Review Summary: A worthy addition to the long Deep Purple catalogue.
We had to wait almost 8 long years in order to listen to new music by Deep Purple. According to Steve Morse, the main reason was the limited funding allocated by music labels when it comes to recording and promoting a new LP. The band has toured a lot since Rapture of the Deep
which included numerous great ideas but had one significant drawback; its production. The band decided to hire veteran producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, KISS, Alice Cooper) for this album and it seems that their choice was spot-on. Bob Ezrin helped the band organize their ideas, keep what is necessary and get rid of any inessential material. Moreover, in Now What?!
the listener is able to easily distinguish among the various band members whereas in Bananas
and Rapture of the Deep
the approach was a bit pedal to the medal in regards to the volume level of all the musical instruments.
In addition, from time to time the album has been characterized as a fusion of Machine Head
and Made in Japan
by the record label, the best in 30 years by music critics and having elements from Fireball
by various fans of the band. So, is it that good? Has a group that counts 320 years accumulatively on this planet managed to release such a gem towards the end of their careers? Well, the answer is apparently no. This album cannot be compared to those masterpieces simply because their two main soloists are different. However, Now What?! is a solid effort, worthy of the band’s name and one of the best of the Steve Morse-era.
So, how does the album sound like? To begin with, it is typical of the Mark VIII era with one important differentiation though. Whereas Rapture of the Deep
was more guitar-oriented, this one revolves around Don Airey’s keyboards. Now What?!
is one of the most, if not THE most, organ-oriented album in the band’s catalogue. Deep Purple have dedicated this LP to Jon Lord (RIP) and their choice to put the organ in the forefront is probably conscious and a successful one. Moreover, the tracks’ intros are very carefully crafted in order to attract the listener’s attention while most of the songs are mid-paced. In addition, the rhythm section is doing a great job even though Ian Paice doesn't provide any paicey drum fills and Roger Glover’s bass is as audible as usual. One can feel the direction of this album by listening carefully to its opener. Nonetheless, the album contains some rocking moments (“Hell to Pay”), classical influences (“Uncommon Man”), some progressive passages (“Out of Hand”, “Apres Vous”) and laid back tracks (“All the Time in the World”, “Blood From a Stone”).
On the other hand, any Deep Purple album has some innate deficiencies. One characteristic is Ian Gillan’s nasally singing. While it may not be a huge problem to Purple fans, his singing has undoubtedly deteriorated during the past 20-25 years or so. The one time he tries to deliver his characteristic scream reminds us why he doesn't use this technique anymore. That’s no news however, hence the use of the word “innate”. Moreover, even though Steve Morse is a remarkable guitarist and has been part of this band for 17 years now, his playing doesn't fit 100% with the rest of the guys. His solos seem a bit out of place in some instances (“Out of Hand”) and the same can be stated regarding his guitar tone. While Rapture of the Deep
was a personal win of his, in this album he could have done better bearing in mind his talent.
Overall, Now What?!
is a worthy addition to the long Deep Purple catalogue. Fans of Purpendicular
and the group’s last two albums will find several pleasing moments and the band should feel proud of the outcome too. After 45 years of creating music, this album is in all probability the best they could have offered. On the other hand, those who expect “Child in Time” screams, “Fireball” drum fills and “Burn” guitar harmonies will be disappointed. However, this is not the case for 2013 Deep Purple and the way one approaches this album will have an impact upon their impression.