Holy Smoke On The Water!

Many people may not know it, but Deep Purple still make records. Not only that, they still make good records. 2003’s Bananas and 2005’s Rapture of the Deep all contained a lot of strong material that keep with the spirit of their music from the early to mid-seventies. The years of chemistry between the classic Mark II-era Deep Purple members, Ian Gillan (vocals), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums) is still undeniable. It’s been nearly twenty years since Ritchie Blackmore departed Deep Purple for the second time. Since then, Steve Morse has done an admirable job coming through in the guitar hero department. Don Airey who replaced the late Jon Lord when he retired in 2002 is the band’s most recent addition and he doesn’t disappoint either.

A few weeks ago, Deep Purple delivered again with the release of Now What?!, which was produced by the legendary Bob Ezra (Pink Floyd’s The Wall, KISS’s Destroyer, Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare etc.). With Ezra and the classic combination of distorted organ and guitar interplaying with Gillan’s vocals and the band’s tight rhythm section, Deep Purple have crafted one large delightful dose of classic rock nostalgia. Is Now What?! as good as works like Machine Head or In Rock? No, but there is still plenty to appreciate. For example, the opening track, “A Simple Song”, starts out quiet and unassuming before kicking to life in true Deep Purple fashion with a shift in dynamics and the organ ablazing. Other strong tracks that recapture their 1970s sound are “Out of Hand”, “Après Vous”, “Vincent Price” and “Body Line”. “All The Time In The World” is a good mid-tempo song, but feels more like Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac tune than Deep Purple. Of course, Now What?! is not without a few missteps. “Hell To Pay” with its cheesy gang vocal sounds a little too KISS. Ezra is most likely to be blamed for that. “Uncommon Man” could be a good song, but suffers from the unfortunate choice of using hokey synthesized horns – almost making the tune sound like something belonging as the background music to a retro medieval-themed video game.

However all in all, Now What?! proves that this truly under-appreciated band (at least in America) can still deliver. At this point in their career, Deep Purple know what kind of albums they want to make. They also know how to please their listeners and tastefully achieve that sound without it coming off as forced or recycled. Fans of classic hard rock should be sure to check out this album.

Essential tracks: “A Simple Song” “Out of Hand” & “All The Time In The World”.

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