Review Summary: The Cattle Grazes On...Deep Purple: A Retrospective
Episode XVI: The Battle Rages On
Now, the above phrase could mean a great many things. It was used by vocalist Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow
), who enjoyed a brief stint in Deep Purple after Ian Gillan ducked out of the band once more following The House of Blue Light
, and recorded the minimal success Slaves and Masters
with them in 1990. Though many would interpret his quote as that Deep Purple were going on without any innovation, or at least putting out quality material, Turner meant that he had co-written tons of strong material until Gillan reworked many of it when he returned. Because yes, Ian Gillan went on to front the band he fronted best for another time, making for a 2nd reunion of the Mark II line-up. The new album was entitled The Battle Rages On
, and was already number 14 on the studio album counter. Ironic, for the Battle didn’t actually Rage On much longer for Mark II, because Ritchie Blackmore would leave after this, for the final time. Despite Gillan’s return, the Battle’s sales were even worse than Slaves and Masters
’ (they had been deteriorating ever since Perfect Strangers
, with good reason).
Deep Purple Mk. II was:
- Ian Gillan ~ Vocals
- Richard Hugh Blackmore ~ Lead Guitar
- Roger David Glover ~ Bass Guitar,
- Jon Douglas Lord ~ Keyboards, Organ
- Ian Anderson Pace ~ Drums
Whether our good friend Turner was right or not, it all doesn’t seem to matter. Like Slaves and Masters
, the material on TBRO
is almost all sub-par. Gillan’s return doesn’t seem to have helped particularly either, though his superiority as a vocalist to Turner is remarkable, and then I’m not even considering their age difference. The vocals, although well-performed as we have become used to, are buried to deep in the mix, sometimes even sounding like background vocals. A plus is that Gillan finally seems to have found his ‘older’ singing voice, as the first reunion period had him going through as sort of transition (or refusal to accept his vocal deterioration, pick your choice), making him sound slightly nasal at times.
What is the biggest problem are our two virtuosos here, Blackmore and Lord. Both seem to have forgotten the fact they are extremely talented at playing solos, and also even the guitar riffs and keyboard/organ melodies hugely disappoint. The rhythm section fails to do anything special just as well. No more cool bass lines from Glover (or they are buried in the mix too), and Pace’s drumming skills seem to have completely abandoned him, not playing any interesting fills or beats whatsoever. What I hear on The Battle Rages On
is a tired band that have no more musical chemistry together and simply don’t give a damn about the quality of their work. At least that’s what it looks like.
We move through a mess of tracks that are an amalgam of sex, violence and rock ‘n roll clichés, and almost all fall flat on their face. Except for the fact that Gillan has a very recognizable voice, you couldn’t really say what band is playing this music, and that is exactly one of the worst things that can happen to such a remarkable bunch of musicians: loss of identity. Next to the 8 very, very average rock songs, there are two forgivable tracks in the middle part. Forgivable, not fantastic. The two tracks, Ramshackle Man
and A Twist in the Tale
, have an appeal that all Purple songs used
to have: great guitar and keyboard work. Especially the first contains some good ol’ bluesy riffs by Blackmore, and even a solo (blasphemously non-present throughout TBRO
). Just too bad one of the greatest guitarists of the 70’s ends the work in his main group with a sploosh.
Deep Purple would never find a true replacement for the great Blackmore, of course, and Mark VI with Joe Satriani didn’t even record anything, but in the end, another (non-wanky) virtuoso came around the bend, with roots in jazz fusion, and his name was Steve Morse. He blew a fresh air of creativity into the band with his multi-genre spanning skills, but that doesn’t change the fact that what was Mark II’s last album, I am afraid to say, pretty much sucks.
A Twist in the Tale