Shades of Deep Purple is the debut studio album by Deep Purple, released in July 1968 on Tetragrammaton in the United States and in September 1968 on Parlophone in the United Kingdom. The band, initially called Roundabout, was the idea of former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis, who recruited Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore before leaving the project. The Mark. I line-up of the band was completed by vocalist/frontman Rod Evans, along with bassist Nick Simper and drummer Ian Paice, in March 1968.
After about two months of rehearsals, Shades of Deep Purple was recorded in only three days in May 1968 and contains four original songs and four covers, thoroughly rearranged to include classical interludes and sound more psychedelic. Stylistically the music is close to psychedelic rock and progressive rock, two genres with an ever-growing audience in the late 1960s.
The album was not well received in the UK, where it sold very little and did not chart. In the US, on the other hand, it was a success and the single "Hush", an energetic rock track originally written by Joe South, became very popular at the time, reaching number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The good sales of the album and the intense radio play of the single contributed largely to the attention Deep Purple would get in their early US tours and also during the 1970s. Modern reviews of the album are generally positive and consider Shades of Deep Purple an important piece in the history of Deep Purple.
With a possible set list shaping up during rehearsals, Blackmore convinced a friend of his, Derek Lawrence, to be the band's producer. They had met years before, when both worked for producer Joe Meek and Lawrence ran an independent production company that recorded singles for release in the United States. Lawrence had many contacts in the US and was present at some of Roundabout's sessions, remaining impressed.
Through Lawrence, HEC Enterprises contacted the new American record label Tetragrammaton Records, which was looking for a British band to work with. HEC arranged for the band to cut some demos for the American label in late March and early April at Trident Studios in London. They taped two of their previously developed songs, "Hush" and "Help!", as well as two new songs: "Love Help Me" had already been developed before Evans and Paice joined, while "Shadows" was quickly written and arranged by the band for those recording sessions. Lawrence also played the demo of "Help!" to the British recording company EMI, which offered a deal for distribution in Europe with its sub-label Parlophone. All the demos, with the exception of "Shadows", were sent to Tetragrammaton for approval.
The recording of the demos was followed by a short promotional tour of eight dates in Denmark and Sweden through April and May, booked as Roundabout by a friend of Lord. The band name was changed at this time, after Blackmore suggested the title of his grandmother's favourite song, "Deep Purple" by Peter DeRose. Deep Purple played their first gig at the Park School in the district of Vestpoppen, Tastrup, Denmark on 20 April 1968 and the live set comprised all the new songs and the cover of "Little Girl", originally by John Mayall and Eric Clapton. When they returned to England, Tetragrammaton confirmed the decision to sign the band. This was a saving grace, because HEC had spent nearly all their budget for promotion and equipment. The band relocated to Highleigh Manor, in Balcombe, West Sussex, because Deeves Hall was no longer available.
Deep Purple's members were experienced musicians with different musical backgrounds: Lord had trained in classical music and had played in jazz and blues rock ensembles, Blackmore and Simper came from session work in pop rock, Paice and Evans from beat bands. However, no one was an accomplished songwriter. The only one with experience in musical composition was Lord, who treated the arrangements and wrote the bulk of the music for the first album, with some guitar riffs added by Blackmore. The album shows the potential of the band but does not focus on a distinct sound. Clearly identifiable on the album are the musical styles which were developing in the UK in that period and that influenced the young musicians in Deep Purple, a mix of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, pop rock and hard rock, the latter mostly evident in Blackmore's guitar parts.
Reception of the album and the band in their home country was generally negative. Despite being presented as a "polished commercial group" in their radio appearances, Deep Purple's stage excesses and success in the US did not make a good impression on British audiences. The Deviants frontman and later journalist Mick Farren described Deep Purple's music as "a slow and pompous din, somewhere between bad Tchaikovsky and a B-52 taking off on a bombing run." They were also criticised for being too American and the "poor man's Vanilla Fudge". As Brian Connolly of Sweet recalled, "they were so out of place that you really felt sorry for them.
For me this is a decent record that show an eclectic taste of music from all the members. I'm not a big fan of covers at studio albums, (4 in this case) but I must admit that in the 60's-70's was a common album's structure.
Deep Purple is just a shade of what will be, however the album is ok... just a little.
Deep Purple is:
Rod Evans – lead vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – guitar
Jon Lord – organ, backing vocals
Nick Simper – bass, backing vocals
Ian Paice – drums