DEEP PURPLE – Now What?!

Deep Purple - Now WhatI remember it like yesterday, when I got the news on the radio back in 1984, that Deep Purple had reunited with their classic Mk 2 line up. I was only fifteen at the time and had just got my eyes and ears open for the band, and I found myself cheering loud in my room. And their reunion album Perfect Strangers that came out the same year has proven itself to be a true Purple classic by now, almost in the same league as In Rock and Machine Head. But much has happened since then. After the follow up, the extremely underrated House Of Blue Light (1987), guitarist Ritchie Blackmore made sure that singer Ian Gillan got the boot, replaced him with his former Rainbow buddy Joe Lynn Turner and released Slaves And Masters (1990), an album that, under the name Rainbow probably would have turned out very good and appreciated, but under the Purple banner it was being looked upon as an abomination. Of course, that line up didn’t last and Gillan was back, releasing the tired and jaded, but aptly titled, The Battle Rages On, (1993). But it didn’t take long until Blackmore had enough and left the band for good in the middle of the tour. Joe Satriani jumped in as a stand in, but for their next record Purpendicular (1996), former Kansas and Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse had been chosen as the permanent replacement. Purpendicular became Deep Purple’s last epic album. In my book, it’s a true Purple-classic as well and Morse has proven to be the perfect replacement for Blackmore – I actually don’t miss the man in black one bit. But the albums that followed didn’t turn out that great, Abandon (1998) must be Purple’s worst effort ever, sadly keyboard player Jon Lord’s (1941 – 2012) swan song – he left the band in 2002 and was replaced by Don Airey for the uneven Bananas (2003) album and together with bass player Roger Glover, that is the line up that exists to this day. And their new album is the first since the underrated Rapture Of The Deep in 2005 – eight years in the making.

I must admit that despite Purple being one of my favourite bands out there, my expectations wasn’t that high for this album. They weren’t low, but I had expected a decent album that you could listen to a couple of times and then leave it standing on your shelf, collecting dust, while Fireball (1971) is going nuts through your speakers. Just like their last three albums had done. I had not expected the guys to make their finest disc since Purpendicular. But that’s exactly what they have done. To be honest, I was floored already after first listen and the album keeps growing. The fact that a bunch of guys in their mid sixties can feel and sound so fresh and alive is quite astonishing. Still, opener “A Simple Song” made me go “hmmmm” at first as it starts slow and almost sleepy before jumping into a perfect Deep Purple groove and after that song expectations increased big time. “Weirdistan” keeps the promise of the opener and gives us a groovy Purple killer right out of the 70’s, “Out Of Hand” is a heavy piece where Don Airey gets to shine Jon Lord style with his Hammond and first single “Hell To Pay” is catchy to say the least, a hardrocker with a fists in the air kind of chorus. “Above And Beyond” is slow, yet groovy with some of the finest vocals from Gillan – would have fitted perfectly on Purpendicular that one, “Blood From A Stone” is a slow, bluesy, soulful ballad that sends shivers down my spine. It actually reminds me of “You Keep On Moving” from Come Taste The Band (1976) a bit. “Uncommon Man” is a progressive piece that holds a fabulous intro –  boy, does Morse shine on this one, “Apre Vous” has a blues rock groove that makes you wanna jump for joy and “Vincent Price” has this spooky feel with a irresistible swing – some parts of it actually goes in an Alice Cooper vein.

The production here is big, in your face and clear and has something very playful over it. Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd) produced it and it’s not hard to spot as the quality is higher than high here. Also, I haven’t heard the two Ians in a better shape in years and years and years. Gillan has returned to his (almost) glory days, using his voice exactly as he should and Paice, whose playing has become safer and safer each year, is now pounding away like there is no tomorrow. Steve Morse shows, as always, that he is one the best guitarists in the world – nuff said. But this is very much Don Airey’s album. Ezrin has brought out the kid in Airey and his heavy keyboards / organ is all over this CD. I mean, I’ve always known that  Airey is a killer after his years with Rainbow and Ozzy, but on here he feels more playful and relaxed than ever. Relaxed seems to be the key word for the whole band on this album, I might add. Now What?! proves one thing: Deep Purple has still got what it takes!

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

01. A Simple Song
02. Weirdistan
03. Out Of Hand
04. Hell To Pay
05. Body Line
06. Above And Beyond
07. Blood From A Stone
08. Uncommon Man
09. Après Vous
10. All The Time In The World
11. Vincent Price
12.It’ll Be Me (bonus track)

4 comments on “DEEP PURPLE – Now What?!

  1. I don’t know why Amazon Canada still don’t have this in stock. When Abandon came out, same deal — I had to buy it on import from Europe.

    So long story short I STILL don’t have it, but your review has only upped my anticipation of it! Finest disc since Purpendicular? I’m sold.

  2. Agree with your review. Stunning album – although it took me about 4-5 listens to reach that conclusion. And yes, Airey owns this recording.

  3. Spot on. Exactly my views. Still growing after countless listenings. This is a true and classic “Deep Purple” album.

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