This is going to be a long one! I promised a review for last Monday but it’s been a mad week work wise so my thoughts and those of another fan lucky enough to have been allowed a listen (please do not pester either, reviews are mostly done via a secure streaming server these days) follow further down the page after the news:
The ‘making of’ documentary shown over the weekend on Sky will be on the DVD package, and in a longer form (after paying your subs and having to watch ads every 10 mins, it came down to about an hour; the DVD is 90 mins.) It is being repeated tonight I think, and premiered in Cardiff today by the production company too (I thanked them for their nice invite, but need more than 24 hours notice to travel that distance these days!)
The prog. did give the distinct impression that Steve Morse is really struggling with his hand, which as many know has been encased in a medical support bandage on stage for a couple of years now. He is not sure how much longer he can carry on playing. This naturally cast a shadow over what most say was an otherwise insightful programme:
“The Sky Arts documentary was very enjoyable, and a good teaser for the album – sadly broken up by ads every 10 minutes. Very interesting to see how much Bob Ezrin was able to just jump in (eg at the height of Steve overdubbing his solo on Birds Of Prey) – to say things like “no, not like that…”
A real highlight was the first instrumental take of Bedlam, performed live in the studio. This includes the solos. Amazing to watch. The track finished at that point, with everyone congratulating Don on his playing.
The main health issue seems to be Steve’s arthritic right hand. He was saying it might be the last album he’d be able to record.”
“Ian Gillan and Roger Glover explain that the title of ‘All I Got Is You’ comes from an expression Paicey has been using for decades. Ian Gillan comments that Little Ian always wanted paying for contributing the odd word to the lyrics – “He’s a very funny guy. He’s an annoying fuck actually!” (laughs).
Steve explained his condition as being a consequence of his playing technique over the past 50 years; the way he twists his hand across his guitar so that he can both pick the strings and use the heel of his hand to mute them has led to osteoarthritis in his wrist – basically the cartilage has worn away, so bone is rubbing on bone if he plays like this, causing pain.”
And nobody should underestimate the power of coverage like this; in that well known tax dodger’s online shop it went from No. 70 in the pre-sale chart to 58 about an hour after the broadcast. It went up to 26 the next day and was in the top ten by Sunday afternoon! The docco is also being screened in selected cinemas across Germany this week, Edel – clearly enthused by the reaction to the last album – seem to be going great guns on the promotion again.
INFINITE ALBUM REVIEWS
Having been playing this for a few days now it will be interesting to see what everyone else makes of it. Now What did mark a bit of a change in direction and experimentation and this one feels like it was recorded in much the same spirit. Overall it’s very solid musically; there are nods to Purple’s past which many will pick up on, but it’s often a grungier and denser sound than the last album, and were they to graft a large chunk of these tracks into the stage set this year (if!) it should make for a killer show.
In a way it is a shame they feel they can’t trial tracks so much on stage now for fear of pirating, as some of the material does sound like it comes from a standing start, whereas the one cut they have done live is quickly becoming a favourite. There are a couple too many good time late night bar stories from Ian Gillan lyrically for me, in these uncertain times there are more pressing matters which might have inspired another barbed lyric or two, and certainly the backings would take a heavier approach in this department from the front man. But when he does find the muse outside the tavern it all comes together and Birds Of Prey is a good example, sounding very grown up. I think this is the one Classic Rock sort of dismissed as a Zepp knock off (in fact I was more reminded of Yes at one point, maybe CR’s prog rock comments were more on the button than I realised); yes Steve gives it a real Pagey type rhythm, but takes it much further and to me CR missed the point rather; once you move on from the opening few bars it is very much a Purple track and it’ll be a proper humdinger on stage, believe me.
Time For Bedlam most have now heard and it makes a strong opener. I can hear the Pictures Of Home echoes which some have mentioned, reinforced mostly by Ian’s vocal melody line and Steve Morse’s work, but it’s hardly a distraction. I still can’t make my mind up about the chanted vocal section which top and tail this but otherwise it is infused with the spirit of Purple throughout.
The Surprising is one of the longer offerings, and they range far and wide over the course of a sometimes slower more laid back track. Lovely vocals from Ian, full of emotion at times. The band sort of go for epic, me I’d have been as happy to edit out the wandering middle section and tighten it all up, but it clearly gives them a kicking off point for a live take. There are nods back to Gates Of Babylon here, and even Clannad at one point for those old enough to remember them.
Hip Boots is one which has been around for a while and whilst it may not (though give it time) be a killer track, it has grown on me a lot and you can see why they gave it second place in the running order. I love the loose rambling feel to it and Steve’s playing (which it has to be said is stunning here) is absorbing, while Don likewise gives it just the right amount of Hammond. Worth the price of admission alone.
The band get dirtier on One Night In Vegas, which reminds me a little of Almost Human, one of my favourites from the SM era, and the same vibe runs through Get Me Outta Here although lyrically the latter doesn’t really stir the pot enough for me.
The riff to Johnny’s Band is bugging me, it’ll click eventually I’m sure. Ian has covered this sort of ground before on Purpendicular and places. It’s OK in a road house sort of way and Radio 2 apparently went for if big time the other week, so at least listeners there will know about the album.
Elsewhere people will love as I do Roger’s thumping bass through On Top Of The World which should sound great via some decent speakers. I’m less convinced by All I Got Is You, despite the care worn vox and often caustic lyrics, while for me the cover version which they inexplicably tag onto the end of the album is a box set bonus at best. Though Ann reckons it’s IG’s best singing on the album, so it’s already dividing opinion at DPAS towers. On first listen it just sounded like a studio warm up, and it has since been confirmed that’s exactly what it is. It might have worked better sequenced earlier in the album, but I won’t be rushing back.
Well, some good tracks to add to the now two decade long Steve Morse era output and I’m sure everyone who has stuck with the band thus far will find something here to enjoy in varying degrees. I should add I’ve been listening to fairly compressed official MP3s (with permission!) so it seems silly to try and comment on overall sound and production until I buy the CD. And buy it I will. Simon Robinson
I’m generally enjoying it more with each listen… Time for Bedlam – A solid opener, the vocoder effect seems fitting and natural after a few spins. A restrained vocal means that much can be conveyed with slight inflections – as seen with IG’s ‘We are never alone’ line towards the end. Rather wonderful.
Hip Boots – Sprightly, sweary, no nonsense – this is good stuff actually. Much better than the rather tentative limited run of live try-outs would suggest.
All I Got is You – The old put-down (‘You’ve got me, but all I’ve got is you’) is given a pleasing run-out in what initially seems to be a fairly standard Mk Morse/Airey type work-out. A space age solo from Don merges into a laidback one from Steve. Improves with repeated listening. More swearing from IG to finish!
One Night in Vegas – IG in storyteller mode, Don in bar room boogie mode. Good, if slightly cruise-controlly for this band.
Get Me Outta Here – Lovely Paicey intro and then a backing that initially brings ‘Nasty Piece of Work’ from ‘Battle Rage On’ to mind. Again, solid if lacking a little oomph… the brooding backing deserves better than the rather lazy lyric writing here.
The Surprising – Now we’re talking! Eerie keyboards give way to moody guitar (which sounds like Metallica according to my daughter) – which set up IG’s mournful almost Johnny Cash-like vocal – and he’s in storyteller mode again – to great effect! ‘There I was, wide awake and dreaming…’ – marvellous. Authoritative drumming from Paicey heralds the instrumental breaks with Don’s almost movie soundtrack like keyboard work suiting the mood perfectly. Steve almost blows it with a fairly standard Dregs/Classical Gassy type solo, before bringing it back down nicely before the coda. Extraordinary track.
Johnny’s Band – Radio-friendly Purple (Ken Bruce has already played it on BBC Radio 2). A sort of tamed-down ‘Junkyard Blues’ riff backs more IG story telling, this time about…well, a band obviously. A little lightweight maybe, but pleasant enough.
On Top of the World – Starts out as a fairly standard Airey/Morse backing track, but repeated listenings reveal a nice solid latter-day Purple track, with more storytelling in the vocals. Nice solos, and even the rather strange spoken section towards the end is starting to bed-in a bit now.
Birds of Prey – The battle for my favourite track is between this and ‘The Surprising’; here we have a great brooding rock track that builds and builds to a shattering finish. A display of controlled power and musical dynamics. Great stuff!
Roadhouse Blues – Somewhat disposable warm-up type treatment of The Doors song here. Comparable to ‘It’ll Be Me’ from NW?! Misplaced after the fitting crescendo of ‘Birds of Prey’, which would have made a suitable finale to the album. There probably is a place for this sort of Purple (a ‘Basement Tapes’ type album?) – but last song on this album isn’t it.
Overall a mixed bag then – repeated listenings are helping appreciate the ‘lesser’ tracks (well, most of them). A worthy effort all the same. Hopefully it won’t be the last studio album, but if it is, then it’s not a bad way to go out.