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REVIEW: Alice Cooper – “Paranoiac Personality” (2017 single)

ALICE COOPER – “Paranoiac Personality” (2017 Edel 7″ single, white vinyl)

In 1969, the original Alice Cooper group released their debut album for Frank Zappa’s Straight records.  The band consisted of Vincent Furnier on lead vocals using the stage name of “Alice Cooper”, Michael Bruce & Glen Buxton (guitars), Dennis Dunaway (bass), and Neal Smith (drums).  This legendary lineup laid waste to rock and roll until 1974 when they split for Alice to go solo.  Though Glen died in 1997, the surviving member eventually reunited on vinyl in 2011 for three tracks on Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  Since then the original band has worked together with surprising regularity, including on Cooper’s latest album Paranormal.

To go with the Paranormal brew-ha-ha, Alice put out a 7″ white vinyl single for “Personoiac Paranality” “Paranoiac Personality”.  It’s an easy track to like with a vibe reminiscent of his classic single “Go to Hell”.  This is likely to be a concert classic for as long as Alice tours.  The chorus is meant for a crowd to sing along.  “Paranoid!  Paranoid!”

A great B-side is what makes a single memorable.  In 2017 you see all kinds of gimmicky singles, from coloured vinyl to ridiculously low production numbers.  That stuff won’t make me buy a single; but an exclusive B-side will.  “I’m Eighteen” is performed by the aforementioned original Cooper band!  They are augmented by current Cooper guitarist Ryan Roxie, filling in for Glen Buxton.  What a great version this is, and how much more authentic can it get?  Alice has a nice intro for Glen, and it’s stuff like this that makes a single worth spending the money (and shipping) on.  My copy came from Seismic Records in the UK, but it was worth it to me.  The pristine white vinyl is just the icing on top.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Johnny’s Band” (2017 single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Johnny’s Band” (2017 Edel single)

2017 is the year of Purple. Witness: We have not just their awesome new album InFinite, but also a new live album included with the deluxe box set version.  There is a Classic Rock magazine CD called Limitless including an exclusive version of “Black Night”.  There have been two CD singles (“Time for Bedlam” and “All I Got is You“) each with their own exclusives.  Now, Deep Purple have released their third single from InFinite, called “Johnny’s Band”.  More exclusives abound, making this quite a fun year for Deep Purple fans and collectors.  Have you been keeping up?

If you bought InFinite (and you should, what are you waiting for?), then you know “Johnny’s Band” is one of the most instantly catchy songs on it.  Upbeat and danceable, “Johnny’s Band” is a hoot.  Gillan’s lyrics are witty and honest, and did you notice the musical segue into “Louie Louie”?  “Johnny’s Band” is a much more obvious single than the first two they released, so let’s be glad that somebody thought Deep Purple needed three singles for InFinite.  The lyrics tell the story of a band who hit it big, fell down hard, but keep slogging away in the bars anyway.  In the end, Gillan gives it a positive conclusion.  It is, after all, all about the music.

But hey, it’s Johnny’s Band,
Playing all those wonderful songs,
Making the rounds with that old fashioned sound,
And here we are singing along.

Perhaps there’s a little slice of life in there.

Track 2 is an unreleased studio jam.  “In & Out Jam” focuses on a low key guitar riff as its base, but spreads in other musical directions from there.  The bottom line is this:  Steve Morse, Don Airey, Roger Glover and Ian Paice jamming together is always going to produce something of value.  “In & Out Jam” isn’t a song and probably wasn’t likely to ever become one, but these are ideas from the best brains in rock and enough to make the musician in you weep in sorrowful inadequacy.

Live tracks from Gaelve, Sweden finish off this single.   There are now three different live versions of “Strange Kind of Woman” released this year.  My Deep Purple folder has 27 different versions of “Strange Kind of Woman”!  How much is too much?  Who cares.  “The Mule” is played far more rarely, but there is still another version of it on the deluxe boxed InFinite set.  It’s a thunderous showcase for drummer Ian Paice, who is still one of the greats at age 69.  The years take their toll on everyone, but Paicey does not sound 69 years old here!

The last of the live songs is the newest, “Hell to Pay” from 2013’s Now What?!  This is only the third live version of the song ever released.  It’s a short blast of guitar and keyboard mania, with a chorus on top.  Its most interesting feature is the organ solo in the middle, something you don’t hear on many singles (which “Hell to Pay” was).

Purple are currently on tour with Alice Cooper.  Both artists have put out remarkably strong albums in 2017.  Will wonders never cease?

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Paranormal (2017 2 CD edition)

ALICE COOPER – Paranormal (2017 Edel 2 CD edition)

Both Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin had a lot to live up to with their latest collaboration Paranormal.  Excluding 2015’s covers album Hollywood Vampires, their last record together was the remarkable Welcome 2 My Nightmare in 2011.  Bob Ezrin has already produced one of the more impressive rock albums of 2017, Deep Purple’s InFinite.  Considering this recent track record, one might say we expect the goods this time too.

Paranormal is a great album, loaded with fantastic Alice Cooper material of different rock and roll styles.  It is not up to the level of brilliance of Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  That album (a concept album sequel) was dense with ideas and composition.  Paranormal is a step towards something less conceptual and more like a traditional album.  The big surprise this time out is the drummer:  U2’s Larry Mullen plays on 9 of the 10 core songs, and you’d never guess that without reading the credits.

The title track is impressive on its own.  It has a haunting guitar hook and vocal, and is built a bit like Alice’s horror material from the 80s.  That’s Ezrin’s pal, Roger Glover from Deep Purple on bass.  Back to the early 70s, get down with some hard rocking “Dead Flies”, but don’t let your guard down.  Relentlessly, “Fireball” blazes down the terrain, kicking aside everything not nailed down.  Alice doesn’t have anything that sounds like “Fireball” on any of his other albums.

The lead single “Paranoiac Personality” (a single worth tracking down for an exclusive live B-side) is similar to “Go to Hell” (from 1976’s Alice Cooper Goes to Hell).  It’s the kind of magic that happens only when Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin work together.  Memorable Alice Cooper rock, accessible enough for radio play, but within the personality of Alice.

Moving on to sleaze rock, “Fallen in Love” is a strong entry.  If it sounds a little greasy, that’s probably because Billy Gibbons is on it.  It’s followed by a speedy trip called “Dynamite Road” with a neat spoken-word style vocal.  It suits Alice’s storytelling lyrics.  After a couple of heavy bashers, it’s good to get back to a groove on “Private Public Breakdown”.  These are some impressive songs, each different from the other but fitting the whole.

A kickin’ horn section joins Alice on “Holy Water”, a fun and unorthodox rock and roll sermon.  Then there’s a good old fashioned punk rocker called “Rats”.  It might remind you of Michael Monroe’s classic “Dead, Jail or Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  It’s the only song on disc one that Larry Mullen doesn’t play on.  “Rats” has the surviving original Alice Cooper band: Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, and Dennis Dunaway.

Going for a haunting close, there is an understated song called “The Sound of A” to end the album proper.  This truly recalls Welcome to (and 2) My Nightmare.  Original bassist Dennis Dunaway co-wrote and plays bass on the track.  Although he was not in the band during the Nightmare era, that is what immediately comes to mind.  This is the kind of song that has the potential to become an Alice classic a few years down the road.

Cooper has been generous with bonus tracks on his last few albums, and Paranormal has a fully loaded second CD.  There are two more brand new songs featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band.  Steve Hunter is also on board with some slippery slide goodness.  “Genuine American Girl” is a transgender celebration, the kind of thing that would have been cutting edge in 1972, but today is just timely.  Smith co-write this with Alice and Ezrin, and it’s a remarkably catchy little tune.  “This is no-man’s land and I live here every day” sings a gleeful Alice.  It does sound like something the original band could have played back then.  “You and All Your Friends” (Cooper/Dunaway/Ezrin) is more of an anthem.  A crowd could definitely sing along.  These two tracks serve as reminders to what great players the original band members are.  Neal Smith is absolutely a drumming maniac and Dennis Dunaway is still one of kind.

There are six more bonus tracks, all live cuts from 2016 featuring Alice’s stellar live band.  It’s good to have these, because really the only thing missing from the new songs is guitarist Nita Strauss.  She’s a monster player.  For those hoping to hear Nita on Alice’s new album, at least she’s on the bonus tracks.  The live cuts are a fairly standard selection of 70s hits (all but “Feed My Frankenstein”).  You know what you’re getting:  expertly performed Cooper classics by his gang of professional rock and roll misfits.

Paranormal is yet another late-career triumph by Alice Cooper.  It’s just a hair shy of mind blowing.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Live in Stockholm 1970 (2 CD/1 DVD)

EPIC REVIEW TIME!


DEEP PURPLE – Live in Stockholm 1970 (2014 Edel, 2 CD 1 DVD set)

This is the second time I’ve bought this live album.  Hopefully, this edition from the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series, with its bonus tracks and DVD represents the last time I need to shell out.  The first was a cheap looking 2 CD set called Live and Rare (1992).  There was also a more official version called Scandinavian Nights.  They’re all pretty much the same, a set of early long long bombers by Deep Purple recorded for radio in 1970.  This remixed (from the master tapes) edition has the set list restored to the correct order, and two bonus tracks from Paris the same year.  It also has a Jon Lord interview and a DVD for a TV special called Doing Their Thing.

The TV broadcast weirdly begins right in the middle of “Speed King”.  Full colour and in stereo, this is some fantastic footage.   It’s shot and edited for excitement.  Ritchie Blackmore assaults his weapon, but with precision.  For a guy who is so technically capable, it’s amazing how physical and visual he gets.  “Child in Time” gives Ian Gillan a chance to both sing and scream.  Strangely there are two small bored looking boys in the audience, right by Roger Glover, and they couldn’t look any less thrilled to be at this taping.  Who are they?  Why are they there?   Who knows!  This is the full unedited “Child in Time” complete with solos.

You get ample closeups on Jon, Ritchie and Roger and it’s amazing to see them play so fast, so perfectly.  You can study Jon’s hands and try to figure out what he’s doing.  Ian Paice is in the back, tiny frame creating a huge sound.  The instrumental “Wring that Neck” is soloriffic, and Blackmore is surprisingly friendly with the cameras.  This is very rare for the man in black.  The audience politely clap at his playful solo, and he keeps them guessing to the end.  A rare delight, to see him in such a good mood on stage.  The final track on the DVD is “Mandrake Root”, another song that was really only in the set for them to jam to.   They are in sync, and being able to watch Deep Purple at their peak jamming in this clarity, well that’s really something.  Too bad most of the songs are edited down.

As for the 2 CD set, it has always been a bit of a slog to get to the end.   There are two tracks at 30 minutes a piece.  There is one at 18.  There are three in the 10-12 minute range.  Of all the Deep Purple live albums out there, Stockholm is probably the one that requires the most patience.  This is, however, my first time hearing it freshly mixed and restored for today.

Set commencing with “Speed King” again, this time it’s the full-on 12 minute jam.  Barely hanging together, Purple blast it out with extra heavy energy.  Gillan sounds as if he’s about to burst a blood vessel in his neck.  The audio has more depth than previously releases, but Ian’s voice sounds a bit too low in the mix.  “Do you know what a Speed King is?  A Speed King is somebody who sing at a hundred miles an hour,” sings Ian, not really enlightening us.  “Everybody’s a Speed King when you wanna be,” he adds, confusing things more.  Things quiet down, turn jazzy, and then explode once more.  Not the greatest version of “Speed King” ever recorded, but definitely one of the most frantic.

“Into the Fire” is a rare shot of brevity.   Assailing the skull nonetheless, after “Into the Fire” the band take it back a bit with “Child in Time”.  This full-on 18 minute version is far longer than the better known one from Made in Japan.  The cool thing about Purple is that no two versions of any song are exactly the same, and if you’ve heard “Child in Time” before…you still haven’t heard the 18 minute version from Stockholm.  With all due respect to the Japan version, this one has its own diamonds of brilliance.  How the hell do they keep playing with that rapidity?

Better pee now, because a jazzy “Wring that Neck” is next, over 30 minutes.  Loaded with playing that’ll stop your heart, but not as interesting as the definitive version on Concerto for Group and Orchestra.  This contains a showcase for Jon Lord’s keyboard solos.  Ritchie’s playing is always sublime, and so is Jon’s, but…30 minutes…that’s a lot of jamming.  Like too much crème brûlée.  Ritchie again plays with the audience, teasing out melodies from songs such as “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”. If that wasn’t enough, Deep Purple’s 10 minute cover of the Stones’ “Paint it, Black” is really just an excuse for a long drum solo by Ian Paice!  Gillan took off, making the song an instrumental, which they only stick to for a minute before letting Paice go nuts.

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Flip over to CD 2, and get ready for another 30 minute long bomber.  “A thing you can jump around to,” says Ian.  It’s “Mandrake Root” and it’s bouncy.  This is a well-known version of the song, and it even appears on Deep Purple comprehensive box set Listen, Learn, Read On in its complete length.  You can clearly hear Gillan on the congas during the long instrumental break.  You can also hear them quoting the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me Now”.  This jam generates more interest than “Wring that Neck”, but it’s still a chore to finish.  And you get to hear “Mandrake Root” and “Wring that Neck” three times each in this package.

The final song (of a mere seven!) for Stockholm is a reasonably brief one:  “Black Night”.  After so much jammin’ it’s nice to have a single, with a set structure, and more than just occasional lead vocals!  It raises the energy a bit after a very draining concert set.  But you’d better refuel with some coffee, because you’re not finished yet.

The two bonus tracks from Paris sound as if they were recorded in a smaller venue.  They are sonically superior to the Stockholm recordings, but damn, I am all jammed out!  Thankfully, this version of “Wring that Neck” is delightful and unique.  It’s hotter and way, way jazzier.  Blackmore also teases out a bit of a preview of a forthcoming song.  You can hear a teeny bit of the guitar melody to 1971’s “The Mule” in his solo.  He even plays a bit of “God Saves the Queen”, in Paris!  Then on to “Mandrake Root” again, 14 minutes this time, half the length of the last one.  Jon’s solo is incredible, but aren’t they all?  This one has some nice rhythmic choppy bits that are so fun to air-keyboard along to.  The track eventually descends into chaos and noise, as all good Deep Purple jams do.

Finally we have the 1971 Jon Lord interview.  This 11 minute track discusses how Jon joined the band, the early days, the Concerto, and In Rock. The title is misleading however, since the track also contains a few bits with Ian Gillan.  Fun stuff but ultimately nothing here that the fan doesn’t already know.

3/5 stars, simply because I know from experience that this set won’t get much repeat play in your home.

3.5/5 stars when you take the bonus DVD into consideration.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Above and Beyond” (CD and 7″ singles)

It’s THE WEEK OF SINGLES!  Each day this week I’ll be bringing you reviews and images of a recent CD or vinyl single acquisition.  Today’s is fresh hot off the presses!  I received this single on Saturday (the 16th).

Yesterday:  Van Halen – “Best of Both Worlds” 7″ single

DEEP PURPLE – “Above and Beyond” (CD and 7″ singles, Edel)

This has been a banner year for Deep Purple singles!  We’ve had “All the Time in the World”, “Hell To Pay”, “Vincent Price” and now “Above and Beyond” from the excellent new album NOW What?!  There’s a “gold” edition of NOW What?! coming soon, and I believe most of the B-sides from these singles will be on it.  Most, but not all…

“Above and Beyond” is one of two songs on the new album dedicated to Jon Lord.  It’s probably the most progressive sounding of the new songs.  It’s certainly one of the most epic.  I think Jon would have loved it.  Canadian producer extraordinaire Bob Ezrin adds his shine on “Above and Beyond”, you can really hear it in the arrangement.

The second track on the CD version is “Things I Never Said” from some editions of Rapture of the Deep.  It was originally from the Japanese CD, and then the “special edition”.  It’s one of the better songs from Rapture, and I’ve always liked Steve Morse’s guitar riff.  I just didn’t need to buy it again on a single…

IMG_00001462Brand new live recordings are the real bait on this single.  The CD has two; I don’t believe either is going to be on the “gold” edition of NOW What?!.  “Space Truckin'” (Rome, Italy 07/22/2013) doesn’t seem as peppy as other live versions I’ve heard.  I suppose that’s why some versions are destined for B-sides, right?  A pair of covers close the CD:  Booker T. and the M.G.’s classic Hammond organ instrumental “Green Onions” and Joe South’s “Hush”.  “Green Onions” serves as an intro to “Hush” essentially.  It’s a great song for a band like Purple to do anyway.  These come from Sweden, 08/10/2013.  Gillan’s struggling a little bit on “Hush”, but Airey and Morse get playful during the solo section, and it’s very reminiscent of how Blackmore and Lord used to interact.

The exclusive bonus track on the 7″ vinyl single is a different recording of “Space Truckin'”.  This one is from Majano, Italy, two days after the other version.  I actually prefer this version to the one from Rome.  I’m not sure why; maybe it’s just that audio illusion of warm vinyl.  Maybe Morse just sounds dirtier.   This single is absolutely beautiful, on purple clear vinyl complete with limited numbered stamp.  Mine?  #1934 of 2000.  I’ll consider myself lucky.  It’s kind of mind blowing to think that there’s an exclusive Deep Purple live recording out there, only 2000 copies made, and I have one of them.

4.5/5 stars

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Live at Inglewood 1968Deep Purple (1969), Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl), Perks and Tit (Live in San Diego 1974), Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition), Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition), Power House (1977), The Battle Rages On (1993), Shades 1968-1998, Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD), Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD), Rapture of the Deep (2 CD Special Edition), “All the Time in the World” (2013 CD single), NOW What?! (2013) Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996), ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – NOW What?! (2013)

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Live at Inglewood 1968Deep Purple (1969), Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl), Perks and Tit (Live in San Diego 1974), Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition), Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition), Power House (1977), The Battle Rages On (1993), Shades 1968-1998, Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD), Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD), Rapture of the Deep (2 CD Special Edition), “All the Time in the World” (2013 CD single), Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996), ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions.

NOW WHAT_0005

NOW WHAT_0003DEEP PURPLE Now What?! (2013 edel)

Disclaimer:  I am so happy with this album, Deep Purple’s latest, that I put off and put off writing a review for it.  As a fan of both Deep Purple Mk VIII and Bob Ezrin, this album would either colossally astound or disappoint me.  I’m happy to say that NOW What?! is my favourite album since Purpendicular back in ’96.

At first I thought NOW What?! was going to be an uncomfortably mellow album.  How wrong I was.  Sure, “A Simple Song” starts powerfully soft (think Purpendicular‘s “Loosen My Strings”).  It then takes off into a modern Purple tangent, with groove, a chorus that kills and absolutely outstanding organ work by Don Airey.  If there was ever a man to pay tribute to the legacy of Jon Lord, it is Don Airey.  He does so with class, homage, and love.

I love “Weirdistan” both for the title and the song itself.  It is however “Out of Hand” that is the first mind-blower for me.  The strings and arrangements of Ezrin are on this song like a stamp, yet it is also blatantly no other band than Deep Purple.  Even though Purple have been backed by strings many times before, Ezrin’s approach sounds like classic Ezrin.  It’s hard to verbalize, but Ezrin uses the strings in a support role, yet often up front and in your face.

HELL TP PAYIf none of the previous songs sounded enough like old Deep Purple to you, “Hell to Pay” is sure to satisfy.  The edited version from the CD single has nothing on this.  The soloing is better than the song, quite frankly, and too much of it was edited out of the single version.  Musically “Hell to Pay” has that hard, slightly funky vibe that a lot of later Deep Purple possesses.  As far as the solo sections, you’re hearing things that go all the way back to 1968 and “Mandrake Root”.  It’s trippy.  The spirit of Jon lives on.

“Body Line” is pretty good, again it’s kind of funky in that Purple-y way.  Ian Paice, the only remaining member from the original 1968 Mk I version, is responsible for many of the funk vibes, aided and abetted by Morse and Airey.  Actually, it’s really hard to single out any one member as MVP on most of these songs.  Deep Purple Mk VIII have gelled so well as a band over the last decade, that everything is in sync.  Everybody bounces off the other players in a way that is reminiscent of the classic Deep Purple years.

“Above and Beyond” (to be released as a 7″ and CD single October 25) is one of two songs dedicated to Jon Lord.  This is probably the most progressive sounding of the new songs.  It’s certainly one of the most epic.  I think Jon would have loved it.  It’s worth noting at this point that Bob Ezrin, as per his modus operandi, has a writing credit on every song.  In the same way you can hear him tightening up the songwriting of artists like Kiss and Alice Cooper, you can hear his shine on “Above and Beyond”.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence since almost all the members are different, but “Blood From A Stone” begins similarly to “You Keep On Moving” from Come Taste the Band.  Then it gets slinky, before Morse rips some heavy riffs on the chorus.  Don Airey shines as well, classing up the place several notches more.  This transitions seamlessly into the second Lord tribute, the beautiful “Uncommon Man”.  Morse’s guitars are uplifting and unmistakable.  I just love listening to him play because there is truly nobody else in the world who sounds like Steve Morse.  (Just as there is nobody, Yngwie included, who sounds like Richie Blackmore.)  Back to “Uncommon Man”, it features a similar fanfare to “Above and Beyond”, linking them thematically.  It also has my favourite keyboard solo on the whole album.

“Après Vous” sounds like a Rapture of the Deep outtake, but a good outtake.  Glover has a great groove going on, and there is once again a long instrumental section.  When it’s a band like Deep Purple, these aren’t the sections you want to skip through.  These are the highlights of a song!

All the timeI reviewed “All the Time in the World” when the single was released.  Quoting myself, “I’m really fond of “All the Time in the World”.  It reminds me of the laid back Purple from Bananas.  The classy keys from Don Airey seal the deal for me, but how about that Steve Morse solo?  Fantastic!…It might not sound like the Deep Purple of 1970, but that was a long time ago now.  It does sound like a rock band staying classy well into their silver years.  I don’t hear any compromise nor contrivances here.”

NOW WHAT_0001Uncle Meat’s favourite song on the album was “Vincent Price”, and while the whole album is excellent, “Vincent Price” is also instant.  It’s really fun, and Ezrin brings his trademark sound effects back to the table.  Morse’s spooky guitar line seals the deal.  Gillan’s lyrics about vampires and zombies are amusing enough.  (This is the kind of lyric that never would have made it past the tyrannical Blackmore.)

There are a couple bonus tracks to be had.  “It’ll Be Me” is an unlikely cover, by country singer Jack Clement.  Deep Purple pull it off, thanks to Gillan’s lively vocal.  “First Sign of Madness” was a free download track, also later released on the “Vincent Price” CD single.  It’s a lively song, but different from the album tracks.  It reminds me of “Via Miama” from the Gillan/Glover album Accidentally on Purpose.  It took a while to grow on me, but I quite like it now just because it doesn’t sound too much like the rest of the album.  But these songs will all be on the forthcoming “tour edition”.

Deep Purple pulled off the damn near impossible and put out one of their best albums 45 years after initially forming.  Most bands would dream of being able to do this.  Hell, most bands don’t put out albums as good as NOW What?! during their primes.  If this is a career capper (and I pray Purple have another album in them) then I couldn’t imagine a better album to finish on.  The same goes for Ezrin, the guy who produced such classics as The Wall, Destroyer, and Billion Dollar Babies.  If Bob retired tomorrow, he could do so having done a freaking great Deep Purple record.

5/5 stars