By: Larry Toering
Deep Purple return with a monster that goes the distance, but will it travel the duration? This and many more questions to be answered, and it can’t be done by giving an opinion the first time you hear it. As inFinite will take getting used to for some who have that hard to shake line-ups hang up, and think DP revolves around them. However, if you’re a lover of all their music, particularly the Morse era for all it has been worth, you are in for a wild delivery. Add Bob Ezrin as producer and some of the ideas on a previous release Rapture Of The Deep have ultimately found their feet as ideas on this beautiful album, via flirting with some of that on their last release Now What?! It started this creative ride they’re on and if this does wind up their swan song, they have proven time and again that you are only as good as your last record.
Nashville, once again, was the place to rock this out, followed by lyrics and vocals worked out in Toronto. There are a couple of factors fused together on this which give an all-around charm. The first being “old fashioned” style rock, then some AOR of the prog variety, and ultimately full on prog rock. The latter being the dominant aspect by far with some epic tracks to go with some fun pieces that all work magically together and re-establishes them as a force to reckon with, for those who can actually take wind of it. The last one topped five national Billboards, and it is worth noting that at no time in their approaching fifty-year history have they gone number one in multi countries. Take note of that when you dog on their post Blackmore existence. But numbers aren’t everything, however doing things right is. And Ear Music have pulled out all stops for it, resulting in everything from great product packages to what appeared to be quite the photo shoot.
This also comes with a movie that made theaters across Germany, if you purchase the package which it includes. So, it is a deluxe and well organized campaign with millions responding positively on social networks to pad the noise. It takes them into the studio for interviews and the inner workings of some of the songs. And that is where the rest of this review will focus. These songs all have something compelling to grab the fans ears, and a completely accessible production that somehow makes the hard seem easy and the easy seem hard, which is a Purple thing anyway. Time For Bedlam opens what is a show of sorts as it cinematically unfolds. This is a barrage of jamming that instantly establishes that “Wall” of Ezrin sound. It’s pulverizing to say the least. Just a jubilant performance by all. And if that can’t set the tone for a marvelous record, I say nothing can. From the “treated vocals” in the intro and outro, this is a mind melting opener, and one of their best to start an album in I don’t know how long.
And it takes off from there with flying colors. Hip Boots is a fun romp to contrast the darker mood of the opener. They waste no time getting you to move, and I hope Glenn Hughes is reading this, because it is an early effort in the running order to be grooving with such abandon. This should lay to rest much speculation about its “pedestrian” overview from having performed it live a few times, and hearing the first instrumental take since it was released on a single/EP. It is followed by the recently released single All I Got Is You, which comes with a promo video of footage pieced together from the DVD. At first I wasn’t too excited about this, but once hearing the full album it makes all the sense in the world. This is a good AOR felt track with a lot of character but not a thing I usually go for. But it grew fast, so no complaints. But on One Night In Vegas, things pick back up a little with a swaggering track containing some good vocals to keep it interesting, but not a lot of wow factor to it. Ian Gillan does no wrong at this point, and it has some good lyrics to back it.
After yet another enjoyable track it still doesn’t hint at what’s to come of this album. It’s more on the AOR and traditional rock stylings side, so one is already wondering how the prog factor is going to play out. But enjoy finding out as it comes to life. On Get Me Outta Here, the signs start to really surface. But then if you haven’t heard the opener yet and hear it the first time when you buy it, I must digress for you a bit there. But if not, this is where things start to get interesting to say the least. Some might find this atop the tracks, some might share my opinion that it sits low on the poll. However, what it does do is get things rocking a lot more. It’s heavy, and that is undeniable. But this album does have its rough edges, and this to me is it, take your pick on that. But now we have an album to really dig into.
Side two opens with the inimitable The Surprising, to which anyone who hears will be exactly that, “surprised,” for this is a truly classy piece of music of the utmost order. Never have I heard anything like it and don’t expect to again. This is simply a trip way outside of the Purple box, and frankly I hope it annoys the punters. It’s that good and I leave zero room for slag. My opinion leaves the picture, and there is no denying the awesomeness. Say what you will when you expect something and get knocked down to size over it, but this is a masterpiece that both Ian Gillan and Don Airey deliver maximum supreme quality on throughout. Piano music to absolutely die for. It is not something you’ve heard this band do, so it cannot be explained on paper. Just a monster waiting to attack, perhaps because it is about a nightmare, as it progresses from a ballad to a rocker without any anticipation. It just grabs you when the time is right and doesn’t let go. The wow factor just hit like a ton of bricks out of nowhere, earning its provocative title and then some.
But not to bore with the fascination, they answer back with the fun- loving Johnny’s Band, which is another that could previously be heard on radio programs in Europe. Well, the verdict is in, as it goes from flat to vibrant once you hear it on the album. I have not one qualm with this track. It does the business and keeps the mood very positive and the rock classic. But let’s not forget this is nearly over and you haven’t seen a lot of prog/concept album raving. It is the next two tracks that pair with the opener and the already mentioned craziness of The Surprising. This is where a lot of interest gets added before the closing track and it all comes together as a concept album of medium measure. With On Top Of The World, they’re looking down on their own creation, so to speak from a song of the past with a similar title.
This is an over the top story that should not be described to anticipate hearing. Just know it’s coming when you dig into things. It has a profound ending you want to hear. One of four best tracks to call on at the end of the wax. But if your mind has not quite been fully blown yet, then the epic Birds Of Prey should seal the deal or you’re just not listening. If it takes a few times to set in you will be won over by everything on this, particularly the guitar, vocals and drums. Steve Morse must be mentioned for some madly unorthodox guitar playing on this, yet he maintains all he usually embodies at the same time. This keeps it very fresh and vibrant without glossing it over too much, but there are some layered factors on it, but the ending result is not only beautifully hypnotic, it’s flat out majestically astounding. And by now there is no reason to talk about DP of old, as this album is on another level altogether, and most thought the last one could not be topped in that department.
To wrap this piece of candy up, they go out in style with a Purpleized cover of the Doors classic, Roadhouse Blues. I was thinking the same thing as most everyone else. Why, why at this stage in the game do a Doors cover, when you have such a strong pioneering identity of your own? Well this is easy. They took a run through it in the studio to stretch out, and the tape was rolling. This is a one take shot at it and they don’t disappoint with what is essentially an easy song to cover because of its blues nature. However, they play it so excellently that it doesn’t bother while you’re hearing it. They’re all fans of the band and Ian Gillan has covered them before, so why not? All in all, the fans are in for an enormously satisfying release that will last a while. And so are the masses, if they can finally wrap their head around a band they have no vast knowledge of, particularly in America, but of course everyone’s heard the name. A name that very well could be releasing one of their best albums to date, as well as their last. There is a sacred chemistry and ultimate spirit to this band that appears will somehow never fizzle. And the mastery of Bob Ezrin helps to maintain that pot of pure musical gold. Subscribe to what you will, but subscribe to them either way.