earMUSIC [Release date: 29.04.13]
I remember seeing Purple on their 2009 tour and, between albums, it all seemed a bit lack-lustre with a perfunctory trawl through the familiar golden nuggets.
Fast forward to their 19th studio album and the band are firing on all six cylinders, confirmed by the opener ‘A Simple Song’ which after a deceptive and unassuming opening kicks in with some wonderful keyboard extemporising in time-honoured Purple fashion.
Gillan’s vocals are full of confidence and Roger Glover’s stabbing bass propels ‘Weirdistan’ with an excellent Hammond-driven chorus.
‘Out Of Hand’ starts with an orchestral flourish but has a wonderful, dramatic, riff with Steve Morse and Don Airey playing off against each other, the former developing the theme with an inventive solo. This is ‘Kashmir’ but not as we know it.
‘Hell To Pay’ (released in edited format as a single) is back to classic Purple with an almost ‘Speed King’-like vibe and a great Don Airey solo whilst ‘Bodyline’ has a great groove – again gloriously punctuated by Airey’s Hammond.
A lot is being made that this album looks back to ‘Perfect Strangers’ in terms of inspiration and it certainly impresses more than ‘Rapture Of The Deep’, eight years ago. If anything, the keyboard quotient has been ramped up which, in these days of less than organic music making, is frankly a tonic. Sadly, this means that while Steve Morse plays immaculately and provides muscular riffs, he only very occasionally lets rip.
So for example ‘Above And Beyond’ starts with a wonderful and absorbing keyboard flourish which pretty much remains throughout and ‘Blood From A Stone’ has a ‘Riders From The Storm’ vibe in the verse. ‘Apres Vous’ has another wonderful organ-grinding riff and a spectacular piece of guitar-keys play-off.
‘Uncommon Man’ starts with a superbly fluid Morse solo against Airey’s lush synth orchestration. This develops into a piece of almost ELP-epic proportions.
Strangely, the weakest track on the album might be the lead single. ‘All The Time In The World’ plods along in risk-free Radio 2-friendly style but the verse is far too close to ‘You’re So Vain’ and seems to be awaiting some ‘Hush’ style psychedelic harmonies.
The closer ‘Vincent Price’ doesn’t seem to sit well with the rest of the album, and I can’t help thinking producer Bob Ezrin has purposefully evoked the spirit of previous shock-rock charges. But bless him, Steve Morse does evoke the spirit of Ritchie. This track would probably be rather good live.
The album is unsurprisingly dedicated to Jon Lord and the band have commented that his spirit was omnipresent during the recordings. I think he would have been very proud of his former consorts. If both Lord and Blackmore still cast long shadows over one of our most enduring and influential rock bands, the present Purple have produced an album that is both deferential and still hugely relevant. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
UK Tour Dates 2013
12 October – Manchester Apollo
13 October – Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
15 October – Birmingham NIA
16/17 October London Roundhouse
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