The Book of Taliesyn

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The Book of Taliesyn
Cover art by John Vernon Lord
Studio album by Deep Purple
Released December 1968 (US)
June 1969 (UK)
Recorded De Lane Lea Studios, Kingsway, London, August and October 1968
Genre Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock[1]
Length 43:57
Label Tetragrammaton (US)
Harvest (UK)
Polydor (Canada and Japan)
Producer Derek Lawrence
Deep Purple chronology
Shades of Deep Purple
The Book of Taliesyn
Deep Purple
Singles from The Book of Taliesyn
  1. "Kentucky Woman" / "Hard Road"
    Released: December 1968 (US), 1969 (UK)
  2. "River Deep – Mountain High" / "Listen, Learn, Read On"
    Released: February 1969
Remastered re-issue cover
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[2] 4/5 stars[3]
PopMatters 6/10 stars[4]
For the Middle Welsh manuscript, see Book of Taliesin.

The Book of Taliesyn is the second studio album by English Rock band Deep Purple, released by Tetragrammaton in the US (1968), EMI's Harvest Records in the UK (1969), and Polydor in Canada and Japan (1969).

The album follows the psychedelic/progressive rock sound of Shades of Deep Purple; however, there is a harder edge to several songs, beginning to show the new sound Deep Purple would introduce in 1970 with Deep Purple in Rock. Also, the original tracks are longer and more diverse than the ones on Shades of Deep Purple, proving that the band had expanded their creativity and ambitions when it came to writing their own material.

The album name was taken from a famous 14th century Welsh manuscript, containing certain poems attributed to the 6th-century poet Taliesin. There is no title track on the album, but the words "The Book of Taliesyn" appear in the lyrics for the song "Listen, Learn, Read On."


Deep Purple was booked for a rather excessive tour in the United States, starting in October, as a result of the unexpected success gathered there concerning their debut album Shades of Deep Purple, fronted by the single "Hush." The single was a massive hit in the States and was the spawn of their sudden popularity there. Their American label had pushed them back into the studio just a couple of months before the touring began, even though their debut album hadn't been released in the United Kingdom yet. Other reasons for the push for more studio recordings was of course the lack of songs for a live set and the fact that studio work would of course garner more songs.

In early August 1968, they entered the studio for rehearsals and sessions. Rushed into recording new material, the band was not exactly overflowing with ideas. The situation was much like the one they had been in during the recording of Shades of Deep Purple. With a lack of originals, they included several covers, as the material they had been working on was not good enough for an album. These songs were instead performed over BBC sessions for a radio show, "Top Gear", hosted by John Peel.


Deep Purple ventured in the studio with an ambition of coming up with much better original material than their previous effort, as well as including some covers. Finesse recordings began in early October and ended on the tenth. The band had not originally planned on being in studio all the way to October, but production was enthusiastic and everybody in the band had a sense for perfection, especially Ritchie Blackmore. "Shield" and "Anthem" were recorded first, followed by "Wring That Neck," "Listen, Learn, Read On," "Kentucky Woman," and "Exposition/We Can Work It Out." "River Deep – Mountain High" was always intended as the final track, so its recording was postponed until the other tracks were finished. The song was taped on 10 October, which ended their recording in studio. In charge of production was Derek Lawrence, who had also produced their previous album.

The tapes were mixed in both mono and stereo. The mono tapes were trashed, as neither of the two labels had any use for them in any matter. The mixing was supposed to be overseen by the band members, but their schedule in October was so tight that Lawrence did it without them. This dismayed the band at first, but the result sound-wise turned out better than on their debut.

Overall, the final album has a cleaner, heavier and more polished sound than their debut. Just as on Shades of Deep Purple, time they had been awarded to write and record was very slick, so they had to perform under pressure. Also, with a request for a new album coming only three months after their first album was recorded, they came in with fewer original ideas. However, the longer time given to record helped, which provided them four lengthy original songs for the final album. Shades of Deep Purple has four originals included as well (only one of these, "Mandrake Root", was played live after 1969), but that album also contains four covers, as opposed to Taliesyn which contains three. The expanded focus on originals for this album would be even further developed on their next venture in the studio.


The cover of the 1968 album shown here, was created by the illustrator and author John Vernon Lord who coincidentally appears to share the same name as the band's keyboard player, Jon Lord. The Book of Taliesyn was the only record cover John Vernon Lord ever designed and, according to the artist's recent retrospective, the original artwork was never returned.[5]

The brief from the artist's agent is detailed in Drawing upon Drawing[5] as follows:

"The agent gave me the title saying that the art director wanted a 'fantasy Arthurian touch' and to include hand lettering for the title and the musicians' names. I mainly drew from The Book of Taliesin, which is a collection of poems, said to be written by the sixth century Welsh bard Taliesin."[5]

The fee for the job was £30 (minus 25% for the agent). John Vernon Lord was, until recently, Professor of Illustration at the University of Brighton.

Release and single promotion[edit]

Deep Purple's American label, Tetragrammaton, issued two singles. "Kentucky Woman", with the instrumental "Wring That Neck" (titled as "Hard Road" in the US) as the B-side, was the album's main promoter, much like "Hush" had been for Shades of Deep Purple. It was released in December, after the album had been out for a couple of months. While strictly a B-side, "Wring That Neck" would be used regularly in their live concert set, even into the Mark II era, as it allowed Blackmore and Lord to display their instrumental talents to audiences.

The "Kentucky Woman" single did not flop, peaking at No. 38, but to the dismay of the label it was nowhere near as big a success as "Hush" had been. In an eager attempt to improve sales of the album, another single was released in December, a heavily edited version of "River Deep – Mountain High" (which ran over 10 minutes on the album), with "Listen, Learn, Read On" as the B-side. The single was not a success, charting lower than "Kentucky Woman", but it actually beat Ike and Tina Turner's version for some time.

Their English label, EMI, issued the "Kentucky Woman" single as Tetragrammaton did, but they stuck with that. EMI did not release the "River Deep – Mountain High" single, feeling it didn't have the potential to impact the charts in England and that it wasn't worth giving a shot. Not surprisingly, the album sold to a much lesser degree in the UK than overseas and it was widely overlooked there. That had also been the case for Shades of Deep Purple.

John Peel, head of the Top Gear radio show, had previously met the band while they were playing at his show. After great expectations, he had mixed reactions for the final album:

"The group have done some fine things for Radio One and they excite when they play live. I don't understand where this record went wrong, it is all too restrained somehow. They recorded "Wring That Neck" much better for a recent Top Gear."


In 2000 The Book of Taliesyn was remastered and re-released with bonus tracks from the period.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Listen, Learn, Read On"   Ritchie Blackmore, Rod Evans, Jon Lord, Ian Paice 4:05
2. "Wring That Neck" (instrumental, originally titled "Hard Road" in the USA) Blackmore, Nick Simper, Lord, Paice 5:13
3. "Kentucky Woman" (Neil Diamond cover) Neil Diamond 4:44
4. "(a) Exposition"
"(b) We Can Work It Out" (The Beatles cover)
Blackmore, Simper, Lord, Paice,
John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Shield"   Blackmore, Evans, Lord 6:06
6. "Anthem"   Lord, Evans 6:31
7. "River Deep - Mountain High" (Ike & Tina Turner cover) Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector 10:12


Deep Purple[edit]


  • Produced by Derek Lawrence
  • Engineered by Barry Ainsworth
  • Bonus tracks recorded in 1968 and '69 (BBC Top Gear sessions 14 January 1969)
  • Digitally remastered and restored by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios, London


Song information[edit]

Listen, Learn, Read On[edit]

The first track on the album is an original. Functioning as somewhat of a title track to the album, "Listen, Learn, Read On" was based on a manuscript by Taliesin.[citation needed] It would later be the name of a comprehensive box set containing rarities from the band's early period and tracks recorded by groups featuring band members that would later join Deep Purple. It was never played live again after 1969.

Wring That Neck[edit]

"Wring That Neck" is the second track on the album. Just as "And the Address" did on Shades of Deep Purple, it serves as the album's instrumental. Compared to "And the Address", it is much heavier and up-tempo, as the band had lost some of their psychedelic tensions from the previous album. The song was put together on 19 August, led on by Nick Simper and Ritchie Blackmore, who have a tight collaboration on this track. The name itself; "Wring That Neck" comes from a phrase the band used when they were playing live, describing the bassist or guitarist really bursting at their instruments to create a hard noise (i.e., squeezing, or "wringing", the neck of the guitar). The American label insisted on changing the song's name to "Hard Road" when released as a B-side in the US, due to the title being too violent. EMI issued the song as a single as well, keeping the original title. "Wring That Neck" is one of the few songs recorded before their breakthrough-release Deep Purple in Rock, that have remained in the group's set-list and it is regularly performed live.

Kentucky Woman[edit]

Main article: Kentucky Woman

Track number three, the first cover on the album, is "Kentucky Woman". This song was originally performed by Neil Diamond in 1967 and he had released it as a successful single. Deep Purple's version, which was also released as a single, is recognised by some critics as one of the very first heavy metal songs, although the band themselves has always said that they do not back up that statement. The song is certainly more up-tempo and riff-driven (reminiscent of Mitch Ryder's "Devil with a Blue Dress On" from 1966) than the Neil Diamond version. Recording a cover and releasing that song as a single was a formula the band repeated from their previous, debut-album. That album had the Joe South-penned "Hush" released as its single, to large acclaim and reception in the US and Canada. Kentucky Woman did not quite reach the same heights as "Hush", peaking at No. 38 on the US Billboard chart and No. 21 in Canada. "Hush" had peaked at No. 4 and No. 2 respectively. "Kentucky Woman" was played frequently when the first line-up performed. When Ian Gillan replaced Rod Evans as lead singer, the band seldom performed it again, although one such occasion exists on tape. After 1969, it was cut off completely, however.

Exposition/We Can Work It Out[edit]

Main article: We Can Work It Out

"We Can Work It Out" was originally recorded by The Beatles. Deep Purple drastically reworked it, as they always did with covers. The first three minutes of the song is a fast, progressive instrumental jam called "Exposition", starting with the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, continues with Tchaikovsky's Ouverture-Fantasy "Romeo and Juliet",[11] which drifts over into the actual Beatles song. Such overblown arrangements and attempts at making a rather simple song sound epic, was normal for Deep Purple in this period and they had already followed the same structure on their covers on the debut album (such as The Leaves' "Hey Joe"). Reportedly, the band recorded their version of the song because Paul McCartney himself had stated that he was really fond of their previous Beatles cover, "Help!", which was featured on Shades of Deep Purple. It was never performed live again after 1969.


"Shield" was laid down in a style that depicted the late 1960s hippie movement, with psychedelia playing a large part in the song. Ian Paice did not play the song with normal drums, deliberately to create a "glass noise." "Shield" is considered by many Mark I fans as their magnum opus. Rod Evans felt compelled to write lyrics that matched the melody's "gentle drive" and the final result was in his ears very satisfying. As with almost all Mark I originals however, it was never performed live again after 1969.


"Anthem", the last original track on the album, resembles the structure on King Crimson's debut album title track, released a year later. This song is very organ driven and it is perhaps Deep Purple's deepest venture into classical music on a regular studio album, competing with "April" on the band's subsequent third album.

In the middle of the song there is a baroque style part with organ and string quartet written by Jon Lord which is not based on a classical piece,[11] but reminds a Bach organ fugue.

Due to its complicated structure and the need for additional instrumentalists, no known live recordings of the song exist.

River Deep, Mountain High[edit]

The final cover Deep Purple did on this album was "River Deep – Mountain High". It also works as the album's epic closer. This song was originally performed by Ike and Tina Turner. As they did on other covers, an excerpt of a known classical melody was included as an intro for the song. In this case it was the piece "Also sprach Zarathustra", written in 1896 by Richard Strauss. The band included this piece because it was featured on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, released earlier in 1968. Worth of notice, the song was actually released as a single, albeit heavily edited, in February 1969, exclusively in the United States and Canada. With "Listen, Learn, Read On" serving as the B-side, it reached No. 53 and No. 42 respectively. Even though it is a complicated piece, the band performed it live, as is evident on the only surviving Mark I live recordings. It was never performed live after 1969, though.


  1. ^ Deep Purple early years: Seventy Seven Minutes In Prog Rock Heaven
  2. ^ Viglione, Joe. "Deep Purple The Book of Taliesyn review". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  3. ^ White, Dave. "Review: the albums of Deep Purple Mark I". Classic Rock. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Beaudoin, Jedd (20 October 2011). "Deep Purple: Shades of Deep Purple / The Book of Taliesyn / Deep Purple". PopMatters. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Lord, John Vernon (2007). Drawing Upon Drawing: 50 Years of Illustrating. Brighton, UK: University of Brighton. p. 46. ISBN 978-1905593248. 
  6. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 11, No. 2, March 10, 1969". Library and Archives Canada. 10 March 1969. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "The Book of Taliesyn Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 10, No. 16, December 16, 1968". Library and Archives Canada. 16 December 1968. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "The Book of Taliesyn Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 11, No. 1, March 03 1969". Library and Archives Canada. 3 March 1969. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Deep Purple classical quotes". Retrieved 15 November 2011.