Album Of The Week Club Review: Deep Purple - Come Taste The Band

With the great Ritchie Blackmore departed for Rainbow pastures, Deep Purple regrouped and brought in an American...

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Deep Purple - Come Taste The Band

Comin' Home
Lady Luck
Gettin' Tighter
Dealer
I Need Love
Drifter
Love Child
This Time Around / Owed To 'G'
You Keep On Moving

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Deep Purple were on a hiding to nothing with Come Taste The Band. Replacing Ritchie Blackmore with a flashy American, Tommy Bolin – billed as “the best new guitar player in the world” but harbouring a deadly heroin addiction – caused outrage among UK fans. In later years Jon Lord reflected: “I don’t think it’s a Purple record at all.” While Glenn Hughes described it as “kind of like Bad Company through a funny mirror”.

As on Burn, David Coverdale doesn’t sing every lead, but even when he alternates (with Bolin, on Dealer), or shares (with Glenn Hughes, as on Drifter) he’s in great form. On Lady Luck – at the top of his register – he’s in funk rock heaven and clearly having fun. But it’s the two songs that book-end the album – the riotous opener Comin’ Home and brooding closer You Keep On Movin’ (again shared with Hughes) that show him to best effect. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. Join the group now.

Here’s what we learned about Come Taste The Band!

Background

When Tommy Bolin flew to Munich in August 1975 to record the guitar parts for Purple’s Come Taste The Band, that album was just the mustard on the hotdog of his solo project, a record called Teaser. Bolin had begun recording Teaser the preceding June, but was forced to hold off mixing it until Come Taste The Band was completed. Teaser was eventually polished off the following October, and the two records – Purple’s and Bolin’s – arrived in the shops at more or less the same time. Which was an unfortunate scenario, to say the least.

The cover of Teaser came with a sticker proudly proclaiming that Bolin was ‘Guitarist of Deep Purple’. But, really, the whole dual-release ploy was a desperate hedging of the bets – like booking wife and mistress into adjoining hotel rooms. In short, it was a recipe for disaster. And so – along with another terminally toxic ingredient, called heroin – it proved.

Come Taste The Band received unexceptional reviews, and the global trek to promote it had got off to a shaky start. Already there were rumblings of lacklustre on-stage performances and apathetic audience responses. And there had also been some worrisome episodes in Indonesia: Patsy Collins, a member of the road crew and also Bolin’s bodyguard, had died in suspicious circumstances after falling six storeys down a lift shaft in Jakarta; at showtime, riot police with machine-guns and fierce dogs had attacked and injured 200 Purple fans… Even so, as Tommy Bolin would say after he left the band: “The first gigs were the best. Then they got progressively worse.”

Other albums released in October 1975

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention with Captain Beefheart - Bongo Fury
The Who - The Who Ny Numbers
Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn
Elton John - Rock Of The Westies
John Lennon - Shaved Fish
Roxy Music - Siren
Angel - Angel
Rory Gallagher - Against The Grain
Van de Graaf Generator - Godbluff
Sparks - Indiscreet
Dr Feelgood - Malpractice
Focus - Mother Focus
Tom Waits - Nighthawks At The Diner
Iron Butterfly - Sun And Steel

What they said

"A visible attempt to experiment has expanded the group's music beyond the heavy-metal trap, and this could lead them to rediscover the progressive style that somehow vanished after In Rock." (Rolling Stone)

"While sweaty yet melodic cuts like Dealer, Lady Luck, and You Keep on Moving are far from bad, nothing here is in a class with Smoke on the Water or Highway Star. Deep Purple's more hardcore devotees will want this album, though it's far from the best representation of their '70s work. (AllMusic)

"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." (BBC)

"Come Taste The Band was the first genuine effort to progress the sound of the group in years and it was totally lost on a large proportion of its audience. Come Taste The Band is also the record of unfulfilled potential and the tragedy is that neither Deep Purple or the myriad of solo and spin off projects it would spawn would ever be this great again." (Head Heritage)

What you said

Vinnie Evanko: A good album, however, I tend to agree it's not a typical Deep Purple record. It's a little funky in spots for me, but still had some really good music.

Malcolm Emery: Super album but can’t be compared to the Blackmore stuff. The new guys could play and produced the goods here and deserve respect for it. CTTB stands the test well.

Gary Torborg: Ah, yes, the Coverdale/Bolin album. Good stuff, and really dominated by those two, though Bolin would die and Coverdale would not return after that. Jon Lord's keyboards, especially his B3, are woefully underused until the next to last track on the album. But that's almost my only criticism - Bolin's guitar and Lord's underused keyboards make it sound a little less like Deep Purple than anything else they did before their reunion. But other than that, a really good album!

Matthew Snyder: I saw this tour live in Miami! Tommy Bolin was as good as guitarist as there was. I saw him the night he died as well. This album is brilliant, unique and certainly not your average Deep Purple album!

Alexander Taylor: one of my fav purple albums, Bolin proved himself and the songs are amazing. Paicey was at his peak, too - check out the Russian Foxbat live album. Here the band bring the funk to melting point on Getting Tighter... terrible shame about Tommy, a real star gone way too soon.

Maxwell Martello: My favorite Deep Purple studio album. What an amazing collection of songs! Personal favorites are: Comin Home, Getting Tighter and You Keep On Moving.

Comin Home sounds nothing like Smoke on the Water, yet it’s clear what Coverdale had in mind when he penned its lyrics: a cross between Deep Purple’s biggest hit and Grand Funk’s We’re an American Band. Somewhat inexplicably, the line “BB (King) is on stage with Lucille, the thrill is gone but it won’t be for long” did not achieve immortality like “Frank Zappa and the Mothers were at the best place around” or “Up all nite with Freddie King, let me tell you, Poker’s his thing”.

But I digress. Getting Tighter is the ultimate Hughes/Bolin track. Funk rock at its finest. 

You Keep On Moving is a singing masterclass, period. The chords and repetitive bass line are so simple, but whenever I listen to it, I cannot but marvel at the majestic vocal arrangements and the inventive licks that Tommy strategically filled the track with.

The original LP issue sounds great and is very affordable, but I would recommend to complement it with Kevin Shirley’s remastered CD edition. The bonus cd with the remixes is definitely worth repeated listens. A band in state of grace, no matter the sad end looming in.

Also, I’d like to recommend the official rehearsal tape Days May Come And Days May Go, which captures the band loosely jamming on the embryonic backbones of some of CTTB’s songs to be.

10/10 with merit!

Hylton Blignaut: In spite of Bolin's annoyingly screeching lead guitar sound, I love this album. Hughes and Coverdale are great singers, and counterfoils for each other. There's a great little documentary somewhere on YouTube about the making of this album.

Andrew Williams: Underrated and generally ignored which is a shame. Its got a vibe totally different to any other Purple album and and has a lovely production. Definitely worth checking out.

Andy Herrin: Worth it for This Time Around/Owed to G alone. Plus, the album closed the Purple story (or so was believed to be the case at the time) with the absolutely fantastic, moody, beautiful You Keep On Moving. Other highlights for me are the rockers Lady Luck and the killer riff that is Love Child. Its not perfect – Drifter and Dealer never caught on with me – but it's in no way the cluncker it has been made out to be.

Jim Linning: I never used to like it, and have just given it a couple of listens. I can now appreciate the change in direction and can see why many people might like it but I'm afraid I still find it a bit bland and formulaic so still a thumbs down from me. In my own defence I had by 1975 become a huge SAHB fan and quite frankly anything else that came out in that year had to come up to the standard of Tomorrow Belongs To Me. Nothing did!

Julien Thomas: Just like painters, Deep Purple was a band with a few distinctive, different periods. There's hardly a thing similar between the British Vanilla Fudge soundalikes of the first three LPs, the inventors of muscular hard rock, the experimenters of philharmonic crossover, etc. This is an album that helped to understand the actual versatility of those incredibly skilled musicians, that could play with subtlety when everybody expected them to be heavy, tackling a great variety of musical realms, most of all reminiscences of Afro-American music which they had absorbed with great talent. And Tommy Bolin, as an American musician with a musical background in funk and jazz-rock, helped them appearing more credible as unexpectedly soulful musicians.

Pete Mineau: By the time this album originally came out, I had bid farewell to Deep Purple and had moved on to Rainbow. I remember one of my buddies younger brother had bought the album, so we gave it a couple plays. I was not impressed at all. 

I always thought that the album cover was one of the worst of a lot of cheesy Deep Purple covers. Tommy Bolin did nothing for me, just as he had failed to blow me away in The James Gang. (I do really like his solo album, Private Eyes! Teaser, not so much.)

Giving it a couple of listens straight through today, I find that I like it a little more now than I did back then. Back then I didn't think it sounded like a Deep Purple album. Today, I don't care about that. I guess I can now appreciate the "funk" leanings that they were attempting back then.

Today I think of this album as the beginning of Deep Purple morphing into Whitesnake. They were working out a new formula and in a few years the "hits" would start flowing again.

I'd give this album a rating of 2.5 out of 5. Not a terrible album, but if I want to hear some Deep Purple, this one'll be passed by.

André Valença: Although Mr. Blackmore's absence, this album is great! Who doesn't be hypnotised by the This Time Around atmosphere? And what to say about You Keep On Moving? Getting Tighter shows the groove of Glenn Hughes. The great combination of Coverdale and Hughes vocals make these period the best of the best of DP life.

Anthony Latz: Not the best Purple record of the 70's. If done by any other artist would be regarded as an absolute classic. Amazing musicianship and incorporates many influences. A real groovy rock album.

Graeme Johnston: My appreciation of the Coverdale/ Hughes fronted versions of DP has grown enormously over the years. I went from not really diggin' it to thinking they had a more consistent run than any other version of the band! This is a great album and I think the Kevin Shirley remix from a few years back is spectacular.

Mike Galway: Got this album Christmas '75 along with Shades. Imagine the contrast! I put Comin' Home on the stereo and cleared the front room. Also loved the picture content -band looked like true rock gods. Play this as much today as Fireball (Fave Deep Purple album). Fundamentally disagree with the "not a true Deep Purple album" comments, for me this is the last true and great Deep Purple album. Don't get me started on what followed!

Boris Bregmen: When this album came out I wasn’t sure on having a Purple album without Blackmore. The strength of this album is the songs and that’s Tommy’s input, and he backs it up with some nice guitar work. The sound was definitely different to the previous ones but at the time I would have considered it better than the previous, and last, Blackmore album, Stormbringer. Over the years CTTB has stood the test of time and I’d rank high on the Purple list of great albums. One of my most played. Only criticism is lack of Hammond organ and a killer track like Burn or Stormbringer.

Mike Bruce: Even in his absence Richie Blackmore's shadow hangs over this album with some folks not wanting to give it a fair shake without him. Their loss I feel, because this is superb. I always thought Messers Coverdale and Hughes's voices sounded a bit forced on earlier albums. Whether that was a hangover from singing Gillan period material, or at Richie's insistence, who knows. Here though the whole band is off the leash. A couple of the rockers are a wee bit pedestrian but not enough to make things drag. Comin' Home blasts off in a suitably rambunctious style. The double whammy of This Time Around and You Keep On Moving finishes things in classic fashion. Among the questions this album raises the one I'd really like answered is; what the feck is a "feathercane Lady Midnight"? Answers on a postcard please.

Jim Kanavy: This is probably my favorite Deep Purple album even though it's not very Deep Purpley. Bolin, Hughes, and Coverdale made it funky and greasy and I'd love it even if the band name was One Direction. As a Purple album it's the next step from Stormbringer but probably wouldn't have happened without Tommy Bolin. There's so much great music under the flag of Deep Purple but the name sets an expectation of bombastic vocals, lightning fast classical influenced guitar licks, and heavy riffs and this album isn't that. But it's still great and set the template for the first few Whitesnake albums which are perfect slabs of blues rock glory. Come, taste the band. They're delicious.

Vinnie Evanko: I just listened to it again, Very good album but it still doesn't feel like a Deep Purple album. I know Lord and Paice are there but without both Blackmore and Gillan it just doesn't seem like Purple for me. I think it's best compared to the MK III albums which would make it better than Stormbringer and almost as good as Burn.

Mike Knoop: I think this album is amazing, especially the Kevin Shirley remix. To these ears, it sounds like a natural progression from Burn and Stormbringer. Neither the MKIII or IV lineup was going to put out another Machine Head, but, from what I’ve read, the MKII lineup wasn’t going to pull it off either. The three Glenn Hughes-era albums remind me of what he did with Trapeze, so the Purps should have known what they were getting into. 

As much of a fuss that’s made about Tommy Bolin, this album really seems to belong to David Coverdale. He’s in full hard rock alpha male mode and sounds more in charge than he did on the last two albums. He’s already got that Whitesnake leer down on songs like Lady Luck and I Need love, and sounds downright dangerous on Dealer and Drifter

I was already a fan of Bolin’s two solo albums, but I think he meshes well with an established band, as a guitarist and songwriter sure, but also as a singer. I like bands with multiple singers and here Deep Purple is a triple threat. Bolin’s softer voice serves as a counterpoint to Coverdale’s power howl on Dealer, just as his squealing guitar plays against Hughes’ power howl at the end of Getting Tighter.

Bolin shows off a lot, but all five of them get to show off a lot. Coverdale sings his ass off throughout; Jon Lord gets to play some honky tonk piano and gets an organ solo to boot. Ian Paice’s drumming is innovative without being overbearing, same with Hughes’ bass playing. Hughes’ three singing showcases are sterling as well: soulful on the two ballads that close the album and raging on Getting Tighter.

Finally, I also have a fascination with bands’ “odd one out” albums – albums where there is a significant lineup or style change before the band more or less snaps back to form. I’m not saying I’m always a fan of the music, but it gives the band’s discography an interesting little hiccup. See also: The Soft Parade by the Doors, Drama by Yes, Music from ‘The Elder' by KISS, One Hot Minute by the RHCP, as well as a couple of the club’s previous picks, like Rock and a Hard Place, and The Hoople. If you have read all the way to here, I thank you.

Scott Baker: Ace album. When I heard it years ago, first thought, it sounds like Whitesnake! All the Purple line-ups have brought something to the table, in my opinion. CTTB has a fabulous sound, Ian Paice was at his peak then, and Bolin rejuvenated the band - and I love the funk! Just shows, it wasn't all about Blackmore...

Kev Moore: I'd always liked the Gillan/Glover Purple. But they were not really of my time. I'd just turned 16 when Burn came out, so it was the Coverdale and Hughes incarnation that had the greatest impact on me. Indeed, that album is the reason I'm a professional bassist/singer to this day. I was listening to rock, but was also enamoured with some of the great funky basslines of the era, War, Ohio Players etc... and also the electrifying jazz rock playing of Gary Moore with Colosseum ll. So by the time Purple got to Come taste the Band, they had evolved into something that had me salivating with anticipation. 

Tommy Bolin was a guitarist who was always destined to be 'the bridesmaid and never the bride', but christ in a bicycle, he is all over this album like a rash... the brash confidence of youth. A far cry from the broken man on a Liverpool stage some months later. His slide playing alone on here is stupendous, only Ry Cooder could surpass him in my view.

The throaty depths of Coverdale, offset by the soulful waling Hughes is a two pronged vocal attack to die for, an embarrassment of riches. 

Coming Home is Coverdale at full throttle, the Hammond is revving, and we're off. They could have called this song 'Ritchie who?' It might have been Cov who found Tommy, but Hughes clicked with him best. Gettin Tighter is one of the greatest funk rock songs ever written - just imagine Prince covering it. 

Tracks like I Need Love and Lady Luck just oozed feel and funk. These songs still cause me to break out in a grin when I hear them. 

Owed to G and This Time Around are masterful. Bolin is perhaps my favourite guitarist of all time. Utterly unique and instantly recognisable. His death hit me harder than any in rock and roll before or since. His confidence on this album, stepping into the shoes of a legend, is breathtaking.

I used to play This Time Around to the kids when I gave talks in music at the local school to challenge preconceptions. I would ask them who it was. They would say Stevie Wonder. 

You Keep On Movin' is the perfect rock duet. A sublime track with a slithering bassline, that still sounds beautifully recorded. 

It was much maligned on its release, and might not be classic Purple, but my God, it showcases a band with talent and style to spare. For me, it is one of the great albums of the 70's, and the Kevin Shirley remix really makes you sit up and think, "Damn, they were good."

Final Score: 7.19 ⁄10 (301 votes cast, with a total score of 2167)

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