More Purple at mikeladano.com:
Live at Inglewood 1968, Deep Purple (1969), Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl), Perks and Tit (Live in San Diego 1974), Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition), Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition), Power House (1977), The Battle Rages On… (1993), Shades 1968-1998, Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD), Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD), Rapture of the Deep (2 CD Special Edition), “All the Time in the World” (2013 CD single), Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996), ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions.
Disclaimer: I am so happy with this album, Deep Purple’s latest, that I put off and put off writing a review for it. As a fan of both Deep Purple Mk VIII and Bob Ezrin, this album would either colossally astound or disappoint me. I’m happy to say that NOW What?! is my favourite album since Purpendicular back in ’96.
At first I thought NOW What?! was going to be an uncomfortably mellow album. How wrong I was. Sure, “A Simple Song” starts powerfully soft (think Purpendicular‘s “Loosen My Strings”). It then takes off into a modern Purple tangent, with groove, a chorus that kills and absolutely outstanding organ work by Don Airey. If there was ever a man to pay tribute to the legacy of Jon Lord, it is Don Airey. He does so with class, homage, and love.
I love “Weirdistan” both for the title and the song itself. It is however “Out of Hand” that is the first mind-blower for me. The strings and arrangements of Ezrin are on this song like a stamp, yet it is also blatantly no other band than Deep Purple. Even though Purple have been backed by strings many times before, Ezrin’s approach sounds like classic Ezrin. It’s hard to verbalize, but Ezrin uses the strings in a support role, yet often up front and in your face.
If none of the previous songs sounded enough like old Deep Purple to you, “Hell to Pay” is sure to satisfy. The edited version from the CD single has nothing on this. The soloing is better than the song, quite frankly, and too much of it was edited out of the single version. Musically “Hell to Pay” has that hard, slightly funky vibe that a lot of later Deep Purple possesses. As far as the solo sections, you’re hearing things that go all the way back to 1968 and “Mandrake Root”. It’s trippy. The spirit of Jon lives on.
“Body Line” is pretty good, again it’s kind of funky in that Purple-y way. Ian Paice, the only remaining member from the original 1968 Mk I version, is responsible for many of the funk vibes, aided and abetted by Morse and Airey. Actually, it’s really hard to single out any one member as MVP on most of these songs. Deep Purple Mk VIII have gelled so well as a band over the last decade, that everything is in sync. Everybody bounces off the other players in a way that is reminiscent of the classic Deep Purple years.
“Above and Beyond” (to be released as a 7″ and CD single October 25) is one of two songs dedicated to Jon Lord. This is probably the most progressive sounding of the new songs. It’s certainly one of the most epic. I think Jon would have loved it. It’s worth noting at this point that Bob Ezrin, as per his modus operandi, has a writing credit on every song. In the same way you can hear him tightening up the songwriting of artists like Kiss and Alice Cooper, you can hear his shine on “Above and Beyond”.
I’m sure it’s a coincidence since almost all the members are different, but “Blood From A Stone” begins similarly to “You Keep On Moving” from Come Taste the Band. Then it gets slinky, before Morse rips some heavy riffs on the chorus. Don Airey shines as well, classing up the place several notches more. This transitions seamlessly into the second Lord tribute, the beautiful “Uncommon Man”. Morse’s guitars are uplifting and unmistakable. I just love listening to him play because there is truly nobody else in the world who sounds like Steve Morse. (Just as there is nobody, Yngwie included, who sounds like Richie Blackmore.) Back to “Uncommon Man”, it features a similar fanfare to “Above and Beyond”, linking them thematically. It also has my favourite keyboard solo on the whole album.
“Après Vous” sounds like a Rapture of the Deep outtake, but a good outtake. Glover has a great groove going on, and there is once again a long instrumental section. When it’s a band like Deep Purple, these aren’t the sections you want to skip through. These are the highlights of a song!
I reviewed “All the Time in the World” when the single was released. Quoting myself, “I’m really fond of “All the Time in the World”. It reminds me of the laid back Purple from Bananas. The classy keys from Don Airey seal the deal for me, but how about that Steve Morse solo? Fantastic!…It might not sound like the Deep Purple of 1970, but that was a long time ago now. It does sound like a rock band staying classy well into their silver years. I don’t hear any compromise nor contrivances here.”
Uncle Meat’s favourite song on the album was “Vincent Price”, and while the whole album is excellent, “Vincent Price” is also instant. It’s really fun, and Ezrin brings his trademark sound effects back to the table. Morse’s spooky guitar line seals the deal. Gillan’s lyrics about vampires and zombies are amusing enough. (This is the kind of lyric that never would have made it past the tyrannical Blackmore.)
There are a couple bonus tracks to be had. “It’ll Be Me” is an unlikely cover, by country singer Jack Clement. Deep Purple pull it off, thanks to Gillan’s lively vocal. “First Sign of Madness” was a free download track, also later released on the “Vincent Price” CD single. It’s a lively song, but different from the album tracks. It reminds me of “Via Miama” from the Gillan/Glover album Accidentally on Purpose. It took a while to grow on me, but I quite like it now just because it doesn’t sound too much like the rest of the album. But these songs will all be on the forthcoming “tour edition”.
Deep Purple pulled off the damn near impossible and put out one of their best albums 45 years after initially forming. Most bands would dream of being able to do this. Hell, most bands don’t put out albums as good as NOW What?! during their primes. If this is a career capper (and I pray Purple have another album in them) then I couldn’t imagine a better album to finish on. The same goes for Ezrin, the guy who produced such classics as The Wall, Destroyer, and Billion Dollar Babies. If Bob retired tomorrow, he could do so having done a freaking great Deep Purple record.