[Review] Deep Purple: The Book of Taliesyn (1968)

Pushed to release a second album quickly, Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord promptly came up with this proggy effort.

Kronomyth 2.0: The Bard’s Tale.

A hastily conceived followup to Deep Purple‘s first album was recorded to capitalize on their newfound success. The Book of Taliesyn, named after a bard of Arthurian legend, should have exposed myriad holes. Instead, it exposed listeners to a more progressive side of Purple that showcased fantasy (“Listen, Learn, Read On”), classical music (“Anthem”) and prog majesty (“Shield”). It was an explosive cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” that became the album’s hit single, although I would tell you it’s the least interesting thing on here. A heavily edited version of “River Deep, Mountain High” fared well as the album’s second single; as with their cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” the most interesting music occurs in the classically influenced intros and instrumental solos.

Despite the short distance since their debut, The Book of Taliesyn is a confident step forward in songwriting. “Shield” is as good as anything to come from the pens of Jack Bruce and Peter Brown, while the guitar solo from Ritchie Blackmore is head and shoulders above his work on Shades. With more time, the band might have found a better vehicle than Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” or replaced the instrumental “Wring That Neck” with a proper song; other than that, though, the band could have released this album a year later without anyone being the wiser (which, if memory serves, is exactly what happened in the UK). The Hendrix/Who-isms have been toned down, and even the influence of Vanilla Fudge is hard to detect here (although debts to Procol Harum and The Moody Blues are more evident this time). As one of the earliest examples of progressive rock, The Book of Taliesyn is an important work. It’s not a masterpiece, but like Curved Air’s second album the demands of writing more material quickly seem to have spurred them on to higher heights.

Original LP Version

A1. Listen, Learn, Read On (Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord/Rod Evans) (4:02)
A2. Wring That Neck (Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord/Nicky Simper/Ian Paice) (5:15)
A3. Kentucky Woman (Neil Diamond) (4:43)
A4. Exposition (Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord/Nicky Simper/Ian Paice) / We Can Work It Out (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (6:66)*
B1. Shield (Jon Lord/Ritchie Blackmore/Rod Evans) (6:00)
B2. Anthem (Jon Lord/Rod Evans) (6:29)
B3. River Deep, Mountain High (Phil Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich) (10:05)

* That’s what it says on the record label.

Bonus CD tracks
8. Oh No No No
9. It’s All Over (BBC Top Gear session)
10. Hey Bop A Re Bop (BBC Top Gear session)
11. Wring That Neck (BBC Top Gear session)
12. Playground (remixed)

The Players

Ritchie Blackmore (lead guitar), Rod Evans (vocal), Jon Lord (organ & vocals, string arrangement), Ian Paice (drums), Nicky Simper (bass guitar & vocal). Produced by Derek Lawrence; engineered by Barry Ainsworth.

The Pictures

Cover art by John Vernon Lord. Art direction by Les Weisbrich. Cover photos by Richard Imrie.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in October 1968 in the US (Tetragrammaton, T-107) {some labels do not feature a blue logo; not sure if that’s a re-pressing or just a different printer/plant} and in July 1969 in the UK (Harvest, SHVL 751), Australia (Harvest, SHVL 751), Germany (Harvest, 1C 062-04 000), Israel (Harvest, SHVL 751) {black label} and Italy (Harvest, 3C 054 04000) with gatefold cover; reached #54 on the US charts. Also released on 8-track in the US (GRT/Tetragrammaton, 873-107) with different track order.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Israel (Harvest, SHVL 751) {yellow/green label}.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the mid 1970s in the UK (Harvest, SHVL 751) {EMI Records Ltd. label}.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in Japan (Warner Bros., P-8377W) {burbank label} with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Japan (Warner Bros., P-10333W) {burbank label} with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1979 in Germany (Crystal, 038 CRY 04 000) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (Passport, PBCD 3607).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in 1989 in the UK (Harvest, SHVL 715) [sliver/black label} with gatefold cover.
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on June 24, 1998 in Japan (Teichiku, TECW-21718).
  9. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2000 in the US (Spitfire, 50632) with 5 bonus tracks.
  10. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2000 in the UK (Harvest, 4994691).
  11. Re-issued on expanded compact disc on March 21, 2003 in Japan (Purple/VAP, VPCK-85321) with 5 bonus tracks.
  12. Re-issued on remastered elpee in 2015 (Parlophone, 2564618347).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *