Deep Purple in Rock was their breakthrough album in Europe and would peak at No. 4 in the UK, remaining in the charts for months (the band's prior MK I albums had been much better received in North America than in their homeland). The album was supported by the hugely successful In Rock World Tour which lasted 15 months.
Although this was the first studio album to feature the MK II line-up of the band, it was this line-up that had earlier recorded the live Concerto for Group and Orchestra. The album was also preceded by the single "Hallelujah", the first studio recording that Gillan made with Deep Purple. "Hallelujah" was a Greenaway-Cook composition released in late 1969, but the song flopped. A second single, "Black Night", was developed around the same time as the In Rock album, but not included on the album. "Black Night" fared much better, as it rose all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts.
In 2005 the album won the Classic Rock and Roll of Honour Award (given by the British monthly magazine Classic Rock) in the category Classic Album. The award was presented to Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore.
While the original lineup of Deep Purple included experienced musicians, none of the five were accomplished songwriters. Thus, Deep Purple's earlier work ranged from psychedelic hard rock built around Blackmore riffs, to classical-influenced tracks developed and arranged by Lord, to cover songs that ranged from The Beatles to Neil Diamond, among others. Conversely, Gillan and Glover had a good amount of experience writing songs for Episode Six, their previous band, and all tracks on In Rock are credited to the five members of the group.
Jon Lord used both the Leslie speaker and a Marshall amplifier with his Hammond organ, therefore the organ sound varies a lot throughout the songs. (Example: "Living Wreck" – Leslie speaker, "Hard Lovin' Man" – Marshall amplifier).
The cover depicts the band in a rock sculpture inspired by Mount Rushmore.
- "Speed King"
Main article: Speed KingAs the liner notes for the LP allude ("A few roots…replanted"), "Speed King" is an ode to early rock-and-roll, with frequent references to songs performed by Little Richard ("Good Golly Miss Molly", "Tutti-Frutti" and "Lucille"), as well as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. The original UK version of the album includes the full introductory instrumental, featuring a loud free-form Blackmore guitar passage blending into a quieter Lord organ piece; the US version did not include the intro. The hard-rocking song features a midsection "call-and-answer" solo exchange between Blackmore and Lord, which presaged their live performances for years to come; it was regularly played at concerts during the Mark II era, starting as an opener, but more frequently performed as an encore. It was also the b-side of the non-album single "Black Night".
- "Child in Time"
Main article: Child in TimeConsidered one of the epic songs of the Mark II era, especially prior to the release of the iconic "Smoke on the Water" in 1972, "Child in Time" goes from quiet sadness to bombastic rocker and back again in a track running over 10 minutes. Lord's organ is most prominent in the quieter parts, as he plays a chord structure inspired by a song by It's a Beautiful Day titled "Bombay Calling." In return It's a Beautiful Day recorded "Wring that Neck" from Deep Purple and called it "Don and Dewey". Gillan's vocals start out softly, evolve into howling and lastly demonstrate his ability to "scream in tune". Blackmore then launches into a guitar solo running over two minutes, before the first verse repeats and the song comes to a crashing end. It would be a concert staple for every version of Deep Purple that included Gillan, up until the singer's voice could no longer support it.
Ian Gillan tells on his homepage: "It was 1969 and the band was rehearsing at a Community Centre in West London; it was either Southall or Hanwell. Jon Lord was dicking around (or 'extemporising on a theme' as it's known in the trade) with a tune from the new album by 'It's a Beautiful Day', it was 'Bombay Calling'. I started singing and the words came easily because we were all aware of the nuclear threat which hovered over us at this time which was probably when the 'cold war' was at its hottest."
- "Flight of the Rat"
This song was used in the movie The Damned United.
- "Into the Fire"
- "Living Wreck"
- "Hard Lovin' Man"
In the long history of rock music, there were many pinnacle moments when everyone knew something was going on and a shift was unavoidable. It happened with Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Dylan and Presley, the Beatles and the Stones and moreover around.
The same thing was happening in the beginning of the seventies. Two bands (followed by some other ones) were starting something they've never thought it would became massive. Black Sabbath, with two brilliant LP's and Deep Purple, with this milestone album, which sets the foundation of what would later reached the world with the name "metal".
Though, there are some radical differences between doomy heavy Sabbath and speedy power Purple. Iommi's band was yet flirting with bluesy tunes, while Blackmore's (including new singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover) gave a different approach to the genre. It was the playing style as a whole, dynamic, full of virtuosity, shocking and powerful where blasting beats by Ian Paice and Glover danced alongside the filling atmosphere provided by Maestro Jon Lord with his Hammond and Ritchie's magnanimous lines, drawn in the middle of Gillan's metal-creator singing. Sabbath sounded heavy, but Purple was heavy, totally.
Won't enter in a long-song-per-song critique here. I'll go straight to the point, starting with the four fillers that can be found in this record: "Flight of the Rat", "Into the Fire", "Living Wreck" and "Hard Lovin Man". These pieces are totally enjoyable, niceties that makes an album a little bit lighter, but they are good enough to keep you in touch and with total atention. A great album needs great fillers, and these four songs are into that category. Hard rocking pieces to the core, classic metal songs. Period.
What makes this record a masterpiece are the following tracks, starting with the powerful opener "Speed King". Tremendous and breathtaking, is the finest example of rock evolution to metal. Speed and Power are recieving first lights with this song. Gillan singing slashes you to the bone, Glover and Paice beating keeps the frenzy up to the line while Lord and Blackmore soloing brings you a parallel virtuoso universe.
"Bloodsucker" slows down the paice and yet is heavy and rocking. Gillan steals the looks here, with his gnawling singing. Supported by a powerful and catchy riff by the String Sorcerer, there is nothing else to be said.
The reputation of "Child in Time" is legendary. By far, Deep Purple's creative masterpiece. The atmosphere of the song, provided by maestro Lord, with the rythmic patterns by Glover and Paice, alongside The Banshee singing and lyrics mixed with Blackmore's power strings, leaves every metal listener in love. No band created something more epic, astonishing and brightful than this. A total metal classic on its own.
And of course, we can't forget the hit single of the album, "Black Night", with the wide known Blackmore-Glover-Paice beat and bluesy structure. A show by Deep Purple without Black Night is like a show of Sabbath without Iron Man.
From the top to the bottom, this album is filled with metal DNA, it is from the purest linage of the genre. So, be not afraid, metal erudite, and fill your collection with the first sculpture made in behalf of metal, those five heads in Mount Rushmore, doing their thing and doing it well.
1. Speed King (4:18)
2. Bloodsucker (4:12)
3. Child in Time (10:15)
4. Flight of the Rat (7:52)
5. Into the Fire (3:29)
6. Living Wreck (4:30)
7. Hard Lovin' Man (7:10)
Total time: 41:46