Funny what you can learn from blogging isn’t it? I’ve learned all manner of things about architecture, Bulgarian death metal, UFO conspiracies and, after accidentally following several quite lewd blogs*, some things that have really made my hair curl. BUT, one of the absolute best things I ever found out about my blogging was that Deep Purple Fireball was an absolute must-buy; thanks Scott and Mike! I always had the album pegged as a poor cousin to Machine Head**, in much the same way as I think Stormbringer is to Burn. Wrong, it’s way more interesting than that.
You can’t beat the title and opener for a good exciting start – what sounds like a knackered air-conditioning unit is left for dust by Ian Paice’s drumming, which was robbed wholesale for Motörhead’s ‘Overkill’, until the band join in, in the most exhilarating fashion. I love ‘Fireball’ it really does sound like the band are having almost more fun than they can handle, playing just as fast as they possibly can. Towards the end of the song Jon Lord puts in some great stabs of organ and then … and then …. THERE IS THE SINGLE GREATEST BIT OF TAMBOURINING EVER IN THE WHOLE HISTORY OF THINGS AND HISTORY AND STUFF! I fucking mean that, fucking sincerely.
As was common in far off distant days of yore^ the various international versions of Fireball differ from each other, the US and Canadian versions particularly^^ (which were released 2 months before the UK one), including the February 1971 single ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ at the expense of ‘Demon’s Eye’. Now I like ‘Strange …’ but I can’t help feeling we got by far the better of the deal there. ‘Demon’s Eye’ starts off with an organ pulse (Ooo-err!) that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Goldfrapp LP and it just gets funkier and lewder from thereon in, totally busting the myth that it was the arrival of Bolin, Hughes and Coverdale that brought the funk thang to the band. I love every second of this track, everything is just so perfectly judged here, everyone shows off what they can do but nothing is overplayed. Ian Gillan’s vocals are particularly great on this one too, the bit where he chucks in a little Daltrey-esque stuttering gets me up off my seat every time.
To be totally fair those may be the best pair of tracks but there are 5 other really good ones too on Fireball too. I have a real soft spot for the Who-goes-progressive sound of the ‘The Mule’, which has some great flickering guitar bursts from Blackmore and Paice gets to embrace his inner Keith Moon to brilliant effect. At 8:19 ‘Fools’ is the longest track here and if you ignore a certain lyrical clumsiness, it’s masked by Gillan’s delivery – he sings it with real intent and bite, to match Lord and Blackmore’s gritty attack, although you could lose the soft midsection^* without losing anything much from the song. I like the basic chug and thrust of ‘No-one Came’ but it just isn’t up to the quality of the others here, although there are some good, amusing lines in it, spoiled a tad by Gillan adopting a bit of a faux American accent and ‘No No No’ is fine, but just not a stand-out in this pretty exalted company.
Now the joker in the Fireball pack, literally, is ‘Anyone’s Daughter’ which is a completely atypical Purple offering, mostly about Gillan’s purple offering. It sounds like the band never have before or since (to my knowledge) at least, it is a straight-up jokey tale of dodging dads and doing the do played at a straight shuffle speed. It is a real little oddity, especially hearing Gillan singing in a conversational way, a bit like a Chiswick Dylan; more ballfire than fireball. I’m torn between quite liking and hating this one, occasionally it makes me just want to turn the record over, but sometimes, just sometimes it’s fine.
I think this is really essential Deep Purple, they’re having fun on Fireball playing with who they could be and sound like in the future before screwing the lid down, brilliantly, with Machine Head.
PS: After Mike and Scott mercilessly bullied me into buying Fireball I was lucky enough to pick up a nearly mint copy on eBay for very little cash indeed, like myself, it is a beautifully preserved specimen with almost no cover wear and a great spine. True dat.
PPS: Has anyone else noticed that WP seems to have changed so that media files, embedded video/Spotify in my case, end up as the featured picture in reader? which is why I haven’t embedded any for this.
*for the last three years.
**which followed it only 8 months later. Mental.
^’Yore’ can be precisely and scientifically defined as, and I quote from a recent article in New Scientist here, ‘roughly December 1964 through to May 1973, and shit’.
^^possibly because, and I will have to check my facts here, Fireball was released when they were still British colonies; like, totally totally long ago.
^*I’ve been trying to lose mine for years.