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Deep Purple

aka The Little Flower Children, Whitesnake I, and Black Rainbow

Introduction
Shades of Deep Purple
The Book of Taliesyn
Deep Purple
Concerto For Group and Orchestra
In Rock
Fireball
Machine Head
Made In Japan
Who Do We Think We Are?
Burn
Stormbringer
Come Taste The Band
Made In England
Perfect Strangers
The House of Blue Light
Nobody's Perfect
Slaves and Masters
The Battle Rages On
Purpendicular
Abandon
Bananas
The Rapture of the Deep

The Lineup Card (1967-2006)

Ian Paice (drums)

Jon Lord (keyboards) until 2002

Ritchie Blackmore (guitars) 1968-74, 1984-92 also of Rainbow and Blackmore's Night

Rod Evans (vocals) 1968-9 also of Captain Beyond

Nick Simper (bass) 1968-1969

Ian Gillan (vocals) 1969-1973, 1984-9, 1993, 1996- also of Black Sabbath, Gillan, and Episode Six

Roger Glover (bass) 1969-73, 1984-7, 1990- also of Episode Six

David Coverdale (vocals) 1974-6 also of Whitesnake

Glenn Hughes (bass, vocals) 1974-6 also of Black Sabbath and Trapeze

Tommy Bolin (guitar) 1976 also of James Gang and others

Joe Lynn Turner (vocals) 1990 also of Rainbow and others

Joe Satriani (guitar) 1990-4

Steve Morse (guitar) 1994- also of Kansas, Dixie Dregs, and others

Don Airey (keyboards) 2002- also of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull  and others

Purple is the last of the three great, hilarious Monsters of English Hawd Rawk that sprang from the forehead of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix experience in the extreme late 1960's, alongside bigger brother Led Zeppelin and creepy cousin Black Sabbath.  In the US, Deep Purple takes a firm backseat to it's riff-blazing kin, but in Europe the Purple's speedy semi-classical take on bludgeoning hard rock has become legendary.  While Zeppelin blasted apart the blues into equal parts folk and funk all mixed up in a dubious stew of Tolkienist Gollum-molesting and crotch-stuffing lemon squeezing, and Black Sabbath tickled Satan's soft white underbelly with tales of doom set to riffs so booming and fuzzy they make Mountain sound like the Bay City Rollers, Deep Purple took an altogether different, and unique path. For one thing, they wrote songs about badass cars and mean-ol' girls (instead of, you know, bitchen chariots and elven-princesses with enormous...erm...tracts of land), stuff the average pill-gobbling pothead post-hippie teenage boy could eat right up, and made sure to throw lots and lots of speed-demon soloing by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore to keep even the long songs marginally interesting.  In comparison to Led Zeppelin, who often came across as frighteningly pretentious, and the Sabbath's tendency to become muddle-headed and cartoonish, Deep Purple could flat out seem coherent a lot of the time.  Oddly enough, in these days when the entire Zeppelin catalog is rotated through at least once daily on Classic Hard Rock Radio (yes, including 'The Crunge', better known as 'The Cringe'), and Sabbath's influence over subsequent generations of heavy metal have both diluted their uniqueness, Deep Purple can still stand out.  They not only come across as more 'European' and exotic to these wheat-filled Midwestern ears, they also keep closer to their punk-ass garage-rock British Invasion roots (Them, the Animals, the Yardbirds), often making them sound leaner and more immediately provocative than Zep or Sabbath. Additionally, they're more 'loud' than 'heavy', and they never get bogged down wallowing in their depths...Purple is much too fleet and speedy for that. When you've exhausted your tolerance for yet another Led Zeppelin song, and find Sabbath numbing your skull and lulling you into a cottony womb, the adrenaline charge of a classic-era Purple album can be just the nick in the buts you've been waiting for...

Purple's flaws, however, are too obvious to ignore...the largest of all being their schizoid band history, rivaling only Yes for Spinal Tap-ish hilarity. Their classic period (or 'Mark II', as it's usually called. There's at least 5 or 6 others...this band's experienced more lineups than Mike Tyson) only lasted four studio albums (and two live albums, one superduper massive great and the other a boomy load of progressive horseshit), and, admittedly, not all of those are super-brilliant. Prior to that, they'd been a Cream-worshipping pop band with a tendency towards soupy crooner cover songs and the flakier side of psychedelia, and afterwards they quickly degenerated into a tasteless playground for their two boneheaded replacement singers, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes.  It got so bad not even Ritchie Blackmore (probably one of the more tolerant people in all of rock 'n' roll) could stand it any longer, so he quit to form the similarly neck-snapping Rainbow and proceed to live in peace with a stable lineup of well-respected sidemen.  The ensuing Purple crashed and burned in a cloud of icky funk-rock and junk heroin before breaking up in 1976.  The 'classic' Purple (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) reformed in the mid-80's just in time to release a bunch of unpopular records in the wake of that processed cheese food called Hair Metal. Of course, the Blackmore/Gillan lineup didn't last real long, and the band proceeded to find itself in the middle of a incestuous member-sharing relationship with Black Sabbath and the remnants of Rainbow. It all gets murky around this time, but a few things are for sure: 1) Ritchie Blackmore never once had to stoop to playing 'Iron Man' at a laughably lame mid-80's Sabbath concert, but (2) Ian Gillan did, and (3) It's pretty unlikely that Glenn Hughes, even if armed with fully automatic weaponry, could ever take out mighty mite Ronnie James Dio, who's like all of 6 inches tall or something, in a brawl. Hughes would have his bleach-shiny teeth knocked loose before you could say 'Stormbringer'. You know, Dio's got the power of Dat Bad Ol' Debbil on his side, maaaan!

Anyway, The band then finally settled into a more-or-less stable lineup in the early 1990's after the final departure (so far, anyway) of Ritchie Blackmore, who was replaced by former Dixie Dregs and Kansas guitarist, and all-in-all 'Merican midwestern-type, Steve Morse.  The band's started making some pretty adequate albums again, so maybe there's still some future in a band where only the drummer, Ian Paice, has played on every album. Welcome to the Ian Paice Experience, everybody!

...which may be just fine with me. Ian Paice is a Mitch Mitchell-influenced skin smasher that probably counts as the Charlie Watts of hard rock drumming, 10 bazillion times as subtle as John Bonham and able to keep the beat interesting and steady even when the band is playing faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire. Paicey is counted as a major influence by legions of metal drummers, especially Metallica's Lars Ulrich, a man who never met a crash cymbal he didn't like. Anyway, Paice is exactly the right kind of drummer for this band, and Ritchie Blackmore pretty much defines the rest of the sound.  He loves the driving, massive riff, doubled between guitar and distorted Hammond organ, loves the sound of a solo played at mind-bending speed, loves the sound of a vocalist screeching like he's got a mouthful of the blues and a lit M-80 up his butt. And that's, well....pretty much what Deep Purple is all about, at least after Mark II got settled into place.  This band ain't the most diverse bunch of drugged pikeys you're gonna come across, but they had a weird thing going for a long time....whenever they decided to leave the main road and head for some musical ditch or another (progressive rock, funk rock) they managed to be one of the first bands to do it. They didn't necessarily do it well, but they weren't afraid to be first. Still, I'd be really surprised if most people gave a fuck about Deep Purple the symphony-groping prog band, or Deep Purple the soppy jazz-funk poseurs, when they've got Deep Purple the firebombing hard rock speeddealer at their disposal. I know I don't.


Shades of Deep Purple - Japanese 1969

Mark I is a band that's lucky enough to have their own sound (which is, umm, like Cream with loud Hammond organ, a croony vocalist, and a penchant for classical flourishes), a snazzy guitar player who does a pretty boffo Hendrix impersonation, and probably one of the better rhythm sections in late-60's Brit-invasion rock. So why does every song that isn't a Cream or Experience cover sound like it should be? There's introductions and stuff that let the band fly to the extent of their proto-prog limits (pretty far for pre-King Crimson, pre-ELP 1968, I'd say), but when the lyrics start, they sound unwilling to stray from their Cream roadmap. The only song that really has its own identity is 'Hush', a badass rockin' cover of some old Joe South song (don't worry, I don't know who that is, either)...everything else sounds ripped from Fresh Cream like they haven't grown originality genes yet.  And you know what? Excepting a few of the trio's better singles, Deep Purple could wipe the floor with Cream, and this album still beats the living snot out of Fresh Cream, even with all the quotations, steals, and impersonations.  This is one enthusiastic bunch of afro'd Brits, charging through a set of their favorite covers and a few originals, and their energy is infectious. It's refreshing that they don't give a good goddamn about trying to play the blues correctly, and indeed they barely even try although that's exactly what everyone wanted to hear in 1968. Play the fucking blues, man! Blues scale! Blues scale! 12 bars! Harmonica, motherfuckers! Not too many people were prepared to hear these kind of 10 dollar chords and 10 finger organ solos like what Ritchie and Jon Lord dish out, but the band attacks them like they're ripping through 'Louie Louie' (or, heh...'Hey Joe') in their garage. Of course, most of the time singer Rod Evans tends to kill the mood with his vocals, which sound closer to Tom Jones than Muddy Waters. The guy's simply a crooner-type at heart, and it ultimately led to his demise in the band.  Oh, he makes a decent attempt at sounding like a tough guy, but I always end up looking forward to the next kick-ass instrumental part while he does his upper-class loverboy thing.

Deep Purple albums, by definition, don't have a whole lot of songs on them, and Shades of is no exception. They had some allergy to keeping things under 4 minutes in length...broke out in hives or got anal warts or something. This means that, say, 'Hey Joe', which the Hendrix Experience managed to blast through in just short of three and a half minutes, takes frigging 7:29 on Shades of Deep Purple, both because there's a huge, completely unrelated intro section that rips off from Ravel's 'Bolero', and because the tempo is taken down to near Black Sabbath tempos. I find their take on the song interesting (it's clearly based on the Hendrix version rather than, say, the Byrds one from 1965), but when it comes in last on an album with three songs over 6 minutes, and all of those minutes are packed full of soloing, feedback, and wailing, don't blame me if my attention begins to wane. Their schtick is mostly to Purplize some famous song (here, it's Cream's 'I'm So Glad', 'Help' plus the aforementioned 'Hush' and 'Hey Joe') and let their soloing fill in whatever gaps might be left. Taken individually, none of the songs on the record are at all bad, but the Deep Purple sound at this point is so predictably busy that an album full of this kind of soloing can test one's patience.  Jon Lord's soloing style is pretty much as fans of the latter albums might expect, but Blackmore has yet to move beyond his influences to become the sprinting whammy-bar wiggling fiend we'd later fall in love with.  Here he sounds heavy and flashy, but not very confident, as if the notes don't fall from his fingers very easily. The band as a whole can strike one as being laughably 60's, or, as I said above, laughably Cream.

The originals are, without exception, listenable but unremarkable. The opening instrumental 'And the Address' introduces our boys to the world with some trippy Jon Lord organ effects that sound straight out of 'Inna Gadda Da Vida' before we hit the go-go groove that will bring us on home to our Ventures records for some hot dogs and a blow job. Ritchie and Jon get their respective licks in (they never fail to), but the song doesn't really go anywhere after they start. Rod Evans first attempt at songwriting, the jive 'One More Rainy Day', is trashy sentimental pop better fit for some crap-ass band like the Searchers or somebody who doesn't rock as hard as the Purple does. The organ part reminds me of the intro to Joe Cocker's 'With a Little Help From My Friends', and it always throws me off when they never actually shift to playing that song. On an album so enamoured with cover versions, your mind plays tricks like that, you know. 'Mandrake Root' is much better until you realize the riff is stolen from 'Foxey Lady' and the vocals are so close to Captain Vegetable Pants Tom Jones that you might be afraid you've crawled into the wrong sleeping bag on accident. The best original, heh heh...it's the psycho surf number! 'Love Help Me' is so goofily out of character (well, it's obviously ripped from Are You Experienced? tracks like 'Third Stone From The Sun' again, so maybe it's not out of character at all) that I can't help but feel charmed by it's very silliness. This is a band that truly could've used a bit more of a sense of humor at times, and moments like this remind you that Lord and Blackmore aren't out to simply solo you to death.

Capn's Final Word: Original, except for all that stuff they steal from all those other bands. A cover band with flashy fingers.

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The Book of Taliesyn - Japanese 1969.

Hey now, this is very much the exact same, only slightly different. As if that wasn't designed to confound you enough, you should probably sit down and have a listen to this album to hear what real confusion is all about. Is Deep Purple still a psychedelic cover band, or what? Are they a pop band or a neo-prog bunch of classical massacrists? I tell you what...Deep Purple could always play, but when they decided to 'progress' and try to attain the lofty goal of becoming the heir apparents to Keith Emerson, they degenerated into a very uninteresting group of afro-headed instrument smokers. The cool thing is, on Taliesyn at least, they're still a pop band at heart, so even when they fly off into the soft-headed stratosphere, where the air is thin and the philosophies thinner, like on 'Listen, Learn, Read On', their ridiculous Word of God conceits come off like hipster late-60's come-ons rather than, you know, like Yessongs. Kinda like a harder Moody Blues, to be exact...same low-fi gee-whillikers sound effects, same go-go dancer 'rock' style, same incomprehensible, hilarious 'poetry' intoned in a llllllooooowwww voice like the guy's trying to tell you your fly's open without alerting the entire congregation. It's so stupid it's fun, but soon enough they would get too 'sophisticated' to make it stupid and would rather end up with a puddle of dire mush.  I mean, hell, on this song, Deep Purple sounds about as much like the Deep Purple we love as Sarah McLaughlin does. Except without the baby flab jaw and the legions of carpet munching Gilmore Girls fans following them around.

The only time I really feel the real Deep Purple Vibe (and by that, I mean Purple as a whole, not Mark I), as it were, is on 'Wring That Neck', which ushers in the Purple Jam tune, the same form that would sprout breasts, achieve menses, and flower into womanhood on 'The Mule' and 'Lazy' on later records.  It's also one of the few Mark I tunes the Mark II band would play regularly, and that's because Rod Evans isn't up there gaying the whole thing up like he does so much. 'Wring That Neck' isn't much more than an interesting riff, but the interplay between Blackmore and Lord finally catches fire right here. There's actually quite a bit of interesting playing throughout Taliesyn, from the classical flirtations of 'We Can Work It Out' to the understated folk-rock gorgeousness of 'Anthem', where Paice's drumming really shines for its subtlety rather than it's ability to disintegrate gallstones from 50 yards without the use of a scalpel. 'Anthem' is my favorite song on the album by far, something I was almost sure was by Big Elvis Presley, but a thorough (i.e. somewhere between 20 and 35 second) search of the Internet provided no clues other than the song was composed by Evans and Lord. It's a just about note-perfect imitation of Elvis Circa Comeback, that Memphis schlock-country tearjerking that seemed to be the exclusive stomping ground of American lite-rockers turns out to be just about the peak moment of Mark I. Again, this sounds about as much like Machine Head as a 95-year old Creole woman clearing last years' collection of snuff, boogers, and various flying insects from her hair-encrusted nasal passages, but it's great. Sixties idiots should grow up and cut their hair, and then run down to their local cutout bin and attempt to steal Taliesyn instead of paying a dollar fifty. Really.

Oh, so much of the rest is kind of run-of-the-mouth Mark I Purple: there's the Beatles cover ('We Can Work It Out') that takes the original and massages, gropes, and gooses it until it resembles the Strawbs and sprouts a new love-child named 'Exposition' out of it's forehead, there's the Tina Turner cover ('River Deep, Mountain High') that takes the original, follows it home from class every day, calls late at night and hangs up, masturbates over it's old high school yearbook pictures, and takes potshots at junior congressmen in it's honor, and then there's 'Kentucky Woman', which you may have suspected is a cover of a particular hit song by a certain Mr. Neil Diamond, and you'd be correct. And you might surmise from my rapid change in tone from the conversational and colloquial to the formal and stilted, that I may have something against Mr. Diamond, and you'd be right. This is them man who stole my 2nd grade girlfriend, the sick, sweaty sonofabitch, and I WANT HER BACK. All he had to do was wiggle his hips to that 'Ken-tuck-y WO-MAN! (duh duh duh)' rhythm once or twice, and my hopes of a little 8-year old nookie went out the window. It's alright, I've still got my guit-ah! Where's your sister, baby? I don't dig the Diamond, and I don't dig the Deep doing the Diamond, for I think it's derivative and dumb.

Taliesyn is a ridiculous, mostly-horrid, terminal Sixties album that manages to stay defiantly fun despite all of that for at least part of the action. It's like an exercise in the rape and pillage of everything that has anything to do with good taste and restraint, and if you view it like that, it starts to become almost addictive. So if you're stoked to a high boil on a steady diet of speed, Pop Rocks, and Fireball, you'll probably find damn near most of Taliesyn to be a sad, immature bore. But if you like kitsch, or have a deep addiction to Jon Lord leaning his big moustache across the keys of an amplified Hammond organ for a half hour, you might get a kick or three out of this album. I mean, there's plenty of people out there who prefer, say, They Might Be Giants to, say, Black Sabbath, but I don't have to sit next to them on the bus. The main problem is that Deep Purple is schizoid...are the pop? Are they prog? What the hell, do they do either one particularly well? Hell no, but when they mix the two together in such an improbable way, I can't help but cry out 'yikes!' and dive for cover underneath my ever-growing piles of stupid, idiotic hard rock records.  

Capn's Final Word: Still an incomparably original cover band, but yet one with next to no good taste. A Godsend for lovers of cheese.

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Mike      Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: This album eats shit for breakfast. It's painful to hear such songs like "River Deep - Mountain High" and "We Can Work It Out" massacred. Things would get a lot better round the times of the mighty "In Rock," but right around this time, this band and this album were ill. Mentally ill. They had to have been to release this testament to incompetence.

As a comedy album, though, it rates about a B+. Take it or leave it.

 


Deep Purple - Spitfire 1969

Let me remind you again...before Deep Purple got Ian Gillan and a shot of Devil in their souls, they resembled nothing more than a Moody Blues-dippy flower-child hairy-woman earth-children Public school Lewis Carroll-worshipping bunch of kids who happened to find a fuzztone and a Bach transcription book while rummaging around their burned-out basement looking for a lighter to blaze up their hash brownie. Hard-rocking, ass-licking, fire-kicking Dogs of War they were NOT. And they certainly wouldn't be Speed Kings until they danced a pirouette u-turn on In Rock and decided to revolutionize rock music by just playing harder and faster than anyone since Freddie King. But in 1969, they'd yet to have their revelatory discovery of the Enormously Loud Power Chord, and were still dicking around with their psychedelic classicized pop that was leading them nowhere. Hell, they sound near about early-year David Bowie on Deep Purple as they do the frigging Jimi Hendrix Experience, and it's only getting worse. While the first album seemed to get by on giddy enthusiasm and ridiculous Cream imitations, and the second album got by on dippy experimentalism and ridiculous Eric Burdon and the Animals imitations, Deep Purple shows the band trying to forge their own road rather than riding the Coverversion Express for another album. This is for sure the Rod Evans Experiment, more of a backing band than an actual band, and it's his pop inclinations that win out the stylistic wrestling match this time around.  At least this album ditches the scourge of cover versions that had begun to get stale on the last album in favor of some more of the bands' original compositions...any more ten minute Phil Spector covers and I was liable to toss this disc out the window. I'd like to say that the new songs have great melodies in the vein of the fantabulous 'Anthem', but I can't. 

The prog-classical fringes that first poked their heads out on Taliesyn are either muted completely or shunted off into 'April', a huge multipart suite that starts off as a sort of inspirational instrumental waltz by the band and ends up as a bunch of inspid orchestral-symphonic mess that features, well, the notes Lord wrote on the page, and not a single Purplist playing an instrument. How the band could allow this to happen on their third record shows me how much of a mess they were in at this point. There's the Rod Evans schlock-pop croon band on one hand, the Jon Lord conservatory dissertation band on the other, and everyone else hanging around in a strangely satisfying limbo in between. My question is, where's Ritchie in all this? Had Blackmore not yet taken his How to Win Friends and Influence Your Bandmates management course yet, or what? He keeps getting more and more marginalized as each Mark I album comes by, and here he's damn near invisible. Sure, at heart this is still a guitar band more than, say, a vocal band or a zither band or a meat-whistle band, but Ritchie Blackmore's contribution to the songwriting and performance aspects of this album are his weakest on just about anything I've heard from the man outside the Bent Out of Shape album.  I don't even like many of his solos, which almost sound like they're aping the San Francisco A  Like I said, the Purple Superpowers are Evans and Lord,  and I'm afraid their individual songwriting tics and tendencies sink Deep Purple in a tasteless soup of half hammy psycho-pop and half progressive indulgence.

'Chasing Shadows' kicks things off in a very Taliesyn vein, a 'hard rocker' that, in the final analysis, sucks ass at rocking. It's only saving grace is that it's fast, ushering in yet another Deep Purple calling-card.  As an added plus, whenever Purple plays fast, that means Paicey plays something interesting, and here he's pulling together a half-march/half-shaman ceremonial forcebeat.  He's the spoon that stirs the sauce, and since the rest of the song is so doggedly ordinary, he's the only thing worthwhile here. 'Blind' and 'Lalena' follow, both ego-mania vocal vehicles for Evans, who sounds like he's trying to channel Greg Lake through Englebert Humperdinck, stretching out each pregnant pause to bursting and over-emoting like a Star Search finalist. Blackmore plays a defiantly dull fuzz solo on 'Blind', but wisely decides to almost sit out 'Lalena', which enters lounge-lizard territory before it's all over.  'Fault Line-The Painter' is a lot better, tasting much more like Deep Purple and a lot less like Lite Blue, anyway, another speedy rip complete with endless organ soloing with a couple of good stabs, but not much great riffing.  Things take a turn for the bluesy on 'Why Didn't Rosemary?', a totally unconvincing track when compared to even 'Wring That Neck', just a toss-off blues riff and lots more of that space filling organ stuff. Just run of the mill, stab in the dark, spit in your eye lazy songwriting, is all. 'Bird Has Flown' is another 'hard rocker' that should probably have stayed on the shelf.  It's based on a near-parody 'acid' riff, heaving and shaking like those blotches of Jell-O on the overhead projector. The band generates so little heat on these tracks it's clear their hearts aren't in it. Lord wants to write symphonies and Evans wants to stuff vegetables in his pants and have the girlies in the cheap seats launch panties at his head, so no wonder this album defiantly refuses to rock.

'April', by far the most important piece of shit on this album, combines the best and worst material on Deep Purple (hell, the best and worst sides of Mark I) in a absolutely maddening way, calculated to make you hate this band before it's all over. The opening gentle acoustic/electric 'bolero' section is gorgeous, being Blackmore's most substantial contribution of the entire record.  His guitar stings our eyes as it soars over a shifting, stately backdrop of 'meaningful' chord progressions and choirs imitating Mellotrons. This section gives way to the orchestrated section, an under five-minute section that feels at least twice as long, but at least doesn't sound like the corny Disney Motion Picture Orchestra like those sections on Days of Future Passed. Then the band 'rocks' it's way out to the end no more successfully than they've been able to so far on this record, and I completely, totally miss what this song is supposed to signify. Why the orchestral section? Why the heavy organ-driven cock rock at the end? These questions go unanswered, but most often go unasked, as I rarely am able to make it past the orchestral section anyway, which sure doesn't bode too well for the next entry into the Symphonic Scoring for Dummies sweepstakes, the following year's Concerto for Group and Orchestra.

Capn's Final Word: Purple exploring all their dead ends at the same time. Not a great big kick in the head good time.

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Andrew R  stray_toasters@juno.com   Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Come on man, how does this get the same grade as Stormbringer, one listen of which I only got through because I was walking home from the library (I couldn't even stand the synthesizers on the title track)?  Yeah, the songs tend to ramble and that Rod Evans guy is a bit full of himself but he sings some great vocal melodies on the first three tracks.  The beginning of Painter has the guitar reaching the upper roof of my skull and the rest of side B displays some real energy.  The rumbling groove on Chasing Shadows is sweeter than 'Into the Fire'.

The only part that sucks is the 'classical' section of April.  Doesn't make me that interested in the follow up.  But the rocking part is great!

It's no 'In Rock' but a lot of fun to listen to after exhausting the 1970-72 trilogy and you get to hear Richtie do some things that made it into the Gillan/Glover line-up.


Concerto For Group and Orchestra - EMI 1969

To me, a guy who has a sort of 'don't ask, don't tell, don't touch my butt in the shower' arrangement with classical music (It's melodically complex! It demands technical competence to perform and the suspension of impatience to appreciate! It's interesting 95% of the time, and entertaining 5% of the time!), the idea of rock guys writing lengthy symphonic compositions when they've yet to show me they can write a decent pop tune smacks me as the product of egos massive enough to only be possible in the late 60's. Never before and never since had there been a period of time in which everything was so open to experimentation...drugs, sex, Cajun food...and 'good taste' and 'self-restraint' were such bad words. Of course, this time period generated greatness (I wouldn't be spending all my free time writing these silly reviews if there hadn't been a Sixties to kick popular music across the mouth), but it also created disgusting failure in equal doses. One of the main features of the late 60's was a feeling that good ol'-fashioned rock 'n' roll just wasn't good enough anymore. Not only did it need to be stretched to its very limits, it needed to be cross-bred with more 'respectable' musical forms, thus elevating it to a level at which highbrow idiots felt they had a right to be snobbish about it. Thus we found out about jazz-rock and classical-rock, but this was all still mostly okay. The problem came in when rock guys decided they could cross the line completely and become classical composers. Like Jon Lord! Under what set of circumstances a flashy organ player for a hard rock outfit could be considered a strong candidate to be The Next Mozart is a complete mystery...apparently in Jon's mind alone. Jon's suite, which makes up the entirety of the original Concerto record, is nothing better than a bad mixture of hard rock soloing and a rather childish idea of classical music. Ritchie Blackmore spends endless periods of the 'First Movement' playing a solo that sounds like a rehearsal jam? Sure, I enjoy hearing Blackmore flash his rapidly developing axe chops, but I also like eating whipped cream straight from the can, but I also know that neither one of them's particularly good for me. Still, his tuneless, buzz-sawing solos are miles more interesting than the soundtrack-y symphonic parts that substitute 'big horn noises' and lots of crescendoing for anything resembling an actual melody. Lord would rather us marvel at the hustle and bustle of his tricky rhythms than engage us in anything emotionally resilient. There's some cool sections when the band (Deep Purple) comes back from their coffee breaks to take over from some endless bassoon solo or another, but otherwise the symphonic sections meander worse than Dustin Hoffman introducing Bruce Stringbean at the Grammy awards. There's large sections, and I mean minutes at a time, when the music is almost completely inaudible. And other times, mostly when Lord fires up his organ for some tricky-dick soloing, when it sounds too loud at any volume. I'll admit it right now - I know about as much about classical music as 8 years of playing trumpet might've taught me (nothing), but I do know that to make it through this entire 'suite' takes more intestinal fortitude than I'm able to muster. This is not merely boring, this is almost daring you to twiddle thumbs and wonder how much of your life you're wasting listening to Jon Lord's endless trip through the Land of Sap and Fat Chords. And the third section? Hehe! A big drum solo! Whee! It's like having your very own encyclopedia of everything that was musically wrong with progressive rock, all in the same place! (No awful concepts or sci-fi lyrics, though...we're saved that much at least.) I hate it, and not just because it set back the cause of In Rock an entire year, thus missing the opportunity to trump Led Zeppelin's debut at it's own game.

Of course, the possibility exists that if Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, and Ian Gillan hadn't been through the Concerto experience, they'd never have been able to beat Lord into submission and exorcise their prog demons once and for all. Concerto is Deep Purple taking an enormous, smelly, rotting dump...ridding themselves of years of pent-up egotism and misguided use of the hands.  They'd already jettisoned Rod Evans and his sad Fat Elvis-vocalization style, and were ready to cut off Jon Lord's prog cancer. If it took a massive commercial and artistic failure to snap Blackmore back to life, then that's what it needed. Concerto, as if on cue, tanked it almost completely upon release, and Deep Purple would never again be mentioned in the same breath as the Nice or Pink Floyd.  They'd sapped out the Rod Evans pop-schlock avenue and found Jon Lord's prog direction a dead end, so they went, chastened, back to the drawing board.

Well, not exactly, because they'd already written their signature metal-classical suite 'Child in Time', which is performed here as a bonus track along with a similarly extended (extended with what, you may ask? Penile implants? Scenes that would have pushed the rating to an NC-17? Christ, I think we all know the answer is an offensive amount of wanky soloing.) 'Wring That Neck' that'll try anyone's patience. Possibly because of the pressure of performing their new suite, or because of having to play at a lower volume than usual so as to not destroy the fragile woodcarvings of the opera house, or simply because of a bad recording, Deep Purple really can't catch fire during these two solo sets.  'Child In Time' is particularly lame...Ian Gillan sounds like he's trying out for the opera rather than belting out a metal tune, and the unison solo sections are so messy as to be downright incomprehensible. For a band that sounds so amazingly tight on Made in Japan a few years later, here they sound as if they have a lot left to learn. Of course, when Ritchie Blackmore fires off his finger-rockets, it's still breathtaking, but the band struggles to keep up throughout. Besides, you'll get all of this and more from whatever other bazillion pseudo-legal concert releases made under the Deep Purple name in the last few years. Don't get your kicks from here unless you're desperate. It's....embarrassing, like trying to get wasted on nutmeg and mouthwash - you might possibly get there sometime, but 

Hey! Did you know that, thanks to my handy-dandy rogue's gallery of Derp Peeples up thar below the letter grade, you can see that this album marks the debut of Mark II? How stupid must Ian Gillan have felt that his first album with his hot new band excludes him almost completely? I guess that was his comeuppance for starring in something as groaningly hippie-apologist as Jesus Christ Superstar, probably the second truly evil thing in rock music in 1969.

Capn's Final Word: Purple jamming over Lord's simpy orchestral bowel movements in the dark? Sounds about as fun as an anal root canal.

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In Rock - EMI 1970

Hell fucking goddamn shitballs, yeah! This is a rebirth, one hellspawn of a great heavy metal album from a time before anyone knew what exactly heavy metal was. I mean, there wasn't a ClearChannel for a SoundScan to tell people what to think back then, so people just called this kind of music 'heavy', and they knew what they liked. Okay, so maybe people in 1970 bought the Association and the Archies more than they did Deep Purple, but whatever happened, In Rock quickly became one of the cornerstones of the hardest of hard rock music. Of course, critics stabbed it and slashed it mostly because it wasn't very 'mature' and sounded completely unlike either the Band or the Beatles 1965, so it was mostly left for the 13-year old longhaired gas huffers that liked anything that sounded good on headphones while gobbling downers and staring at a well-worn copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves stolen from the library. Funnily enough, out of the Big Three metal bands' debut albums (I'm counting In Rock as Mark II's debut album, and thus Deep Purple's as we know them. I'm obviously ignoring the Concerto for Wang and Lubricated Palm farce, so if you don't like it, go and spot some trains or stalk some co-eds or whatever you obsessives do), In Rock sounds a thousand times fresher than Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin I (and, hey, I love Led Zeppelin I, you know? But that reliance on overloud blooze was kinda unoriginal for 1969, you know?), and still sounds just as powerful today, something which no other Purple album outside of Made in Japan can claim. There are no letdowns, no folk-rock ballad interludes, no aimless jams, just salvo after salvo of some of the most electrifying heavy rock madness ever scratched into vinyl. Deep Purple rarely even lets the tempo drop any lower than 'Fucking Blazing', and while making it through In Rock can be a tiring experience, I like to think of it as the kind of tired you get after a marathon fuck, rather than, say, working overtime or trying to make it through an Ayn Rand novel. It's simply amazing, the depth and breadth of hard rocking creativity shown on this record, one that invariably lives up to it's title and delivers on the promise of a band that had spent a few too many years wasting it's time with Rod Evans and organ solos.

In Rock was the product of all the pent-up frustration and anger Ritchie Blackmore had been generating (and this man who produces anger like a Mormon family produces blond-haired kids) over the preceding few years with Deep Purple Mark I. He had clearly spent the preceding few years woodshedding while his talents went unused in Purple....there's lots of solos to practice while Jon Lord cranks his way through a 45 minute organ solo, aren't there?  But with Roger Glover and Ian Gillan, Ritchie had found the perfect allies in his Back to Rock movement. Ian's voice was better suited to bringing down the arena roof than the girl's panties, and Roger Glover was up for anything that allowed him to crank his bass to marrow-churning volumes. Best of all, the band was able to produce seven great rock songs that somehow incorporated all the flashiness of their prog-work into riffs as violent and dangerous as they were fast.  It took chops to play a riff like 'Bloodsucker' and have the band sound tighter than a librarian's birth canal. Not every band could do it either...and Deep Purple had two melodic instruments to deal with, unlike Zep or Sabbath (well, Zep had two when John Paul Jones played organ, which wasn't particularly often). Not to mention Ian Gillan's singular ability to out-Banshee scream anyone in the rock genre, while staying in tune and never quite sounding like his nuts are being squeezed flat in a C-clamp. Jon Lord just plugs his organ into a fuzztone and follows Ritchie's lead, making for a massive guitar/organ sound that would become a trademark for...erm...this Mark. All cylinders fire perfectly in turn, and the Deep Purple band sounds not only flashy and impressive, but huge and deep, like maybe there's more going on in there than just five guys playing metallized riffs faster than previously thought possible.  

If all they'd done was jam and solo with their new personnel and sound, this album would still be listenable, but they've delivered on their songwriting promise and recorded seven good songs for In Rock, making for an album that really lacks nothing.  They've got fast ones like the garage rocking 'Flight of the Rat', the twisting chug of 'Hard-Loving Man', and the self-explanatory 'Speed King', wherein Ian Gillan makes like an unholy cross between Little Richard and a high-voltage transformer during an electrical storm.  They've got the cock-rocking strut of 'Bloodsucker' (featuring Ian screeching 'NO NO NOOOOO!!!' like he's remembering a time he zipped his fly too fast) and the stomping 'Into The Fire', which probably taught early Sabbath a thing or two.  And never once do they descend into self-parody, unless you're one of those unfortunate souls who feels everything this band does was a self-parody...those people probably aren't going to find much love in the 'hard rock' genre anyway.  Besides, being over-the-top defineshis kind of music, and criticizing that is kinda like me reviewing a bunch of reggae records and calling all of them 'underwritten' or 'unmelodic'. I personally don't much want to hear a metal album that doesn't try to be louder, or faster, or harder, or meaner, or dirtier, or more dangerous than its competition, which is the exact reason why I'll never dig Van Hagar and will always feel Metallica was a sell-out record.

Even the doubters have to at least give some respect to 'Child in Time', the centerpiece of In Rock and probably the defining moment of Deep Purple (alongside 'Smoke On The Water', of course), a sort of half-metal/half-prog excursion into the farthest known reaches of Blackmore's speed and Gillan's voice. It's also strangely poignant, dedicated to the innocent victims of war, ones who may as well just 'bow their heads....wait for the ricochet'. Strangely enough, a song that features Ian screaming 'AAAAAHHHH!!! AAHHHHHH!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!' for minutes at a time may not feel like much of a 'sensitive' song, but you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that it's heart-wrenching. This isn't about fiddling with Gollum in Middle Earth, hoping to get some Elf pussy before leaving Rivendale or witches gathered in their masses at black masses wearing glasses and taking classes, this is actually about something tangible, though it may not feel like it at first listen. Whatever...all I needed from this song for years was the stunning solo sections where Jon and Ritchie trade off lines like they're sharing a brain (Blackmore's, no doubt), speeding up faster and faster at the end like the tape's being manipulated, but all done naturally. What this song has, it's not 'flash', it's something more akin to 'abandon', as if they've finally freed themselves from their restrictions and can dedicate all their energy to making rock music that cannot be denied, and they do.

In Rock is, sadly, about as good as Deep Purple ever got, and they'd never again be able to equal the pure energy displayed on this record. They'd stay on the top of their game through the next few albums, trying for some diversity on Fireball and consistency on Machine Head, as well as proving they could play just as well live on Made in Japan, but they just could never top the mighty In Rock. Plus, considering this album is sort of a small 'lost classic', you'll probably never have heard any of these songs before by simply listening to the numbing sounds of classic rock radio. This is not only the place for a budding Deep Purple fan to begin his (or her, let's not be presumptuous) collection, I think it ought to be in the first few hard rock albums you ever buy. It's unrelentingly powerful, very tight, has memorable songs, and falls prey to almost none of the pitfalls that kill the credibility of most metal records to outsiders. I'd call that a winner anyday.

Capn's Final Word: Awwwww yeeeeeeaaahhhhh.....there ain't much more a man needs than a hot chick, a fat sack, a bucket of chicken wings, and In Rock. It's like manna for the inner demolition derby driver in all of us.

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Andrew R  stray_toasters@juno.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: The first four bars of Speed King blow away the entire Led Zep catalog.

That's about it.

 

Nathan Harper nator9999@comcast.net    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Great album Deep Purple reviews, very entertaining. And you know you're a geek if you get the obscure Monty Python reference in the intro!

 

Elmo zulth@hotmail.com      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: My favourite Deep Purple album, and the first album I ever heard of Deep Purple. just about every song here blows away the studio versions, even though at the start of Speed King it seems that Ian Gillan voice is being overthrown by Ritchie Blackmore. Also, this album manages to give me ear damage with my speakers at 60%, but it takes anything by Sabbath or Zeppelin 80%, 'nough said.

P.S. I know Ian Gillan can play some percussion (as seen in 'Live at the Royal Albert Hall') but I'm pretty sure its Paice on the drums in The Mule...

Roy     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Though many DP fans cite Machine Head as the best moment, in my humble opinion the Purps never surpassed 'in rock'; the seminal hard rock album of the early 70's and one that defined their sound for the rest of their career ( well up to 1975 and Ritchie's departure anyway...) Purple had something Sabbath and Zep never had - that fat scary distorted Hammond carrying the rhythmn normally associated with guitar, while Paice and Balckmore vied for the listener's attention. One of those albums you can listen to so many times and still hear new parts....awesome.


Isaac  isaac3rd@comcast.net   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: These 14 year old (in 1970) ears had no idea at the time they were listening to one of the all time classic hard rock albums, if not THE all time classic. I just knew it rocked harder than ANYTHING out there and it was grafted onto my turntable for months.

(When I bought this album, it was actually a tossup between In Rock and the Guess Who's American Woman. Like I said, I was 14 at the time.)

But isn't it funny that this classic hard rock album that influenced so many people NEVER gets played on "claasic rock" stations?
 


Fireball - EMI 1971.

Obscure even for Mark II Purple, Fireball is a neat attempt at diversifying the crushing sound developed on In Rock, trading a big share of the power for a touch of wit and uncharacteristic good humor that make me respect the band even more. It's as if they knew they'd burned up a lot of their pent-up anger on the last one and that a sequel would never be able to scale those heights, so they decided to explore all the places the band could take them. I like the fact that Fireball shows Deep Purple to be something more than simply prog-metal headbangers, something a bit smarter than your average Humble Pie.  This quick album (seven more tracks! Only one over 8 minutes in length!) starts off safely with the neck-snapping title track, no new ground broken, perhaps, but taking nothing off 'Speed King' (and featuring a pretty wicked mechanized 'WHOOSH!!!' noise to signal the beginning of the record) before already stepping into the unknown with 'No No No'. This track features another entry into political territory for this supposed 'party band', calling for generational warfare and the seizure of power, sort of like a less scary Kick Out the Jams without all the 'hep raps' from John Sinclair. More interesting is the riff, which rolls more like a soul lick than some average blues-derived runthrough, and the solo section almost enters Pink Floyd territory before tearing back into hard rock territory again. 'Demon's Eye' is even more swinging, damn near close to Big Band now that I think about it, or maybe Jimi Hendrix at his most laid back.  Ritchie never quite let go of his Hendrix fetish, but while on the Mark I albums he sounded like he was aping all the tricks, here he sounds closer to nailing the sound completely. Jon get's the most interesting solo, and Blackmore plays it close to the vest, so we don't hear exactly how much he'd been studying the Black Master.  But as it is, the song is unapologetically grooving.

Next up is a COUNTRY ROCK excursion (no, I'm not high, but I dunno about you) called 'Anyone's Daughter' that indicates maybe Ian Gillan did want to grab a little bit of the critical respect country-rock hicks like the Band and Buffalo Springfield had had gushed upon them in the preceding few years. 'Anyone's Daughter', however, is a shock. It's not silly at all, and in fact shows a lot more savvy for rootsy rock than you'd ever give Deep Purple credit for. You know who it sounds like? Frigging Ronnie Lane, that's who. Ian squeezes and mushes his voice to sound just like the Faces bassist, and the politely ribald story of a guy who finds himself in deep shit after balling the daughter of the local magistrate is straight out of the wink-wink-nudge-nudge goofiness of Rod 'n' Ronnie 'n' Ronnie 'n' Company. Wotta great song, man, and one you'd simply never figure.

My favorite track, though, has gotta be the psychedelic 'Mule', often simply the place Purple would deposit their requisite drum solo in concert, but on record this lysergic journey almost enters 'Are You Experienced?'-level Hendrixoid psycho-chemicalism.  Again, Purple sound really weird playing so out of character so convincingly (this track could very well have come out in 1967), but they never once let us down with their little tangents. 'Fools' is a lot more easy to take for the conservative, rocks-in-head Purple burnout, but even it meanders some before getting to the main point.  The closing 'No One Came' keeps the rock coming, but is mostly memorable for Ian Gillan's self-deprecating 'life of a rock star' lyrics. I mean, damn, the surprises on Fireball never really stop. We're treated to funky soul one minute, speedy metal madness another, and Ian Gillan talking about how 'No one came from miles around, said 'Yo mu-sic is really fonky!!' It's great, and almost everything works as designed. If I were in charge of the universe, I'd make the band throw on another full-bore speed-rocker or two just to make sure no one forgets what Deep Purple accomplished on the last one, but I still think that Fireball is quite an accomplishment for a bunch of guys that people thought may have been as dense as those faces in the mountain on the cover of In Rock.

Capn's Final Word: Shows Purple can do other things than shoot the big guns right at your eardrums, and well, too. Still miss the reliability of a good, stupid rocker, though.

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Machine Head - EMI 1972

Tight, tight, tight. Air-tight. Boa constrictor tight.  Your high school senior prom suit tight. Back to basic full-bore metal, too; after the country-rock and psychedelic excursions of Fireball, this comes, depending on your point of view, as either a return to the mighty form of In Rock or the beginning of a retreat from experimentalism and the entrenchment in the now well-defined Mark II Purple Sound. Well, whatever happens on Machine Head, we've certainly heard it before, but we may just not have heard it as wicked laser-focused as it's presented here. There's really not much to say to the fan who already has In Rock, for there's certainly nothing here that'll surprise you. Machine Head may not set its sights very high (there's certainly no prog-metal conservatory-tryout 'Child In Time' on this album, either), but it completely demolishes everything it tries to do, which is crush bones and skulls under riffs that rock so hard they'll knock your senses loose. Despite all this allusion to brontosaurus-type metallic stomp, there's a nice amount of subtlety and some classy touches that indicate Deep Purple still have their wits intact after all this standing in front of Marshall stacks amped to overheating. All in all, Machine Head is still kickass shit, plus it's got some of Purple's best-known material, so crank it up and begin to relive 1972 all over again, even if you're just a teenager.

Heh, 'Highway Star' continues the unbroken Mark II talent of starting every album off with a blast, like 'Speed King' and 'Fireball' before them, this song makes a mockery of the idea that heavy rock needs to be slow by definition.  The organ/guitar unison synergy reaches a new level of closeness here too, especially on the wicked-lester solo section which seems to beg the question 'Who will fuck up first, Ritchie or Jon?', but, heh heh...neither one does. Have I mentioned Blackmore's signature whammy-bar usage yet? The man's considered to be a master of the vibrator-lever, taking that Strat-phallus in his hand and wrenching it all about like he was a frontier dentist trying to remove a stubborn wisdom tooth. Blackmore's soloing has been described as 'insular', but I'd say it's mostly just unconventional...I never find him flashy for flash's sake (at least, not in the post-Mark I years, anyway), and for the most part, his solos are more melodic than a lot of his contemporaries, especially the ultra-messy Jimmy Page or the often-intentionally ragged Jeff Beck. In interviews, Ritchie likes to remind us that his guitar sound is completely different than anyone else's: his Hammond-like tone, his speed (without the use of finger-tapping), and his insano note bending all blend together into a very distinguished style that is both very hard rock and somehow very classical at the same time. Blackmore doesn't fall back on the same-old blues scales too often, so folks who tire of yet another 12-bar might want to dig into Ritchie's catalogue soon. And Machine Head sure ain't a bad place to start.

'Maybe I'm a Leo' and 'Pictures Of Home' aren't really much when compared to the three or four classics on this record, but they don't embarrass themselves, either. 'Pictures' has a non-irritating bass solo (the best kind), and both still come complete with those effortless-sounding riffs that seemed to just fall out of the sky for these guys.  Ian Gillan's charisma sure has a lot to do with my enjoyment of a lot of the lesser-lights of this record. He's toned down his screeching since In Rock, and turns in a nice balance between cock-waving machismo and understatement...he just exudes power, like he's using about 50% of his vocal capacity at any one time, and still manages to command the stage.  In other hands than these I might become bored, but I always look forward to Gillan's vocals or try to guess what Blackmore's going to do on his next solo turn. 'Never Before' takes a few of the lessons learned on Fireball and incorporates them into a funky intro section and a very surprising Beatle-esque bridge that sandwich a very restlessly pounding main riff.  Again, it sounds effortless, and Paice makes damn sure the tone is one of dexterity and not laziness. I wish I could say that of 'Lazy', which is okay for a 7-minute bluesy jam filler tune (it does still feature those addictive guitar solos), but hell...didn't they move on past this stuff, like, three years before? This is definitely the main section of fat on the album, and pretty much the only piece of obvious filler in the entire In Rock-Machine Head span of albums. And I still like it! It's just some damn soloing, that's all, it's not like there's a fucking drum solo on it or something! (Heh heh...just you wait until you hear a live album or two, fucker!) Well, whatever...it doesn't spoil anything, but when I look at the track listings of In Rock and Machine Head side by side, I still think of this one as inferior to it's mighty predecessor, mostly because of this song.

But fuck me hard on my yacht and call me Gary Hart, Machine Head's got 'Smoke On The Water', the ur-dumb riff rocker that suddenly becomes better when you stop listening to the cool but overfamiliar riff or the doofy lyrics (dashed off the night of the fire at the Montreax club, by the way...oh, and Funky Claude was, like a bouncer or barman or something, just in case you thought that line was something stupid Gillan came up with to finish a line), and START LISTENING TO THE RHYTHM SECTION, INCLUDING JON LORD. Oh Goodness Be, they rock like motherfuckers! I mean, just dig the fade out when the drums and organ and bass shift into a completely different groove and the phasing comes in...it's a rhythm Valhalla, man. Oh, you can keep the practiced guitar solo, I'll take that 10 seconds of fade-out and repeat it in my skull until the day I die. There's an extended version of 'Smoke' on the reissue of this CD that keeps the fade-out going for, like 30 seconds longer, and it damn near made me weedee my britches, like that time when I first heard that Willie Dixon song 'I Need Love' that Led Zeppelin ripped off for 'Whole Lotta Love'. It just takes digging out, is all. There's still a bunch of gold in them thar hills, gentlemen and gurlies, and it just takes some time, a curious ear, a loose booty, some iffy ethics, and a fast Internet connection to acquire...you'll thank me in the morning, I swear.

All folks who like the heavy riffin' groove thang need Machine Head. What's great about it is that, even though you've probably heard 'Highway Star', 'Smoke On The Water', and the hilarious glam-stomper 'Space Truckin' before, you'll still have lots of good times with the rockers on this disc. I mean, you sure aren't gonna be disappointed, anyway, as long as you aren't hoping for anything other than very reliable rock songs played as tight as a gymnast's buttocks. And Deep Purple still don't seem like a bunch of idiots...they're too smart to mess up a good thing, but not too smart to overthink themselves. And whatever they do, they never once mention the fucking Lord of the Rings.

Capn's Final Word: A return to kicking heads into doorways, with just a little less wicked originality that In Rock had in droves. If pure hard rock is whatchoo want, this shit is like China White.

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Chris     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: The guitar and organ solos are awesome on this record, especially the dueling ones on Highway Star.  That song is pure balls out energy.

Henrik LidbjЖrk     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: After In Rock, this is possibly the most important record in my life, since I first copied it onto cassette from my mom's disc back when I was about 10 years old. I listened to it recently through headphones while biking and nearly wet my pants. Has (almost) everything that is worth hearing in rock 'n' roll and nothing else, super tight, super fast, super groovy, even super laid back.


Sam      Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I prefer this to In Rock, possibly because I bought it before, but mainly because this record is just pure coolness.

While In Rock is a demand to take notice, Machine Head is Deep Purple doing what they do best.... play effortlessly good hard rock. This album KNOWS it's good, the band sound comfortable and relaxed, and very assured of themselves, they know they're making a good album.

This is the quintessential hard rock record. If anyone asks you what hard rock or rock music is all about, just give them a copy of this.

A must own. Timeless, perfect, cool, great songs, hard riffs, immensely confident vocals... what a rock album should be.

 


Made In Japan - EMI 1972

Mark II's fantabulous live album that fits the bill as probably the most complete picture of what Deep Purple was all about in 1972.  Originally released as a double LP (single CD) version culling songs from several performances from the same run, later re-released as a 2-CD (3-LP, 4-8-track) version with a few bonus tracks (which I'm reviewing here, bought as part of a 6-CD Deep Purple MP3 set they sell in Russia for, like, less than a taxi ride across town) and later a 3-CD (6-LP, 17 70 ips reel-to-reels, 38 78 rpm platters, or 1kb UltraMegaNerdo-Matic Audio Compression File) boxed set called Live In Japan that gives you three complete shows, each about the same length and identical setlists as the original Made In Japan CD. So, anyway, there's a buttload of versions of these concerts to grab, but most of you out there just need concern themselves with the shortest possible set available, 'cos Purple's got 40 fingers and 2 vocal chords, and they gotta use 'em all...ALL THE TIME!!! 10 tracks (including the bonus ones), nearly an hour and forty minutes, averaging well over 10 minutes a song. You one of those folks who thought the pedestrian single 'Strange Kind of Woman' was perfunctory at 3-odd minutes? Well, lean your head back and take a deep gulp off a Nine Minute Fifty Second version that'll make for goddamn sure you know EXACTLY how 'strange' this 'kind of woman' is! Heh! She's real weird, like she feeds the loose end of the toilet paper roll over the backside of the holder! And she says 'to-mah-to' instead of 'to-may-to'! Not to mention the fact that she likes drinking Tab. Wotta fucking creep, that goofy bitch! Glad we have Gillan and company to warn us away from a person like that... 

Nah, anyway, if you can get over how impossibly long-winded these guys can be when they start soloing, you'll probably really dig this live album. Not only are they at the absolute peak of their game, just before intragroup sniping got out of control and they began to outright hate each other (and even then, as long as they weren't trying to make an album in the studio, Mark II still played a fine live show). They've got a level of group interplay that falls somewhere between the Barnum and Bailey trapeze artists and the Blue Angel stunt pilots, so close that even Ian Gillian is able to so closely match Blackmore's guitar sounds on the call-and-response section of 'Strange Kind Of Woman' that it puts Robert Plant's similar efforts on every Led Zeppelin live album ever made to complete shame and makes them sound outright moronic.  For the most part, the 'head' section (you know, the main theme...the riff...the sandwich meat) of each tune stays remarkably close to the studio version, even down to the cool organ/guitar duets on the melody lines, but once they break free, man they run like cheetahs with road flares up their butts. More often than I like to admit, I get completely lost about halfway through their jams and forget what tune I was listening to in the first place, but I certainly don't care much.  Not as long as the Deep Purple band keeps squeezing out bolts of electricity like they do, rambling off evil-sounding whammy bar dive-bombs and organ solos that sound like a cross between Jimi Hendrix, a jet engine, Ian Gillan gets his requisite drum solo in the middle of 'The Mule', but I don't seem to mind much. There's so much fucking soloing of one sort or another going on it's not like the listener can really distinguish between 'really great' and 'merely self-indulgent' all the time...in fact, it's best just to let your tastebuds go and enjoy the whole frigging thing. The songs are all 100% there, your 'Speed King', your 'Highway Star', your 'Smoke On the (Bong)Water', your 'CHILD in motherfucking TIME', which RULES SO HARD I MAY JUST NOT WANT TO EVER TURN IT OFF. Gillan's screams are so far-out there, so in tune, so riveting that they are assured to polarize an audience. You'll either find it one of the coolest vocal performances you've ever come across or you'll think it's a big elaborate joke. And the bonus version of 'Lucille' is made redundant by the shock-treatment histrionic fits of 'Speed King', which captures the spazz-rock crown of this record.

Those of us in-the-know realize what's really cooking here...a hard rock band so far out on a talent gourd as to make a live album that falls victim to ALL the double-live 70's rock album cliches (drum solo, extremely long running time, lots of soloing), but still manages to transcend them all. Made in Japan captures Deep Purple at one of the few times in their careers where they could really rise above it all.

Capn's Final Word: Grinding hot.  I hazard to say that Purple could go on live records where none of their closest brethren could.  Buy the deluxe, high-dollar version and here them go there three times.

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Who Do We Think We Are? - EMI 1973

 

Who do we think you are? Well, for starters, I think we can count out the fact that you're the same band that made Machine Head and Fireball, that's for sure. Hell, it's still the same lineup, but Deep Purple must've had some bad fish or something in the time since the Head album came out, 'cos this album darn near sucks. Why did they have such a precipitous slide down the Goodness Meter from being the hard-rock darlings of 1970-2 to being pretty much unable to write a good song even with any producer they choose, all the commercial momentum they can stand, and the best drugs money can buy? Well, maybe it has something to do with that last point there...whatever was happening chemically, the reactions between Gillan and Blackmore were becoming more and more volatile. Personally, I think Blackmore gets bored playing with the same singer album after album. Just look at his track record with fucking Rainbow...he went through sidemen and vocalists like he was running a training course. 'You Too Can Tour And Make A Crappy Early-80's Metal Album! Learn to Follow Directions and Suppress Your Opinions! Apply For Membership in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow Today!'  Either he got sick of the people he worked with real fast, or was so set in his ways that the second someone asked why they were doing the umpteenth rewrite of fucking 'Kashmir' again, it was out the door with 'im. Well, Gillan and Glover weren't, like, sidemen (just like Ronnie James Dio wasn't), and their growing lack of interest in keeping Deep Purple alive pretty much kills Why Do You Think We Stink? in the womb.

Okay, it's got 'Woman from Tokyo' on it, so it can't completely suck. This song is something else, a one-of-a-kind pop rock excursion in the Purple catalog. 'Tokyo' isn't quite the album-opening blast of hot mag-ma that the three previous albums had, but this intentional shift into pop hookiness is pretty cool nonetheless. It's a shame they didn't explore this avenue any further as it could've turned them into a mid-70's arena-rock hit machine and saved us the spectre of the Coverdale-Hughes years...but it wasn't to be. Some folks find 'Tokyo' to be on the so-simple-it's-stupid side, but I think that's daft. The main riff is immediately memorable, the tribute to their rabid Japanese fans generous, the vocal hook irresistible ('To-KAY-Yo!'), and the heavenly, thin-air bridge dropout is a genuine surprise, like the boogie-woogie coda section. Aw yeah...this is also one of the last times you'll ever hear the classic Blackmore/Lord unison line from the 70's Purple done correctly. Shed a tear, boys.

So the rest of the album has to follow and ruin the idea of a perfect, 5:47 second long, one-sided single. They've completely downgraded their sound from the titanium-plated heaviness of Machine Head to a sort of MOR hard rock without any punch in it. Hell, none of the songs even comes close to the usual Purple velocity, preferring to stay at that certain mid-tempo stomp, too slow to really rock, too fast to be considered dramatic, that tends to lull most folks to sleep. Moreover, there's a tendency on quite a few of these songs to try to relive past glories a little too closely. 'Super Trouper' recalls 'Bloodsucker', 'Smooth Dancer', the only fast number on the record, reminds me of 'Speed King' a bit much, and, well...'Place In Line' is about as generically bluesy as you can get. The problem here is not one of recycling...I never would've given AC/DC more than one A grade if I'd held something against copying yourself. The problem is that they get it all wrong. The power isn't there, the riffs are messy, the vocal hooks are nearly invisible, not even the soloing is any good! Jon Lord has discovered synthesizers and hasn't apparently had enough time to figure out how to make one sound cool, so quite a bit of the time when we'd usually be expecting another one of his honkin' organ wanks, instead we get a bunch of sirens and gurgles from a very amateurish-sounding synthesizer. Ritchie pretty much feels unengaged throughout- though his guitar tone is still present and accounted for, his playing feels lazy more often than not.  This isn't a case of Purple seemingly unable to come up with good songs...they're just unable to get it together, period. And this is one of the best hard rock bands ever, just a year after their peak. Sad, baby, sad....

There are a coupla highlights, enough of them to allow me to up the grade from a deadly C+. 'Rat Bat Blue' is vocally extremely annoying (Ian grunts and scats and makes an ass out of himself and his entire family in front of millions of impressionable listeners), but the riff is pretty darned great. The playing on 'Place in Line' is decently clean and at least hits all the minimum requirements for a by-the-numbers blues jam (no synths, no unmitigated howling). Even the other songs aren't particularly out-and-out bad, but they sure show a lack of talent in giving us the stupid-yet-genius hard rock of the last three albums. They simply just DO NOT deliver the goods. The hard rockers don't rock, the experiments (experiments in mid-temo, that is) fall flatter than Gwenneth Palltrow's chest, and even the album cover sucks ass. A bunch of bubbles? Who the fuck is this supposed to be? A heavy metal band of outlaw longhairs who gave us that classic distorted psychedelic Machine Head or the so-cheesy-it's-brilliant chutzpah of the In Rock album cover or the fucking Tijuana Brass?

Anyway, we wouldn't have Mark II to kick around much longer. Gillan and Glover dropped the Purples faster than Charleze Theron's pants at a casting interview and Ritchie Blackmore got exactly what he deserved...another treacherous vocalist/bassist combo who wanted to drag his precious band into R&B...kicking, screaming (or, should I say, screeching) the entire way. At the end of this ordeal, Blackmore himself had to rid himself of the band, and I bet the days of 1973 were to begin looking pretty good again. But for us, the Mark II story has to end in 1972, with one more glorious single to bid this classic group goodbye.

Capn's Final Word: A post-mortem with the patient still on life-support. Sadly faceless for such a fucking talented band.

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Henrik Lidbjerk     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Firstly, I think this record is much better than you wrote in your review. IMO, there's not a bad song on here -- they're only weaker or more average than anything they (Mk II) put out before. The sound and production ain't bad -- it's heavy enough, Ritchie's guitars sound like they use to, and Jon's organs are fat and nice. And frankly, the synth sounds he gets are great -- fat 70s and not too squeaky, and not over-used either (the Hammond is still dominating). His soloing is also some of the most nicely wicked he's done so far, if you ask me.

Agreed, some of the ideas are not the best to come out of Purple, and it's obvious that inspiration and personal chemistry is on the wane
here. They've always been very much a virtuoso soloing and instrumental band, and there's a bit too much pop structures to the songs here in my opinion, especially on the closing Our Lady. Definitely worth buying any way, and not a bad closer to their classic period.
 

Melanie     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: OK, I didn't realise until reading the reviews of Deep Purple that I DO like some heavy metal,because I like all the Deep Purple classics(LOVE  "Woman From Tokyo"  and "Highway Star"),and I don't think that I really thought of these as "heavy metal",as in Black Sabbath-type heavy metal. Also, Deep Purple has that instumental virtuosity that so impresses a civilian like me,instead of just bashing their instruments,and at their peak,they had the discipline to rein it in where required(rather than "wanking", as you so aptly describe it-not that I mind a bit of wanking,after all, I actually LOVE YES' "Tales From Topographical Oceans"-wanking indeed,but always with mastery of their instruments).So your reviews are useful as well as fun.I have an idea that that was your goal-and now I want to buy some classic line-up Deep Purple CDs.

 


Burn - EMI 1974

Ritchie Blackmore responded to the loss of the newly departed Ian Gillan and Roger Glover by going out and tapping vocalist Iggy Pop, fresh from the self-immolation of the reformed Stooges, and former Yes bassist Chris Squier, who was attempting to live down the disappointing Tales From Topographic Oceans to join the third lineup of Deep Purple.  The band went down as the best, most whacked-out hard rock band in the history of recorded thought, combining the progressive and ur-rock stone-age heaviness sides of the mighty Purple, adding a dash of smacked-up glam androgyny and senseless violence, and a career that has lasted nearly 30 years of uninterrupted genius and gladness of the souls of the world.

Or not.

David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. Dammit. Dammit all to Hell. Two of the worst, least respectable artists in rock music history, in the same band at the same time...it's like buying a 1971 Mustang Mach 1 and realizing it came with tricycle wheels.  One a vocalist best known for focing Whitesnake down our throats for most of the 70's and 80's (not to mention for stealing top billing on the otherwise vomitessent Coverdale-Page album, the other a bassist and vocalist (yeah, now the band's got TWO of 'em. I guess Blackmore thought just one wouldn't put up enough of a fight) best known for coming in as a hired gun during the darkest days of 80's Black Sabbath.  Two guys who, together, in full command of the peak of their collective talents, couldn't top the musical ability inherent in a tuna melt sandwich, two guys who I probably wouldn't much waste a life preserver on if they were drowning, two guys who...

Fuck, they're not that bad, really. So David Coverdale has that kind of cock-waving faux-negro vocal style and Robert Plant-aping vibe that makes my inner Carole King itch, and Glenn Hughes, umm...made me miss Ian Gillan as lead singer of Black Sabbath. But as singers of Deep Purple, it could've been worse, to be honest.  Mark II Purple and Mark III Purple are pretty fucking far from being the same thing, but just because Burn doesn't sound like Machine Head doesn't mean it's bad. Having only one really good song and a whole chock-a-blockhead full of filler means it's bad.  The new Mark doesn't fare much better than the Who Do I Think We Was? band did in the penmanship department...they tend to dwell on formulaic soul-tinged hard-rocking rather than stinking up themselves with too many pop-rock excursions, but they still plod and loiter when they should be soaring and sprinting.  Like I said in the last review: Old Mark II is gone forever so you shouldn't ask them to come play your bar mitzvah or expect a return to the glory years anytime soon. But for those of you who care enough to give it a chance, Burn isn't awful enough to make the average Purple fan launch their collection off the balcony in protest, it's just ordinary. With one particularly great single. Guess which one? This is Purple, you know, so the opener has gotta be one of the best tracks on the album, and this keeps the pattern going. 'Burn' sets fire to the barrelhouse and puts the smoke to a-creepin' over Lake Geneva, and adds another effortless, classic riff to Blackmore's catalog, one which Jon Lord (thank god) feels happy to double on organ like his life depended on making those rolls sound exactly like Ritchie's.  Hell, even the vocalists do a fine job keeping the mood intense and mysterious, trading off on the classic, whatever-it-means-it-still-sounds-cool line 'Still I hearrrr......BURRRRNNN!!' and Hughes rips it up on the 'You know we had no time....' bridge section. The guitar solo's a bit rough, but with a song this willing to drive the pain home, who cares? Jon sounds happy to be back mangling his organ again, saving his synths for a little doodly-line at the end of the soloing. The rest of the album, well, it's not as bad as the secondary songs on the last one were, but it follows a similar pattern: the tempos get slower, the styles ossify into very rote boogie-rock, and the energy level drops faster than a Hawaiian cliff diver. The second track, 'Might Just Take Your Life' has a recognizable hook to save itself from the boogie doldrums, but 'What's Goin' On Here' has no excuse to be saved from the chopping block. Neither can I find much of a reason to enjoy the endless power-blues-ballad...you know, like what Led Nipple used to chop up and snort on lines like 'Since I've Been Loving You' in similarly interminable fashion. The difference being that Zeppelin made its blues sound like a coiled mass of raw emotion, while 'Mistreated' sounds merely disgruntled. And for all the boogie-woogie Southern rock noise generated by 'Lay Down Stay Down', the overall effect of the cooing chorus is one of hormonal sliminess. Burn feels like it's stuck in a goober-rock rut throughout, like there's some limitations the band has placed on itself in terms of what kinds of songs it can write (no pop! no cunching metal! MOR hard rock all the way!) The only change of pace on the record is Jon Lord's closing synth instrumental 'A-200', which most of us would honestly mistake for a Rick Wakeman rehearsal tape. Still, however misguided Jon Lord's particular arty vision might be, it's nice to know there's still some of the ol' 1970 heart beating within the chiseled, plasticene chest of Mark III Purple.

Capn's Final Word:  One good, fast metallic blast, a cock-rock boogie, another cock-rock boogie, another cock rock boogie...yadda yadda yadda. Purple becomes monochromatic.

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Stormbringer - EMI 1974

At the most, a carbon copy of Burn - an energetically fast opening title track that recalls the magical, hysterical days of, erm, two years before (not as good as 'Burn' and embarrassingly keyboarded, but still a very respectable tune), and an album full of blues rock (and, um...usual flavor rock) boogie equally split between 'grooving' mid-tempo rockers and 'soulful' slow numbers. Except the rockers don't rock as good and the slow ones are over-emoted worse than Clay Aiken on X.  Take 'Lady Double Dealer', which is the only time the tempo exceeds the posted limits for grandpa rock, and all the Purple can muster is more of this thin boogie shell of a riff that doesn't even seem to fill up the space between both speakers. The cause of all this? I got it. Ritchie Blackmore is just about phoning it in on this one realizing he'd made a colossal mistake, inviting the frigging devil and his toadie into his band a year before. So, as if to complete the cycle, Stormbringer sounds about as much like classic Mark II Purple as it does frigging dull mid-period no-hook Bad Company or some third-tier Southern rock outfit like your Molly Hatchett or your Blackfoot. Except for 'Holy Man', which is a dead ringer for Grand Funk Railroad at their most cloying.  And it's all depressing as hell for anyone expecting anything other than that. The marginalization of Blackmore and Lord (who seems content that they let him use his synths a few times on here, trading whatever songwriting demands he may have had) and the boogie mindlessness forced upon Ian Paice makes the Purple content of this album seem almost nil. Nah, this is the lovechild of Coverdale and Hughes, and unless you have a soft spot in your heart for what that might indicate, you really should hold off on this record.

Capn's Final Word: The further Whitesnakization of Deep Purple leaves Blackmore muted and Lord neutered.

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Come Taste the Band - EMI 1975

So I guess this one Marks (IV) the least number of Mark I/Mark II-era Purplers to ever appear on an album bearing the Purple name. You really can tell when a band is on its last legs because the founding guitar player quits. Imagine if the Band of Gypsies had tried to go on without Hendrix, or Procul Harum without Gary Brooker, or the Beach Boys without a single Wilson, or if Credence Clearwater Revival were to attempt to reform without either of the Fogertys, sneakily rename themselves Credence Clearwater Revisited, put old record album covers on their concert bills, tricking people into thinking its a reunion tour, and then playing gigs in Eastern Europe where people don't know any better. Like that. As sneaky and nasty as those entirely hypothetical situations outlined above. What balls to do such a thing... Like, did the rest of the band sit around and go, 'Well, shit, I sure am glad that asshole is gone! Now we can get down to making that second remake of Burn we've been putting off for nearly a year and a half!' I say bullocks...they were shitting their pants as to how they'd be able to squeeze another year and another tour out of the Purple cash cow before everyone forgot who they were once and for all. At least they made an attempt to get a decent replacement for ol' Dick, grabbing fusion-obsessed, Midwestern golden boy (with the golden arm, if you cook my works, and I think you do) Tommy Bolin, who'd already had the experience of replacing another irreplaceable lead guitarist when he took over for Joe Walsh in James Gang.  Bolin's somehow generated some massive reputation as a guitar player, with a rabid cult and an overpriced boxed set to boot, but it's probably just because he was cute and he died of a hot blast of Afgan Tar while at the peak (!) of his career, just after completing Come Taste The Bad (sic). Whatever...the guy is about as good/forgettable as a hundred pre-Van Halen mid-Seventies guitar wankers who latched onto the fusion bandwagon, idolized Jeff Beck and John McLaughlin, and slummed it in rock bands while they waited for the world to catch up with their 'real' 'exploratory' 'meaningful' fusion music. Right. Well, nowadays most Seventies fusion sounds about like what it is...aimless wanking over chord sequences 10 times easier than normal jazz guys play over. Except cornier than a Iowan's asspipe...there's more wah-abuse and funk-aping on the average Seventies fusion album than on the entire Wild Cherry catalogue.

Anyway, enough ripping on the dead junkie who actually plays pretty well here on occasion (I've actually heard Bolin's hard-to-find solo material and I'll put it this way....I'd review it, but there's just so many Bananarama records out there to get to first) and time to start laying blame back at the source. Of course, that's Coverdale and Hughes, who now find the opportunity to strip Purple of every last shred of it's former riff-rocking self, leaving it a quivering boogie mess without hooks, melodies...hell, I couldn't even name a goddamn decent chord sequence on here. These aren't songs, they're vamps, occasionally performed over an interesting rhythmic background, like on 'Drifter', but more often just cranking out some boogie formula like, say, Stevie Wonder trying to tune his harmonica to his organ. I mean, for pure boogie madness, this beats Stormbringer out cold. If you thought all the Mark III records needed were fewer riffs and more itchy grooving, I'd have to say you're fucked like Paris Hilton and dumb like, well...Paris Hilton. But I'd also point you in the direction of Come Spit Out The Band, 'cos, upon occasion, this record makes a game attempt to wiggle it's scrawny British posterior like a black man might. What, isn't 'Love Child' a pretty decent riff? So Jon Lord's squiggly synth solo fits in like Mark David Chapman at a Beatles convention. It's still a good riff! And good riffs are becoming pretty hard to come by, mister. This ain't no REO Speedwagon, you know.

What's the deal with the wax-model Stevie Wonder impersonation on 'This Time Around'? Is that not either indicative of a stalker-worthy obsession with the Blind King, or at the very least a lapse of good taste not seen since...well, the last Deep Purple album? Some of this slobbery tribute can be forgiven when the song shifts into yet another instrumental vamp, this one nicely European-sounding and gamely solo'd by Mr. Bolin. Still, what was the deal with this guy, could he not solo over anything that didn't repeat like Katherine Hepburn trying to recite the Gettysburg Address? The dude reduces all band interaction to zero, preferring to grab all the limelight to himself. When Coverdale isn't hamming it up on the vocals, that is. By the time the end of the album comes around, the boogies don't even boogie much anymore, and the Purple limps to the finish line on 'Keep On Moving', a song titled as if they're trying to psyche themselves into playing another few bars of heavy filler before jamming a needle into their arms and breaking up for eight years. Maybe not in the same day, but you know how those British hard rock dudes were...when there was a band to fuck up with drugs and bad writing, they didn't waste any time. If Purple in Practice ended sometime in late 1972, Purple in name committed cold suicide in 1976 with the sad death of the sadder Tommy Bolin. The remaining members drifted into the obscurity of solo recordings and session work, unless you were David Coverdale, in which you'd form the horridly derivative Whitesnake and make bazillions of dollars. There is no God.

Capn's Final Word: An album without form or meaning, yet with some semblance of artistry based mostly on your particular tolerance for flashy guitarisms. But it rocks bad and the mojo is miles from here.

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Made in Europe - EMI 1976

Made on Ritchie Blackmore's final tour with the Mark III Purple, the live Europe is most definitely the best document of this version of Purple.  For a studio band that was, at best, generically rocking and, at worst, a sad shadow of Mark II Purple, the five live songs presented here contain a lot thicker classic-Purple content than what I'd expected.  Blackmore seems to be playing from deep down again, apparently wanting his final moments with the band to be worth remembering. Either that or the man is a complete demon whenever he steps onstage, despite his relationship with his sidemen, and puts together a jaw-dropping performance pretty much every time out. I wouldn't doubt that was the case. Anyhow, Ritchie Blackmore's pretty much the reason to care about this record, as Coverdale and Hughes come off like the two worst frontmen in the history of rock music (well, weren't they?) pretty much every time they aren't singing the exact words in the exact places they're supposed to sing them. Between songs, it's at it's worst...someone screeches, someone says 'GAWRD BLESSSHYA!!!!' ('God bless you!') or 'YAN PAZ YAN PAZ YAN PAZ AWRAHT!!!' ('Ian Paice, Ian Paice. Yes, indeed, that was our percussionist performing a solo for you, Ladies and Gentlemen') or 'STAAAAAAHHHHHMMMMBBRHFDSKJJNEKLYODAPUSSY!!!!' ('Please drive carefully on your way home tonight, folks, and don't forget to visit the church of your choice tomorrow morning.') a cat is disemboweled in front of a hot mic...it's simply cringe-worthy. They're enthusiastic, sure...I would be too if I'd somehow shanghai'd my way into one of the best hard rock bands of the Seventies, but their lack of restraint is just gross, and always has been.

The band delivers most of the Mark III goods for us on the song choices, meaning that both 'Burn' and 'Stormbringer' are here. Hell...they know what their best work is, and they know not to screw it up. Both of these songs are presented in bloodthirsty, speedy versions that actually make one forget about the greatness of Made in Japan for a minute...they're all of a piece, really, and I'd like to think that a 1974-5-era Purple in less compromising circumstances would have been able to generate much more music of this quality. The other three songs blow chunks against the wall, but what else can you expect of an eleven minute 'Mistreater' in which time seems to stand still while the band fiddles about deciding who's going to take the next extendo-solo, or 'You Fool No One' based around Ian Paice's drum soloing, which has somehow dropped in quality to something resembling Hot Wheels rattling around a broken clothes dryer. 'Lady Double Dealer' is speedy and ferocious, but the hideous clash between Hughes and Coverdale on the chorus leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Still, there's moments of Blackmore brilliance that shine throughout even the most dead-ended of the songs, and those of you who thirst after ever-more magic from the dark wizard of the whammy bar should really seek this thing out. Or, better, one of the 500 or so superior archive reissues of Mark III live material floating around out there. Even Made in Europe has been reconfigured into a 2 CD set called something like Mark III: The Final Concerts that contain more Mark II material as 'interpreted' by Coverdale. Personally, I'd rather put a pizza on my turntable and listen to that, but those bestiality fans out there might get a kick out of it.

Capn's Final Word: As good as it could possibly get for live Mark III Purple, based on an MVP performance by Blackmore. Both good songs are here.

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Perfect Strangers - Mercury 1984

Okay, so there had flown a whole shiteload of water under the bridge since Mark II had blown apart like a K-Mart motorcycle tire in 1973, and in 1984 they decided to reconvene, resuscitate the Deep Purple name after eight years of laying fallow, and pick up where they'd left off before the split.  Shame is, let me remind you, they split up right after Who Do We Think We Are?, not a shining beacon in the Purple catalog, if you'll think back. And, since I like to think in general terms because it makes my head squeak less when the wheels start turning, I'd also like to bring up that Who Do We Think was the band's attempt at pop crossover (well, 'Woman From Tokyo', anyway), and that this is, more or less, the pattern followed by Perfect Strangers. Of course, 1984 being what it was, the year after Ian Gillan's sad attempt to front Black Sabbath after the departure of Ronnie James Dio and the year after Rainbow finally saw the sun go down on it's increasingly marginalized pop-metal (as for the rest of Purple, well...I guess they kept themselves fed).  So for Mark II to return with an album that sounds like a cross between Iron Maiden 80's-heavy and Foreigner-esque hard rock isn't much of a shock.  Whatever it is, it doesn't much resemble Mark II as we knew them so much as one of a bazillion generic early-80's European 'metal' band, ala UFO or the Scorpions, or, well...80's Rainbow. Guitars are used as an afterthought to the ever-present synths, tempos lope and stomp, driven by unimaginative bash-bash drumming, and massed, fist-pumping 'vocals', hacked up and spat out by Gillan, clear out the rest of the room. It's not particularly original, but it's not particularly bad either, especially if you happened to have hair past your collar and a particularly herbal-aroma'd denim jacket in your 1982 junior high school yearbook picture. Whatever's happened, the band thankfully doesn't fall victim to the Eddie Van Halen disease, and Blackmore sounds more or less like his old classically-derived self on most of the guitar solos.  This may be the ONLY time he sounds much like himself, but it's still heartening to hear him tear the cap off a solo like the practiced gem on 'Wasted Sunsets', somehow trumping the sappiness of the chord sequence and Gillan's over-earnest vocalizing with clean, crying wails that would make David Gilmour jealous. The rest of the time...eh, he phones it in, but what else would you do on an album that sucks you so far down into the mix like Perfect Strangers does?

Strangers is, after all, rather lame, and the fact that it still doesn't sound anything like old Purple so much as Rainbow with a worse vocalist won't convince old fans to return to the fold. The album has few moments of excitement outside of the occasional solo - the title track has a nice grind to it until you realize it's yet another of Blackmore's 'Kashmir' clones, and even gets Gillan to ape Robert Plant's Indian-sounding note bends on the chorus ('Hungry Daze' also has a very faint Eastern influence on the riff, but it's probably just a mistake). Even the album opener doesn't come close to keeping the string of classic Purple Track 1's alive (well, neither did 'Comin' Home' on Come Taste, but we can all agree that album wasn't really Purple, now was it?) There's that moment when you realize the title 'Knockin' On Your Back Door' is actually a euphemism for 'Burying the Bone in Under the Back Porch' (or 'Chasing the Brown Clown around the Backyard', or 'Having a bit of Navy Cake while Worshipping at the Back Altar', or 'Getting Some Mud For the Greek Duck Up Mustard Road While Broadening Someone's Outlook and Filing Gary Glitter in the Wrong Drawer'), then it becomes pretty funny as Gillan tries to mix all these stupid macho lovesong cliches like 'enjoy a little paradise' and 'I feel it coming' with a line like 'it's not against the law'. Heh...Whatever, you silly Jesus-playing Brit arse-perv. I bet you'd really have to crank up the ol' cliche machine if you were to write a song about dressing up as a schoolgirl and having a 300-pound woman smack your bare ass with a Cricket bat while feeding you Marmite and discussing the fucking weather, eh?

And why the hell does the frigging graduation fugue crop up during the lame-ass uptempo 'Under The Gun'? What, did Lord finally get his GED? And why does 'Gypsy's Kiss' not only sound like some half-written leftover from the Born Again album, but also romanticize kissing gypsies, who are probably some of the most disgusting, pan-handling, curse-spewing, disease-ridden excuses for human beings in the world? I'd rather kiss that baby on the cover of Born Again, thank you very much.

Whatever...there's just not very much to get worked up about here. The performances are adequate, there's a detectable 'heavy' quotient here that may satisfy the indiscriminate head-bangers out there, but for the most of us, Perfect Strangers isn't special enough to make a major effort for. The worst songs are never that bad, but the best songs aren't very good either...and, in the end, it just doesn't have a single iota of that classic Purple mojo that drove me to call this band things like 'one of the best hard rock bands of the Seventies'. Whatever that may have been, this isn't it. It's the same names, but the effect is quite different. One trip through the wonking and whooshing synth solo in the middle of 'Hungry Daze' will make it perfectly clear to you...Purple's lost it's identity and is simply grabbing little pieces of whatever's handy to try to construct enough of a personality to have some chart success. I'd much rather wait for the Rainbow cloud to dissipate a bit and let the Purple come into it's own like it does on The House of Blue Light.

Capn's Final Word: Nearly 10 years apart hasn't produced any more solutions to the problem of spreading Purple to a wider audience, and I don't think the Rainbow-ization in evidence here is going to put the Brown Trouts back in Turdhole Bay.

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House of Blue Light - Mercury 1987

I like this more than Perfect Strangers only because, despite the poxy mid-80's production values, the band begins to actually sound like it's own band at times rather than some crazy amalgam of Rainbow and Black Sabbath. Okay, so it still sucks balls, worse than Mark III sucked balls, and I probably will never, ever wish to sit through this papery, synthesized hair-metal Def Leppard impression again, but hey. I've heard the best of this band and now, due to some stupid obsessive quirk of mine, I have to finish reviewing all the rest of these shamefully awful attempts at staying current to come around to the inevitable early-90's rebirth and the few B to B+ worthy albums that may be lurking ahead. Yup, the road gets mighty rough for the Purple boys, and House of Blue Light is certainly not something to put on in a public place around people who might have some influence over your chances of getting money and/or laid. Because they WILL NOT HELP YOU after they realize you've been listening to hapless, mechanical Debbie Gibson mall-metal like this. Now, we've got that disclaimer out of the way, so we can move on to saying a few nice things about this record...wait, let me just restate: THIS ALBUM EATS THE RAUNCHY, FLAKY, DOZEN-YEAR OLD POOP RESIDUE RIGHT OUT OF THE DEEPEST RECESSES OF MY COLON. Now, is that clear?

Okay, there's some pretty fucking cool parts going on here. First off, I feel there's a true 'band' thing happening here, some nice old-style conversational trade-offs between Blackmore's (neutered) guitar and Lord's (Loverboy) synthesizers, and Ian Paice's technique is as good as ever, unfortunately wasted on drum tones that resemble a Roland product much more than Ludwig ones. But the songs tend to be faster rather than slower, and there are a few sections...a few, that recall some of the energy and power of the ol' days. The solo section of the closing 'Dead Or Alive' shows there's no better wingman for Blackmore than Jon Lord, as he spars and jabs with his keboardist with a bond that only decades of playing together can create. 'The Unwritten Law' is still more Rainbow than Purple, but the riff is still nicely paranoid (the handclaps, however, kinda spoil whatever mood they were trying to create, so whatever), and the riff to 'Mad Dog' is darn near what a classic Deep Purple riff should be. Unfortunately they let it drop on the de-rigeur 80's metal verse, but you see what I'm getting at here? Moments, man, moments. There's a few places where shit just comes together like gin and orange juice, vodka and tonic, or Scotch and a clean glass, and when that happens, it almost makes you forget you're listening to a cheesy-ass attempt by a bunch of aging hard rockers to keep current in the tasteless mid-80's light-metal scene. Certain things are pretty much guaranteed to prevent you from being able to suspend disbelief for long, like the mechanical drum sounds mentioned above, the ever-present synth noises, and Gillan's awful singing voice.

Have I mentioned how Gillan lost his voice in a Deep Purple review yet? I'm sure I joked about it mercilessly over on the Black Sabbath page, since the idea of Gillan joining Sabbath was just such a stupid idea to begin with, and the whole Born Again fiasco seemed to rub lime juice into the wounds. Anyway, I'm not here to open that whole can of crabs again, but c'mon...Gillan's voice is just awful. He's unable to hit notes above a low-level growl without straining like he's picking up a Marshall stack all by himself, and when he does strain his tone gets all pinched and ridiculous, and he still can't even get that high. When he's trucking along in his normal range, you can almost forget the 15 years of abuse he's heaped on his cords, but the minute he decides to amp it up, it all gets snotty and disgusting. Listening to a studio album is certainly easier than hearing him do old '70-'73 songs live, since you don't have any frame of reference to tell you what the new songs are supposed to sound like, but when he tries in vain to screech out the 'I Love It! I Need It!' part on 'Highway Star', or something similarly challenging (don't even get me started on his unrelenting psychotic manglings of 'Child in Time' prior to it's merciful retirement), the effect is ruinous. At this time, I'd probably say letting Gillan go wasn't such a bad idea, and Blackmore did just that not long after Blue Light Special was released. But he'd be back, doncha know, and soon.

Capn's Final Word: Who knows, Blackmore might return too someday...this IS Deep Purple, you know....

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Nobody's Perfect - Mercury 1988

No one really needs this double-live record from the late-80's return of Mark II, least of all me, who gets so tired of Gillan destroying the songs he helped make wonderful back in the early 70's with his rusted-through patch job of a voice.  It's sad, because the band is still able to hack it, more or less. The sadness begins extra early for me, as the band cracks open a nice fizzy can of 'Highway Star', Lord's organ and Ritchie's Strat all a-blazin' on that classic straight-on chugging riff. Gillan hits the verse notes with his trademark tone, but when the chorus comes and he has to hit those high 'I Love It! I Need It!' notes, he hits the wall like a rocket-powered hummingbird, and everything comes apart in a poof of cracked notes and pinch-harmonic-sounding croaks. Oh, God, this is SAD SAD SAD, and I don't just mean the Steel Wheels song. It continues THROUGHOUT THE PERFORMANCE like this, almost defiantly rubbing our nose in the fact that no vocal overdubs were used to dress up this Frankenstein's monster of a vocal performance. Of course, this means the less vocally acrobatic newer tracks come across a lot better, since they were all written post-blowout, and just possibly the band likes playing the new shit more than the stuff they've been playing and fighting over for fifteen-odd years. 'Dead Or Alive' takes on even more jam-goodness than the not-bad studio version on Blue Light, and is played at Made in Japan-like necksnap velocity. 'Perfect Strangers' grinds heavy and loud, and Gillan's new low-threshold vocal range fits the dark mood better than you think it might. Cool stuff, and it proves they can still play their little hearts out when inspired, but none of that inspiration carries over to the oldies tracks. And, as if you couldn't tell by the grade, the oldies tracks take up damn near the entire second half of the record.

'Child in Time', which opens the second CD, is victim to a horrifyingly gruesome axe murder by the band. Few of the parts are played straight, meaning there's enough distracting twiddlies and missed cues to show the band didn't care much to make their signature concert tune sound decent, the soloing isn't much more special than just Ritchie playing some warmup-sounding scale runs at full speed while the rhythm section just bomps along behind him, and the perfunctory 'rush to the end' section feels more like an lazy old horse running back to the shelter of its barn than a calculated, intensity raising orgasm. The vocals, it should be said, aren't as monstrous as they could be, but they're bloodless and quiet, as Gillian has to muster every last bit of his control not to allow those ever-important howls to degenerate into undistinguished yelling, and they still do. Perhaps Ian Gillan yelling into a microphone indiscriminately like a drunken wedding guest sounds fun to some, but I'd rather floss my eyesockets with bass strings, thanks. The versions of their hits that wind down the second CD are similarly disappointing...the energy level saps away like rats from a sinking ship until all we've got left is an encore performance of 'Hush' that shows just how leaden the Purple band has become, it's shoes encased in concrete as it tries to match the fleetness of their debut hit...just sad.  

Capn's Final Word: Purple takes a rusty chainsaw to their classics in a horrifying display of gore-spewing monstrosity.

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Slaves and Masters - RCA 1990

Well, there's apparently only one master here, and everyone else he considers to be his slaves. Can you guess who I'm talking about here? Maybe a little refresher might be in order: Ritchie Blackmore forced Ian Gillan out of the band once again after the completion of the Nobody's Perfect tours (not Roger Glover, though...he got to stick around) and replaced him with one of his old vocal cronies from Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner (Mark count...um...wha, V?).  Now, Joe Lynn's got a passable hard-rocky voice, which after hearing Gillan's shattered instrument for the last three albums might come as a nice relief, but he's got about as much personality as a pastrami sandwich.  It's sad to say, because I'm sure Turner's a nice dude who only wants to sing for a good hard rock band (I'd keep looking if I were you, Joey boy), but this album is enough for me to wish Gillan was back on the mic doing his unconscionable screeches, just because he was the only guy left who made Purple distinguishable from a thousand other pop-metal bands I don't want to listen to. And since Blackmore's excised him like a cancerous mole, Purple has become absolutely anonymous. Compared to the band that recorded Perfect Strangers and, especially, House of Blue Light, the Deep Purple on Slaves and Masters could be just about anybody.  Of course, they mostly sound like final-years Rainbow, who sucked ass like a Amazon bull leech, but really just sound like a bunch of old guys clutching to the middle of the road as their best commercial bet.  Which, of course, they were...the Deep Purple name had seen better days as a concert draw, and the rush to embrace retro 70's hard rock bands hadn't really begun yet, so I'm sure Blackmore saw his best chance at financial success was to try to get one of his Whitesnake/Rainbow sounding tracks on hard rock radio, have some unsuspecting young longhair buy his record, maybe buy a ticket to a show, and just possibly like it enough to begin collecting the back catalogue like a good lad. It's all about the green, baby. 

So they have not a shred of credibility left in their bones, I still would probably like to listen to this album just about as much (or as little) as Perfect Strangers or Blue Light, and just because this album depresses the crud out of me doesn't mean that there aren't at least a few tracks on here that could be considered fair-to-good. First off, the production has improved immensely over Pabst of the Blue Ribbon: it's still mighty slick, but the keyboards are turned down, the drums sound like they're played by a human being, and Blackmore's guitar is right up front of our face. Maybe because of the newfound production crispness, but the music seems a lot more memorable this time around. Of course, I liked the riff to 'Fire In The Basement' when it first appeared back on a Mark II album in the early 70's, but I'm willing to forgive a little self-cannibalization in the face of a nice, crunchy riff. I dunno, there may be decent moments in 'King of Dreams' and 'Wicked Ways', but that's an arguable point. It's bothersome that the riffs only appear at infrequent places in the song, and the rest of the time is spent dicking around with the same chord sequences every other Aqua-net addict was using at the time, but I'll have to take what I can get, I guess. What I can't stomach is the Whitesnake impressions on songs like 'Fortuneteller', which may as well come right out and admit to David Coverdale that Deep Purple is completely unable to beat it's former lead singer at the 80's metal game, and invite him back to sing on the next album...please? Okay, so the rest of the album is split evenly between generic hair metal and generic power balladeering, neither of which I need. Hell, do you need more of this hairy bullshit? Ritchie goes through the motions of being a hair metal guy, and the rest follow along like the spineless puppy dogs they really are...

Capn's Final Word: Deep Purple at it's most shallow...

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The Battle Rages On - RCA 1992

Lord lord lord, another Deep Purple album, another attempt to keep current. Gillan's back, in case you care, so we're, what, at Mark IIc now? Really, nothing I've already pounded into the ground about the last three studio albums changes this time around. This is just another in a string of mediocre losers from the former great ones that didn't catch on artistically OR commercially, just dragged the Deep Purple name around in the shit and slime for another disgusting display of egotism and denial. With Battle, Purple still doesn't sound much like itself (After polluting myself with all these post '72 albums, whatever Purple may have ever sounded like, what they're supposed to sound like, is a faint memory for me now, I have to admit), but it at least doesn't try to BE another band like it did on Slaves and Masters. Purple still attempt to adjust to the wind breakage of their young trend-setting progeny instead of trying a little originality, and still get their nose smashed as the door is slammed in their faces This one, as can be expected, now tries to harden the pop-metal sound of Slaves to conform with the chunkier early-90's metal standard. Interpreted into plain English, the band sounds more like Kulick-era Kiss than Whitesnake, and they celebrate the fact by naming a track 'Lick It Up', which of course can't clean the platform boots of the Kiss classic of the same name. At least the band trusts the riffs enough to ride them all the way through a song (well, sometimes...'Anya' and a few others show them back to their old chord-dicking tricks), which improves things a great deal already. 'One Man's Meat', 'The Battle Rages On' and a few others are honestly, truly, riff-driven rockers, something Purple hasn't really done since the Seventies. The riffs, however, aren't much when compared to the effortless classics of old, and there's not enough gas left in the songwriting tank to get by otherwise. There sho ain't a 'Perfect Strangers' on here to distinguish itself, anyway, though I guess 'Anya' is supposedly the 'Kashmir' copy of the day, but it's the palest one yet.  The album simply glides along in a comfortable heaviness that's acceptable, but completely uninspiring. Not even the soloing on this record is much good, indicating that maybe Blackmore was already tiring of his old toy and contemplating tossing the scrawny carcass to Gillan to see what he would do with it. Heh...that couldn't be any good, could it? Purple without Ritchie Blackmore, a guy who hadn't pulled off a memorable song in, like, 10 years? The guy who'd lost the last shred of his individuality? That's GOT to suck balls. It just wouldn't be Deep Purple without him!

Doesn't that sound great?

Capn's Final Word: Yet another kick in the crotch for the fan of Purple when they sounded like something other than a poor imitation of shitty pop-metal.

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Purpendicular - CMC 1996

So Ritchie Blackmore was finally replaced in Dork Pussy by a guy who has 'Kansas' on his resume. Isn't that enough to set the alarm bells a flyin'? No, really, Morse is alright for a guy who sounds like a slightly less-self-obsessed Joe Satriani, a hired gun with technique to spare and an obsession with 'wowing' the audience. Plus the fact that he can play pinch harmonics (for non-guitar playing guys, imagine Mariah Carey going 'TWWWEEEEEEEEOWOWOWOWOWOWWWW!' in her impossibly-high octave hummingbird mating-call voice, or just imagine Zakk Wylde, who can't play two seconds without pulling one of these irritating 'shred' guitar cliches out of his ass) whenever he damn well pleases pretty much places him more in the category of 'technical wizard' than 'darn good feel guitarist' like what Ritchie was. I mean, Ritchie knew all his wacky Jon Lord classical scales and shit, but he pretty much played like he was possessed my Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson in each of his fingertips, hacking and whacking all over the fretboard like a maniac, sometimes peeling off melodic runs out of your wildest dreams and sometimes just playing a bunch of random-sounding notes extremely fast.  It was exciting as hell (most of the time, at least...since the reunion his work had cooled off quite an amount) but wasn't necessarily a 'studied' approach.  The new guy, Steve Morse, is much more in the vein of the aforementioned Satriani (who was actually a member of Purple in their short-lived Mark VI period which consisted of a mid-90's tour or two after Blackmore left them in a typically assholish move) or Steve Vai, a flash technician playing with utmost fundamentals, so even the most noisy, chaotic passages come across like they'd been practiced a hundred million times.  What Morse was able to bring to the table was a fresh tank of stylistic ideas.  As Ritchie had become mired down in lockstep hair-metal moves in recent years, his musical Fountain of Youth becoming a sad, muddy dribble, Morse was able to come in with fresh doses of grungy, King Crimson-esque rock, industrial-sounding noise, and all other manner of modern 90's stuff that fit the Purple machinery surprisingly well.  Not only that, he reenergized the rest of the band (mostly Ian Paice, who thrives on the new concentration on tricky, funk-influenced drumming) to their best album since Machine Head, and gave them a sound they could ride long into the future. For reestablishing this long-comatose franchise as something worth hearing, we owe Morse a debt of gratitude.

Lots of folks have disowned this band since the departure of Ritchie, as if he were somehow the glue that held the whole band together, and that without his influence, the band wasn't the same.  Well, FUCK YEAH! Purple hadn't been Purple in 20-odd years, preferring to either be Rainbow or Whitesnake or whatever Ritchie deemed was the most commercially viable option at the time, until he finally forgot completely what it was he was trying to do at all.  I, personally, have absolutely nothing against Purple without Blackmore. Purpendicular is more of a Deep Purple album than the last three studio albums combined, as there's a certain amount of artistry returned to these tracks.  One listen to Jon Lord's inspired organ work on 'Soon Forgotten' tells me that the band has finally awoken from the spell Ritchie'd had them under. What's more, they've finally figured out how to make Ian Gillan's voice sound like Ian Gillan, but without all that high-pitched squealy, gut-wrenching nonsense Ritchie wanted him to sing all the time...he finally realizes he's an old guy with vocal cords as loose as a Mormon camp counsellor's morals, and prefers to rest on his growlly, gravelly, instantly recognizable lower register. It's not as earth-splattering as his early 70's stuff (nothing this band has done since 1973 is) but it still makes me happy, anyway.

The major difficulty I have with reviewing Purpendicular is that damn near all the songs sound pretty much the same, be they full-on rockers like 'Ted the Mechanic' or 'Hey Cisco', 'ballads' like 'Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming', or weird-ass shit like 'Soon Forgotten'.  They all shift in time signatures, feature shitloads of modern-sounding distorto-guitar wizardry and tricky, grinding riffage, and heavy (natural, no electronica for Purple yet) drumming.  The unifying feature of pretty much every one of these songs is the fact that, if you don't like a particular part, just wait a minute or two and a completely different shift in mood, time, and volume will most likely come along and relieve your audio hemorrhoids. It's all really nice to listen to, believe me, but it's harder than fuck to review. I've been sitting on this review for three or four days because I didn't want to sit back here and try to describe 6 or 7 of these songs, because it'd probably have killed me. Just take it from me...if you think Purple is about 'duh duh duuuuh, duh duh duh duuuuuhhhh...'-style simple, memorable, dumb riffing, you probably will find yourself offended by Purpendicular. But if you realize that Purple was once a progressive rock band that happened to go through a twenty-five year hard-rock period and is now trying to move back slightly to the old ways, you'll find Purpendicular a very valuable addition to your Purple library.

Hell, so Purple sounds more like Living Colour than Black Sabbath now that Ritchie's flown the coop for the last time...I'm happy they sound good.

Capn's Final Word: Hell, so Purple sounds more like Living Colour than Black Sabbath now that Ritchie's flown the coop for the last time...I'm happy they sound good.

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Abandon - CMC 1998

Ummm, more Purpendicular, so much so that a back-to-back listen of these two albums sounds seamlessly identical, and frigging mind-numbing.  On a purely superficial level, this album mirrors its predecessor so closely I ought to really give them identical grades. This one has a killer opening track ('Any Fule Kno That') that's better than the killer opening track on the last one ('Vavoom - Ted the Mechanic'), and has even more industrial-sounding heaviness and great guitar-organ interplay to sink your Nine Inch Nails-worshipping 90's angst-queen teeth into. (Heh, like a Nine Inch Nails fan would ever come within scowling distance of a Deep Purple record...for all it's modernistic trappings, Mark VII Purple still has about as much alt-rock street credibility as Strawberry Shortcake, and still hearkens back to shred-metal too much to ever be taken seriously by anyone but a hard rock crowd.) A few of the moves on Abandon bother me slightly, like the plodding soul-ballad 'Don't Make Me Happy' and the dumb-ass 'Jack Ruby', which strikes new depths in bad pop-culture reference-mongering. Mostly, however, it's the numbing length of this album that tends to drive down the value in my mind. Taken individually, or in small doses, or as background music, this album's great, but sit down and concentrate to it and it begins to blur into a hour-long mass of molten-heavy riffs over complicated rhythmic patterns.  Perhaps if Purple'd been willing to drop this album down to a classic 7-song running length, we'd have found ourselves an A-worthy piece of work. As it is, all I can say is that the guys sound great, have a respectable amount of artistry in their heavy-metal grind, and pretty much kick the ever-loving pillow stuffing out of hard rockers of similarly advanced age (Black Sabbath? Psha! Of all the metal bands who came of age in the Seventies, only Motorhead and Iron Maiden still sound this vital, and let's not forget that the Purple is actually a Sixties band).  But, garsh, this album is rocking but mind-numbing, the music is clever but the lyrics are stupid, the sound is powerful but nothing much is memorable. I'd still prefer to put on one of their albums from back when I could remember their riffs five seconds after I heard it, five minutes after I heard it, and five years after I heard it.  Try to hum a riff off this album and I'd probably dislocate my jaw. Try a little test: put on this record and listen the whole way through (yeah, that part's kind of difficult) and ask yourself what the most memorable song was.

Was it 'Bludsucker'? Heh...that's the cover of the old In Rock classic from back when they knew how to make a song heavy, tricky, interesting, and memorable. Nowadays they get three out of the four. Don't lose heart...ten years ago they got maybe one of the four if they were lucky..

(Okay, so maybe it's cheating because 'Bludsucker's the final track, but what do I look like, Morley Safer? Shut up...the saddlebags under my eyes aren't THAT big.)

Capn's Final Word: Heavy, tricky, and interesting. They don't write very good songs, but they write good music.

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Bananas - Sanctuary 2003

Get it: Deep Purple, even at their advanced age, release pretty darned good records in their current, mostly-stable lineup.  Okay, so Jon Lord finally bailed out right after beginning a fifth decade of touring and was replaced by journeyman metal-keyboardist Don Airey, last seen touring with Jethro Tull for leftovers.  Still, this is the most stable lineup Purple's ever had, almost to their eighth consecutive year (granted, it's been five years since the last record came out) of no firings, no one leaving on the eve of a major Japanese tour, no one ripping up someone else's passport.  And all this togetherness helps, because Bananas, despite the odd title and cover work, is their best album yet, which means it's their best album since Machine Head. They're still mining the same vein of post-cool hard rock, but they keep finding gold in there, so why the fuck shouldn't they?  Mark VIII is tighter than it's ever been since Morse joined, they're rocking harder but in a more down-to-earth way, and the hooks are sharper. They've leavened the showiness of their riffs with some welcome Mark II-style heavy stomping, but they retain the funk-influenced roll that keeps their grooves from faltering into the sludge (and which was in slightly short supply on Abandon).  Imagine cutting Purpendicular with half a gram of Machine Head, and you're fairly close to what Purple achieves on Bananas. A track like 'Sun Goes Down' recalls the organ-heaving sound of that record pretty closely, but never sounds like an out-and-out copy. It's as if they've finally gotten back to the 1970-72 feeling again, but don't cross the line into self-plagarism.

Of course, Mark II never had any use for a song like 'Haunted', which sounds like Get a Grip Aerosmith, complete with meepy strings and a 'heaven-reaching' guitar solo that hit all of the cliches, but maybe they should have. This song is pretty fucking good, somehow striking my sentimentality nerve but not my gag reflex, because Gillan puts every bit of his poxy-voiced sincerity into pulling off these lyrics, somewhat akin to, say, Keith Richards singing a tear-jerker. I buy it, okay? The smoky 'Walk On' sounds better fit for a Robbie Robertson or maybe a 90's Bob Dylan record than Deep Purple, but, again, it works.  I wouldn't necessarily choose these as the new directions Purple should follow, but as an experiment, they're a pleasant surprise. However, when all that sniffly crap is over and done with, Deep Purple is still about the rockers, and Bananas makes a brave attempt to vary the scenery there, too. After the bland nerve-numbing Abandon, it sounds like a great idea. The title track sounds like a 1972 outtake with harmonica, 'Silver Tongue' is electro-cool, flirting with 80's-Yes-y technorock, but is saved, once again, by Gillan's wicked anger on his vocals. 'I've Got Your Number' recalls Abandon, but sounds much better in this varied context, it's heavy trick-riff placed into high relief.  In short, the rock content here feels lacking in full-on flamethrowers, and leaves me with a sinking feeling that this album, like Fireball before it, could've used a few more dumb cinderblock-busters, and for that reason, I can't give it an A. Maybe it's a matter of prejudicial expectations, but I really, truly miss not having more hard numbers on this album.  Believe me, that's a complement...these guys can write a riff.

Not only is this a varied and interesting record, it's also kept to a decent length.  Deep Purple fans, hell, hard rock fans in general, should have no qualms about picking up Bananas today. Okay, maybe the cover shot is creepy-weird, but the CD inside is just peaches 'n' cream.

Capn's Final Word: Purple continues it's surprising march to its fortieth year with one of it's best albums yet. Seriously.

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Dave Ruddick     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Loved reading all of your reviews. Deep Purple have enjoyed a major resurgence since Steve Morse joined the band both in a musical and popularity sense. I completely agree that Bananas is their best album since Machinehead. I have seen the band 13 times live since 1984 and they are truly brilliant. I recommend to anyone to buy Bananas and the two previous albums to hear a great rock band in fine form.

 

 


The Rapture of the Deep - Sanctuary 2005

Deep Purple continue to be one of the only Sixties bands that can still release a new album every few years, not to mention ones that I legitimately look forward to listening to.  After a completely embarrassing twenty years or so, they finally locked into a groove of sorts when they dropped Ritchie Blackmore like a load of (megalomaniacal) bricks and brought in Steve Morse and his power-tool approach to rock and roll guitar playing.  Things came to a nice peak with the Bananas album a few years ago, but Rapture of the Deep ain't too bad in its own right. Even after all these years, the band still relies on its better-than-average rhythm section to maintain a sense of hard-rock legitimacy, and it appears that that marble-hard pedestal was the band's real strength, more than Gillan's (now long-forgotten) acrobatic howls, the Blackmore/Lord grind, or any of the prog-quality soloing that ever went on.  Sure, this isn't In Rock by any means, but these songs do rock, and Morse continues to be an interesting, if arm's-length sort of guitar player who can keep a song interesting simply by what flies out of his fingers.  He can sound like Trey Anastasio on one song (the intro to 'Girls Like That'), Tony Iommi on another ('Wrong Man'), and R2D2 assfucking a Speak and Spell on another.  Best of all is the band's attitude - they're not afraid to admit they're older than shit, but with that crotchety Wilford Brimleyism they have the confidence that they do things in a way that's become as rare as a virgin sorority pledge.  All of them are scarred old veterans who know what its like to chase trends and come out looking like the old clueless guy at the dance club. Anymore, bands get Pro-Tools'ed all to ever-loving frig, making albums like Peter Jackson makes movies - however much the Supercuts-of-the-week might suck eggs at playing, we can Bionic Man them up to MTV standards.  Hell, a band can go up there and play an out-of-tune single-string version of the Batman theme for fifteen minutes, and any small town studio engineer worth his $200/hr can copy-and-paste them into becoming the next Sum 41.

The problem is, most of the old guard aren't real consistent when it comes to any sort of 'sticking by their guns' - old school second-wave metallers like Priest or Maiden tend to ride their old sound into the mud, and make up for any lost inspiration with more noise and more aggression, and folks like the Stones and Paul McCartney skate by on whatever technology they can put their hands on.  It's hard to find a band of 60-year olds like Deep Purple (though the Allman Brothers is another that comes straight to mind) who get the balance pretty close to right - they keep the great live rhythm section, organic recording, and accomplished musicianship, but they don't attempt to play themselves back to being 25 again.  Not everyone wants to know how much pussy a dried-up old banana peel like Mick Jagger is still allegedly getting, but everyone can dig tracks like Purple's 'Money Talks' (it whispers in his ear) or 'MTV', about how inbred and insular 'classic rock' radio is when they won't even play a band's song unless its 30 years old.

Mostly, man, I just dig the way this band still rocks. As long as Gillan keeps his attitude on high and they keep spinning out riffs like the ones on 'Back to Back' and 'Wrong Man' or non-embarrassing melodic epic-things like the 'Before Time Began', I'm gonna keep pushing the Deep Purple lever in my particular cage. None of this stuff is particularly new, mind you (they've been recording songs like 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye' since dirt was invented, mind you), and on at least one occasion they reach behind the counter and steal from the cash register drawer right in front of our eyes (the embarrassing and confusing way the title track steals from the Beatles' 'Good Day Sunshine'). But the good stuff far outweighs any problem I might have with how awful the gloppy, cheap ballad 'Clearly Quite Absurd' is or how the sharp, acidic lyrics on the corporate radio-trashing 'MTV' (The night that Frank Zappa caught on fire...Could you tell us all about it?') are married to an unlistenably gross backing track that sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing the Kinks. Otherwise, color me impressed and watch how I can still headbang after all these years.

Capn's Final Word: Deep Purple are now in an increasingly lonely class of people who still care after all these years. God Bless Deep Purple.

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