’s tax returns fucked up that year.)

Still, Edwards took up the baton. In cahoots with partner John Coletta, and along with a hot young keyboard player called Jon Lord, he began recruiting musicians to realise Curtis’ somewhat frazzled vision. Briefly called Roundabout (a remnant of Curtis’ plan to form a band around a small core of players; they would be joined by a revolving guest-cast who’d jump on and off a musical ‘roundabout’), Purple debuted in 1968 with their Shades Of… album. Fearsome tracks such as Mandrake Root and the cover of Hush promised much, but something was amiss; in truth, they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be Iron Butterfly or the Moody Blues, plus singer Rod Evans’ style was grounded in the hip-swinging 60s.

The arrival in 1969 of frontman Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover (replacing Nick Simper) improved things beyond belief. Thus the band’s classic Mk II line-up was born, the new pair joining Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and drummer Ian Paice in a match made in heaven… and, later, hell. The Purps have always thrived on musical tension, but internal aggravation would eventually rip them asunder. Blackmore and Lord were at loggerheads initially; then the Man In Black turned his flinty-eyed attention to Gillan. Still, that didn’t prevent Mk II reuniting not once, but twice.

All that festering resentment seems – indeed, is – a long time ago now, with the current DP line-up – Gillan, Glover, Paice, guitarist Steve Morse and keyboard player Don Airey – having enjoyed many years of stability.

Over time, Purple have survived an ill-fated ‘funky period’ spearheaded by one-time bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes. They’ve reeled from the deaths of US guitarist Tommy Bolin, who some claim was badly suited (well, he did wear kaftans and geisha boots), and, more recently, Jon Lord. They had another taste of mortality in 2016 when Ian Paice suffered a mini-stroke while on tour in Sweden, missing Purple gigs for the first time since 1968. Also in 2016 the band were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Blackmore was a notable absence on the night, David Coverdale branding Ritchie’s no-show “an obscenity”.

Over the years Purple have always resisted the clamouring from a small but vociferous hard-core of fans to get the Man In Black back in the band for one final fandango. (As has Ritchie himself, to be fair.) As recently as this past September Ian Gillan poured cold water on the notion, saying that reuniting with the legendary former guitarist would be “no fun at all” for all concerned.

Purple are patently Gillan’s band these days, no matter how much he might claim democratic immunity. There follows a look back at an often stellar, sometimes stuttering, but always highly intriguing album career.