This is Part 1 of a double-sized Deep Purple deluxe InFinite box set review!
49 years and still kicking it. The Deep Purple of today is a very different band from the Deep Purple of 1968. There is only one original member; drummer Ian Paice. This matters not. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover are the singer and bassist you remember from “Smoke on the Water” (1972). Guitarist Steve Morse is a certified genius, and longstanding member for 22 years running. Don Airey is still the “new guy”, but the former Rainbow/Ozzy/everybody keyboardist was the only man on Earth who could have replaced the late Jon Lord. He’s done it for four albums straight, sometimes sounding exactly like Jon, and others like nobody else.
So if you didn’t know already, now you do: There is no question that 49 years later, Deep Purple are still THE legitimate Deep Purple. This isn’t like, God forbid, Quiet Riot. Or Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt.
Deep Purple seem to work with producers in spurts. They did two albums (Bananas and Rapture of the Deep) with producer Mike Bradford. Now they have done two with the legendary Bob Ezrin! As soon as Ezrin’s name enters the conversation, the bar is raised. Ezrin is a full-on collaborator, with co-write credits on each song. He is an educated musician with an impeccable ear. His credits (The Wall!) speak for themselves. Deep Purple is a very different band from Pink Floyd, but Ezrin gels with them in exciting ways.
We have already reviewed the first two singles (“Time For Bedlam” and “All I Got is You“), so for deeper impressions you can check those out. “Time For Bedlam” opens the new album InFinite, quite successfully. It’s reminiscent of “Pictures of Home” from Machine Head, which should catch listeners and keep them hooked. “All I Got is You” (track 3) is the superior of the singles, smooth but smouldering hot.
The balance of InFinite, like much of the Steve Morse era of Deep Purple, takes a few solid listens to absorb. The songs are challenging but rewarding. Songs that are rock and roll can suddenly have highbrow instrumental sections. Gillan and Glover’s lyrics are more biting than ever, enticing the listener to check them out over again.
“Hip Boots” has a vibe like “Lick It Up” from The Battle Rages On… but better. Don Airey really does sound perfect within Deep Purple, as this monster is largely powered by the good old Hammond organ. Airey’s also the star of “One Night in Vegas” (working title: “Something Else Or What”), with both organ and piano sounding oh-so-Purple. (Bob Ezrin is also credited for additional keyboards on the album, but this sounds more likely to be Airey on both parts.) Gillan’s lyrics as a storyteller are as amusing as always, going back to tracks like “Anyone’s Daughter”. The first non-descript song is “Get Me Outta Here”, but perhaps more listens will increase the appeal.
An early favourite is “The Surprising”, a dramatic and quiet flight of progressive fancy. The subtle but awesome drum work of Ian Paice unobtrusively creates a perfect backdrop for Don and Steve’s interplay. Challenging “The Surprising” for dominance is the next track, “Johnny’s Band” (working title: “Jig”). It’s easily the most fun of the new songs, and the one with the instantly memorable chorus. Then “On Top of the World” (working title: “Slow Heavy”) is probably the most different of the tracks, containing a poetry section over a progressive backdrop. Otherwise it’s just a smoking jam, with an oddly premature fade-out. Steve Morse dominates “Birds of Prey” with his smooth stylings. The track is a slow but excellent journey through the sand dunes of progressive rock.
The only questionable choice on InFinite is covering The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. It’s wonderful to hear Ian Gillan on the harmonica again. (What was the last time? “Hush” in 1988?) But covering a beloved classic is dangerous 99.785% of the time (there are studies that have been done.*) Fortunately Deep Purple are an exceptional jam band, so it’s not a total disaster. Covering “Roadhouse Blues” is like another band covering “Smoke on the Water”. It’s a “who cares?” moment. I like to think of “Roadhouse Blues” as a bonus track on an otherwise excellent album. The InFinite box set has the album on CD, and a 2 LP gatefold version, so you can listen any way you please.
Check back soon for Part 2 of this review — the extras from the deluxe box set! They include a DVD and three 10″ records that make up The Now What?! Live Tapes Vol. 2. (Vol. 1 was a bonus CD on the Now What?! reissue.)
* No there weren’t.
Further reading on more Deep Purple InFinite related releases (each with exclusives):
DEEP PURPLE – Time For Bedlam (2017 Edel EP)
DEEP PURPLE – All I Got is You (2017 Edel EP)
DEEP PURPLE – Limitless (2017 exclusive CD included with Classic Rock #234, April 2017)