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Deep Purple - Bananas CD (album) cover

BANANAS

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.05 | 236 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Now my love is richer than rich, 'Cause I studied mathematics. Graduated without honours, everyone has gone Bananas"

With Jon Lord now having left the band, mainly for health reasons, there was a gap of about 5 years between this album and the previous "Abandon". Lord initially gave up touring, but then left altogether, his place at the keyboards being taken by Don Airey whose pedigree ironically includes Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Thus the only remaining original member of the band is now drummer Ian Paice, although Gillan and Glover from the legendary mark 2 line up are still on board. The line up here is completed by Steve Morse, playing on his third Deep Purple album.

Interestingly, the band revert to individual song writing credits here, although most are still band compositions. Producer Michael Bradford gets a name check on a couple of tracks, as does Jon Lord.

"House of pain" is a fine, traditional Deep Purple opener with a driving rhythm and a highly accessible melody. Don Airey immediately makes it clear that he is not in the business of making radical changes to the group's sound, adding some very Jon Lord like organ.

The album as a whole though has a welcome diversity as evidenced by the heavy power of the slower "Sun goes down" and the fine ballad "Haunted". The latter song features orchestration, female backing vocals and an emotional guitar solo by Steve Morse. Prog it ain't, but it is one of the band's finest songs in recent years, enhanced in no small measure by a superb performance by Ian Gillan.

Unusually, we get a second ballad a few songs later with "Walk on". This is a more bluesy affair, Gillan sounding eerily like the late David Byron. As if that were not enough, "Never a word" is a most uncharacteristic number. It opens with an extended instrumental with a light Celtic feel of the type, dare I say, Blackmore's Night might be proud. When the vocals come in, they are whispy and harmonised with a folk orientation. It's a lovely little song and a total surprise.

There is the occasional prog influence to be found, such as on the cleverly arranged "I got your number" which continually morphs its style and sound during its 6 minutes. The title track may be rooted in more orthodox hard rock, but the guitar and organ duel between Morse and Airey is very reminiscent of the good old days of Blackmore and Lord.

There is almost inevitably the occasional dip, the first of these being "Razzle dazzle". It has to be assumed that this song was written and recorded with the singles chart in mind, but while it has a commercial bent, it is lyrically and melodically very ordinary. "Picture on innocence" has some prosaic funky verses, but is saved by the more powerful upbeat choruses, complete with classic DP lyrics such as "No drinks, no smokes, no dicking around, no dirty jokes. Straight lace, straight face, the old straight jacket, we got no hope". "Doing it tonight" is a lacklustre song with some intriguing lyrics. Despite the obvious innuendo, it is not actually clear what will be getting done.

The album closes with a short reflective guitar solo by Steve Morse, which forms the band's tribute to those lost in the Columbia space shuttle disaster, and in particular astronaut and Deep Purple fan Kalpana Chawla. It is a lovely piece which is frustratingly brief.

In all, a much more satisfying album than the previous "Abandon", which offers some real diversity, not to mention surprises. There is the occasional filler, but overall this album should please most fans of the band.

Much has been made of the irreverent album title since the album's release, fans even reportedly petitioning for a change. The reality is that the album is simply named after one of its tracks. It should be remembered too that Deep Purple have always had a humorous streak going way back to "Anyone's daughter" and before.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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