Well here I go again (as someone once sang). 40 years ago I was sprawled on the carpet in our Victorian ‘best’ room with the gas fire on low, poring over the sleeve to Who Do We Think We Are having been through the new album and wondering if this was the end of the band. 20 years later, The Battle Rages On cut a similar vibe of a band at war with itself and ready to call it a day.
So, another twenty years on, is Now What really a last gasp offering from Deep Purple as so many on the web have speculated? Is it bunnies. And if it was their last album, it certainly gives us enough to feel they went out guns blazing. Let’s deal with that ridiculous marketing tosh on the cover first, ‘Perfect Strangers meets Made In Japan’? Nothing ‘meets’ Made In Japan. It sits there as a statement for all time; the best rock band on the planet.
Instead Now What is more Perfect Strangers meets Purpendicular, via H-Bomb, Tarkus and LA Woman really. I even got Talking Heads and Jethro Tull at a couple of points. And Roxy Music (but that was only because the girls from Country Life fell off the shelf at one point and almost hit me on the head when I pushed the volume up at one spot).
It’s a good strong offering from most angles, and one which I know I’ll want to listen to again. Good grief, even Hell To Pay fits right in to the album once you cop an earful of the Mandrake Root-esque Rondo which spills out between verses. The only cut I really had to skip on was Uncommon Man, where Don’s seeming infatuation with all thing ELP gets a little too uncomfortable, but overall this certainly doesn’t sound like a band about to call it a day. Indeed right now it sounds like the best since Abandon to me (an album I still feel got a raw deal).
Rapture was such a dreadful disappointment I was so nervous putting this on, but I don’t think I’m just on the rebound here in getting so much out of this. The vinyl even has shiny inner bags and everything, just like a real LP. And we’re not even having to mention the mix, because we don’t have to. Bob Ezrin has done what was required by and large, and brought out just about the best in it (give or take one or two places where the solos leap out a little too prominently).
What I suspect are fairly, um, suspect lyrics on Apres Vous (wisely buried in the mix!) even herald a full on guitar keyboard trade off clearly inspired by days of yore. Paicey keeps it all on track (some have bemoaned his lack of flash but to me he drives it well) while Glover really appears to be enjoying it. And Vincent Price certainly brought a smile to my face. What other band would throw this at us to end an album? That’s what still makes Deep Purple special at times, because you really cannot measure them up against any other outfit. They’re out there, they do what they do, and at times like this we love them for trying. Sure a few bridges are a little simplistic, and once again they steam into some stunning little instro passages then refuse to stretch them out, but enough survives to bring a some enjoyment into our triple dip recession ridden times, which is fine by me. If they can be bothered to risk all and build a set around this one then it stands a chance of being as good as the Abandon tour. Here’s hoping. Now Ian, about those “seven screaming virgins on a sacrificial altar”, what exactly is it we have to sign up for to be in with a shot?
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