This is one of the coolest and most different Deep Purple tributes you are likely to find. It’s also by far the funkiest.
Bassist T.M. Stevens (aka Shocka Zooloo) might be best known for his work with Joe Cocker, James Brown, Billy Joel and many others…but he first came to the attention of hard rockers via Steve Vai. He was a member of Vai’s Sex & Religion band, and immediately stood out on CD and on stage. Although his name doesn’t appear prominently on the front cover for Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York, it’s clearly his project. He produced it, arranged it, and is the only musician who appears on every track. He has a pocket full of well known friends to fill out the instruments including: Will Calhoun (Living Color, drums), Cory Glover (Living Color, vocals), Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow, vocals), Richie Kotzen (guitar, vocals), Al Pitrelli (Savatage, guitars), Vinnie Moore (UFO, guitars), Stevie Salas (guitars), Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic, keys), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz, drums), and Tony Harnell (TNT, vocals). What a team!
Black Night is not for everyone. Each and every song is drastically changed. “Black Night” itself is slowed down and turned into a metallic bluesy grind. Dual lead guitars by Pitrelli and Moore ensure its metal credentials, and Joe Lynn Turner comes down with his raspy soul. Another raspy soul singer, Richie Kotzen, handles “Strange Kind of Woman” on guitar and vocals. This one turns the funk right up! The rhythm section of Calhoun and Stevens generates a punchy funk that can’t be stopped. A standout. Living Color’s Cory Glover takes over on the even funkier “Fireball”. The creative arrangement deconstructs the song. “Fireball” was one of the few Purple songs to feature a bass solo, so Stevens takes the opportunity to slap some bass. A Purple tribute without “Smoke on the Water” wouldn’t be a real Deep Purple tribute. It’s a hard track to funk up, so it’s more of a steamroller with funky verses. Kotzen turns in a hell of a soulful vocal, proving how versatile any music can be. An original and refreshing slant on a tired classic.
The most interesting arrangement is by far “Child in Time”. The epic soft/loud dynamic of Purple’s beloved classic has been replaced by reggae, and why not? Bernie Worrell does his best with Jon Lord’s original outline to create his own organ parts. T.M. and Tony Harnell share lead vocals: Tony singing the clean and high parts (with absolutely no difficulty!), while T.M. does his Rasta take on the rest. Sacrilege? Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind is the key for this entire album. If you cannot do that, you will probably hate Deep Purple According to New York. That title says it all. This is Purple according to Stevens and friends, and they do their own thing. The rest of the material — “Woman From Tokyo”, “Stormbringer”, “Speed King”, “Burn”, and “Space Truckin'” — are as different as the first five tunes. “Woman From Tokyo” is funky soul vocal nirvana, featuring four lead singers (Kotzen, Stevens, Harnell and Turner)!
In case you’re wondering what the closing track “Deep Purple NY” is, it’s just a funky shout-out to all the players on the CD. “New York is in the house, New Jersey, Bernie Worrell!” That kind of thing.
I’ve heard a number of Deep Purple tribute albums over the years. Yngwie did four Purple songs on his mediocre Inspiration album. Thin Lizzy did a Purple tribute under the name Funky Junction. There was the star-studded Re-Machined CD. There was even a 1994 tribute album called Smoke on the Water that featured three of the same guys on this album! (Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Harnell, Richie Kotzen, as well as another ex-Purple member, Glenn Hughes). None of those albums, even with all that star power, are nearly as interesting as Black Night. I chose that word “interesting” on purpose. It’s a very neutral word. Your reaction to this album could be wildly positive, violently negative, or simply passively unmoved. The listening experience will be anything but dull. Whether you like it or not, if you pick up this CD you’re going to hear some of the greatest rock and funk players on the planet, so get your dancing shoes on.