Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Deep Purple - Now What?!

Deep Purple
Now What?!
earMusic/Shock Records Distribution

When Deep Purple released ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ back in 2005, I was totally taken aback by how great the album was. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the couple of albums the band released before ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ were terrible (1998’s ‘Abandon’ and 2003’s ‘Bananas’), but there was a certain magic, consistency and strength within the album that hadn’t been heard on an album since the band released ‘Purpendicular’ way back in 1996. In fact, I enjoyed the album so much it made my top ten album list of the year.
But despite the success of ‘Rapture Of The Deep’, it’s taken Deep Purple some eight years to finally emerge from their self imposed studio hiatus to emerge with ‘Now What?!’, with the legendary Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper) taking on the role of producer this time around. Needless to say, with reports of the band taking on a more progressive rock sound on their nineteenth studio release, I was eager to get my hands on the band’s latest release.
And now that I’ve given the album a thorough listen, I can say that while ‘Now What?!’ doesn’t quite topple ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ as one of the strongest releases the legendary classic rock band have released in the last twenty years, it does stand as one of their more memorable releases.
The album is opened with ‘A Simple Song’, which initially starts out with an extended instrumental passage courtesy of guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey. The pair demonstrates their ability to put together a simple and effective piece of music, and when vocalist Ian Gillan adds his vocals to the mix, the piece is turned into quite an emotional intro. But around the two minute mark, the song quickly moves into heavy progressive rock territory with the introduction of bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice. The song features plenty of Airey’s classic sounding Hammond keyboards, and when mixed with Morse’s guitar riffs, the band produces a hard rocking sound that steers more toward the progressive side of things than anything the band has done in years. ‘A Simple Song’ is a welcoming return to the band’s classic ‘70’s sound, but delivered with a distinctly modern approach. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.
The follow-up ‘Weirdistan’ continues the progressive rock sound of the opener perfectly with the song’s thumping bass groove underpinning Airey’s rich mix of keyboard solos and Gillan’s captivating vocals and melodies. In simple terms, this song is a definite stand out.
Not far behind is ‘Out Of Hand’, which is a heavy rocker that allows Morse to stand in the spotlight with his darker toned guitar riffing, while ‘Blood From A Stone’ is no less brooding and heavy, but given a bit more space for atmosphere with its subtle jazz influences.
In terms of the traditional hard rock sound that’s become the standard Deep Purple are measured by these days more often than not, ‘Hell To Pay’ and the Emerson, Lake and Palmer influenced ‘Uncommon Man’ more than satisfy, while the slower paced ‘Above And Beyond’ (Which is dedicated to the late Jon Lord) is another favourite, and features one of Gillan’s more memorable performances.
Unfortunately, ‘Now What?!’ does have a couple of tracks that don’t quite hit the mark. The funky ‘Bodyline’, which is actually really cool on the musical side of the equation, is let down by some fairly ordinary lyrics, and probably would have fitted better on Gillan’s last solo effort ‘One Eye To Morocco’ (2009). Although ‘Apr├Ęs Vous’ doesn’t fare quite as bad as ‘Bodyline’ in the lyric department, it is another track that would feel more at home on a Gillan solo effort rather than here on a Deep Purple release. And last but not least, there’s ‘All The Time In The World’. Again, there’s nothing wrong at all with the track (It’s another favourite actually. Morse’s solo is a killer on this!), it’s just a little too laid back when compared to the rest of the album, and feels out of place here.
But despite a couple of out of place tracks, the album is finished on a high note with the organ driven/thick guitar toned classic heavy rocker ‘Vincent Price’. Again, Gillan shines here alongside the rest of the band, and prove beyond any doubt that the band still has plenty to offer fans.
Overall, while ‘Now What?!’ does have a couple of tracks that sound a little out of place, the album is still up there with the best the band have offered up fans in the last twenty years.
It may have taken the band eight years to emerge with ‘Now What?!’, but trust me, it’s been worth the wait.

For more information on Deep Purple, check out - http://www.deeppurple.com/

© Justin Donnelly