Deep Purple are one of the UK’s top influential Hard Rock bands of all time and are still going strong after fifty two years in the business! On 7thAugust 2020 they released their twenty-first studio album ‘Whoosh!’ on earMUSIC. This is the third album in a row to be produced by Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lou Reed), the other two being ‘Now What?!’ (2013) and ‘Infinite’ (2017). The band have gone through several configurations over the last fifty two years, with the current line-up, or Mark VIII, consisting of original drummer, and only member to have been in every incarnation, Ian Paice, vocalist Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover, keyboardist Don Airey and guitarist Steve Morse. This line-up has been together, unchanged, for eighteen years now, the longest stable line-up they have ever had!
The group were initially put together in 1967 by manager, and ex-Searchers drummer, Chris Curtis, along with businessman Tony Edwards, who decided to call the group “Roundabout”. The first recruit was Hammond player Jon Lord, soon followed by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, then bassist Nick Simper and drummer Bobby Woodman. The band’s first vocalist Rod Evans brought drummer Ian Paice to the band’s attention and he immediately replaced Woodman. It was Blackmore who suggested the name change to "Deep Purple", named after his grandmother's favourite song! Their debut album ‘Shades of Deep Purple’ was released in 1968 with the second ‘The Book of Taliesyn’ following in 1969. That same year their third album, and last by the original line-up, ‘Deep Purple’ was also released. The music on all three albums was a mixed bag of Pop covers and original Psychedelic tinged Rock, very much the sound of a band finding their way and searching for direction. By the end of 1969 both Evans and Simper were out to make way for vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, both came from the band Episode Six. The classic Mark II line-up set the bench-mark for Heavy Rock with the release of the mighty ‘In Rock’ (1970) album, quickly followed by ‘Fireball’ (1971), before reaching a career high with 1972’s ‘Machine Head’. Luckily the band was captured live at their creative peak on the monumental live album ‘Made In Japan’, released in late 1972. The final album from the first era of the Mark II line-up was 1973’s ‘Who Do We Think We Are’. Due to internal tensions and musical differences Gillan and Glover left the band in 1973.
By 1974 the new incarnation of Purple featured Glenn Hughes (Trapeze) on bass and vocals and an unknown singer called David Coverdale, along with Blackmore, Lord and Paice. They went on to release a couple of strong albums in 1974 including ‘Burn’ and ‘Stormbringer’. Blackmore, unhappy with the Soul Funk direction the band were heading in, left to form Rainbow in 1975. His replacement was American guitarist Tommy Bolan (Zephyr). This line-up only made one studio album, 1975’s ‘Come Taste the Band’, before the band called it a day in 1976. Sadly, by December 1976 Bolan died of drug intoxication. After the break-up, most of the past and present members of Deep Purple went on to have considerable success in a number of other bands, including Gillan, Whitesnake and Rainbow.
Surprisingly, the Mark II line-up of Gillan, Blackmore, Lord, Glover and Paice reunited in 1984, and went on to release the incredible ‘Perfect Strangers’ album in 1984 followed by ‘The House of Blue Light’ album in 1987. By 1989 Gillan was fired due to his soured relations with Blackmore, and in was former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner for his one and only Purple album appearance, 1990’s ‘Slaves and Masters’. During the writing and recording for the next album, 1993’s ‘The Battle Rages On...’, Turner was asked to leave to make way for the return of Gillan. Mid-way through the European tour to promote the album Blackmore walked out, never to return again! His last appearance with the band was 17thNovember 1993 in Helsinki, Finland. Joe Satriani was drafted in to complete the Japanese dates in December and stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994. He was asked to join permanently, but his commitments to his contract with Epic Records prevented this. The only other candidate that was on all the band’s eligible list was Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse. The chemistry was instant and the Mark VII was born! The line-up of Gillan, Lord, Glover, Paice and Morse went on to release the brilliant ‘Purpendicular’ (1996) and ‘Abandon’ (1998) albums.
By 2002 Lord decided to leave the band to pursue his solo classical music career - Sadly Lord died of pancreatic cancer on the 16th July 2012 - Lord’s replacement was keyboard wizard Don Airey (Rainbow, Whitesnake, Colosseum II). The Mark VIII came together in 2002 and remains unchanged to this day. They have gone on to release a further five studio albums including ‘Bananas’ (2003), ‘Rapture of the Deep’ (2005), ‘Now What?!’ (2013), ‘Infinite’ (2017) and ‘Whoosh!’ (2020). A poll on radio station Planet Rock ranked them 5th among the "most influential bands ever". The band received the Legend Award at the 2008 World Music Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
The question is, does the world really need another new Deep Purple album? Well, why not if the desire, drive, energy, chops, creativity and chemistry is still there! 'Whoosh!', Purple's first album since 2017s ‘Infinite’, opens with the steadfast plodding of 'Throw My Bones', solid enough track, slickly executed and tight as a nut! Gillan's voice is different these days, not so many high pitch screams anymore, rather he has adapted his vocal delivery to cover the lower registers, with a slight rasp and fragile crackle evident. Despite the obvious changes, his voice still has the power when required, but also a warm endearing quality, which he delivers with seasoned panache. “All I've got is what I need, And that's enough, as far as I can see, Why should I walk into the great unknown, When I can sit here and throw my bones.”
'Drop the Weapon' has an instantly infectious groove with some agile keyboard flurrying action from Airey. Paice and Glover are locked in tight and bounce of each other with telepathic ease. Morse provides a nifty, if slightly restrained, guitar solo. Gillan snarls out the lyrics with jaunty syncopation and expressive attitude. “Who you trying to impress, you making a bid, To be a big shot brother, but you're just a small kid, Now your reputation got a minor stain, It'll be washed away by tomorrow's rain.”
'We’re All the Same in the Dark' is another groove laden funky track, heavy on the keyboards. Super tight and bubbling rhythm from the Paice/Glover engine room lays down a solid foundation for a smooth flowing and accomplished guitar solo from Morse. Gillan's story telling is as poetic, witty, and expressive as ever it was. “I don't know what you see in me, Some would say that we're miles apart, But when everything is said and done, and the lights go down, We're all the same, we're all the same in the dark.”
'Nothing at All' opens with a dueling battle between agilely played guitar scale runs from Morse and insistent keyboard flurries from Airey before a catchy melodious chorus from Gillan lifts the song and carries it onwards, “It's nothing at all, Nothing at all, And the old lady smiled, It's nothing at all, Then she blew all the leaves off my tree.” Airey gets a huge slice of the limelight with an indulgent, but superlatively played classical tinged keyboard solo. Astutely played bass phrases from Glover and a succinct and slick guitar solo from Morse give the track further gravitas. Gillan is on top form with his evocative vocals and ardent lyrical composition, “When I hear about the doom and gloom, That's around the corner, and coming soon, I take a sip of mother's ruin, And sit with my back to the wall”.
'No Need to Shout' is a thunderous heavy rocker with a scintillating groove! The Purple signature Hammond sound shimmers and gargles underneath the strident rhythm with snarling, gruff and expressive vocals projected over the top. Gillan is at his best in story telling mode, adding his trademark vocal inflections and intonations to emphasise emotions from humour and elation to frustration and anger. “You stand there on your soapbox without fear, Like a chanting wild demented auctioneer, It's just a bunch of crap, You're talking out your hat, And, I don't want you chewing off my ear.”
'Step by Step' opens with some skilfully played keyboard scale runs from Airey before a dropped beat drum tempo kicks in forming an irresistible infectious groove. Luscious ascending and descending keyboard tinkering from Airey and a nimble-fingered guitar solo from Morse cement the track. Gillan's voice is treated with vocal effects and double tracked to add further weight, “Step by step, Rattle through the night, Don't look now, There's no end in sight, Step by step, Moving on, through the graveyard shift, No way out, That's the truth, 'bout the size of it.”
'What the What' is an old style bar room boogie rocker! Gillan is clearly having a blast with this one and he shines with his tongue-in-cheek swaggering vocal delivery. “We goin' out tomorrow, gonna do it right, Celebrate the fact that we're still alive, In that case, we better make it tonight, I'll drink for us all and you can drive.” Airey is vamping it up with some vibrant Boogie-woogie piano and Morse is getting down with some old style Rock 'n' Roll guitar!
'The Long Way Round' has that dependable four to the floor relentless driving beat, a tenacious chugging rhythm guitar sets the groove with assiduous Hammond flourishes fleshing out the rhythmic foundation. Airey takes the limelight once again with a scrupulously executed modulated synthesiser keyboard solo. Gillan is in reflective mode again! “It's been a long time coming, I never thought it would last, I think about the future, Who knows what might have happened in the past?”
'The Power of the Moon' is a darkly atmospheric and mystically strange track that features a dexterous stabbing Hammond solo from Airey and a short concise supercharged guitar solo from Morse. Gillan's vocals are slightly modulated adding to the magical vibe and mystical sensation. “Who am I to talk about the lunacy at hand? Burnishing the madness in my head, And who am I to mention that before it all began, Everything I heard was never said at all?”
'Remission Possible' is a very short, one minute and thirty nine second instrumental in which Airey and Morse take charge of proceedings by staging a dueling battle with their respective instruments. Things just start to get interesting when the track abruptly ends and segues into 'Man Alive'! Lavish layers of atmospheric keyboards with double string plucked guitar accompaniment set the scene before elevating into an insistently heavy and fast driving piece. Gillan’s vocals are double tracked adding greater weight and strength. The track breaks down in the middle leaving just spoken word vocals from Gillan over a quiet metronomic beat accompaniment. “All creatures great and small, Graze on blood red soil, And grass that grows on city streets, It's been a quiet town, Since the juice went down, Now something's washed up on the beach, A man alive.” Morse gets his moment to shine with a short, but sublimely meticulous guitar solo!
'And the Address' is another instrumental track which originally appeared on the band’s first studio album 'The Shades Of Deep Purple' in 1968. A heavy gutsy riff with a galvanizing groove masterfully executed by Morse, Airey, Paice and Glover.
The final track is 'Dancing in My Sleep' which opens with nimble synthesiser flourishes before an irresistibly insistent solid rhythmic tempo kicks in establishing the intention. Formidable Hammond playing from Airey adds multiple layers of lustrous textures. Gillan is clearly having fun here with his imaginative and jocular lyrics which he delivers with attitude and undeniable charisma, “Don't you love my fancy footwork, I ain't no Fred Astaire, I can tap into your life, babe, I can take you anywhere.”
Overall a good strong and vibrant Rock album with several irresistible riffs, interesting hooks, a few catchy tunes and a bucket load of well-crafted lyrics. The more you listen to the album the better it gets! Definitely a grower! This is the sound of a band comfortable in their own skin, they know what they are about and are having a blast doing it! I wouldn’t say it was their best album, but definitely not their worst either. Will this be the final Deep Purple studio album? Who knows? Probably is the general consensus, but then, maybe not…!?
Steven C. Gilbert