Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Deep Purple's 'Now What?!' - Album Review

There is not much left to say about Deep Purple that has not already been said in the forty-plus year career so far. They are a legendary band that helped to define the rock genre in the early 70s along with the other members of the 'Big 4 of Hard Rock' - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep - and helped lauch the career of many great musicians. Despite numerous line-up changes and break-ups, Deep Purple have been producing mostly top quality music throughout their career and 2013's Now What?! is no exception. This is their first album since 2005's Rapture of the Deep which was quite poorly received so it seems that the consensus is that this album is a real return to form. What strikes me about this album is just how diverse it is. There is a lot going on and it is great to see that a band who have been around for well over four decades are still willing to push their boundaries and create something fresh. There are definately similarities to their classic early 1970s output but this album definately has it's own sound.

The album starts with the understated A Simple Song which barely sounds like something Deep Purple would write. This is what I mean about diversity and how the band are not afraid to try something new. Guitarist Steve Morse's delicate leads in the intro to the song highlight just how much 'feel' the guy injects into his playing. Frontman Ian Gillan sounds better than he has in years on this album. There has been a fair amount of talk that is voice is well past it's best now but he puts in an admirable performance on this album that gets the best out of his remaining talents. Midway through the song, it becomes something more akin to classic Purple with washings to hammond organ from Don Airey (see the great solo) and pounding bass from Roger Glover. Weirdistan is up next and this is a keyboard-led rocker that would not have really sounded out of place on any of the band's classic albums. I love the keyboard sounds on this album. Airey really shines here and his riffs and solos are some of the highlights of the album. Out of Hand follows and after a string-intro, a monster riff breaks out from Morse doubled by Airey's keyboards. To me, that combination of guitars and keyboards is what typifies the Deep Purple sound. This type of song does highlight the fact that Gillan's voice is not what it was but I still think he does well here. He sounds a little strained in places but he still gives it his all! There is also a great speedy guitar solo from Morse. Next is Hell to Pay which is another great rocking track that is one of the album's highlights. There is nothing fancy going on here but the riffing is great and Ian Paice's drums drive the song along nicely. The keyboard work again here is fantastic - and that seems to be a theme!

The funky Body Line follows and this sounds like something that could have come from Fireball. Glover's bassline here is flowing and inventive and the whole song is built around it. The guitars take a backseat on this track to let the bassline shine through with the keyboards adding colour. After a couple of slightly average tracks, we get to possibly the best track on the album in Uncommon Man. There is a very progressive feel to this whole song and that is what makes it stand apart from the rest. After a slow build up, we have a fanfare backed by a rock rhythm section. There is something very Aaron Copland-esque about this whole song. Again, I really love the keyboard work here from Airey. He has managed to create many memorable parts on this album but the work on this track surpasses it all. The next highlight is All the Time in the World which was the first song from the album to be released to the public. Again, it is quite a different sound for Deep Purple - it is almost a ballad - but it is quite infectious and will stay with you for ages. Morse's guitar is great throughout and he almost doubles up against Gillan's vocals, giving them a guitar-based edged and there is a really melodic guitar solo in the middle of the song. Closing the album is the single Vincent Price. Out of all songs on the album, this seems an odd choice to release as a single and shoot a video for but it is still an interesting tune. It has quite a haunting quality, unsurprising given the nature of the subject matter, with lots of gothic overtones such a church organ in the background of the verses. Overall, this is a great album. I really like the plethora of sounds the band has come up with and the fact it is charting in so many countries is a testament to that. This album holds it's own against the band's extensive and excellent back catalogue and for that alone the band should be commended.

The album was released on 26th April 2013 via earMusic. Below is the band's promotional video for Vincent Price.

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