Formed in Hertford, England, in 1968, Deep Purple stands as an iconic pillar of heavy rock’s (un)holy triumvirate, sharing their revered status with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Throughout their enormous career, Deep Purple blazed a trail that fused rock with diverse influences, from blues and jazz to classical arrangements, resulting in some of rock music’s greatest numbers.
Amidst the group’s many line-ups, the Mark II formation shone brightest: Ian Gillan’s iconic vocals, Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar wizardry, Jon Lord’s virtuosic keyboard/organ work, Roger Glover’s burly bass lines, and Ian Paice’s thundering drumming. Atop a number of monumental albums and legendary tours, this band configuration is responsible for Deep Purple’s definitive and most prolific era.
That said, the band’s history is adorned with other significant formations. The Mark I lineup (Paice, Lord, Blackmore, Simper, Evans) showcased the band’s early psychedelic roots, while The Mark III lineup (Paice, Lord, Blackmore, Hughes, Coverdale) ventured into a fresh and more funk-infused sound. Of course, Mark VIII (Paice, Adley, Morse, Glover, Gillan) also needs to be mentioned, holding the record as the group’s most enduring lineup, boasting an impressive two-decade run.
Still active, the band graciously endures the relentless march of time, but, needless to say, there’s nothing left to prove. the group sits comfortably among the greatest and most influential acts in the history of modern music.
As a homage to their legacy and a guide to their vast catalog, here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 Deep Purple albums.
10. Shades Of Deep Purple
Shades Of Deep Purple is Deep Purple’s debut album, released in 1968. Along with Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice, the original lineup featured Nick Simper on bass and Rod Evans on lead vocals, forming what is now known as the group’s Mark I line-up.
While it lacks the anthemic hard rock/proto-metal assault the band is more known for, “Shades of Deep Purple” still offers a handful of fine songs that showcase the group’s early talent.
Purple turns the accessible Beatles’ classic “Help” into a slow-burning psychedelic track with plenty of nuances, while “Hush”, another cover, is the album’s hit, complete with a memorable chorus and lively organ work.
Elsewhere, the group, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, adds their unique stamp to “Hey Joe” and unveils their early instrumental fireworks with the original “Mandrake Root”.
9. Who Do We Think We Are
Who Do We Think We Are, released in 1973, is the final album of the Mark II lineup era until their reunion in 1984.
Musically, the album presents a slight departure from Deep Purple’s earlier style, leaning more heavily into a blues-based sound.
“Place In Line” embraces a straightforward blues approach with its classic Chicago-styled riff and soulful vocals. Then, “Mary Long” continues the blues rock motif, incorporating another biting riff and lyrics that confront censorship with an aggressive stance, while “Rat Bat Blue” features a vicious staccato riff that demands immediate attention.
However, it’s really the iconic lead single “Woman from Tokyo” that takes the album to new heights. A bluesy hard rocker with memorable guitar work, the song is elevated by its simple yet effective lyrics and a sensational chorus.
Despite the turmoil that enveloped the band during the album’s recording and its original mixed reception, Who Do We Think We Are remains a significant outing in the band’s career.
Released in 1974, Stormbringer is the second and final full-length album of the band’s Mark III lineup. With the growing influence of vocalist David Coverdale and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, the record adds a considerable dose of funk and soul to Purple’s heavy rock sound.
With that said, it’s the head-banging, quasi-metal title track that opens the record, delivering a truly majestic sonic punch with its monster main riff and memorable chorus. On the other hand, the bluesy, soulful “Hold On” packs nice vocals from Coverdale and an inspired Blackmore/Lord lead break, while the rocker “High Ball Shooter” is funky and simply highly enjoyable.
Elsewhere, “The Gipsy” is a slow-burning exotic piece with a memorable lead guitar break, while “Soldier Of Fortune” is a stellar blues-tinged ballad.
Fireball (1971), sandwiched between In Rock and Machine Head, often gets overlooked in comparison. However, make no mistake, the record is classic Mark II Purple and packs a huge punch.
The blazing titular track opens the proceedings, with Purple’s trademark dual organ/guitar attack taking center stage, while the contagious and exceptionally bluesy “Demon’s Eye” is a vehicle for Gillan’s swaggering vocals.
There’s also “Anyone’s Daughter” on offer, which has, surprisingly, a distinct country/folk flavor and more of Blackmore’s bluesy leads. Of course, the heavyweight rockers “Fools” and “Strange Kind Of Woman” are also two other undisputable highlights.
Infinite, released in 2017, demonstrates that the band’s creative fire is far from extinguished in the 21st century.
Opening with the spirited rocker “Time in Bedlam,” the album instantly strikes a balance between the band’s classic roots and a fresh, invigorated sound, while the similarly heavy “Hip Boots” emanates a groove-infused essence.
The band also tackles blues rock with an inspired take on the iconic Doors’ number “Roadhouse Blues”
However, it’s the haunting progressive rock piece “The Surprising” that shines the brightest, with its slow build leading to an explosive mid-song interplay between guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist/organist Don Airey. The result is a track that stands as one of their very best.
Overall, Infinite shatters any doubts about Deep Purple’s current relevance, simply standing among the best offerings in the group’s career.
5. Perfect Strangers
Perfect Strangers (1984) celebrates the return of the legendary Mark II lineup after eleven years, delivering a batch of hard rock songs with a newfound accessible edge.
The lascivious rocker “Knocking At Your Backdoor” opens the proceedings, immediately demanding full attention with its muscular riffage and galvanizing vocals, while “Wasted Sunsets” is another perfectly executed bluesy ballad on Purple’s catalog featuring a magnificent extended solo. An inspired instrumental piece is also on offer with the bluesy “Son Of Alerik”.
However, it’s the titular track that emerges as the album’s definitive moment. A mid-paced, eastern-influenced epic, “Perfect Strangers” is a vehicle for evocative lyrics, haunting vocals and an extraordinary finale that boasts a guitar riff that might just be the band’s best.
Burn, released in 1974, establishes the band’s Mark III lineup, with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes replacing Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, respectively.
A monstrous speed metal number, the blistering title track kicks off the record with an array of fiery guitar and organ passages, in addition to an immense, larger-than-life chorus. “Lay Down, Stay Down” is an upbeat rocker with a nice drum beat and inspired vocals.
“Sail Away” is a bluesy, bouncy hard rock number with an infectious chorus, while “What’s Going On Here” is a boogie-heavy cut with a captivating groove.
Then, the scorching “Mistreated” comes into play. A slow-burning blues epic with a monumental riff, steel-melting guitar leads and one of Coverdale’s greatest performances, the song definitely sits among the best in the blues rock genre.
3. Machine Head
Machine Head (1972), a masterpiece delivered by the Mark II lineup, is probably Deep Purple’s most famous album.
“Highway Star”, the ultimate driving song, opens the record with its infectious uptempo urgency, boasting sizzling organ and guitar solos and a tremendous vocal performance.
Next, we have “Maybe I’m A Leo”, a bluesy, riff-driven rocker that packs tremendous punch and swagger, while the jazzy “Lazy” is a tightly-focused jam with loads of instrumental firepower.
“Space Truckin” is another heavyweight rocker with a memorable riff, while the bluesy ballad “When A Blind Man Cries” (included in the album’s bonus version) is simply Deep Purple at their most emotional and poignant.
And, of course, there’s also“Smoke On The Water” on offer. Overplayed as it certainly is, it’s still an epic piece of music, boasting arguably the greatest rock and roll riff of all time.
2. In Rock
Released in 1970, In Rock is a monumental effort that redefined the boundaries of hard rock and set the stage for the development of heavy metal.
The blistering, monstrous opening track, “Speed King”, with its abrasive guitars, relentless organ, and vigorous vocals, is proto-metal at its best, while “Bloodsucker” is a blues-based rocker packing a dose of hard rock attitude.
The hit single “Black Night” (included in the album’s bonus version) is another standout with its memorable guitar riff and gutsy vocals, while “Hard Loving Man” charges forward with a galloping proto-metal attack. The track’s influence on future bands such as Iron Maiden is evident in its aggressive energy and driving rhythms.
“Smoke On The Water” aside, Deep Purple’s definitive masterpiece is really “Child In Time”. A haunting epic clocking in at just over 10 minutes, the song builds gradually from its subtle, atmospheric start and peaks during Gillan’s falsetto-infused sections, which easily stand among the greatest vocal parts in rock music history. The song also features superb, iconic organ work and a phenomenal, blues-inspired Blackmore solo.
1. Made In Japan
The landmark live album Made In Japan, released in 1972, has rightfully earned its place as one of the most celebrated live recordings in history, serving as a defining testament to Deep Purple’s enormous contribution to music.
Capturing the band at the peak of their powers during performances in Osaka and Tokyo, the album takes familiar Mark II studio tracks and elevates them to new heights through epic live renditions.
Opening the album, “Highway Star” receives the explosive treatment it deserves, rivalling its acclaimed studio counterpart. The guitar solos, organ wizardry, and dynamic rhythm section work in perfect synergy, igniting the atmosphere with blistering intensity from the very start.
“Child In Time” experiences a remarkable rendition on the live platform as well. The guitar and organ solos are fine-tuned to perfection, further expanding the song’s emotive appeal and grandiose scope. Similarly, “Smoke On The Water” benefits from a more invigorated tempo and from more intricate solos.
Elsewhere, “Strange Kind of Woman” and “Lazy,” clocking in at approximately 10 minutes each, exhibit Deep Purple’s aptitude for extended yet cohesive musical exploration, while the colossal 20-minute rendition of “Space Truckin’” might just be one of the greatest jams in rock history.