Album review: DEEP PURPLE – A Fire In The Sky

Deep Purple - A Fire In The Sky

Parlophone [Release date 15.09.17]

British classic rock legends are still going strong, and basking on the back of the rather wonderful ‘iNfinite’ album, released earlier this year. And while compilations may be so common they’re on a street corner with a cockney accent selling flowers, a decent one is more than welcome and this one falls into that category very easily.

With big hits in the late 60 and early 70s (think ‘Hush’, ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Burn’) and a mid 80′s formation (‘Perfect Strangers’), they have actually continued to this very, albeit with a line-up change or two, and this is a rare set in that it spans the band’s entire career. One hell of a summary given the catalogue, but it’s well worth it.

Originally formed in the late 60s, from a band called Roundabout, founder guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has left the band and pianist Jon Lord suffered the ravages of cancer. With drummer Ian Paice at the helm from that first line-up, he is joined by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover (classic Mk II), current guitar hero Steve Morse (he of Dixie Dregs) and keyboard player Don Airey (Rainbow, Ozzy et al).

This set works backwards nicely, so it kicks off with a few tracks from 2013’s ‘Now What?!’, ‘Hell To Pay’ and ‘Vincent Price’ are outstanding rockers, Airey’s keyboards shine brightly, more than filling Lord’s gap, and Morse has made the guitar spot his own.

Then from 2005 there’s Rapture Of The Deep’s title track and another solid track. Whatever the live issues, Gillan certainly has the power here, and a fine guitar solo from Morse too. ‘Bananas’ is covered, and worth checking out is ‘Any Fule Kno That’ from 1998’s ‘Abandon’, Jon Lord’s last album before he retired from the band.

‘Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic’, one of a couple of tracks from 1996’s ‘Perpendicular’, the first to feature Steve Morse, may have had a different vibe to what fans expected but the groove is excellent. From the outset Morse was obviously going to be himself, and not just fill Blackmore’s boots. Thank God for that.

A standout from an underrated album, Gillan’s return and Blackmore’s last, the title track from ‘Battle Rages On’.  Tempestuous times but the track is one of Purple’s best.

Disc one finishes two tracks from ‘Slaves And Master’s (not a personal fave, but it has its fans, featuring Joe Lynn Turner on vocals), and some of the original reformation tracks including the title track to 1984’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ (one of the best albums by anyone in the 80′s, really).

Disc two starts with the band’s final 70′s album, ‘Come Taste The Band’, featuring Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale and Tommy Bolin. Let’s face it, this wasn’t Deep Purple, but a fine album.

The two Mk 3 albums ‘Burn’ and ‘Stormbringer’ show the band’s move from classic hard rock to a funkier direction. Yes ‘Burn’ is classic but the jazzy soul intro ‘Stormbringer’ show that Lord, Blackmore and Paice were all involved in the direction change. Although the guitar solo in the latter I’m sure is reworked in parts on ‘Rainbow Rising’.

Spread between disc 2 and disc 1 is the Mark II material, Blackmore Gillan Glover Lord Paice at their best. Tracks like ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Highway Star’, ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’, and even the lesser known ‘When A Blind Man Cries’ are all anthems, Gillan’s power and screams, and his trademark phrasing too, are all key. Essential. No Question.

Disc 1 finishes with some wonderful hard rock, including ‘Wring That Neck’ and ‘Mandrake Root’, and the US hit single ‘Hush’. The original line-up featuring Rod Evans and Nick Simper provided some excellent moments but it was never really on a par with the later material.  A leftover from the band’s roots but well worthy.

It’s a well packaged and affordable, so whether it’s a listening snippet or an introduction, you could do an awful lot worse. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin


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