REVIEW: Deep Purple – NOW What?! (2013)

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Live at Inglewood 1968Deep 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.

NOW WHAT_0005

NOW WHAT_0003DEEP PURPLE Now What?! (2013 edel)

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.

HELL TP PAYIf 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!

All the timeI 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.”

NOW WHAT_0001Uncle 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.

5/5 stars

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22 comments

        1. I’ve been very neglectful with two major releases: This one and Sabbath. Sure, Uncle Meat reviewed 13, but I promised to do the deluxe editions.

          Glad Purple is done because this is truly an outstanding release.

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  1. Great review. This is the strongest effort Purple has made since the brilliant Purpendicular, so we agree on that one as well.
    Also, I think it’s great to see you review some new album as well as oldies. You should do more of these. To be quite honest, I’m a little dazzled about you don’t check out new bands anymore, as there are so many great new bands out there just waiting to be discovered by music nerds like you and I.
    Maybe a review of Flying Colors will turn up here in the near future…
    Anyway, here’s my take on this album. I know you already read it and commented on it, but if there are anyone else who wants to read it, here it is:

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/classic-rock/classic-rock-reviews-2013/deep-purple-now-what/

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    1. Thanks Jon, I really appreciate those comments, especially from a Mastermind like yourself!

      I do want to do more new releases. Flying Colours and the new Sabbath are in the to do pile. I’d also like to tackle the new Sheepdogs and a few other top secret new arrivals. In fact I’m expecting a parcel with some new things next week!3

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      1. That’s cool, man.
        If you want, I could burn you some CDs with some of the new stuff that I dig, especially some of the Swedish bands I have reviewed, if you want to take a listen before, or if you buy, and send them to ya.
        I have a thing for spreading good music to people with good taste… ;-)

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  2. I’m happy for you that it’s so good. I know, after this long, that the fear is justifiable that they’re maybe done, especially given the album title. Were they considering a well-earned retirement and wondering Now What?! … of course, they crushed that quickly. Well done.

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  3. Ok man gonna have to give this one a shot…..been waiting to see what the word was since the last Purple I bought other than the recent Perfect Strangers live was Purpendicular…

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    1. Dude if you liked Purpendicular you will love this. But may as well wait for the tour edition too. I hate when bands do this kind of thing but I think it usually comes mostly from labels.

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  4. Thanx for the heads up……I’m surprised Halen did not do the tour edition of ADKOT. I mean they would have just added a remix of Tatoo and called it the tour edition since they famously do nothing but on the other hand give em credit for not doing it I guess….
    I will wait for the DP tour edition..what’s supposed to be on it?

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    1. It’s going to have all the songs from the different versions of the studio album, and a bonus live CD with B-sides and songs recorded in 2013 in Italy. Worth it for the 2013 recordings alone I think.

      Although I think Purple would be foolish not to release a 2 CD live album after Now What. May as well strike while the iron is hot.

      Can’t wait for my Perfect Strangers Live, but I haven’t received a ship notification yet…

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    1. Not to be too spoilerish but this may make my Top 5 of the Year. Or may not. A late arrival came this past weekend that blew me away…

      Don Airey deserves a lot of praise for his keyboard work here. I’m glad he’s finally stepping out of Jon’s shadow a bit too.

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