Ear Music [Release date 07.08.20]
Classic rock legends Deep Purple remain a star on the highway, heading towards the next decade with studio album number 21. Long gone are the lengthier tracks, but the band’s ability to find a groove and produce some excellent music has never changed; in fact it’s probably as good here as it has ever been.
Deep Purple have never produced a bad album, whether they’ve coped with the changing zeitgeist or fans who live in the past is another matter, but here they’ve hit the zeitgeist square in the face.
Over the last three albums, the song writing has hit a real purple patch, the relationship with producer Bob Ezrin helping the groove. Most songs are in the 3-5 minute range, five virtuoso musicians playing the epitome of classic rock with a bit of prog and a modern feel to boot.
Like the predecessor Infinite, there’s the frequent undercurrent of the blues, and on a couple of tracks the right foot is pleasantly heavy on the classical gas; pianist Don Airey clearly partial to a spot of Bach as much as Jon Lord. And from rich keyboard fills to a rock’n’roll piano, it’s all there. Alongside Airey (founder member Lord’s replacement) are singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice.
Opener ‘Throw My Bones’, also a single, kicks off with a chunky guitar sound with a funky edge before the band come in, Gillan’s trademark phrasing ever present, and there’s some delicate orchestration in the big production, a wonderful track by any standards.
‘Drop The Weapon’ follows, a few seconds of the guitar intro could be Angus Young, it’s another solid number with Airey’s rich keyboards nice in the mix. Then there’s ‘We’re All The Same In The Dark’, not the only track to have a nod to the 80s Purps.
There is much brilliance shining through, especially Airey, each song different, but the star is Gillan, who not only delivers a solid punch, but is lyrically on the ball, while his phrasing is as good as ever. When Ian Paice and Roger Glover get a swing going for some rock’n’roll, the music remains as good. And there’s a great reworking of the Mark I’s ‘And Now The Address’.
Morse and Airey trade both solos and riffs; there’s no riff led anthems here, but the 13 tracks remain magical.
There will always be the Blackmore fans bemoaning his absence, and yes he did have an ear for an increasingly commercial riff – look at what happened to both Rainbow and in the late 80s/early 90s Deep Purple. What I love about the way Steve Morse has fitted in, is Purple are just being Purple. Deep.
There’s no dip in quality; in fact just when you think there should be, track 9, three belters appears. Storming. The band do not sound like they are going to quit any time soon. Only actual physical death, or serious arthritis, is going to stop these guys. No pressure, no expectations, just album of the year so far. Between producer Ezrin and label Ear Music, Deep Purple are in a good place right now. Let’s hope it stays like that. *****
Review by Joe Geesin
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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