Come Taste the Band
Originally released in 1975, “Come Taste the Band” heralded the arrival of new guitarist Tommy Bolin. The former James Gang member had been drafted in to replace founding axeman Ritchie Blackmore who left the band because of the funk and R&B influences that Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale brought in the band with them. With Richie gone, the group went even deeper in the soulful style present on “Burn” and “Stormbringer.” Their evolution away from more straight-ahead rock surely drove Blackmore away but also some of the fans of Deep Purple who saw the album as a drift from their recognizable sound. What you’ll find in most of the reviews from the era and beyond is that “Come Taste the Band” was a departure from the original Deep Purple legacy and almost a betrayal to hard rock music. But that’s not what I would say; it may be a shift from the sound of the previous albums but it still is a proper DP record, for me even better than some of the previous releases, such as “Who Do We Think We Are?” and certainly better than the subsequent albums with Ian Gillan, such as “Perfect Strangers” and “The House of Blue Light.”
The album was recorded in a tough period for both Tommy Bolin and Glenn Hughes, who had troubles with drug abuse. Their terrible habit brought the band to its demise, especially when the quality of their live performances, for which they were most famous, started to drop increasingly. Many accused Bolin of being a catalyst for the group’s break-up. But this album, powered along by a series of groove-focused songs, went Top 20 in the U.K. – and barely missed the Top 40 in the US.
According to Glenn Hughes and Lord, at least two songs were written well in advance of the album's recording. "You Keep on Moving" had been written in 1973 by Hughes and Coverdale, but was rejected for inclusion on the Burn album by Blackmore. "Lady Luck" was written by Bolin's friend and songwriting partner Jeff Cook around the same time, but Bolin couldn't remember all the lyrics when the band hit the studio and the group couldn't get hold of Cook. So Coverdale rewrote much of the lyrics, and the song was included with Cook's blessing.
The remainder of the album was mostly written in Los Angeles, then recorded in Munich, with the exception of "Comin' Home" which was written in the studio. Hughes went back to England before the completion of the record so he could deal with his then-rampant cocaine addiction, and he cites this as the reason for Bolin playing the bass and singing the lower-register backing vocals on "Comin' Home". The album shows the strong funk influence from Hughes at this point, now working with the equally funk and jazz influenced Bolin, but the direction tended to be more like 1974's Burn, with a heavier focus on rock guitar. The recording with Bolin also allowed the band to take many creative liberties, as Blackmore had been somewhat difficult to work with on the band's two previous albums due to creative differences with Hughes and Coverdale. In my opinion, that was the reason for “Come Taste the Band” to be an excellent album - the combination of members’ artistic freedom and creativity. If the drug abuse hadn't paved the path to the band’s demise, the new direction was a promising one for the hard rockers whose style slowly drifted out of fashion. But unfortunately, they never had the chance.
Coverdale walked out after a March 1976 show at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, never to return. “It was so f—ing embarrassing,” he told Goldmine. “Drugs had come in a much more overt way, and it was awful to turn around and see some of the founding members playing with their heads down out of shame. I just went, ‘F— it; I’m out of here.’ I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to be part of the demise of the legacy of Deep Purple.” Band members scattered, and just six months later – while on a solo tour in support of Jeff Beck – Tommy Bolin overdosed and died. He was 25.
Jon Lord praised the quality of the album years later in interviews, stating that "listening to it now, it's a surprisingly good album," while acknowledging, "the worst thing you can say about it is that, in most people's opinion, it's not a Deep Purple album." Well, it is to me. Much more than anything they’ve done subsequently.