Set the Controls for the Heart of Cygnus

I’m back from 1978. I’m sorry to report that my time travel mission was a failure. I just found Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ‘Love Beach’ album in a milk crate at a garage sale; the prog rock trio recorded it anyway, despite my warnings. I’m sure they thought I was a raving lunatic; I should have brought a copy of the album with me to prove I wasn’t crazy. This time it will be different. On this new mission, I will be armed with definitive proof that everything I caution against will come to be true if my warnings are not heeded. I set my time machine’s controls for August 14, 1974, and aim it at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. I’ve got everything I need this time: I’m wearing bell bottom jeans, I have plenty of snacks (time travel always gives me the munchies), and a copy of Rush’s ‘Hold your Fire’ album on cassette. There’s always a tape deck close at hand back in the 70’s.

I arrive. I’m backstage at the Arena, and as I get my bearings, through an open door I see the three members of Rush doing all that stuff band members do before a really big show. They look a little nervous. I’ve chosen the time and place for our encounter carefully; an event the three of them will never forget: it’s their first show on their first American tour; opening for Uriah Heep in front of 11,000 people. It’s also their first show ever with new drummer Neil Peart. He’s only been in the band for about 2 weeks. He’s the first one to notice me as I slip into their dressing room. Smells like hashish. He looks up from the book he was reading and says “Hey, that person doesn’t have a pass.”

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It’s Go time. I blurt it out as fast as I can: “Rush, I’m from the future and I came back in time to warn you about some really bad stuff that’s going to happen!” I like to get the insane-sounding stuff on the table first, so we can deal with it early and move on. Hopefully.

Peart looks confused. “The future?” He looks at his new bandmates. “Does this kind of thing happen a lot with this band?” They both shake their heads No.

Geddy Lee looks annoyed. He strides across the dressing room to confront me. “Are you stoned? Is that it? Bad acid? Maybe you’re looking for Uriah Heep’s dressing room, eh? I mean, ‘Traveller in Time’ is one of their songs, right?” He walks toward the door and waves his arm as if to signal my exit.

“Wait! Look, I don’t expect you to believe the time travel part, but I need to talk to you guys for a few minutes; it’s really important to me, and to a lot of other people back in the future. Just a few minutes, maybe listen to a few songs. That’s all I ask.” I hold out the cassette of ‘Hold Your Fire’ so they can see the name of their band on it.

Peart approaches me. He’s pre-handlebar moustache and thin as a rail. “He seems lucid. Doesn’t smell like grass. What bad stuff are you talking about?”

I swallow hard. I hold the cassette higher. “With all due respect, I mean I am HUGE fan of you guys, and I mean, you guys can obviously do what you want, but I… I…”

Peart turns and walks away. “LSD. Gotta be.”

“Your music!” It comes out too loud; I’m starving. “At first, you guys put out a bunch of totally awesome records, but then, I don’t know, you start to change your sound, and eventually you sound… pretty…crappy. Almost unlistenable. You’re still a great band, but your sound kinda… goes astray? Can I have some of these chips?”

Just then Alex Lifeson steps forward. Is that a kimono? “What year did you come from to ‘warn us’ about our ‘crappiness’?”

I’m not sure if he really wants to know or is playing along in case I’m wearing explosives or something. “2014. You guys are still together then! But this album came out in 1987.”

Peart shakes his head and laughs. “2014? Wow…we’d be in our early 60’s at that point! That’s ridiculous! Bands don’t last that long. You’re a nut. Guys, he’s nuts.”

I’m talking too loud again. “I’m serious! It does take a while, but you guys are eventually one of the biggest bands on the planet! You even make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” This causes such an outburst of laughter that I end up laughing too. Great. Now they are absolutely certain I’m crazy.

Alex approaches me. “So let’s hear it then.” he says, as he reaches out for the tape, smiling at me. He looks over at Geddy and Neil. “Guys, we’re gonna listen to this …person’s tape, hear what he has to say, and then we’re done. Everyone okay with that?” Geddy and Neil slowly nod. I’m nodding too. It’s clear they all want to get through this encounter as painlessly as possible and they’re just humoring me, but I’m okay with that; at least they’ll hear some of the music I need to prevent.

Alex looks back at me, and reaches out for the tape. In a few seconds, we’re listening to album opener ‘Force Ten’ on a battered boombox.

“Are those drums?” asks Peart, incredulously. “It sounds like a jackhammer… Is that supposed to be me?”

“They’re samples. It’s hard to explain. You play real drums but also electronic drums at this point, with lots of triggered samples. They’re like little recordings of drums, or simulated drum sounds, and you have electronic pads that trigger those sounds.”

“Do I actually hit these things with a drumstick, or…?”

“Yes”.

He smirks. “Well, you see, this is where your ridiculous story falls apart, my time traveling friend. If I’m going to hit something with a drum stick in order to make the sound of a drum, WHY DON’T I JUST HIT A DRUM?”

He gets it! This is encouraging. “I have no idea why! But you do!”

Frustrated, Neil Peart dismisses me with a wave of his hand. “You guys all get seduced by technology! It changes the basic sound of the band, the way you write, it’s awful!” Alex looks insulted. “I’m sorry guys, I’m just telling you how it is! …Or, will be!”

I point at Geddy. “You get all keyboard-crazy too! Synthesizers, sequencers, foot pedals… It get’s to the point where you’re playing so many instruments on stage that it looks like you’re trapped in some futuristic torture device!”

“Listen, man, you don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m a bass player!” Geddy plays some air bass for me to illustrate his point. It’s awesome. “I play the bass!”

“Not on this album”, I insist. “Well, you do, but you also play a bunch of Akai S900 samplers, two Prophet synths, a PPG 2.3, a Roland Super Jupiter and a D-550, two Yamaha KX-76 MIDI controllers, two QX-I sequencers and a DX-7, two MIDI Mappers, and a set of Korg MIDI pedals.”

“Security!!!!”

Lifeson, who’s been listening to Future Rush intently, pitches in. “It’s all synthesizers, I think. It’s all fake. That does sound a little like you, Ged, but an octave lower. What is this, I mean really?”

I look directly into Alex Lifeson’s eyes. “It’s you. It’s your 12th album. Unless you count live albums, in which case it’s your 14th album overall, but I usually don’t count live albums when I—” He raises his hand to silence me; instinctively, he knows it’s time for the guitar solo. We all listen through together.

At the end of the solo, Lifeson smiles broadly and looks to the other guys. “Well that was pretty cool. Looks like I’m the only one still playing a real instrument in 1987!” Geddy throws a pack of rolling papers at the guitarist’s head.

‘Time Stand Still’ starts. They’re still listening! Peart asks Lifeson “Isn’t his five minutes up?” When the chorus hits, he wanders back over. “Those percussion sounds are a little off the wall, but …that’s actually interesting, rhythmically. Who is that?”

“It’s YOU Neil!”

“Oh, right, yes, sorry… The me from 2014.”

“1987”, says Lifeson. Peart faceplants and walks away again.

“Who’s the girl singer?” asks Geddy.

“Aimee Mann. She was in a band called ‘Til Tuesday.”

“Is she a fox?” He’s having a little fun with the mental patient. “Is she famous in 1987? Does one of us date her?” he asks, sarcastically.

“Ya, she was famous, for about fifteen minutes. Listen, I know my time is short, and there’s stuff I really have to say. You guys don’t get like this overnight. It happens gradually, like over 3 or 4 albums. But this is one of the two albums in your whole career that doesn’t go Platinum!” Peart almost sprays Evian out his nose. “You’ll be tempted by all the electronics and fancy recording techniques and all that, but… Just resist it! You 3 become the most awesome band EVER! You don’t need all that fake electronic stuff. Keep doing what you do, and—”
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‘Open Secrets’ begins to play. They all listen for about half a minute. A confused Lifeson asks, “Do I play any power chords in the future? Like, any at all?” He looks worried. It’s working! “Do they not make Marshall amps in 1987?”

“Time’s up!” excaims Geddy. He pops the tape and jams it into my hand. They’re all walking me to the door. “Thanks for stopping by, um, what’s your name?”

“Bob. I’m serious, you guys. This is real.” Damn. We didn’t get to ‘Tai Shan’. Both Alex and Geddy have stated on record that it’s their least favorite Rush song… But it’s too late.

Peart looks at me like a lawyer about to deliver a piece of evidence that will hammer his case closed: “You do understand, ‘Bob’, that if we take your advice, if we do anything differently after meeting you, we may change the course of the future such so that we don’t stay together for 40 years, don’t become one of the ‘biggest bands on the planet’, don’t make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you get that, right, ‘Bob’?”

Before I can answer, the door slams behind me. I can hear them laughing through the door. Peart’s right, of course. I knew that’s how it worked going into this mission. But I had to try. It’s what I do.

My hope is that, eventually, back in the timeline I just left, somewhere between ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Signals’, one of the members of Rush remembers that crazy guy who somehow got into their dressing room and talked about their gradual slide into technological overload. And that someday, in the present, that handful of Rush albums polluted with headache-inducing synths and digital robot drum simulators will just blink out of existence, replaced by different versions of those same albums recorded solely with the tried and true 3-piece instrumentation (the occasional synth line or Taurus peddle would be fine) that served Rush so well throughout their first decade of existence. I’m confident that they’d still become ‘one of the biggest bands on the planet’ without all of that technology. I just hope they share that confidence when the time comes. Came. Whichever.

Hey…Wasn’t their last tour called “The Time Machine Tour”? I’ll check my copy of ‘Grace Under Pressure’ daily, fingers crossed. If they’re still sporting those ridiculous hair cuts on the back cover pic, I’ll know my trip was in vain.

Anyway, I’m off to my next mission: Austria, 20 April 1889; smother baby Hitler. But first, I’m going to stop by Sheffield, England, December 1978 and leave a copy of ‘Hysteria’ at Def Leppard’s practice space.

Revenge of the Black Sheep, Pt II: AeroHead

Motorhead and melody were never the best of friends. But destiny would bring them together, in May of 1982…

After ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke left Motorhead only 2 shows in to the band’s 1982 North American tour, Lemmy and Phil needed another guitarist fast. Legend has it that Steve Kudlow (a.k.a. Lips) of Anvil was asked, but declined. If I were close to the band, I would have recommended Ace Frehley, who was still a de facto member of Kiss but hadn’t recorded anything with them since 1981. But I’m not, so I didn’t. I still think that woulda been awesome, but anyway… Enter former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson. An inspired choice, but the boys were desperate and probably didn’t have many options. Robertson was one half of one of the most acclaimed twin guitar teams in all of rock, AND he had a colorful nickname. Just nine days after Clarke’s departure, the Motorhead machine was rolling again.
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Problems with Robertson became apparent during the completion of the Iron Fist tour, mostly related to his appearance, but also manifesting itself in his unwillingness to learn set list staples like ‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’, ‘Stay Clean’, etc. Nonetheless, after completing the ‘Iron Fist’ dates and returning to the UK, Lem Phil and Robbo entered the studio together as the New and Improved Motorhead. To many, the addition of Robbo to The Loudest Band in the World looked great on paper; how would it translate onto vinyl? How would Robertson’s skill, musicality and flair jibe with the vicious who-needs-guitars-anyway Kilmister/Taylor rhythm section? Would it work at all? On June 4th, 1983, those questions were answered with the release of Motorhead’s seventh studio album.
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How you interpret APD depends on your point of view on Motorhead in general. If you’re the type of Motor-fan who likes to be beaten about the face and neck with your Motor-music, then you were probably startled by the new additions to the standard Motorhead sound: Subtlety, Dynamics, and *gulp* Melody. The LP’s comic strip insert features a panel depicting Phil asking Lemmy, “He’s a bit musical, isn’t he?” That word balloon sums up APD’s strengths and/or weaknesses, depending which side of the fence you’re on. As far as the new boy’s contributions, ‘Overkill’ is the word that comes to mind. Robertson plays like the legend he is throughout, but the quantity of his guitar playing on APD at least matches, if not surpasses, the quality. And the very first sign that we’re not motorcycling through Kansas anymore comes courtesy of Robbo: the guitar synthesizer featured on album opener ‘Back at the Funny Farm’. Motorhead using synthesizers was akin to a vegetarian ordering a Double Quarter Pounder (w/cheese). The gently picked guitar intros to ‘Dancing on your Grave’ and the album’s title track probably didn’t sit well with many Motorheadbangers, and the boogie-woogie piano on ‘Rockit’ probably raised a few eyebrows as well.

Many were concerned by the album’s first single, the melodic ‘I Got Mine’, which could accurately be described as a ballad (at least lyrically); remove the gnarly vocals and this tune could belong to any number of early 80’s hard rock bands. And couplets like “Come on lover/Go Back to start/I got your picture in my heart” were a far cry from “I’m in your life/I might be in your wife” of “You know you make me vomit/And I ain’t far from it” from a few years earlier. . ‘I Got Mine’ serves as a perfect example of the clash of stylistic approaches on ‘Another Perfect Day’: delicate chorused guitar riff meets savage drums and brutal mid-bass gouging; beauty meets the beast, head on… does it work? Ya, it does, though the song is a bit over-long. But for those who may have been scared away by the record’s first single, the second one, ‘Shine,’ was much more convincing, with it’s double-speed ZZ Top groove, killer guitaring and I’m so badass lyric.
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For some, all of this was too much to take. Fans and critics alike were shouting ‘sell out!’, and throwing the C word around: ‘Commercial’. Yes, it was true; the new Motorhead album was more accessible than anything before it, but any record that starts with ‘Back at the Funny Farm’ and ends with ‘Die You Bastard!’ could hardly be called a sell-out. Frankly, after the lifeless dud known as ‘Iron Fist’, Motorhead needed something… and love it or hate it, Robertson brought something new to the party. But for many, APD was a step too far from the mean and dirty (sloppy?), amphetamine-fueled (fast!) days of yore. I for one welcomed the expansion of Motorhead’s sound, and rate this record in their top 10, although I will admit to being worried at the time by what might come next… But those worries proved unwarranted, as Robbo was ‘fired’ by Lemmy after touring for ‘Another Perfect Day’ was completed. Black Sheep status assured. This is the Motorhead album for people who don’t like Motorhead; a handy way to separate the casual listener from the diehard lifer. But more importantly, ‘APD’ should be recognized as the first indication of how flexible Motorhead’s music, often derided as one dimensional, really is. If you wrote off ‘Another Perfect Day’ as ‘too melodic’ or a ‘sell out’, go back and give it another try. And it it’s your favorite Motorhead album, grow a set and check out ‘Ace of Spades’ or ‘Bastards’.

Less than three months after the release of ‘Another Perfect Day’, Aerosmith released their seventh studio album, aptly titled ‘Rock in a Hard Place’. It took Aerosmith three years to complete a follow-up to their previous album, the half-assed ‘Night in the Ruts’; Joe Perry left before that album was finished, and the chaotic, drug-addled circus the band had become was too busy killing itself to get its shit together and work on a record. Sessions for ‘Hard Place’ limped along for over a year, eventually leading to the departure of Brad Whitford, who, after all that studio time ($1.5 million dollars worth), had only recorded guitars for one song. It kinda sounded like the end for A-smith. But the Bad Boys From Boston pulled it off, and released the one-and-only Aerosmith album without Joe Perry and Brad Whitford’s involvement.
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‘Rock in a Hard Place’ fell on largely apathetic ears. Much had changed during Aerosmith’s three almost-permanent vacation (Hello, Van Halen!). The 70’s had turned into the 80’s, and Hard Rock fans were getting into Even Harder Rock. The conspicuous absence of the names “Perry” and ‘Whitford’ on the record ensured that even many old-school fans wrote the album off. The dwindling ranks of the Aero-faithful supported the album, which peaked at #32, making it Aerosmith’s lowest-charting record since their sophomore album ‘Get Your Wings’. The disastrous tour that followed, which was riddled with on-stage collapses, cancelled shows, and low ticket sales, did nothing to help the record’s profile (See: Deep Purple’s ‘Come Taste the Band’). I didn’t buy it, and I ignored it completely for 32 years; in fact, I’d never heard it start to finish until I started working on these ‘Black Sheep’ posts.

So: Three decades later, what do we have here? Simply stated, ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ is a better album than both ‘Night in the Ruts’ and ‘Done With Mirrors’. Yes. It’s also a better Aerosmith album than both. How can this be? How can an Aerosmith album without Whitford & Perry’s songwriting or playing be more Aerosmith-y than the album that preceded it and the one that followed it? Chemistry, my friends, chemistry… and I ain’t talkin’ about drugs. Most of the writing credits read ‘Tyler/Crespo’, and somehow the pair managed to conjure up more of the old A-smith magic than the Toxic Twins had been able to for several years. The rhythm section of Kramer and Hamilton anchors the record firmly in classic Aerosmith’s blues/rock/R&B wheelhouse, and Crespo plays with the same laid-back-but-red-hot vibe as Perry. And Tyler is Tyler, which is an impressive feat for someone so firmly in the clutches of a heroin addiction. Perry & Whitford eventually returned, and ‘Done with Mirrors’ showed encouraging signs of life, but this band would never again produce an album with the patented nasty-ass swagger of classic Aerosmith after ‘Rock in a Hard Place’.
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In his book, Joey Kramer unfairly dismisses RiaHP as “not a real Aerosmith record because it’s just me, Steven, and Tom — with a fill-in guitar player…. It’s Jimmy Crespo doing the guitar work.” I disagree with Mr. Kramer. ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ is a Real Aerosmith Album, no matter who’s on it. Or who’s not on it. It ain’t ‘Rocks’, or ‘Toys’, but it could rightfully be considered the last album of Aerosmith’s classic era. It could also be considered the first album of Aerosmith’s post-classic era. Or, in true Black Sheep style, it could belong to neither era. And like all Black Sheep records, it could use a little love. Revisit this album, pronto.

Revenge of the Black Sheep, Pt I: Sheep Purple

How the Hell do you replace Ronnie James Dio?

When the members of Black Sabbath were faced with having to replace Ronnie James Dio, they asked ex Deep Puple singer Ian Gillan. Gillan accepted, if only to kill time while waiting for Ritchie Blackmore to wind up Rainbow and eventually reunite Deep Purple Mk II. The resultant Sabbath album, ‘Born Again’, is perhaps the ultimate example of a Black Sheep record, an anomally that refuses to fit comfortably within the Sabbath ouvre and remains a controversial work to this day. Even Gillan himself has disowned it. However, as the decades pass, it’s been increasingly easier to take the record at face value, without the context or the baggage that came with it at the time of its release. Still the red-headed step-child of Black Sabbath’s discography, ‘Born Again’ is now increasingly viewed a classic of Heavy Metal and can be judged solely on its merits and not against what came before.

Flashback back to 1978. How the Hell do you replace Ronnie James Dio?

Initially, Blackmore didn’t look too far outside of the Purple family for a new lead vocalist: Ian Gillan was asked to join (!), but declined the invitation. Pete Goalby of Glenn Hughes’ old band Trapeze was also approached. But ultimately Blackmore chose a singer so far outside of the world of heavy rock that most Rainbow fans had never heard of him. Those who were familiar with his extensive history reacted with stunned disbelief.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Graham Bonnett.
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From 1968 to early 1970, Graham Bonnett was one half of the singing duo The Marbles, with fellow Brit Trevor Gordon. The Marbles scored a few chart singles on the continent with the help of some famous friends— the Marbles were protoges of the Bee Gees, who wrote 6 songs for the duo and provided backing vocal tracks on several Marbles recordings. When The Marbles ended, Bonnett spent several years recording commercial jingles for TV and radio in the UK, appeared as rock singer Billy Beethoven in the comedy film ‘Three For All’, and recorded two R&B/pop flavored albums, ‘Graham Bonnett’ and ‘No Bad Habits’ for Mercury. This smooth commercial crooner was not the most obvious choice to replace The Man on the Silver Mountain.

…Unless Blackmore was planning something completely different for Rainbow’s fourth studio album. Which was exactly the case. The record’s title, ‘Down to Earth’, perfectly captured Rainbow’s change in direction. Dungeons and dragons were out, in favor of more conventional hard rock subject matter; all of the album’s lyrics were penned by Roger Glover (also Rainbow’s ‘new’ bassist), before a new singer was hired. Overall he entire record is much more commercial than any of the Dio-era albums. Blackmore even went as far as employing an outside writer (Russ ballard) for the album’s chart single ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’. Clearly the guitarist was aiming at mainstream success in America.
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But would this new Rainbow line-up, which included the least likey frontman in all of heavy rock, work? Aside from The Man in Black, only drummer Cozy Powell remains from the Dio era. The medieval menace of albums previous is nowhere to be found, but those who still crave the epic will find it in Don Airey’s dramatic keyboard flourishes in ‘Eyes of the World’, and ‘Lost in Hollywood’. Blackmore responds to his new musical surroundings with some of his tastiest playing ever, and as for the vocal performance… It’s absolutely phenomenal. For his first-ever foray into the world of hard rock, Graham Bonnet nails it. There’s no denying the enduring legacy of Ronnie James Dio, whose impact and influence has grown exponentially in the years following his death, or the strength of the Rainbow albums on which he appears, but Bonnet’s vocal performance on DTE is earth-shakingly excellent. Blackmore’s gamble paid off; ‘Down to Earth’ is an excellent hard rock record that stands on its own as a classic and features what many would argue is the band’s strongest and most cohesive line-up.

Bonnet was only a member of Rainbow for about a year and a half, making ‘Down to Earth’ Rainbow’s Black Sheep record, an outlier sitting uncomfortably between the band’s two signature eras: the magic and mystery of the Dio years and the more lightweight FM-friendly sound of the Joe-Lynne Turner era. It’s easily Rainbows most divisive record, splitting their fan base down the middle while not fitting easily into either side of the band’s discography. But when evaluated outside the context of Rainbow, and taken on it’s own merits, it’s a brilliant record and deserves re-evaluation. Oh, and uh, it’s one of my favorite albums of all time.

So Blackmore managed the impossible task of replacing the irreplacable. But back in 1976, Blackmore was on the other side of the equation, with David Coverdale and Jon Lord asking–

How the Hell do you replace Ritchie Blackmore?

Most people thought that Deep Purple was over when Ritchie Blackmore departed in 1976 to record a ‘solo album’. Blackmore’s departure had left a gaping hole in one of the world’s biggest bands. Surely this was the end? But Purple surprized the entire Heavy Rock world by announcing the addition of young American guitarist Tommy Bolin.

Bolin was a virtual unknown in the UK, and not exactly a household name in the States, either, where his main claim to fame was replacing Joe Walsh’s replacement in the James Gang. In jazz/fusion circles, however, Bolin’s session work on Billy Cobham’s ‘Spectrum’ lp had made quite an impact. Other jazz-tinged session work followed, and Bolin appeared to be making something of a name for himself among the jazz-rock elite.
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In many ways, Tommy Bolin was the anti-Ritchie Blackmore. Five years younger than Blackmore, the flamboyant guitarist cut quite a different figure than the menacing presence of The Man in Black. Musically, the two had little in common; Bolin’s tasty, lyrical style and experimental nature were eons away from Blackmore’s explosive blues-meets-Bach style. But Deep Purple had seriously lost its way by the time of the legendary guitarist’s departure. The ‘Stormbringer’ album was a devisive work, and remains so today. Coverdale and Hughes’ soul/funk leanings had led the band away from the heavy rock of DP’s glory years, and Blackmore, with his neo-classical slant, had lost interest. Would a young American fusion guitarist help fill the void left behind by Ricthie Blackmore? Could the addition of Bolin lead the band out of it’s funk (see what I did there?) and back to Hard Rock glory? Yes and no.
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When it was released, ‘Come Taste the Band’ was a dud. In the UK, it was the lowest-charting Deep Purple album since the Mk 1 days. In the US, it failed to crack the Top 40, the first DP album to do so since ‘Fireball’. It seemed the record-buying public had little interest in a Blackmore-less Deep Purple. Certainly the disastrous tours that followed did nothing to help the record’s profile. CTtB was soon written off as the one DP album too many, and has become the Black Sheep record of Deep Purple’s canon.* I bought my copy from a cut-out bin in 1980.

Almost 40 years later (Like a fine wine, etc…), it’s a heckuva lot easier to listen to CTtb without the gorilla in the room… and of course, that gorilla’s name is Ritchie Blackmore. The record takes off in fine Purple fashion, with Bolin making his first appearance on a DP record via the same otherworldly hyper-echo effect that turned heads on Cobham’s ‘Spectrum’ album. Unfortunately,the unspectacular guitar work that follows never lives up to that bang/zoom introduction. CTtB, however, is not a record overly concerned with the virtuosic; in fact, it trades the solo-centric nature of previous Purple albums for a total-band vibe. The songs are decidely more riff-based than those on ‘Stormbringer’, with ‘Love Child’ reaching almost ‘Into the Fire’ levels of heaviness, and overall the record moves Deep Purple one giant step back toward the hard rock realm they helped invent. Granted, it’s some of the funkiest hard rock you’ll ever hear, but with the Ian Paice behind the kit, it all works. The amazingly adaptable Jon Lord turns in some slippery 70’s synth solos, just to make sure the record sounds dated 4 decades later… And this album ends really, really well… ‘This Time Around” is something that MK II never would have tried, and its companion peice ‘Owed to “G”‘ is a suitable showcase for Bolin’s particular style of playing. Album closer ‘You Keep On Moving’ is unquestionably the strongest song on the record, and one the strongest songs from any DP line-up. Fact.

If the disintegration of Deep Purple after touring for the album wrapped wasn’t enough to ensure that DP Mk IV would only record one album, then Bolin’s death from a drug overdose a year later assured it. Fate has destined that ‘Come Taste the Band’ remain an anomally, a Black Sheep record for the ages; a speed bump in the discography of one of the word’s greatest heavy rock bands, and another bitterwseet chapter in the short life of a talented, versatile young musician with a promising future.

*I refuse to acknowledge ‘Slaves and Masters’ as a Deep Purple album.
How the hell do you replace Ian Gillan? NOT with Joe Lynne Turner.