REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Battle Rages On… (1993)

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DEEP PURPLE – The Battle Rages On… (1993 BMG)

After the ill-fated (but personally enjoyed) Slaves and Masters, Deep Purple realized the only way forward was with Mk II screamer Ian Gillan back at the mike. With a full album’s worth of material already written with former singer Joe Lynn Turner, all Gillan had to do was turn up and re-write the melody and lyrics. Much to Blackmore’s chagrin! Blackmore had no qualms telling Gillan that he preferred the original lyric and melody to “Time To Kill”.

Much heavier than Slaves and Masters, The Battles Rages On is much more in line with albums such as Fireball, Perfect Strangers and Machine Head. Lord’s Hammond organ is much more in the forefront. However, a vintage sound does not a great album make. The Battle Rages On has 10 tracks, 5 of which are good and 5 of which are filler. This was disappointing for me personally, but some (M.E.A.T. Magazine and Martin Popoff included) have rated this album very high.  Joe Lynn Turner derisively calls this album The Cattle Grazes On.

The five tunes I like: “The Battle Rages On”, “Anya”, “Time To Kill”, “Ramshackle Man”, “Solitaire”.

The title track is absolutely monstrous. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, “Bloody well right!” Big beefy riff, angry lyrics!

“Annihilation, kill ’em all. Capitulation, watch the mighty fall. The road to glory is lined in red, and though the reason now is gone…The Battle Rages On!”  (Always wondered if this was about Gillan and Blackmore.)

The song is a Purple epic, along the lines of “Perfect Strangers” or “Knockin’ At Your Back Door”. Just an awesome track.  I understand that in 2013 they have actually returned it to the set.

“Anya” is a keyboard driven rocker, Jon Lord style, lots of drama. “Time To Kill” is sort of a heavy pop rocker with Gillan trying to get philosophical with the lyrics, which Blackmore hated. “Ramshackle Man” is blues rock, pure and simple as Purple have specialized in. “Solitaire” is mournful, sad, kind of unlike anything Purple had really done before.  Gillan’s droning melody seals the deal.

The rest of the songs just do nothing for me. Some, like “One Man’s Meat” have decent riffs and parts, but weak melodies and lyrics.  As songs, they don’t add up to a satisfying listen.  It is a shame, given the strength of the good songs on the album.

Blackmore left in the middle of the tour.  Joe Satriani filled in, and there was talk that he wouldn’t mind joining Purple full time.  His time proved to be temporary, and Steve Morse has been in the band almost 20 years now. When Joe Satriani was in the band, they did an awesome version of “Ramshackle Man”, which I have on a video bootleg from the European tour.  There was an official live album with Blackmore from the tour, called Come Hell Or High Water.  As well, you could buy official bootlegs with both Morse and Blackmore in a box set called Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  And let’s not forget the Come Hell Or High Water video, with Blackmore throwing that water bottle in Gillan’s general direction…

Check out Satriani’s outro solo starting at about 7:07…smokin’!

To me, Purple’s true comeback was 1996’s Purpendicular. Having said that, the five good songs on The Battle Rages On are worth the purchase at a reasonable price. And hey, maybe Popoff was right, and I’m just not getting it. You decide.

3/5 stars

And check out these cool supplementary releases, all of which deserve their own individual reviews.

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23 comments

  1. Cool review. I thought for sure you’d be doing Purple as a series, like you did for KISS and Maiden. The thought that crossed my mind reading this was: 5 out of 10 tracks are good? Man, that’s a winner. How many records have you bought/do you know of that have the hit single, maybe one other good song, and the rest of it is utter shite? Tons of them. Man, think of baseball: if you get a hit 3 times out of every 10 at bats, you are a success. So really, in your opinion on this record, DP’s batting .500, and that’s incredible!

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  2. Sure but this isn’t baseball. In baseball .500 is awesome. In music, half of a good album can be a career-ender. Or at least sully the reputation for many years. Especially when it’s something as significant as the reunion of the classic Deep Purple Mk II lineup that produced Machine Head, In Rock, Fireball and Perfect Strangers. If they didn’t hit it out of the park with the next album (which they did, continuing the baseball analogy) some fans wouldn’t have stuck around.

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    1. I think yer being too harsh on them. When they made the record, this is what came out. This is what sounded best to them, of the material they had at the time. They had a vision for it. If the court of public opinion dismisses it because there aren’t enough hit singles or out-of-the-park songs on it (to them), then that’s the listener’s problem. DP made this record thinking it was thier best, and that’s a group of highly professional musicians. It wouldn’t have got out the door if it was less than what they wanted.

      I dunno, I just think back to when we were kids, listening to caseettes. We played the whole tape, not just the hit song, right? Too much of a pain in the butt to rewind all the time. And in doing this, we heard so many cool songs that we would otherwise have skipped, like the iTunes generation does. And, without realizing it so much at first, we were introduced to the concept of the album. Hearing the whole thing finsihes the jigsaw puzzle. You can try to make an album that rocks all the way through, I’m not saying it’s OK to make sub-standard songs, I just think the point gets missed if you expect one thing, get another, and then dismiss it.

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      1. Well, this is where we differ. They did have a vision for it — a vision with a different singer who was booted. Blackmore did not want Gillan back. He wanted to try out singer #5 and go from there. The band was fractured, not working together, constantly arguing, and under pressure to release some kind of album so they could go on a tour and and cash in on the 25th anniversary. That’s the reason Gillan came back and this album exists. Gillan himself doesn’t like it, and I’m not sure any member of Purple really regards it highly. I’m sure that’s why it was out of the setlists for almost 20 years.

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        1. My way of looking at it does require the group to have their shit together and be working towards a common goal. If they wanna be dinks about it, and it’s just a cash grab, then you’re lucky there’s anything good on it at all.

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  3. So I’m 3 years late for this but…. just to clarify, at the Birmingham show, Blackmore was throwing water at a cameraman to the left of Jon Lord. Ritchie had been adamant about the presence of cameras on the stage and he felt the cameraman was infringing on that. Apparently it was a struggle to get him back on stage for Black Night (hence why they start without him) but it did add some fuel to his playing. I think they talk about this in the interview segments on the DVD? It’s been a while since I watched it!

    Great review as always Mike!

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    1. Hey John, I recently re-watched that footage a couple weeks ago. My impression was Blackmore didn’t care if he hit Ian or the camera. My impression was that he was aiming in their general direction and didn’t care who got hit!

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      1. Well given the wider context of emotions at the time, sounds about right. ALthough I always thought Gillan was at the front of the stage playing the bongos and well away from the cameraman? Who knows!

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        1. I remember hearing (I think it was in the Gillan doc ‘Highway Star’) that he threw the water at the cameraman but it also hit Gillan’s wife who was off to the side of the stage. Although, having seen Blackmore’s camera rage at the Cal Jam I would have thought water throwing was the least of anyone’s worries!

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        2. I don’t have that DVD. I was going to review the CD soon, but I think it would be way better to hold off until I get a DVD.

          I don’t know if I have ever read Ritchie’s side of this story! Beyond the camera guys pissing him off anyway.

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        3. He mentions it in the new doc I think but I can’t remember what he said! I don’t think he said anything about the water throwing, just that there wasn’t supposed to be filming and no-one told him about it. I’ll rewatch it and double-check though. It wasn’t a great doc.

          I don’t have the CD of Cal Jam actually! Just the DVD.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. So weird to think he didn’t know they were filming when it was obviously a big production! In the DVD he says he wants to pay several large men to beat up Gillan! Playing around of course, but still! That’s on the DVD!

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