A harmless little sparkler where once there was a ton of TNT.
Greg Moffitt 2010-10-13
Come their tenth studio album Deep Purple were sounding tired. After seven years and four line-ups, their collective creative energy was just about spent. Nothing that a couple of months in the sun couldn’t have cured, perhaps, but that’s not how the rock machine rolls. When you hit paydirt – as Purple had, and then some – you just keep pushing whatever the cost. As it turned out, Come Taste the Band would be the last Deep Purple album for almost a decade.
It certainly wasn’t meant to be that way. Originally released in 1975, Come Taste the Band heralded the arrival of new guitarist Tommy Bolin. The former James Gang man had been drafted in to replace founding axeman Ritchie Blackmore, who’d finally quit in protest at the increasingly funky, soulful style Purple had been adopting since vocalist David Coverdale and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes had replaced Ian Gillan and Roger Glover two years earlier. Bolin’s role was to rejuvenate the band but the results saw them drift further into commercial waters and ever farther from the trademark Purple sound.
Although both the band’s previous two albums, Burn and Stormbringer (both released in 1974), had introduced the aforementioned funk and soul courtesy of Coverdale and Hughes, Blackmore’s continued presence ensured that a certain amount of hard rock meat remained on Purple’s increasingly bare bones. With Blackmore gone, the band completed their transformation into an entirely different beast. Consequently, denim-clad devotees of hard-hitting Purple albums such as In Rock and Machine Head would find little to like.
Offering the likes of driving opener Comin' Home, raunchy blues rockers like I Need Love, excellent vocals from both Coverdale and Hughes and some stellar fretwork from Bolin, Come Taste the Band is far from a disaster, particularly on its own terms. The jazzy interludes and funky breaks which Blackmore had condemned as "shoeshine music" make for breezy easy listening. There’s even a whiff of the sex which Coverdale later made a virtual art form with Whitesnake. As a Deep Purple album, however, it’s underpowered and way too relaxed for its own good. A harmless little sparkler where once there was a ton of TNT.