Get some Epic Review Time right here for your weekend!
DEEP PURPLE – Slaves and Masters (1990 BMG)
The much ballyhooed Deep Purple MkII reunion came to a crashing halt when Ian Gillan was fired in 1988. Just as the band released their first double live in aeons (Nobody’s Perfect) and a new single (a remake of “Hush”) to celebrate their 20th birthday, Gillan was out again. Except this time he was fired. And this time, Roger Glover did not go with him. Even his friend Glover said to him, “Ian you have gone too far this time.” His drunkeness and anger towards Ritchie Blackmore had gotten the better of him.
Blackmore briefly considered reforming Rainbow, or launching a new Blackmore-Turner Blues Band. He was however reluctant to break up Purple, liking the current chemistry he had with the other musicians. After inviting a singer named Bill Mattson from up-and-comers Tangier to try out for Deep Purple, the band reluctantly gave former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner a shot. They eventually invited him to join. According to Turner, “I had to sit down with the boys in Purple and say, ‘Are we going to be true to Purple? Are we going to have the hard rockin’ blues image come out? I really don’t want to scream.” Turner would get his wish. According to him:
“The guys told me, ‘We’ve never really had a singer.’ I go, ‘Well you had Ian Gillan.’ They go, ‘He’s not a singer’s singer. He’s a stylist.’ I go, ‘Ahh, I see what you mean, a stylist as opposed to a singer — it’s two different things.’ They wanted someone who can really sing and write songs, like what we did on this record, as opposed to The House of Blue Light record, which was no songs and really yielded nothing they could bring to the stage.”
Call it what you like: Deep Rain Snake, Deep Rainbow, or just Deep Purple Mk V. Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and Joe Lynn Turner added a new album to the Purple canon called Slaves and Masters, with Roger Glover once again producing. With most of the music already written by Blackmore, it fell to Turner and Glover to take those riffs and turn them into songs. But what would it sound like? Would it sound like Deep Purple, or Rainbow?
Slaves and Masters is a regal disc, different from everything else in the Purple catalogue, but beautiful in a subtle, understatedly powerful way. The first track and single, “King of Dreams” for example gives you an idea of the what the rest of the album sounds like. It is a rock song, based on the bass guitar groove, but mellow. It’s in the pocket. The power in the song comes from the groove and the soulful and smooth vocal by Turner. The lyrics are a subtle rebuttal to Ian Gillan’s scathing 1973 song “Smooth Dancer”, which was a backhanded attack on Blackmore. “King of Dreams” takes Gillan’s lyrics and turns them on their head:
“I’m a real Smooth Dancer, a fantasy man, master of illusion at the touch of my hand.”
If you think “King of Dreams” is too mellow, fear not. “The Cut Runs Deep” is second up, and after a brief deceptive piano intro, the old Hammond organ kicks in backed by some ferocious riffing by Blackmore. When Ian Paice picks up the pace (a fast “Kickstart My Heart” drum beat), you’re out of breath and beaten. All you can do is submit to it and take the body blows of drums and guitars.
“Fire in the Basement” is acceptable, a blues shuffle that serves its purpose. Most of the album tends to be balanced between groove rockers in the “King of Dreams” mold, and ballads. There are quite a few ballads on this record: “Foretuneteller”, “Truth Hurts”, and “Love Conquers All”, which is fully 1/3 of the record. That is not to say these are bad songs, for all three are actually quite excellent. “Foretunteller” is particularly wonderful, with some beautiful fingerpicked chords as only Ritchie can play. These are not ‘power ballads’; rather these are powerful ballads, dark and moody. After all, this is Ritchie Blackmore; and the man in black himself could never turn in pop trash.
The band were sure to end the album wisely on a 6 1/2 minute jam called “Wicked Ways”. This is pedal to the metal Purple with Turner’s smooth rasp on top. You can hear Blackmore letting loose with his pick scrapes and pyrotechnics, but they are unfortunately too low in the mix to come through. Obviously Purple were going for a radio-friendly sound even on the heavy rockers, because you could remix this one heavy as hell if you had the master tapes!
I remember listening to this album for the first time at the cottage. I had rented the CD (remember that?) from a local video store in Kincardine, and I was recording it. When “Wicked Ways” came on, my dad said, “Who is this group?” Deep Purple, I said. “They are obviously a musician’s band,” he said. Normally he’d come up with one of his wisecracks like, “Why is the singer screaming so much, is he sick?” Not with Deep Purple. Upon “Wicked Ways” he bestowed one of his rare compliments.
There are only two poor tracks on the album: The lame-titled “Breakfast In Bed”, and “Too Much is Not Enough” which was written by Turner and outside writers. Otherwise, this is strong music. It is arguably not a Deep Purple album except only in name, but I think today most Purple fans are also fans of Rainbow. It could have used a ballsier mix.
Regardless of the quality of the album, the tour was a reportedly a bit of a disaster. Having Joe in the group did enable them to play a few rarer tracks, such as “Burn” which was originally sung by Coverdale, but this wasn’t enough to sell tickets or convince fans that Joe was “the singer” for Deep Purple.
The band began work on a second Deep Purple Mk V album, but regardless of any progress made, Gillan came back for The Battle Rages On in 1993, ending this brief era of Deep Purple’s history. But if you like Turner era Purple, there are still a few more rare tracks to be had. They are as follows:
- “Slow Down Sister”, a single B-side, which was since reissued on a remastered version of Slaves and Masters. It can also be found on the Shades 1968-1998 box set. It cleverly recycles the riff from “Stormbringer” into a new song with a similar groove, although way more commercial. This does not sound much like Deep Purple at all, and the funky bass does not sound like Roger Glover playing.
- “Fire, Ice & Dynamite”. This is apparently from a movie soundtrack called Fire Ice & Dynamite that I have never heard of. I however have it on a Purple DVD called New, Live and Rare (2000). This song is a Blackmore/Turner/Glover original, but Jon Lord did not play on it. I believe Glover plays keyboards, and Paice was also present. It is a pretty straightforward hard rock song, not too different from material on The House of Blue Light. Decent song, and an uber-rarity.
Final note: this album just sounds better on headphones. I don’t know why.
Check out Slaves and Masters for one of those lost Purple platters that, with a few listens, you could grow to love.