The Book of Taliesyn was the sophomore effort from Deep Purple, originally released in 1968 and now being reissued by Eagle Rock Entertainment. This was the second album to feature the line-up of Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Ian Pace (drums), Rod Evans (vocals), and Nick Simper (bass), and sees the band continuing on with their excellent mix of original material and covers, which we saw them accomplish quite successfully on their debut Shades of Deep Purple.
The original seven album cuts are pretty strong, with a few becoming early classics for the band. "Kentucky Woman", a Neil Diamond penned song, became an early hit for Purple, and featured strong vocals from Evans and plenty of raging Hammond organ courtesy of Jord. "Wring That Neck" became a concert staple for many years, and let the band show their ability to improvise and jam. Blackmore in particluar delivers plenty of stunning solos on this one. "Listen, Learn, Read On" was another original piece by the band and seemed to show the heavier rock direction that the band would shortly move into, though it still has plenty of the psychedelia feel that much of their early material has. The lengthy "Exposition / We Can Work It Out" starts out with a sizzling prog-rock jam with Lord taking center stage before Blackmore & Evans shine on the cover of the Beatles classic. "Shield" is a lush slice of psychedelia, not one of the band's better songs, but it does contain some nice Blackmore solos and a strong crooning vocal from Evans. On "Anthem" we see Lord pulling out his Mellotron for a nice effect on this poignant ballad, while the epic "River Deep, Mountain High" is a monstrous jam featuring molten Blackmore guitar solos and loads of Hammond from Lord. Evan's vocals take on more of an aggressive tone hear, and you can guess the band was looking for this kind of style when they hired Ian Gillan a few short years later. Word has is that Evans preferred to sing in a softer tone, which is why he didn't last long in the band.
This reissue contains some great bonus tracks, like the Hammond/guitar fueled rocker "Oh, No No No" ( a studio outtake from these sessions), the mysterious & quite bluesy "It's All Over" (from a BBC session), the upbeat & quite funky "Hey Bob A Re Bop" (from Top Gear session), an alternate verion of "Wring That Neck", and the sizzling instrumental "Playground". Throughout it all, the talents of Blackmore, Lord, and Paice really stand out, as these were three players who were even at that early stage some of the best in the business. Other than perhaps Hendrix, Beck, Page, and Clapton, nobody was playing guitar at that time like Blackmore, and it's great to hear how fresh and wild his playing was on these early albums. This Eagle Rock reissue also comes with a great booklet packed with info and photos, so if you didn't grab this first time around, make sure you do so now and dive into the early days of one of heavy rocks first true pioneers.
1. Listen, Learn, Read On 4:04
2. Wring That Neck 5:13
3. Kentucky Woman 4:44
4. Exposition / We Can Work It Out 7:07
5. Shield 6:06
6. Anthem 6:31
7. River Deep, Mountain High 10:12
8. Oh No No No 4:25
9. It's All Over 4:13
10. Hey Bop A Re Bop 3:31
11. Wring That Neck (BBC Top Gear Session) 4:42
12. Playground 4:29