After Ritchie Blackmore’s dramatic departure from Deep Purple, it looked as if it might be all over for the band, with founder members Ian Paice and Jon Lord sensing that they had reached the end of the line. Understandably, though, newcomers Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale were very much averse to having their taste of the big time snatched away so abruptly, and no doubt there were plenty of others keen to keep the Purple gravy train going. Jon and Ian were persuaded to consider keeping the band going in a new form; auditioning of guitarists began and, having been blown away by the dazzling and mercurial talents of a young man by the name of Tommy Bolin, Jon shed his initial reservations about continuing the band and set to work with the rejuvenated line-up with renewed enthusiasm. I will not retread the tumultuous, and ultimately tragic, history of Deep Purple Mark IV here, but will confine myself to taking an overview of Jon’s most memorable contributions to the superb album that the band delivered. Many Deep Purple fans, of course, were dead against accepting a version of the band that – for the first time in its history – did not include Ritchie Blackmore, and another complaint sometimes levelled at this line-up of Deep Purple is that Jon’s role appeared to take something of a back seat (indeed, he himself stated that he felt like a bit of a passenger at this point, with the Hughes/Bolin camp and the increasingly self-assured Coverdale very much driving the direction of the new Deep Purple). Nevertheless, Jon did make some delightful and very important contributions to what still stands up to me as one of the very best albums to appear under the Deep Purple moniker.
Come Taste the Band
Deep Purple Mark IV was launched with a bang, on the album’s opening cut, with the adrenaline rush of Comin’ Home, featuring Tommy Bolin’s showcase solo (and bass playing, with Hughes having been temporarily relieved of his duties – a circumstance that would see Jon and Ian lending a hand with the important backing vocals on the song’s chorus!). While the first half of the album is packed with similarly terrific, hard-hitting, songs, though, lead duties are very much dominated by Bolin, and all of my great Jon Lord moments appear on side two of the album’s original track-listing. First there is the glorious Love Child, built around that devastating Bolin riff and featuring a superb vocal from Coverdale. Jon takes an extended solo synth spot on this song, and it is an impishly playful one, even throwing in, if my ears do not deceive me, a cheeky reference to Smoke on the Water! Next we see the maestro helping Glenn Hughes deliver his most overt Stevie Wonder homage yet, on the sublime This Time Around. While Jon may well have been puzzled and a little amused at the prospect of such a song appearing on a Deep Purple album, writing the song with a stoned Hughes in the middle of the night in just half an hour must have been a special memory, and his lush piano and synth arrangement is tasteful and wonderfully poised, judiciously ushering in the brilliant instrumental Owed to G on which the talents of Bolin and Paice shine brightly. Finally, there is perhaps the most widely acclaimed Mark IV track of all (though fans of the funky Purple might plump for Gettin’ Tighter, which showcases most powerfully the sadly unfulfilled potential of the Bolin/Hughes partnership) – You Keep on Moving. One of the few songs on the album to prominently feature the Hammond, this supremely intense and brooding track is lifted to its dramatic heights significantly thanks to the musical instincts and ear for dynamics of the band’s elder statesman – who also gets to take the song’s first solo spot with characteristic verve and aplomb. It is a pity that Mark IV never really got into a groove of solo sparring that characterised Jon’s relationship with Ritchie in the peak Mark II and III years and, as with so much else connected with this version of the band, one is left dazzled and amazed – but ultimately saddened at the thought of what might have been.
Check back soon for the next installment in this series, on which I will review Jon’s contributions to the first Mark II reunion.