The studio recordings of Deep Purple: Part Five 1996 onwards. The Morse era

  Purpendicular (1996)

So by the time 1996 came along Blackmore had gone. Dixie Dreggs man Steve Morse took over the stage left position after Joe Satriani had kept it warm for a while and we all wondered if a Blackmoreless Purple of the nineties would survive. Eleven years on they are still going so I suppose the answer to that is yes they could. Though I may as well admit that I seriously doubted it at the time.

It has taken me a while to come around to the Morse era Purple. Not because I don’t rate him as a guitar player but because there just didn’t seem to me any point to continue with new members. As I have said previously they should have retired the Deep Purple name after ‘The House Of Blue Light’. That was really where the reformation ended and started to descend into farce. Firstly with Gillan being sacked and the rest of them recording ‘Slaves & Masters’  with Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner. Then Gillan being re-hired and Blackmore quitting mid tour. Probably with a case of pre-minstrel tension !

Anyway when this came out I was all ready to rubbish it. Especially when I first heard the ridiculous title. I may as well say straight off here one of those things that infuriates me is deliberately spelling things wrong to look hip or cool or whatever the trendy word is these days. I’m sure you know what I am talking about here ……… hairdressers called Kwik Cutz and the like.

Okay, rant over, back to the album. Well ………. surprise, shock, horror, it is actually good. There are plenty of well crafted songs and Morse, pretty much in the way Tommy Bolin had done in 1975, makes no particular effort to sound like Blackmore. Gillan’s vocals are a lot better than on ‘The Battle Rages On’ and only rarely does he struggle. For the rest of the band the enthusiasm seems to have returned and they seem to be genuinely enjoying playing again. This is probably borne out by the fact that it was far longer than all the previous Purple albums clocking in around the hour mark. That may also be why it does take a few listens to get to grips with it.

I may have even under rated this to be honest as it is far better than the previous two albums.

  Abandon (1998)

1998 and two shocks.

1. Deep Purple release a new album after only two years and not the usual three.

2. It has exactly the same line-up as the one before.

Okay so i’m taking the mickey a bit here but it is two in the morning. (At least it is where I am, although the RYM clock would have you believe otherwise)

Now after the pleasant surprise of ‘Purpendicular’ I was really looking forward to this album. I first started to worry it might not be as good as its predecessor when I collected it from the shop. Firstly, the cover just didn’t look like a DP cover and then you’d got the deliberate spelling mistakes which anyone who has read my review of the previous album will know is a bit of a pet hate. Also when you are trying to distance yourself from the classic albums you made in the seventies why on earth would you re-record a track from one of your most famous albums ……… and not attempt to do anything out of the ordinary with it. But just cover it like a tribute act …… poorly.

Three stars is more out of respect for the musicians involved than anything else. Fortunately it was a blip and form was refound later on but this is almost as bad as ‘The Battle Rages On’.

  Bananas (2003)

Recording wise it had all gone a bit quiet on the Purple front around the turn of the century. ‘Abandon’ hadn’t exactly set the world on fire and to this reviewers ears at least things had taken a huge backward step after the first Morse era album ‘Purpendicular’ had shown so much promise. The years ticked by and no new album came along, although the band was still touring. Then came the news that it appeared at the time would finish Purple for good.

Jon Lord was leaving.

Now we’d coped with Blackmore going (twice), Gillan going (twice) and Glover going(once) but a Deep Purple without Jon Lord no that was just too bad to imagine.

There was only really ever one person who could get the gig, and he did, Don Airey. It’s curious to note here that Airey is a former member of Rainbow. Now I wonder what the reaction would have been had Blackmore still been in the band and suggested hiring another Rainbow member !!  

Anyway, as the release of the album drew nearer I was still not overly enthusiastic, expecting it to be in the same vein as ‘Abandon’ but without the talents of Mr Lord. Then they announced it was going to be called ‘Bananas’ and I saw the proposed cover. Enthusiasm was now at an all time low and I reached out for ‘Machine Head’.

A few weeks later and the album hit the streets, so dutifully I trot off to collect a copy on release day. No easy task in 21st Century Walsall that, it took me three shops until I found one who had bothered to order any in. This is not a good sign I thought as the assistant announced “I think we’ve got one somewhere”. One …….. One…….. they’re not expecting a rush on this then I thought as the assistant continued “Oh my Dad used to like these”. Used …… used. What was going on, the greatest rock band ever had allowed Jon Lord to leave, had called its new album ‘Bananas’ and was being dismissed as minimal turnover product that the assistants dad had grown out of. What was the world coming too ……..

So now a little over four years later here it is, my opinion on the first Deep Purple album without Jon Lord.

The first thing that springs to mind as the opening track ‘House Of Pain’ powers from the speakers is familiarity. The riff is very reminiscent of the Dixie Dregs track ‘Take It Off The Top’ but vocally it is classic Gillan. Next up ‘Sun Goes Down’ gives Don Airey an early chance to shine and he doesn’t waste it. ‘Haunted’ is one of the albums highlights for me. It is an unusual song for purple in that it uses backing vocalists, Ian Gillan does a fine job on lead vocal but i would have loved to hear him sing this song when his voice was at its peak. It is complimented by a nice simple solo from Morse. It is actually the type of song Blackmore would have hated ! ‘Razzle Dazzle’ is a real foot tapping song even though it has a strange tempo. It seems to have influences from every part of Gillans career in its style. ‘Walk On’ may be a simple blues type thing but it is brilliant and is probably my favourite track  on the album. ‘Never A Word’ is almost Deep Purple play Blackmore’s Night and is another totally unpurple type of song with its folky feel. The title track seems a little disjointed in places but is still okay whereas ‘I Got Your Number’ despite being a little repatative in places has a nice ending. The final track ‘Contact Lost’ is a nice instrumental ending to the album but is possibly a little too short. The other tracks are all standard purple type songs although bizarrely they have a ‘House Of Blue Light’ era feel to them.

So after all the unenthusiasm leading up to the album it turned out surprisingly well. Overall it is an extremely good experimental album with the basics of Deep Purple kept intact. There is good musical interplay throughout with Morse and Airey quickly forming a good soloing partnership. Steve Morse particularly shines  on this album, maybe due to  stepping out of the shadow of Jon Lord. Roger Glover and Ian Paice provide the best rhythm section anyone could ever want and have been doing it so long they could probably do it in their sleep. Ian Gillan also proves he can still deliver top quality vocals at least in a studio environment. In fact the only bad thing about ‘Bananas’ is the cover but if you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover then this is proof that the same rule applies to CD’s.

  Rapture of the Deep (2005)
“Rapture of the Deep” is the most recent studio release from Deep Purple, at least it is if you are reading this around the time I’m writing it and not some time in the distant future. Mind you, even then it might be the latest release depending how far in the future we’re talking about. Then again of course there is always the possibility that ……….

Okay lets get a grip here before the waffle completely takes over and see if we can come with something worth reading.

So after four singers, four guitarists, three bass players, two keyboard players and just the one drummer in thirty seven years, admittedly with an eight year break between ’76 and ’84, we arrive at this album. The second without the mighty Jon Lord and the fourth without Ritchie Blackmore. No lets rephrase that in a positive light for I think they deserve it. It’s the second album with Don Airey and the fourth with Steve Morse. Talking of Don Airey it is strange to think that the last time I saw him he was dressed in a union jack waistcoat and was about to conduct the orchestra for the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. See, if you try hard enough you can connect Deep Purple to just about anything !  

So enough of this trivia I hear you cry, what about the album. Is it any good and does it do justice to the name Deep Purple. Well the answer to both is a resounding yes. The first thing that hits you about this album is its sheer power. It’s almost like a huge retaliatory blow from an ageing heavyweight boxer as a young pretender tries to steal his title. You can imagine them in studio thinking “Okay you want loud, hard and heavy, we’ll show you loud, hard and heavy”. And that’s exactly what it is, loud, hard and heavy. But without sacrificing melody and light and shade. It’s a completely different animal to “Bananas” which was far more experimental. This is just no holds barred solid rock very much in the vein of the classic Purple albums of the seventies. The other thing that strikes you about “Rapture of the Deep” is that it is positively dripping in the personality of Ian Gillan. If “Deep Purple In Rock” was Blackmore’s Purple album then this is quite possibly Ian Gillan’s Purple album.

Right from the opening track ‘Money Talks’ through to album closer ‘Before Time Began’ “Rapture….” has that classic Purple structure with solo’s for both Airey and Morse on most songs and a fine driving rhythm pushing the songs along from Paice and Glover. Gillan’s voice is top notch throughout the album and as ever the lyrics are, for the most part, far more thought provoking than most other bands of this type manage. Although ‘Girls Like That’ proves that Gillan and Glover can still come up a lyric more akin to the norm for a hard rock band. ‘Wrong Man’ is one of my personal favourites with its hard menacing riff and fantastic musical interplay. That can also be found on the title track which has an almost oriental feel about it and includes a particularly pleasant Morse solo. ‘Cleary Quite Absurd’ could easily become a Purple classic and is once again proof positive that Gillan’s voice is still in fine shape in a studio setting at least. The instrumental passages of this one are also pretty good, particularly the ending. The next three tracks are all classic Purple songs where once again the interplay between Airey and Morse is superb. I might even go as far as to say it is as good as Lord and Blackmore were and people who know me will know what a big statement that is from me. ‘MTV’ is a great swipe at classic rock radio and journalists who can’t be bothered to do their research properly. ‘Junkyard Blues’ has some great almost jazz like piano from Airey although the hook in the chorus is vaguely reminiscent of something but I can’t quite put my finger on what. “Before Time Began” is a good closer with a typically thought provoking lyric from Gillan and Glover. Although I can’t help but think of the late Irish comedian Dave Allen when Gillan speaks the last line “……. and for those who remain with your chosen Gods. May your prayers be answered.”

(All originally published on RYM in September 2007 and January 2008)

About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
This entry was posted in Album Reviews, Classic Rock, Deep Purple, Music, Music Reviews, Rock, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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