Come Hell Or High Water

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Battle Rages On… (1993)

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DEEP PURPLE – The Battle Rages On… (1993 BMG)

After the ill-fated (but personally enjoyed) Slaves and Masters, Deep Purple realized the only way forward was with Mk II screamer Ian Gillan back at the mike. With a full album’s worth of material already written with former singer Joe Lynn Turner, all Gillan had to do was turn up and re-write the melody and lyrics. Much to Blackmore’s chagrin! Blackmore had no qualms telling Gillan that he preferred the original lyric and melody to “Time To Kill”.

Much heavier than Slaves and Masters, The Battles Rages On is much more in line with albums such as Fireball, Perfect Strangers and Machine Head. Lord’s Hammond organ is much more in the forefront. However, a vintage sound does not a great album make. The Battle Rages On has 10 tracks, 5 of which are good and 5 of which are filler. This was disappointing for me personally, but some (M.E.A.T. Magazine and Martin Popoff included) have rated this album very high.  Joe Lynn Turner derisively calls this album The Cattle Grazes On.

The five tunes I like: “The Battle Rages On”, “Anya”, “Time To Kill”, “Ramshackle Man”, “Solitaire”.

The title track is absolutely monstrous. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, “Bloody well right!” Big beefy riff, angry lyrics!

“Annihilation, kill ’em all. Capitulation, watch the mighty fall. The road to glory is lined in red, and though the reason now is gone…The Battle Rages On!”  (Always wondered if this was about Gillan and Blackmore.)

The song is a Purple epic, along the lines of “Perfect Strangers” or “Knockin’ At Your Back Door”. Just an awesome track.  I understand that in 2013 they have actually returned it to the set.

“Anya” is a keyboard driven rocker, Jon Lord style, lots of drama. “Time To Kill” is sort of a heavy pop rocker with Gillan trying to get philosophical with the lyrics, which Blackmore hated. “Ramshackle Man” is blues rock, pure and simple as Purple have specialized in. “Solitaire” is mournful, sad, kind of unlike anything Purple had really done before.  Gillan’s droning melody seals the deal.

The rest of the songs just do nothing for me. Some, like “One Man’s Meat” have decent riffs and parts, but weak melodies and lyrics.  As songs, they don’t add up to a satisfying listen.  It is a shame, given the strength of the good songs on the album.

Blackmore left in the middle of the tour.  Joe Satriani filled in, and there was talk that he wouldn’t mind joining Purple full time.  His time proved to be temporary, and Steve Morse has been in the band almost 20 years now. When Joe Satriani was in the band, they did an awesome version of “Ramshackle Man”, which I have on a video bootleg from the European tour.  There was an official live album with Blackmore from the tour, called Come Hell Or High Water.  As well, you could buy official bootlegs with both Morse and Blackmore in a box set called Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  And let’s not forget the Come Hell Or High Water video, with Blackmore throwing that water bottle in Gillan’s general direction…

Check out Satriani’s outro solo starting at about 7:07…smokin’!

To me, Purple’s true comeback was 1996’s Purpendicular. Having said that, the five good songs on The Battle Rages On are worth the purchase at a reasonable price. And hey, maybe Popoff was right, and I’m just not getting it. You decide.

3/5 stars

And check out these cool supplementary releases, all of which deserve their own individual reviews.