The studio recordings of Deep Purple: Part Four 1984/1993 The reformation years with Blackmore


  Perfect Strangers (1984)

Take a trip with me if you will in my time machine back to 1984 and I’ll tell you a little story…..

It’s a Friday night and I am in my home studio (does that make me sound pretentious or what, ……… no ………… pretentious moi ……… never !!).

Okay so I’m in a spare room in my parents house in the country which they’ve given me as a music room and its full of dodgy old valve amps that pick up the police radio, a massive Marshall PA system, numerous mike stands, a big old organ and one of those Tascam four track recording studios. See, home studio, I was right all along. Not that I ever used this home recording studio as a way to attract young women you understand ….well maybe once or twice or  …….. well never mind all that lets get back to the point.

Its Friday its 1984 its 10pm and as anyone of my generation knows that meant one thing THE FRIDAY ROCK SHOW and the gone but never to be forgotten legend that was one Mr Thomas Vance. TV on the radio. Quickly I flicked the switch that sent the radio signal through the Marshsall PA just in time to hear TV announce that one of the biggest bands of all time were about to reform. I knew it was Purple before he got the words out ……. we all knew it was on the cards ……. but it had been on the cards before …….. this though was the confirmation we needed. Beer cans cracked open in celebration ……… We were going to see Deep Purple, the greatest band that ever existed were reforming just so those of us that missed them first time around could witness DP in concert.

It’s like something out of a fairytale ……. or is it.

At the time I was ecstatic …….. looking back now what did we gain …… Perfect Strangers and House of Blue Light two mighty fine albums. A great day out at Knebworth (just ask my good friend Miles about rostapopolofs and the fold out showers !! A great tour in ’87 with Bad Company (minus Paul Rodgers alas) and that infamous 93 gig at the NEC. What did we lose …….. a Gillan album every year, a Rainbow album every year, a (proper) Whitesnake album every year ………… retrospect is a funny old thing.

So then, what about the album.

Knocking At your Back Door and Perfect Strangers are the proper sounding Purple songs. The remainder could just have easily been on a Rainbow or a Gillan  album. You can’t help wondering though that if Blackmore hated ‘When A Blindman Cries’ so much why did he accept ‘Wasted Sunsets’

At the time of release I was a little disappointed as this sounded more like Gillan fronting Rainbow than ‘Machine Head’ or ‘In Rock’. Looking back now that was a foolish thing to expect and I can appreciate this album now for what it is and not what I expected it to be.

  The House of Blue Light (1987)
Aahh 1987, I remember it well. Like it was only yesterday in fact. For most of us it was still a land of vinyl and fairly regular releases. Although the trend was changing and CD displays were encroaching ever further onto the Record shop floors. The good side of this was that albums could be a little longer. The downside, which most of us probably never saw coming was that this enabled the artists and record companies to leave longer between releases. Subsequently we had to wait three years for this, the second album following the reformation.

I remember the day of release. It was January and it was cold. A few months earlier I had leapt perilously onto the property ladder and now found myself living in an area where everyone was a good twenty years older than me (about the age I am now curiously enough). My rock’n’ roll life style was not exactly what they had in mind for a new neighbour and there were collective intakes of breath as an array of hi-fi equipment and a couple of Marshall PA stacks had been unloaded on my arrival. Anyway getting back to that January morn, as I looked out of the window all I could see was snow. It was almost knee deep. Cars were left abandoned, others were skidding up the hill and back down again. Only a fool would venture out if he didn’t have too.

I’d got food ……. I’d got beer …….. I’d got whisky ……. I’d got pretty much everything I needed, and a few things I didn’t if the truth be known. So I had no need to go out.

BUT THE NEW PURPLE ALBUM WAS OUT TODAY.

It was only three miles to town. Too much waiting had already been done. Prior to 1984 you got a Rainbow album, a Gillan album and a Whitesnake album every year. Gillan even managed to throw in two in 1981. So the Purple crew owed me at least SEVEN albums as 1984 had seen just ‘Perfect Strangers’ and 1985 and 1986 had seen nothing. Even Whitesnake had only come up with ‘Slide It In’ in 1984 and the 1987 effort had not yet arrived. A Purple fix was much needed. So on went the boots, the hat and the coat. It wouldn’t take long …… it had to be done.

Maybe it’s the memory of that hazardous journey, maybe it’s the recalling of the anticipation and excitement of getting it home and putting it on the turntable. Maybe it’s the memory of the look on my new neighbours face when he had the audacity to suggest my stereo was a little loud and I replied ‘No it isn’t ….. look how loud I can get it to go if I want to’ and almost deafened him with Mitzi Dupree that makes me like this album so much.

Or maybe it is just the fact that is a very very good album. In my mind it is almost the last proper true Purple album. Good songs, good instrumental interplay, good vocals, and the usual far better than average Gillan/Glover lyrics. There is even a return to the Purple formula of old with a good humerous lyric in Mitzi Dupree a la Anyone’s Daughter, Living Wreck, Mary Long etc. Plus the classic line ‘ … pick your window, you’re leaving.’

For me, it was an improvement on Perfect Strangers and looking back now should possibly have been where the Purple story ended. Many of the albums that followed were good ……. but to me at least they just don’t sound like Purple albums. This one does and it is well worth owning, even if you have to wade through three miles of snow to get it.

  Slaves and Masters (1990)
So come 1990 and Deep Purple moved into their fourth decade and at the same time their fourth vocalist. Namely American Joe Lynn Turner.

Now those of you who know the history of the band will know what happened the first time an American joined Purple. When Tommy Bolin replaced Ritchie Blackmore in 1975 he was given a pretty rough ride by Purple fans. JLT fared little better during his short stint. But whereas in retrospect the majority of Purple fans have, admittedly in some cases begrudgingly, accepted that Bolin was an incredible talent and his contribution to Purple was worthwhile JLT remains something of a Purple outcast. Indeed many of the band members themselves have stated it was a big mistake.

Whether it was a mistake or not is arguable. What isn’t is the fact that this, judged on its merits as an album of good well written AOR songs is a mighty fine album.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound like other Purple albums. It sounds more like Rainbow. Well, to be frank, what do you expect. If you add a former Rainbow vocalist to a band which already contains a Rainbow guitarist and bass player/producer and let them write most of the songs. How do you expect it to sound like anything other than a Rainbow album.

In truth the reformed Purple always sounded more like Rainbow than any of the other Purple members solo groups. ‘Perfect Strangers’ sounded like Gillan fronting Rainbow in places in pretty much the same way as this album sounds like Lord and Paice had joined Rainbow.

Yes, there are a couple of duffers on there. ‘Too Much Is Not Enough’ is pretty awful. ‘Love Conquers All’ has been turned into a sickly sweet syrupy mush of a song which according to Jon Lord was nothing like it was supposed to be. But that is what JLT is all about. If Gillan and Coverdale came from a backround of rock and blues with the vocal stylings of Elvis Presley (Gillan) and Scott Walker (Coverdale) then JLT was strictly chicken in a basket Engleburt Humperdinck cabaret, just listen to his Fandango albums and see for yourself. Having said that though he is good at it. He is also a far better rock singer than most give him credit for. If you get the chance listen to his two cover version solo abums ‘Under Cover’ and ‘Under Cover 2’ for the proof that he can sing rock better than most. He doesn’t do a bad job on here either, the first three tracks all being good rockers. ‘Truth Hurts’ nods a little towards JLT’s Humperdinck style at times but ‘Breakfast In Bed’ has almost got a Bad Company type feel to it. ‘Fortune Teller’ is similarly infectious and ‘Wicked Ways’ brings the album  to a fast paced close.

So there you have it. Call it what you will, Deep Purple …… Deep Rainbow …… Ritchie Blackmore’s Purple Rainbow. It really doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you listen to it with an open mind. It’s a good album and although some ‘Gillan only’ fans won’t like it ………. the truth hurts (pun intended)

N.B
I saw this line-up on tour and they were good.  I thought it worked okay and the variation in the set list was very welcome. They played ‘Burn’ for one which was good to hear. With the multitude of Purple live albums and compilations that come out I am surprised that an official live set from this line-up has never been released. I can only assume the band have somehow prevented it. If anyone knows of a good soundboard bootleg I’d be interested in hearing it.

  The Battle Rages On (1993)
By the time 1993 and ‘The Battle Rages On’ came around the whole reformation thing was generating into something of a farce. Purple had made significant line-up changes regularly from day one so it was nothing new but many, myself included, thought that the firing of Ian Gillan in late ’89 should have seen the name Deep Purple given an honourable retirement and that everyone should have gone their seperate ways. Recruiting Joe Lynn Turner seemed unnecessary but the resulting album ‘Slaves & Masters’ despite its Rainbowesque leanings was still a good album ….. it just shouldn’t have been labelled a Deep Purple one.

Then, come 1993 Mr Turner is getting a little bit too big for his boots and making suggestions about the way the band should be going and saying that they should be doing things the way some of the newer bands were doing. Unsurprisingly Messrs Blackmore, Glover, Lord and Paice are none too happy about this. At the same time the record company are not too enamoured with the early takes of the next album, and the fact that 1993 is the bands 25th anniversary starts a few people thinking.

What if we could get Ian Gillan back.

Now I don’t claim to have any insider knowledge here but what I do know is that initially Gillan only agreed to come back for the anniversary album and tour. Then he was going back to his solo career …….. fourteen years later he’s still there but as we all know someone else isn’t !

So what of the album. I have to say firstly that this is one of the few DP albums that I have just never ‘got into’. Maybe I need to re-evaluate it, but in places it just sounds like they’re going through the motions. Even the cover is awful. The vocals are poor by the standards of Ian Gillan but that may be due to his heavy touring in the couple of years he was out of Purple. Or it may be due to the fact that the songs were written with another singer in mind. There are two trains of thought here. One was that the album was almost completed before Gillan returned and he had to sing new lyrics over the top of Turners old ones. Or two, that the record company demanded that the album was scrapped and started again as it was so bad initially. I would guess there is probably a little truth in both but the lyrics are definately more Gillan/Glover than Glover/Turner. There are a number of rehashed riffs from previous material. Most notably the riff from ‘Stranded’ (a Rainbow track from ‘Bent Out Of Shape’) and the songs barely rise above ordinary. ‘Anya’ could have been a classic with a little more imagination. As usual there are some clever lyrics throughout the album. Gillan even manages a few pointed one liners ….. ‘ I used to be friends but now I’m second hand ……’. The problem for me is that when you know what this group of musicians is capable of this just doesn’t cut it. In truth they sound jaded and at times bored.

The accompanying tour however was not quite so lacklustre. I was at the infamous NEC gig where Blackmore came on late and hurled water across the stage in the vicinity of Lord and Gillan. There have been numerous suggestions as to why he did this but he was quite cleary upset that the signal had been given to Gillan to start singing ‘Highway Star’ before Blackmore came on. They must have run through the intro at least twice before Lord clearly signalled Gillan to start next time around whether Blackmore was there or not.

Blackmore announced his decision to quit before the end of the UK tour and as he had done previously in 1975 bowed out with a couple of blisteringly good performances. Joe Satriani came in to complete the tours elsewhere and despite the efforts of all concerned he was not able to join the band permanently. Purple even tried to buy him out of his solo deal but he was unable to travel to Australia and Steve Morse was drafted in. Subsequently a whole new Purple has emerged and despite  a poor start with the woeful ‘Abandon’ developed a new fan base whilst retaining most of the old. No official recordings exist of the Satriani Purple but there are some good live show bootlegs around which serious Purple officianados should track down as they are good.

So from this album onwards it has been a Purple without Blackmore whether that should have been allowed to happen is still a matter of debate amongst Purple fans of old. Indeed you could say ……. the battle rages on ……… even now.

(All originaly published on RYM in July and September 2007)
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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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