REVIEW: Deep Purple – Slaves and Masters (1990)

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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:

  • NEW LIVE“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.

4/5 stars



    1. Yup now a video rental store is all but a thing of the past. I think we even had to rent a VCR there in the really really old days. Imagine only having one video playing device per family now…


  1. Still not made my mind up about this album so this review is very useful. It’ll give me some food for thought next time I stick it on. I knew some songs but only bought the album last year. It’s better than I expected but I can’t quite connect with it either… so the jury’s out at the moment! Bought The Cattle Grazes On at the same time and found it more appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Song for song, I prefer Slaves and Masters to Cattle Grazes On. However I think the direction and singer were overall wrong foe Deep Purple.

      If this album had come at me at a different time, like say if I were a long time Deep Purple fan, forced to endure this lineup change, I’d probably have been less open minded. But I had only really just started listening to Purple.


      1. All that context makes such a difference. I wasn’t into Purple at that time but I remember a lot of negative press. Especially in the live reviews.

        But as a Purple fan now I’m quite happy to investigate the era with an open mind. I found Rainbow’s Difficult to Cure a real grower and it is now my favourite Rainbow album so I hope that SAM will grow on me the same way. Castle Grazes On is more immediately easy to like, especially some of the opening tracks. But I totally see your point about the songs maybe not being there. SAM has definitely got more in the way of hooks. Time will tell for me with these two.

        At the moment I’m more taken with Gillan circa Naked Thunder and Toolbox. Can’t get enough of that stuff lately!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Those Gillan records are bloody brilliant, if you ask me. Especially Naked Thunder. However, the production could be better. But man, there are only great songs on that album. Also, that’s the first time Gillan is involved in stealing a Kiss song title, Love Gun. The other one was Lick It Up on The Battle Rages On…

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I have a 2 CD compilation of those Gillan years which has some B-sides too. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Helix were lucky enough to open for and meet Gillan on the 1990 European tour.


        3. Come to think of it, there’s another Kiss song title that Purple has used – Almost Human on the Abandon album.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh the disappointment when this album came out. Not because it sucked, but because of the firing of Gillan. I remember Blackmore saying that he’d never record a Deep Purple record without the MkII line-up. I was disappointed because I loved (and still do) Perfect Strangers and House Of Blue Light so much. They are different to each other but quality wise, they’re equally as good, I think. And I really, really, really wanted a third killer!
    But I think this album has gotten an unfair treatment throughout the years, actually, because this really is a great album. Sonically it might leave some to offer, but the songs are really good. Still, I have a problem seeing this as a Purple album. The Joe Lynn Turner connection makes it a Rainbow album in my ears, even though there are 4/5 Purple MkII memebers on it and the songs do sound like Purple songs. But with JLT’s voice on them… I dunno, him and Purple just don’t match. It would have been better had they chosen an altogether new singer. Mattson wasn’t the only guy who auditioned for Purple, Terry Brock from Strangeways and Jimi Jamison from Survivor did also audition.
    But the songs are great, most of them anyway. They might have tried to re-write Knocking At Your Back Door with King Of Dreams (they did not succeed), but it’s still a great song. And so is The Cut Runs Deep, Truth Hurts, Fortune Teller, Wicked Ways… They all sounds like true Purple to me. Only Love Conquers All and Too Much Is Not Enough should have been saved for a JLT solo release.
    And I take this album over The Battle Rages On anyday of the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’m afraid you’re right. The Battle Rages On really indicated that Ritchie and Ian still could not work together. Of course that album was never written with Ian in mind but that’s another story.

      Agreed with everything you said here. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Slaves and Masters. Sure it’s not heavy…but it has quality.

      Well, The Cut Runs Deep is heavy…a great tune that sadly would fit great with DP Mk II.


      1. I had to listen to this CD in my car today. And I still find it really good. But I was thinking, if King Of Dreams is a shot at writing KAYBD again, then I guess Truth Hurts really wants to be Perfect Strangers pt 2. But their good gtracks anyway.
        Breakfast In Bed was a bit lame, though…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I just felt Truth Hurts was a ballad, nothing more…I think it was a single, definitely a bit too soft for Purple.

          King of Dreams was a great song. Cut RUns Deep would fit with Purple today!


        1. Well we can always hope that somebody kept the tapes to the album they did before it became The Battle Rages On…before the cattle started grazing!


        2. Really? Wow. With quite a bit of rewriting I imagine though, eh? Can’t imagine Gillan being happy to just sing a bunch of JLT tunes. There are some songs I could definitely imagine JLT doing but some others not so much.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. JLT did some really extensive interviews with Popoff. They’re in his second Purple book…A Castle Full of Rascals, I think? HIGHLY recommended although I think he is sold out of that book.


        4. Let me grab ma Popoff book.

          He rates Slaves 8/10, and TBRO a baffling 9/10! He must have just been psyched to have Gillan back, that album had just come out when the book was published.


        5. Holy crap, 9/10?! He must have been psyched! Maybe a bit tooo psyched? I know he’s always big on production and it is a great sounding album. Maybe that swung it for him? But that’s a bit of a crazy rating whatever way you look at it.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. I remember MEAT Magazine was also enthusiastic for TBRO. They gave it 4/5 M’s. Maybe it was a general feeling of exclusions at the time that clouded the actual strength of the album. A year or two later, I wasn’t playing it anymore either.


        7. Wow. I need to listen to TBRO again. That album never struck me as a DP with JLT album re-recorded by Gillan. I have a hard time believing that Ian would ever go for a deal like that.
          Wasn’t JLT fired pretty much directly after the S&M tour ended?


        8. Apparently not Jon. Apparently he wasn’t fired until 93. According to the interview in Martin Popoff’s book, they had written and at least started recorded TBRO with Joe. Joe is adamant in the interview that they would have gone heavier anyway, and that Gillan ruined the record.


        9. Ok. That’s all news to me. But Gillan ruined the record? Sounds lika JLT is a bit bitter. Gillan doesn’t ruin records. Besides, I don’t think TBRO is bad, it’s just not all that strong and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been better with JLT on the mike.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. I agree Jon. I don’t think Gillan ruined anything there, apart from maybe the bad vibes between him and youknowwho. And, like you say, it’s not a bad album. I think JLT sounds really bitter about Purple. He’s all Bent Out of Shape about it. I think it’ll take him a while to get over it too. He’s Difficult to Cure.

          Liked by 1 person

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