19 years ago, Deep Purple released their final studio album with Jon Lord. We didn’t know that at the time of course. Jon’s departure happened a few years later, when touring wore him down. He capped it off properly with a Purple tour of live performances of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra. However, there is always a certain sense of…incompletion. Lord’s last studio album wasn’t the kind you want to go out on.
Purple had a huge comeback with the masterpiece Purpendicular in 1996. It was a beautiful, quirky and intelligent record. Its followup Abandon was an effort to “get heavy”, but with hindsight even the band admitted it missed the mark. Sure, it was heavier with more riffs, but Steve Morse isn’t particularly a riffy player. Abandon lacked the feeling, and the level of songwriting was not there.
Lead track “Any Fule Kno That” works on a heavy groove, and it’s one of the songs that does click. There are two particularly memorable songs on Abandon: “Any Fule Kno That” and the laid back “Fingers to the Bone”. “Fingers” is based on a celtic Steve Morse guitar lick, with a passionate Ian Gillan vocal on top. Almost up there with them is “Seventh Heaven”, which could be the heaviest Purple song ever. Paicey’s drums are relentless. You can also count “Bludsucker” among the best material, but it’s a re-recording of “Bloodsucker” from In Rock. Unfortunately this serves to underline how many years have passed, in regards to the vocal cords of Mr. Gillan.
All the other tunes have something to them of interest, but just not enough. “Almost Human” for example has a nice shuffle beat. “’69” has cool lyrics and a hell of a tempo. There is a killer slow blues called “Don’t Make Me Happy” that just needs a better chorus. The magic sauce just isn’t there. Few of these songs were played live, and when they were, they tended to have more life than the album.
One must wonder, if the lacklustre Abandon is the reason Deep Purple haven’t self produced an album since. Every record since then was either produced with Michael Bradford or Bob Ezrin. Every record since has been better overall. Something about Abandon just doesn’t hit the bar. Maybe it’s the oddly obtrusive double-tracked vocals. Whatever the cause, it’s hard to recommend Abandon when there are so many awesome Purple albums to enjoy ahead of it.