5 Stars *****
When legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple
for the second time on the eve of the Japanese leg of ‘The Battle Rages on
Tour’ in 1993, most thought it was the end of this historic band. Because they
were contractually obligated to do the Japanese shows, the band considered doing
the shows without a banjo player, but feeling this would cheat their loyal
Japanese following, a replacement had to be considered at short notice. Not easy
to find someone who was capable of filling such big shoes, let alone that was
available, and most importantly was brave enough to take it on.
Ian Gillan said as a joke: “How about Joe Satriani?”
Bruce Payne, longtime manager of the band, saw the funny side but also thought,
“Why Not?” Phone calls were made, contracts written down on scraps of paper
and Purple played six of their most unique concerts ever in Japan. No rehearsals
with the new guitarist (they did send Joe some tapes of Blackmore’s last
couple of concerts with Purple to give him a clue, which he listened to on the
flight over to Japan), just straight out onto the stage and play. The results
were spectacular as can be borne out by the very high quality of the bootlegs
from the shows. Even though Joe does at one stage forget the opening riff to
“Smoke on the water” and has to be reminded.
But Joe Satriani could not stay on a permanent basis with
Deep Purple, so it was back to audition tapes for the other remaining four of
the Classic Mark 2 lineup of the band. The name of American Steve Morse (ex
Dixie Dregs and Kansas, he had also been voted best overall guitarist by Guitar
Magazine three consecutive years running) was brought up. But the band was not
keen, as another talented American (Tommy Bolin) had been drafted into the band
the last time that Blackmore left with disastrous results. Steve Morse himself
was not keen either seeing it as a step backwards, as he had already been
drafted into one dinosaur rock band in it’s death throes and although the
financial rewards were great, artistically these things left a lot to be
desired. A rehearsal was set up anyway, and as they say the rest is history.
Musically as well as socially the band and their new guitarist got along
famously, to check all was well. After furious rehearsals a short but by no
means small tour was set up to check whether the chemistry would last. Early
1995 saw the new Purple playing five concerts in India to a combined audience of
over one million people, to mass critical and public acclaim.
So instead of it being the end of Deep Purple, Blackmore’s
departure signaled a completely new - and most would say better - Purple.
Certainly the fun was back and now the band was writing together again. Both the
concerts and the recording showed the band scaling new heights. A new album was
recorded “Pupundicular”, released in 1996. It showed a fresh new band with
their creative juices flowing. A massive world tour followed with plenty of
songs from the new album aired, plus, mainly through Steve Morse’s brand new
fire, was injected into the old classics. At the end of this tour the band went
back into the studio with renewed confidence, coming up with the results of
which were laid down on this fine CD of over an hour’s worth of Hard Rock as
only Purple know how.
Songs such as “Watching the Sky” and “Almost Human”
rock along in classic style. Ian Paice once again proving he is the world’s
leading Rock ‘n’ Roll drummer. Roger Glover, the ultimate Hard Rock bass
guitarist, driving the band along using his guitar as a lead instrument, forcing
the groove of each song down the listener’s throat so that they cannot help
but take notice. Jon Lord was and still is the original rock keyboard player
often imitated, but never equaled. There has really only ever been one vocalist
for Deep Purple, and it is Ian Gillan. Nobody has the range to cover all of
Purple’s different sound scapes. Many have tried, but none have ever come
close. And Steve Morse has found himself a permanent home for his incredible
guitar pyrotechnics, capable of turning a song on its head with a flurry of his
“Abandon” is a classic Rock album that should be an
automatic in any decent collection of rock music.
In 2002, Jon Lord, the master of the Hammond organ, decided
it’s time to hang up his Deep Purple keyboards and concentrate on his solo
projects. Purple has drafted in longtime friend and keyboard wizard Don Airey.
They are presently out on the road breaking in the new band before returning to
the studio again. Rest assured, whatever they come up with it will be top notch