Review Summary: A daring effort that none would have ever thought possible at the band's age...Deep Purple: A Retrospective
Episode XVII: Purpendicular
After the rock abomination that was The Battle Rages On
and Ritchie Blackmore’s permanent departure from Deep Purple, everyone though it really was
going to be the ultimate end for Deep Purple. After all, Blackmore had always been creative leader (or at least since the band’s breakthrough In Rock
), as well as the most talented member. Replacing him with someone as worthy was trying to achieve the impossible.
Luckily, this is not what Deep Purple tried to do. It is true they tried players of a similar technical level, but never were they wannabe Blackmores, rooted in the traditional blues-based approach as much as he was. The boys first ended up with Joe Satriani, forming Mark VI, but failed to actually release anything in their less-than-a-year existence. In 1994, they found Steve Morse, known from his work with Dixie Dregs
, which he co-founded, and his stint in Kansas
. Morse was nothing like Blackmore, being rooted in jazz fusion, and perhaps that is exactly what Deep Purple needed: a fresh approach, after all those post-Perfect Strangers
generic hard rock albums. The newly formed and once again confident Mark VII released their first album (and the band’s fifteenth already) in 1996.
Deep Purple Mk. VII was:
- Ian Gillan ~ Vocals, Harmonica
- Steven J. Morse ~ Lead Guitar
- Roger David Glover ~ Bass Guitar
- Jon Douglas Lord ~ Keyboards, Organ
- Ian Anderson Pace ~ Drums
came as a tremendous surprise, especially to fans of the band’s traditional work, as it was, for the first time in Purple’s career, a truly experimental record. Undoubtedly, this is a direct result of Morse’s arrival, whose work spans a wide variety of genres, styles and moods. And though Purpendicular
(unsurprisingly) doesn’t come close to Mark II heyday, the album (and Morse) is exactly what the band needed. You’ve got to respect them for it: oldies from the 70’s still daring to try something new. It’s something that can be said of very, very few bands from Deep Purple’s time.
The material on Purpendicular
is also softer than that on most Purple albums before it, and includes many ballads. Some of these, like A Touch Away
and Loosen My Strings
, add nothing in particular to the band’s oeuvre but still remain effective, especially the latter, which has heartfelt vocals and beautiful guitar work, filled with an emotional value that Blackmore would never have been able to create in a similar way. Others, however, prove to be quite inventive. The best example by far is Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
, a true epic, highlighted by a stunning, emotional solo at the end, which leaves no doubt about whether Morse is an adequate addition to the crew. Gillan, after all these years, still claims his rightful place as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, as he makes the most out of his logically deteriorated but still incredibly appealing voice.
The most experimental tracks are not always the best, but actually often turn out great. Soon Forgotten
is an interesting oddity, driven by an almost eerie, disturbing instrumental section and talk-sing vocals. Rosa’s Cantina
employs similar vocal work, and seems mostly Gillan’s baby, who also drives it with his harmonica, an instrument he hadn’t used in a long time. Morse shows his diversity on The Aviator
, which has an medieval-esque arrangement. Closer The Purpendicular Waltz
most thoroughly incorporates jazz influences, and A Castle Full of Rascals
has a spacey feel that works out pretty great.
In the meantime, Deep Purple hasn’t forget where they are coming from. The real rockers on Purpendicular
are the excellent opener Ted the Mechanic
, with a slowly bumping rhythm section and standout jazzy guitar work by Morse, the relatively simple Cascades: I’m Not Your Lover
which gives us some trademark Jon Lord organ chops, the bass-driven Hey Cisco
and the catchy Somebody Stole My Guitar
, arguably the best of the lot.
It was surely a relief to see so much creativity on a Deep Purple album. After descending themselves into hard rock-genericness in the 80’s and early 90’s, the band luckily got revived by a creative guitarist who could not have been a better replacement for the by-then tired out Blackmore. Purpendicular is by far Purple’s most experimental record, and it must be said: these aged rockers pulled it off as well as they possibly could have. Props for that.
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
Somebody Stole My Guitar
Ted The Mechanic
A Castle Full of Rascals