The idea of Deep Purple without Ritchie Blackmore in the 1970s must have been quite scary. When Blackmore departed after Stormbringer, the band brought on a fresh face with a unique talent, Tommy Bolin. The result is a one off album that deserves more praise than it gets.
The opening song Comin’ Home is a straight up rock song, the kind fans expect from Deep Purple. It lacks the kind of funk rock sound that features across the rest of the album. Talk of, the follow track Lady Luck is about as funky as this band ever got. It has a strong off beat bass line and ‘pea souping’ drum beat that makes the song borderline disco and is as close to a dance song as Deep Purple will ever get. But with a strong vocal performance and tasteful guitars, it is a real good song and worthy of sitting with some of Deep Purple’s best. The funky bass lines and more danceable beats continue with the bluesy Gettin’ Tighter and Dealer, a song where Tommy Bolin really shines as a guitar. With some nice melody and slide playing, he might not be Ritchie Blackmore lightning fast but it has an excellent tone and with a nice Mick Ronson feel to it. The latter I think is a more interesting song than most MK II numbers.
Drifter and and Love Child are more traditional in terms of the Deep Purple sound. There is heavy interplay between guitar, bass and organ. Love Child specifically has some heavy guitar riffs, a great wailing performance from Coverdale and one of the few keyboard solos on the album. It easily stands out as the most rock driven track the band have recorded since Burn. The longest song on the album, This Time Around/Owed To ‘G’ is an interesting one. The non instrumental section plays out like a fairly average Stevie Wonder song. Glenn Hughes does a great job of mimicking the voice of Wonder with his soulful high pitch wail and the track is generally very well played but it feels a bit drawn out and really goes nowhere, until the last section which is a stunning guitar instrumental from Bolin. The album finishes off with the band classic You Keep On Moving. This song is quite laid back and mellow but sounds very much like In Rock period Deep Purple with Jon Lord taking the lead with his heavy organ sound and heavy guitar driven verses.
As a mid ’70s rock album, I have no idea why fans like to put this record down as much as they do. It is clear that the band unlike on the fun but stale Stormbringer, they were re-energised creatively and it really should be heard with an open mind. Some rock fans might not like the funk and R&B approach to things, but would they rather the band did this or continued playing the same old ham fisted hard rock music that they’d been doing for years? I’ll take this any day.
Sadly, Come Taste The Band was the last we heard from Deep Purple in the 1970s with the group splitting up after some pretty shoddy live performances, some of which can actually be heard on record. Later on the next year Tommy Bolin died due to a heroin/cocaine overdose taking from us one of the worlds most promising guitarists.