REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn (1968)

It’s Purple Week at mikeladano.com!  It’s all Deep Purple and Deep Purple alumni, all week.  This is Part 2.  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple

DEEP PURPLE – The Book of Taliesyn (1968 EMI, 2000 remaster)

I’m not a big fan of The Book of Taliesyn, and that’s not because I don’t like Deep Purple Mk I. I do like Deep Purple Mk I, or at least some of it. I think the third Purple album from ’69 is one of the band’s all-time best, and an underrated classic. The Book of only scratches the surface. The band had yet to find their sound, which would emerge fully formed a year later on Deep Purple In Rock. This album does represent significant growth, but not in the heavy metal direction that Purple would co-pioneer.  Instead, Book of travels further down the orchestral roads with Jon Lord.

The Book of Taliesyn, like Shades of Deep Purple before it, is built with cover songs as its cornerstones. It contains one of my favourite Deep Purple Mk I tracks: their version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”. Energetic, ragged and rocking hard, “Kentucky Woman” is the absolute best track here.  Ian Paice is the MVP, but singer Rod Evans is well suited to this kind of tune. Other standouts include “Wring That Neck”, the legendary instrumental (also called “Hard Road”) that the band continued to play through the decades even after Blackmore left the band in the 90’s.  “The Shield” isn’t bad, as it features a long instrumental break featuring Jon and Ritchie.  There is also the track “Anthem”, a Jon Lord helmed piece that delves into classical, forshadowing the “April” suite from the third album, as well as the Concerto for Group and Orchestra itself. So, the band was certainly stretching out here. There is a definite growth from the first album. Unfortunately, the album is bogged down by another slow, boring Beatles cover (“We Can Work It Out”, this time) and also “River Deep, Mountain High”, a whole 10 minutes thereof, which does nothing to help the band.  The only notable thing about it is Jon’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” intro.

DP BOOK OF TALIESYN_0003Like the other two albums in this series of remasters on Spitfire, there are five previously unreleased bonus tracks. All are valuable in their own way. Keep in mind that these tapes are old and may not sound as good as you’re used to. But, “Playground” is a bright instrumental from BBC tapes, and “Wring That Neck” is presented live. “Hey Bop a Re Bop” is buried treasure, an early version of what would become “Painter” on the next album.  There are two more cool covers to boot.  “Oh No No No” is a studio outtake, but I don’t recognize it.  It’s a mid-tempo pop rocker with splashes of Jon’s organ that quench the thirst.  Nicky Simper demonstrates some impressive bass chops, but he just wasn’t the right fit for the band.  A BBC Top Gear session yielded a song called “It’s All Over”, a slow country blues ballad that Thin Lizzy could have done at the same time.  This is a great tune, and it’s a shame that Purple never recorded it properly.

The colourful cover art is a quaint reminder that once upon a time, album covers were 12.375″ x 12.375″ and you could gaze upon the finer details for hours.  CD just doesn’t cut it.  This cover was so different for the band.  Their name and the album title appear on it several times, and each band member is credited (first names only) on the front.  The bizarre landscape foreshadows the Hieronymus Bosch painting on the next album.

2/5 stars. Not quite the band we know and love, but slowly getting there.

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18 comments

  1. Yup, with you on all of this. Much as I don’t rate them that highly I do still enjoy these first two albums when I stick them on. I think Book is a little more consistent than Shades but Shades has better standout tracks. Help was a much better Beatles cover than We Can Work It Out too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Help was a mildly better cover, I think…neither really do anything for me. I remember being so excited seeing the tracklisting! And then…”THIS is We Can Work It Out??”

      The third album was where it all came together for me. But I reviewed that already so I’m-a-gonna-skip ahead a few years tomorrow.

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    1. I got it in 96 myself, and you know what pissed me off? I bought it brand new, at our store, and I paid like $20 for it…and the CD was a really bad LP dub. I can’t remember the record label but they did tons of shoddy CD releases of the first three Purples. We had it waaay overpriced.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Mike, same as yesterday. These two have gotta set some sort of record (pun intended) here at Lebrain’s, two straight Deep Purple albums getting 2/5! Unheard of!

    Formative years like this are really interesting. I’m glad they were able to keep going long enough to achieve the greatness they did – a lot of bands would give up or have their chance taken away if they didn’t nail it right from the debut! And me, I love records like this, the early stuff. I’d probably love these haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You might! Joe seems to like ’em more than I do too.

      It’s really hard to seriously rate a Deep Purple studio album a 2/5. I’ve owned them for so many years now though, that I don’t know if they will ever grow on me. You never know, weirder things have happened around here!

      Tomorrow’s review is NOT a 2/5. Far from it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thin Lizzy is the best example I think. They did three albums as a trio, and it took a few years to find their sound. What’s amazing about DP though is how they fucking FOUND it on In Rock, possibly the most surprising left turn IN rock!

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  3. I think the big problem with this era was Deep Purple modeled their sound from Vanilla Fudge and they were known for their reworking of Beatles tunes and other artists. DP doesn’t strike me as a cover band even though they had success with the formula early on, it did put them on the map. So glad they evolved into writing their own material and broke away from mimicking other bands. I still think Ian Paice may be the most underrated drummer ever, whenever I listen to Fireball I wonder how one man can possibly play with that intensity for such an extended time. Can’t wait to see them get inducted into Rock Hall, they should have to include all 125 members or so that have played in the band!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you said that about Paice, because it’s true. Obviously I had to listen to a lot of Purple to do this week. The one (the only) consistent member has been Ian Paice. Listening to him playing has been an absolutely pleasure.

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