edel

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Whoosh! (2020 Super Deluxe box set review)

DEEP PURPLE – Whoosh! (2020 Edel Limited Edition Collector’s Box Set)

Includes:

  • Whoosh! (CD and 2 x LPs)
  • The Infinite Live Recordings, Vol 2. (3 x 10″ EPs)
  • DVD – Live at Hellstock, Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin in Conversation

 


Whoosh!

Every Deep Purple album seems like the final album.  Maybe this one is; maybe it isn’t.  It feels like the band treat every album as seriously as if it was their last.  The cover art and music of Whoosh! takes us back to 1968 and Shades of Deep Purple.  The logo is similar, and there is a new version of the 52 year old first Deep Purple song ever, “And The Address”.

Opening with the lead single “Throw My Bones“, the album sets a mid-tempo pace from the start.  This is a lush, catchy groove with hints of classical and funk.  It began life during the Infinite sessions but was not finished until Whoosh!  Purple pick it up a bit on “Drop the Weapon”, a non-preachy appeal for cooler heads to prevail.  It has a similar vibe to the 1988 album Accidentally On Purpose by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  The immediate riffs and hooky vocals are bound to make this a favourite.

“We’re All the Same in the Dark” has a cool groove and a jaw dropping funky Morse solo.  Purple haven’t sounded this funky since Glenn Hughes was in the band.  Airey and Glover give it some heaviness.  “Nothing At All” sounds like a Morse composition, but his intricate classical-inspired interplay with Airey is sheer delight.  This could be the best track on Whoosh!, and contender for one of the best songs of the entire Morse era.  A massive chorus could help this one cross over on radio.  Though it’s a far different song, “Nothing at All” has elements that recall “Never A Word” from Bananas.  A regal-sounding crowning achievement.

“No Need to Shout” opens with the growl of a Hammond.  “Just a bunch a crap, you’re talkin’ out your hat!” sings Ian on a song featuring rare female backing vocals.  This is one of a few new Deep Purple songs that display a pissed-off attitude.  “I got your message loud and clear, the meaningless ringing in my ear.”  Add in a couple naughty words and you can tell Ian isn’t having any of it.  Cooler though is “Step By Step”, a very different kind of song with perhaps some lineage with “Vincent Price” from Now What?!  The haunting, ghostly quality of “Step By Step” sets it aside with a cascade of keyboard accents.

Purple start to boogie on “What the What” (a friendlier way of saying “What the Fuck”).  While Don’s hammering the keys, Steve stabs out with some tasty guitar twang.  If any song recalls “old” Deep Purple, it’s “What the What”, which could have been on 1973’s Who Do We Think We Are!  But that album completely lacks the joie de vivre of “What the What”.  Then Purple get heavy on “The Long Way Round” which just drives.  The keyboard solo is out of left field but is a spacey masterwork to itself.  There’s even a sly Black Sabbath callback — “I promised myself I would not get Trashed again.”  Then the song dissolves into a beautiful, quiet stream of notes.  This serves as a great lead-in to “Power of the Moon”, an excellent track previously heard on the “Throw My Bones” single.  It stalks prey in the cover of night.

Another heavy growl unexpectedly opens “Remission Possible”, an absolutely smokeshow of fretwork.  It’s a brief instrumental interlude just before the excellent “Man Alive”.  This track, enhanced by orchestra, sounds absolutely massive.  It has serious heft, but it’s not weighed down.  Ian is writing about some heavy themes and it will take deeper analysis of the album as a whole to decipher them all.  Roger Glover was very happy with Ian’s writing on the album, which takes a more contemplative tone without going heavy-handed.

The final side of vinyl begins with another instrumental, the aforementioned “And the Address” from Shades Of.  Deep Purple have occasionally re-recorded old material with new lineups, such as “Hush ’88” and “Bludsucker”.  This cut of “And the Address” has more momentum.  The only guy present who played on the original is Ian Paice, but Don Airey is a dead ringer for Jon Lord.  “And the Address” is one of the most enjoyable songs on Whoosh!, probably surpassing the original recording.

There’s still one track to go:  the “bonus track” called “Dancing In My Sleep”.  Safe to say it’s called a “bonus track” because it’s the most different of all the songs.  It’s an Airey conception based on a cool little techno beat.  Though it’s certainly not dance music, it does have one foot in that world and it’s a sheer delight to hear Purple stretch out into new territory 52 years into their game.

A seriously fine album this late in the career.  An album so fresh that it is hard to rate so soon.  But clearly a high point, with a band still exploring new ideas completely unafraid of what people might say.  In fact, a band who still has something to say.  Something worth listening to.

4.25/5 stars

But that’s not all of course.  Go big or go home.  Check out the rest of the box set’s contents in detail below.

 

 


The Infinite Live Recordings, Vol. 2

The previously released Infinite Live Recordings, Vol. 1 came out in 2017.  The concept behind the series is simple: pure live releases with no overdubs.  Vol. 2 comes from a show in 2017 on the Infinite Tour in Rio.  It is the big bonus in this box set, and present on a set of three beautiful 10″ coloured records.  72 minutes of live Purple — essentially, a double live album.

The opening thunder of “Highway Star” is robust on purple 10″ vinyl.  How these guys can still blast through it full speed is unknown, but they do it.  Mr. Gillan still gives it his all, which is not the same in 2017 dollars as it was in 1970 dollars, but still more than the average mortal his age.  Mr. Morse and Mr. Airey give each version of “Highway Star” a different feel, while Mr. Paice in the back is the only original member left from the 1968 lineage.  Sticking to Machine Head, Purple seamlessly go into “Pictures of Home”.  The old familiar groove of Mr. Glover is comforting warmth from the emptiness, eagles and snow.  Morse’s solo is a composition to itself, and then Airey gets to put his spin on Jon Lord’s classic organ solo.  Then it’s an unfortunate side flip as the band goes back to In Rock with “Bloodsucker”.  Gillian is more a verbal timekeeper than the screamer he once was, but the track is otherwise flawless and heavier than lead.  A more mainstream hit, “Strange Kind of Woman” flows from that, and relaxes the groove a bit.  Don Airey gets his first of two solos (this one organ) as the last track on this disc.

The action continues on transparent burgundy vinyl, and “Lazy”.  Morse’s signature string bending is the star of this show.  There are a couple different twists in this fresh version including a nifty Gillan harmonica solo.  Then it’s the only new song of the set, “Birds of Prey” from Infinite.  It’s weighty and worthy of its place.  Steve Morse is the Captain on this flight.  Gillan ends the track on a joke and then, after a side flip, introduces Don Airey’s keyboard solo including Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley”.  This diverse and fun solo goes into “Perfect Stranger” (no “s”?) which has steadfastly remained in the setlist ever since its 1984 conception.  Gillan is shaky but the Purple is solid.

The final vinyl, clear 10″ power, commences with “Space Truckin'” signalling the beginning of the end.  “Smoke on the Water” is the penultimate moment, slow and groovy after all this blazing rock.  Ian Paice has a couple nice moments on this one and Steve Morse’s stuttery solo is completely compelling.  One more side flip, and Purple end the set with their first hit “Hush” and the “Peter Gunn” theme.  Glover goes funky on this one with a bassline a little like “Another One Bites the Dust” in parts.

An entertaining and good live album, but one you won’t play often simply because Deep Purple have 846 live albums (exaggeration).

There is still more live material from the same tour in DVD form included in this box set.


Live at Hellfest

Next we have a double feature DVD:  A live show from Hellfest in 2017, and an interview session with Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin.  The Hellfest show has a much longer runtime with more new material.  They open the show with “Time For Bedlam” from Infinite. Ian doesn’t even attempt to sing it in tune, but we’ll always cut the guy some slack for still getting up there and givin’ ‘er.  The track has a “Pictures From Home” vibe, and the band look cool playing midday in shades.  Into “Fireball”, Ian Paice leads the charge as if it was 1971.  Don Airey has an Ozzy bobblehead on his keyboard!  Then it’s “Bloodsucker”, powered by Paicey.  “Strange Kind of Woman” is a nice melodic respite after a pair of piledrivers like that.  Ian ends this one with a bizarre freeform spoken word beat poetry bit, but with Morse shredding next to him.

The Jon Lord tribute from Now What?!, “Uncommon Man”, is heartfelt, and a solid track from their current era.  It sounds massive.  As good in quality is “The Surprising” from Infinite, something of an epic, and performed with full gusto.  Intricate symbol work by Paice.

After a brief pause, it’s on to Don Airey and “Lazy”.  A high speed workout like that merits something slower to follow, so it’s “Birds of Prey” from Infinite, a steady groove with dynamics.  Steve Morse’s solo takes center stage and it’s a melter.  “Hell To Pay” picks up the pace.  Not Purple’s most remarkable single, nor the best version, but nice to have in live form.  Airey’s jammy keyboard solo on this track is stellar, just as the sun starts going down.  Then he gets his own full-blown solo, with the Ozzy bobblehead there next to him during “Mr. Crowley”.  Roger Glover just watches from the side as Don goes to town through familiar melodies and themes.  The crowd eats it up smiling.

Don takes it into “Perfect Strangers” without missing a beat, and soon the rest of the band joins him.  This version has some stellar Morse guitar trickery.  The set is almost finished, with only “Space Truckin'”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Hush” and “Black Night” left to satisfy cravings for the classics.  Even at the end Paicey still brings that thunder.  “Hush” has the “Peter Gunn” theme attached, and “Black Night” brings the show to a massive finish.

It’s absolutely delightful watching Ian Paice play the drums, as he mouths along to every beat as if playing beatbox along to himself.  It’s fantastic and an expression of pure joy.

It’s not over yet.  The DVD has even more content.


Roger Glover and Bob Ezrin in Conversation

The DVD also includes the conversation with Roger Glover and Whoosh! producer Bob Ezrin.  This is another full 70 minutes of content.  Ezrin was involved with Purple from the jamming stage in Nashville and speaks in terms of “we”.  One of the biggest takeaways from this interview is a piece of wisdom from the late Jon Lord as told by Roger Glover.  Lord didn’t want to do more than two takes of a solo.  More than that, and he starting thinking too much.

The pair discuss the lyrics, the songs, the title (nicked from Faulty Towers), the playing, and more.  It’s lovely watching the pair just enjoy Steve Morse’s harmonics.  “Like capturing lightning,” says Roger.  Watching this portion of the DVD will enhance your enjoyment of the album.  It’s fun knowing what parts of the songs turned on the musicians and producer.  “Stretch out,” advised Bob.  And so Purple interpreted that as stretching it out every way.  “I wanna put the Deep back in Purple,” said Bob.  The boys also praise Ian Gillan’s focus, from eating right to meditating.  They even go back in time and talk about Glover’s joining of Deep Purple in 1969.

Ezrin particularly loved seeing magic unfold live before his eyes and ears, captured on tape.  He is obviously a fan of Deep Purple as musicians and as people.  Whether you can get into Ezrin-era Purple or not, there is real chemistry between band and producer.

You’ll probably only watch this conversation once, but you’ll be glad you did that at least.  There is so much knowledge and history to absorb here that all fans are advised to give the whole thing a spin.


Summing up

The box set itself comes with a cool black T-shirt with the “strolling dissolving astronaut” graphic.  This is the second album in a row with simple excellent art design for Deep Purple.  The astronaut recalls the music video for “Knocking At Your Back Door” from 1984.  He appears in numerous places in this set in different forms.  There are three art prints (two 12×12 and one 12×6), and of course all this music!  The vinyl copy of Whoosh! comes in a gatefold sleeve with credits and photos.  It sounds phenomenal with plenty of bottom end.  For lyrics, you’ll have to dig into the included CD copy.

Of course, if you don’t need all the extra live stuff and added goodies, you could just buy Whoosh! on CD, vinyl or download.  It’s frequently said that the benchmark for Purple is Purpendicular.  “Best album since Purpendicular,” fans often enthuse.  Whoosh! could be the best album of the Ezrin era, and is a contender for best of the Steve Morse epoch.  A serious fan will want the whole box with the three live 10″ discs.  They are beautiful to look at and sound good on the turntable.  Though the set is expensive, this is the kind of thing I’m willing to pay for.

4.25/5 stars for Whoosh!

4/5 stars for the box set

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Throw My Bones”/”Man Alive” (2020 10″ single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Throw My Bones”/”Man Alive” (2020 10″ Edel single)

As a general rule, I won’t listen to new Deep Purple until I have a physical product in my hands.  These days that usually happens in the form of a new single.  Deep Purple will be back with a new album Whoosh! produced by Bob Ezrin in August 2020.  Until then, they’ve issued a three track single with one exclusive new song.  How nice of them!

A huge thanks to John of 2 Loud 2 Old Music for gifting this vinyl.  Certain new releases are difficult to find today (for obvious reasons), at least without spending money on huge markups by secondary sellers.  Music friends are the best kind of friends — make one today!

A word about the cover art:  love it!  Though not identical, the new Deep Purple logo is strongly reminiscent of the original Shades Of Deep Purple logo from 1968.  The astronaut is similarly retro.  He even recalls the similarly-garbed “archaeologists” in the music video for “Knocking At Your Back Door”.  And now, for the first time, the needle drops on the vinyl and we find out what the new Deep Purple sounds like.

“Throw My Bones” has one of those quirky Steve Morse guitar riffs but then it’s backed up by those lush Don Airey keyboards.  This is one of the catchier songs that Deep Purple have written in the last few years.  Morse’s solo is as breathtaking as usual, but the sparkling keyboards are what makes this song shine.

The second track is the non-album “Power of the Moon” which prompts the question:  if this didn’t make the album, just how good is the album?  Because this track is excellent.  It’s different.  Its quiet passages are mesmerising.  Once again it’s Morse and Airey who really take it to another level.

Finally we have “Man Alive”, a song adorned with an orchestra.  Under the deft guidance of Bob Ezrin, something powerful and dramatic hits the ears even though Deep Purple don’t really do “heavy” anymore.  “Man Alive” is the song that detractors call the “environmental agenda song”.  Hey, if Deep Purple can say something relevant to today and get you to think, that’s great.  We don’t always have to hear about strange kinds of women from Tokyo.  The lyrics are assembled intelligently and thoughtfully.

A lot of people bitch and moan about Ian Gillan.  For the most part, it’s not the singer delivering the hooks in these new songs.  Just as Steve Morse has had to adapt to his damaged right wrist to keep playing, Deep Purple have adapted to Ian Gillan’s age.  The songs don’t blast like they used to; they breathe.  Ian’s voice is multitracked to give it some thickness.  Incidentally the vocals were recorded in Toronto, a city that Gillan has history with.

Longtime Purple fans who enjoyed Now What?! and InFinite will enjoy these new songs just as much.  The cool thing about Purple is that they have distinct eras.  We might be in the tail-end of a Bob Ezrin era (and the whole saga in general) and with time, the Purple/Ezrin collaborations will be looked back on fondly.  The Ezrin albums don’t sound like the Bradford discs, the Glover productions, or any of the others.  They’re more subtle and show a band growing even in their later years.  Whoosh! could be a nice capstone to a career.  We shall see.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – The Breadcrumbs EP (2019)

ALICE COOPER – The Breadcrumbs EP (2019 Edel)

Alice Cooper wanted to do a Detroit garage rock record and pay homage to his roots.  And so we have The Breadcrumbs EP, six tracks of stripped down goodness, ironically produced by Bob Ezrin.  The 10″ vinyl is limited to 20,000 copies.  Somehow, by the grace of the black widow, we scored #48!

For these special songs, Alice is backed by the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, bassist Paul Randolph, Grand Funk’s Railroad Mark Farner, and Detroit Wheel Johnny “Bee” Badanjek. A remake of Alice Cooper’s “Detroit City” (from The Eyes of Alice Cooper) is an appropriate starting point:

Me and Iggy were giggin’ with Ziggy and kickin’ with the MC5,
Ted and Seger were burnin’ with fever,
and let the Silver Bullets fly,
The Kid was in his crib, Shady wore a bib,
and the posse wasn’t even alive.

That’s some rock and roll poetry right there.  Not one of Alice’s finest songs but worthy of a second chance.  Then “Go Man Go” is a new original composition co-written by Wayne Kramer.  It’s punk rock Alice, as authentic as the bands he’s paying tribute to.  Bob Seger’s “East Side Story” closes the side on a steady groove, right out of Hendrix’s version of “Gloria”.

A really funky “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” (Suzi Quatro) is the centrepiece of the EP.  Horns blastin’, Alice hasn’t been this funky since his dance-oriented Alice Cooper Goes to Hell in 1976.  “Devil With a Blue Dress On” (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) is the soulful side that Alice occasionally shows.  It’s merged with “Chains of Love” (J.J. Barnes) which pulls everything back to rock.  Finally “Sister Anne” by the MC5 puts the snot on the nose and the grime in the rock.  Kramer’s simply awesome riff is perfectly complemented by Cooper.

If copies are still available, get one.  Cooper fans will love the change of pace, while rock and rollers will adore the authenticity.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018)

ALICE COOPER – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018 Edel)

You don’t so much ask if a new Alice Cooper live album is good; instead you just ask what songs are on it.

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (what a mouth full) features “Hurricane” Nita Strauss on lead guitar, Chuck “Beasto Blanco” Garric on bass, drummer Glen Sobel, and guitarists Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.  Guys like Garric and Roxie are the veterans, but Nita Strauss is a serious focal point.  She can really shred.

The setlist spans most of Cooper’s career.  The CD even opens with “Brutal Planet”, which was the set opener back in 2000 on the Brutal Planet tour.  The industrial-tinged song is less jarring live.  From there, onto the oldies:  “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels” and “Department of Youth”.  Alice’s band are capable backing singers and they tend to focus on the melody while Alice does his schtick with character.  I won’t tell you who Alice name-drops in “Department of Youth” (remember, it used to be teen idol Donny Osmond).  That’s a surprise.

Another surprise:  the fabulous “Pain” from Flush the Fashion.  The powerful dark pop is heavier live, enriched by three guitars in harmony.  Alice can still infuse the song with suffering, even decades later.  Back to an oldie for a moment with “Billion Dollar Babies” (absolutely massive with three guitars) and then another surprise:  “The World Needs Guts”.  Very few songs from Constrictor get played live, and this one is a live album debut.  There’s a certain nostalgia now for the Kane Roberts era, and “The World Needs Guts” thrills my gorilla on this album.  Then to another niche album, 2005’s garage rock of Dirty Diamonds.  It’s an underrated gem of an album, and so “Woman of Mass Distraction” is a welcome selection, though others would have been more interesting.

“Poison” is a perennial, and here it is again representing 1989’s Trash album.  Every Cooper lineup has its own touch with it.  This one isn’t the sleekest version but it’s the most thunderous.  To cap off the first CD, it’s “Halo of Flies” from “Killer”, almost 11 minutes in length.  This is the kind of deep cut you crave, complete and unedited.  Once again, the three guitars really enrich the sound.

Another regular, “Feed My Frankenstein”, is one I could live without.  But this one is a generational song.  Fans who grew up in the early 90s remember it from Wayne’s World.  It’s the song Mrs. LeBrain sang along to in the car.  Boring to some, a highlight for others.  Then it’s back to “Cold Ethyl” from Welcome to My Nightmare, a stone-cold classic (pardon the pun) highlighting the rock and roll side of Alice.  The trade-off guitar solos are a newer twist.  From the same album comes “Only Women Bleed”, and really the only slow song in the set.  Alice doesn’t need to take it slow!

It took this long to play the one and only new song, “Paranoiac Personality“.  It’s not always like this — in the past Alice has peppered his set heavily with new material.  For whatever reason, this time the focus is on the variety.  There are new songs that will unfortunately never get the chance to shine live.  Still, it’s hard to complain, especially when the next song is “Dwight Fry”, the second epic on the album.  A medley of “Killer” and “I Love the Dead” keep that same vibe.

“I’m Eighteen” is the beginning of the end, with “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall” ringing the final bell.  Listen to the band introductions for something that Alice rarely does.  Take a minute and appreciate how great Alice’s band is — and always has been no matter the lineup!

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (say that three times) comes highly recommended.  Anyone who collects Alice Cooper will find something here that they’ve wanted to hear live.  Has any artist been as great as Alice for as long as Alice?  Very few, and this album proves he’s still the one and the only.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

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.

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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