“Fireball” is occasionally the neglected child of the first three Mk. II albums because it sits between the sensational rocker “In Rock” and the classic “Machine Head”. Additionally, some members do not regard it highly. Particularly Ritchie Blackmore has stated his dislike for the album because it was a rush job done between tours and not always with everyone present during a recording session. Still, the album holds some excellent material and represents the halfway mark between the band’s aggressive heavy rock approach and the smoother, more mature style of “Machine Head”.
The title track has Ian Paice on the drums in furious form and includes his rare use of a double bass drum. It’s an unusual song in the Deep Purple catalogue also because there is no guitar solo and instead a bass solo. The song a is charger with Ian Gillan delivering gruff vocals and some of his trademark screams.
“No No No” is a longer piece with a very cool bluesy guitar intro and a slick and easy guitar solo by Blackmore and laid back organ solo by Jon Lord that gradually builds in intensity until Blackmore lets loose with a volley of hard rock guitar arpeggios. Gillan again applies his forceful vocals.
I’ve never been too keen on “Demon’s Eye” but it remains a classic song of the band. I almost feel like it could have been a long slow blues number which the band decided to speed up a bit and add more muscle to it.
To be sure, the oddball of the album is “Anyone’s Daughter”, a mock country western song that sounds like the band is seriously trying to do a Mike Nesmith (of the Monkees) song, tongue in cheek. I’ve always enjoyed this one in part because Blackmore’s clean guitar playing sounds so smooth and nice, and Lord’s piano solo is so sincerely executed. Gillan provides some wonderful humour in his lyrics with lines like, “I won’t get no more eggs and water / cos I’ve laid the farmer’s daughter” and “I you hear telling tales and lies, you say I’m dumb and scraggy / But man, this dumb and scraggy is your daughter’s baby’s daddy”. Both Blackmore and Gillan have stated that they regret having the song on the album but I’m glad for it.
Side two opens with a step back to Deep Purple’s more experimental days with “The Mule”, a song featuring a repeated drum pattern by Paice, a snare burst followed by a roll over the tomtoms, and a long organ and guitar instrumental sequence that let’s Lord create more of a psychedelic soundscape with his instrument than an actual solo.
“Fools” has always been one of my favourite tracks, not least because of the heavy rock guitar and Roger Glover’s bass which has a really thick and chunky sound. Blackmore plays with the volume knob of his guitar to create a solo that sounds like a cello. Just past the seven minute mark the music reaches a thundering conclusion with guitar, organ, bass, and drums crashing and thundering together.
“No One Came” is less complex than most of the other songs but keeps the heavy rock theme of the album. Gillan delivers lyrics of cynicism about the music business, making references to a “Robin Hood outfit” and the “glitter and shine” of the business. A great album closer.
The reissue with bonus tracks has some good material such as the single “Strange Kind of Woman” which appeared on the North American versions of the original album as well as three songs that didn’t make the album. I like “Freedom” the best for its rock and roll sound with a great piano solo and Gillan really screaming out the lyrics at the end. “Slow Train” is interesting because the music of the “ahh-ah-ah-ahh” part was resurrected by Blackmore on the Rainbow album “Bent Out of Shape”. There are also some tracks of just fooling around in the studio which are kind of fun to listen to once or twice.
Overall I feel Deep Purple Mk. II were still hot with fresh ideas on this album. Gillan has stated that from a song writing perspective he felt there were new possibilities explored. It fills the spot between “In Rock” and “Machine Head” with some great music, in my opinion. The band really shows off its talent here. It doesn't rock out as heavily as "In Rock" but it still sounds a bit more gruff and rugged than a lot of later material. The best proto-metal parts would be "Fireball" and "Fools".