All killer no filler - Deep Purple rock like no others in 1970!
An incredible triumphant album, 'In Rock' is stone cold heavy metal in its earliest incarnation. When you put this into context, that metal was in its infancy, Metallica were in diapers and Dream Theater were nothing but a dream, Deep Purple were THE definitive progenitors of heavy prog. What a bold, brave album is here with one of the most astonishing vocal performances by the incomparable Gillan. In fact each band member became legends in their own right especially the guitar god Blackmore who absolutely burns it up on each track. Although I am not a massive fan of DP (I have all their essential albums) I have to give credit where it is due and this is their greatest album by a long shot. Let us examine the tracks that are evidence in themselves.
'Speed King' has become a well covered song by all manner of artists and for good reason ? it seriously kicks. The very first thing you hear is a ramming organ that builds up with guitar crescendos then it stops and we get that iconic screaming vocal "Good golly said little Miss Molly...". The fantastic thing about the track is all the affectionate references to classic 50s rock such as 'Tutti Frutti', 'Lucille', 'Let's have a Party', 'Saturday Night', 'Hard Headed Woman' and even the 'House of Blue Light' get a mention, which later became a title for a DP album of course. The killer riff is well known in metal and the lead break and organ tradeoff is dynamic and masterfully executed. A dynamite song that drives the hammer in the flower power coffin.
'Bloodsucker' features another brain searing riff where Blackmore shows his incredible skill. Gillan keeps screaming at the top of his lungs, "AAAAAAGH NO NO NO NO!" and we believe him! I have no idea what the song is about because meaning is incidental to the all over rocking hammering you receive from this. The glorious bassline by Glover is relentless and driving. The birth of head banging may well be contained in this song alone. I love the way it changes time sig and stops and starts with the shimmering organ. Ian Lord was a master and this is the magician at his peak until we hear the next track....
I have to take a breath before attempting to describe this track. 'Child In Time' is a masterpiece. There, that may be enough, but I must mention the way it builds up with quiet patient tempo, threatening to explode. Explode, it does, in the freakout instrumental section where guitar and keys break into fractured organ riffs and angular guitar playing. It is sheer bliss listening to these magicians at their craft, weaving their spell of magic around the soundscape. Fret melting hammer offs and lavish organ flourishes are epically performed. It is wonderful how the song does not just rely on the musicianship to launch it into the stratosphere, but rather there is a virtuoso performance by Gillan with his high octave range that would haunt him in later years when he could not perform to this range again. The band would perform this track thousands of time live and you must hear the version on 'Made In Japan' which is even better than this. Joe Satriani has performed a superb version on his cover album, demonstrating how influential this is. It returns after the instrumental break to the quiet melancholy section, until it blasts off at the end in an orgasmic paroxysm of light and dark shades of metal mayhem. It is like death has come to the track and it is crying out for mercy.
Where does it lead from here? Side two is not as good but what an act to follow, though there are still great tracks.
'Flight of the Rat' is a rocker that is popular among fans, but not as well known as the other tracks. The standout performance on this is the drumming metrical patterns of Paice, who is as good as he can get. He actually performs a drum solo in this track. There are many diversions on the song, very proggy and very heavy.
'Into the Fire' is a medium paced rocker with aggressive vocals "Into the Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire!" That is as memorable as it gets though, and it is the weakest song on the album, though by no means a throwaway. There are some brutal riffs on this and Lord continues to impress on keyboards.
'Living Wreck' features a lot of staccato stabbing Hammond sounds from Lord that blast up and down the scales. The vocal pipes of Gillan are more restrained on this but he has a great octave range and uses it to perfection.
'Hard Lovin' Man' is the last track that is a highlight of side 2 with a frenetic intro and angular guitar riffing from Blackmore. The band go into full flight crunching out the riffs and solos in turn, they were so professional and tight it is astonishing.
It could be over if you only have the vinyl but the remastered Anniversary CD has a bonus. A CD full of edits, remixes, unreleased and unedited versions and of course a stack of studio chatting. The duel 'Black Night' versions are welcome, as it is always great to hear those indelible riffs, and the 'Unedited Roger Glover Remix' is compelling listening. The remix of 'Speed King' and 'Flight of the Rat' are there for the diehard fans but you will desire the original versions. The piano version of 'Speed King' is fascinating as is the instrumental, 'Jam Stew'. The unreleased 'Cry Free' is a curio if nothing else.
It is brilliant that this has been unleashed from the vaults at last and it makes the album an even greater experience completing its masterpiece status. 'Machine Head' and 'Fireball' are excellent albums too, but of the big three 'In Rock' is lord and master over all. In conclusion, grab this version and enter the Deep Purple experience at your nearest opportunity.