[Review] Deep Purple: Fireball (1971)

The followup to their massively heavy fifth album doesn’t quite live up to its title, but it does rock.

Kronomyth 6.0: Great Baals of fire.

Okay, so nothing on Fireball will stop your heart the way “Speed King” did. It’s still a very good album that stands above every other hard rock band of the time except Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The knock on Purple’s fifth is that it tries its hand at too many different things. There’s psychedelic rock (“The Mule”), hard rock (“Fireball”), blues rock (“Demon’s Eye”) and even country rock (“Anyone’s Daughter”).

The wonder of Deep Purple In Rock was its unrelenting assault on the senses. Fireball relents, meanders almost. When it’s good, it’s very, very good: “Fireball,” “Fools,” “No No No” and “The Mule” are all solid tracks. And then there’s “No One Came,” which should be required listening for every aspiring rock and roll star. But it doesn’t pack a collective punch the way that their last album did. Gillan is still a great screamer, Blackmore’s confidence astounds and Paice continues to be one of the best drummers in the rock business. Jon Lord, however, seems increasingly out of place in the band. On “Fireball,” for example, he mostly just mashes the organ keys to raise the song up a few decibels.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how evil this album is. “The Mule,” “Demon’s Eye” and “Fools” overtly reference dark forces, which has been a part of the Purple subtext from the beginning, but the band doesn’t make any pretense to hiding it this time. Even Master of Reality didn’t seem this dark. I mean, “Laugh as the flames eat their burning remains, fools die laughing still” is some pretty dark sh*t.

Although it topped the UK charts on its release, Deep Purple has since distanced themselves from Fireball. Maybe the band didn’t have enough time to write new material, or maybe they just didn’t go in with a solid plan. Whatever the reason, Fireball sort of fizzles, even though it gets pretty hot sometimes. It’s classic Deep Purple because of the players involved moreso than the music on it. Note that the US versions featured the single “Strange Kind of Woman” in place of “Demon’s Eye.” The two tracks were later reconciled for the 25th anniversary edition remaster.

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Original LP Version

A1. Fireball (3:21)
A2. No No No (6:40)
A3. Strange Kind of Woman (4:04)*
A4. Anyone’s Daughter (4:29)
B1. The Mule (5:16)
B2. Fools (8:15)
B3. No One Came (6:25)

All selections written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice.
*UK elpee version replaces “Strange Kind of Woman” with “Demon’s Eye.”

CD reissue bonus tracks
8. Strange Kind of Woman (A side remix)
9. I’m Alone
10. Freedom Album
11. Slow Train
12. Demon’s Eye (remix 96)
13. The Noise Abatement Society Tapes
14. Fireball take 1 (instrumental)
15. Backwards Piano
16. No One Came (remix 96)

The Players

Ritchie Blackmore (guitars), Ian Gillan (vocals), Roger Glover (bass), Jon Lord (keyboards, Hammond organ), Ian Paice (drums). Produced by Deep Purple; engineered by Martin Birch, Lou Austin, Alan O’Duffy.

The Pictures

Cover design by Castle, Chappell and Partners Limited. Photography by Tarly Burrett, Chagford Studios.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on July 9, 1971 in the US (Warner Bros., BS/M5/WBM8 2564), on September 15, 1971 in the UK, India and Israel (Harvest, SHVL/8X SHVL 793), and in 1971 in Germany (Harvest, 1C 062-92 726), Japan (Warner Bros., P-8092W), Mexico (Capitol, SLEM-310), the Netherlands (Harvest, 5C 062-92726) and Spain (Harvest, 1J 062-92.726) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve or lyrics insert (UK); reached #32 on the US charts and #1 on the UK charts. Cassette version switches sides A and B. 8-track features different track order. Israeli elpee does not feature gatefold cover. German elpee also released as record club special edition (Club Sonderauflage) in 1971 (Harvest, 61 239).

  1. Released on elpee in 1972 in Brazil (Odeon, SXMOFB-456).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US and Canada (Warner Bros., BS 2564) {burbank label} with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1974 in Korea (Harvest, SHVL-793) with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (EMI Harvest, 1C 038 1575621).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Warner Bros., P-10109W) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on elpee in March 1984 in the UK (Fame, FA 4130931) and in 1984 in the Netherlands (Harvest, 1A 038-1575621).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in December 1987 in the UK (Harvest, EMS 1255).
  8. Re-issued on February 10, 1989 in Japan (Warner Bros., 20P2-2604).
  9. Re-released on expanded, remastered 25th anniversary edition compact disc in 1996 in the UK (EMI) with 9 bonus tracks.
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in 2008 in the US (Rhino Flashback, 2654-2).
  11. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2010 in the US (Friday Music, FRM 2564).
  12. Re-packaged with In Rock on 2-for-1 2CD in 2010 in France (EMI) feat. 25th anniversary edition of Fireball.
  13. Re-released on remastered 180g purple vinyl elpee in 2019 in the US (Warner Bros., RR1 2564) feat. UK track listing.

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