Deep Purple’s career has been a pretty rocky road since their reunion 1984. Line-up changes, deaths and a lot of ups and downs when it comes to the quality of their records has minted their career – which I think is kind of sad for a band of Deep Purple’s caliber. After all, they were one of the bands that started the whole genre we now call hard rock and heavy metal, together with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep. The reunion album Perfect Strangers (1984) is today a true Deep Purple classic in its own right and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as albums like In Rock (1970) and Machine Head (1972). The follow-up House Of Blue Light (1987) has gotten some mixed reviews from both fans and media. Song wise it’s a phenomenal album but suffers some from the too 80’s production. Singer Ian Gillan got the boot after that album and was replaced by Joe Lynn Turner (ex- Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen) for the ill-fated Slaves And Masters (1990). Turner was fired after that record / tour and Gillan came back for the underwhelming The Battle Rages On (1993) and since then nothing has been the same in the Purple camp. Ritchie Blackmore quit mid-tour and was temporarily replaced by Joe Satriani before the band settled on Steve Morse (ex Dixie Dregs, Kansas) as the permanent replacement and released the brilliant Purpendicular in 1996. The follow-up was called Abandon (1998), a record that I think is Purple’s worst effort ever. Too bad that album had to be keyboard player Jon Lord’s last album with the band. Lord succumbed to cancer in 2012 but by then he had already left the band.
Since then, Deep Purple hasn’t released one album that brings justice to their name. 2003’s Bananas, now with Don Airey (ex Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne) as Lord’s replacement had its moments but was an uneven release. The follow-up Rapture Of The Deep (2005) was a step up but still nowhere near the greatness of what this legendary band used to bring us. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise that the band – together with producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Hanoi Rocks) – managed to record a real killer back in 2013, a killer called Now What?!. That album knocked me off my rocker already by first listen – and then continued to grow on me with both brilliant songs and a big, fat production. So, with their last album being their best since Purpendicular, it feels really good that Deep Purple – again with Ezrin as the producer – finally will release a new record that I really look forward to. And also, expectations are once again very high.
Opener “Time For Bedlam” was the first taster of the album released prior to the album release and even though I thought it was good when I saw the video for it, I wasn’t floored by it. But that changed when I put the CD in my player – and it grew on me even more when it went through my head phones. Parts of the song reminds me of “Pictures Of Home” (Machine Head, 1972), but there’s also more progressive parts. It’s a heavy song and Don Airey’s big keyboards are all over the song. Awesome! “Hip Boots” comes with a big-assed groove and it shows a band having fun, playing their hearts out. Some will probably call it a bagatelle because it is a straight forward rocker, but I love the tune. To my ears, this is classic Purple all the way. Second single “All I Got Is You” have Steve Morse digging a bit into Ritchie Blackmore’s bag of sounds without losing his own identity. The tune have the classic Purple sound and style but it’s also a bit pop with a very memorable melody without being the least commercially laden – bloody fantastic.
“One Night In Vegas” strolls along just fine but I miss the playfulness and the spark of the previous songs. It is an ok song and it really sounds like a Deep Purple song but it do comes with a filler alert. But the band is back on track with the startling groove of “Get Me Outta Here”. It’s a heavy tune with a darker vibe and there are small traces of reggae here and there but it never takes over the song. A great song that got me hooked by first listen. Then “The Surprising” comes along, a song with a title that does justice to the music – because surprising it is. It’s quite progressive with lots of musical diversity and I can draw parallels to the Purpendicular album sound wise. There’s a classical piano break in the middle that turns into a vibe that could be used in a musical of some sort and on top of all that lies a sound that screams Deep Purple – and a heavenly memorable melody. Wow! It’s the best song this band have written in ages. To show us all that they’re scared of nothing, the guys follows that song with one that is more or less a plain pop song – the Purple way that is. It’s called “Johnny’s Band” and I took a liking to the tune right away. I just love the poppy melody, the classic rock groove and the catchy chorus – a brave move that works like charm.
“On Top Of The World” is hardly a surprising tune musically but that hardly make the song dull or uninteresting, nope, it’s quite the contrary. It’s a traditional, groove laden classic rocker that swings like crazy with a big, memorable melody and a striking and catchy chorus. I know some will dismiss it as a bagatelle, filler or just another rocker but in my book, this is classic rock at its best. There’s also an unpredictable spoken word that shows up like the man in the box without warning – cool. “Birds Of Prey” is another musically challenging song that brings out some unpredictable ways of doing things. It’s a rocker for sure, but it comes with an Oriental influence, some electronica keyboard sounds and a Beales-esque psychedelia that marries the Perfect Strangers meets Purpendicular sounds so well. The playfulness continues with both Morse and Airey jamming away like it was the last chance to do so – brilliant. The album closes with the only misadventure on the record – a cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. Sure, I think the boys love original (so do I) and they’re probably having fun pissing about with it, but the fact is, it’s a pointless cover that goes nowhere and this is not the way to close an album as good as this. But if you get the Deluxe edition, you get a bonus track called “Paradise Bar”, a fun rocker with a big groove where Don Airey’s solo goes Jon Lord on us and a classic Purple melody that makes catchy chorus score a goal. This song should have been on the album instead of “Roadhouse Blues”.
It took me only one spin of this album to find out that the new-found spark that Deep Purple got – with a big helping hand from Ezrin – on their last album not only continues with their new effort, but it feels like the spark has grown to be a big bad-ass fire. The band is surely firing on all cylinders here and there’s a freshness and a youthfulness I haven’t heard from this lot in ages, not even on the last album this much even though it was on that album they found their mojo again. It has been said that this will be Deep Purple’s last album and that their next tour is their farewell tour and if that is the truth then Deep Purple will say goodbye with a bang and their heads held high, but after two awesome records in a row, I sure hope that is not the case because Deep Purple are still a force to be reckoned with and even though the youngest member of the band is 62 (Morse), there is nothing old about this band what so ever. Deep Purple are still alive and kicking and this record is the proof of that. The 9 is close, very close!
Other Deep Purple reviews:
1. Time For Bedlam
2. Hip Boots
3. All I Got Is You
4. One Night In Vegas
5. Get Me Outta Here
6. The Surprising
7. Johnny’s Band
8. On Top Of The World
9. Birds Of Prey
10. Roadhouse Blues
11. Paradise Bar (Deluxe edition Bonus Track)