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Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers CD (album) cover

PERFECT STRANGERS

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.40 | 415 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
2 stars As Justin Hayward once wrote, "You can never go home anymore." After many years of the band resting in peace, not to mention the lineup changes the band had endured since the glory days, it might have seemed nice in 1984 to have the Mk. 2 lineup (here referred to in this incarnation as Mk. 2.1) back together. After all, disregarding the fact that the last time these guys were together, they made the mediocre Who Do We Think We Are?, they had once made amazing music together, and after all the biggest problems with the last few DP albums had involved David, Glenn or Tommy. What could go wrong with having Glover, Blackmore and Gillan back in the group?

Plenty wrong, that's what. Glover didn't really lose anything of note over time (though he isn't immune from blame for this album - he was the main producer, after all), but a lot happened to Ritchie and Ian in the previous decade, not all of which was for the better. Ritchie had some success with Rainbow, but supposedly the band got far too cheezily mainstream in the 80's, the blame of which could be primarily placed on Ritchie's shoulders. As for Ian, well, as was first demonstrated in a disastrous '83 stint with Black Sabbath, he simply lost his voice. The low-key power he'd had in his 'normal' range before had largely dissipated by this time into creakiness, and when he'd try to go loud, or, heaven help us, high, it could be downright painful to listen to. In other words, what was once one of the band's greatest assets was now, sadly, one of the band's greatest liabilities.

Not that it really matters on this album. The band largely chooses to follow instead of lead with this album, and given both that it was 1984 and what Ritchie's goals in Rainbow had been the past few years, that basically spells disaster. The band tries hard to get in with the pop-metal crowd of 1984, and that means tepid riffs and melodies that aren't hard enough to drive away the average consumer, and not poppy enough to drive away the average metalhead. This also means that the drums are largely electronic, the keyboards are set to cheezy-synth mode, and the guitars are only there as much as they need to be. All this and sung by a guy who lost his voice. Whee!

The situation isn't completely hopeless, fortunately. The opening "epic" "Knocking at Your Back Door" has the band making the best of all the crappy ingredients listed above; the guitar line that pops up in the introduction and during the "chorus" section is fairly nice, there's a halfway decent solo in the middle, and I'm almost able to forget that I'm listening to an 80's hair-metal piece about anal sex. I gotta say, though, that that kinda pisses me off; early 70's DP weren't choir boys, of course, but the band always seemed much "cleaner" than other heavy bands of the era, largely because Gillan didn't revel in the kinds of lyrical excesses that Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath soaked themselves in. So of course they IMMEDIATELY blow that image by making a thinly veiled anthem about butt-sex (note that I'm bothered by this not because of anything against the act itself, but rather because the band seemed to think that in order to get noticed in the 80's, they had to try and ruffle the moral feathers of society). Meh.

The title track, on the other hand, sounds to my ears like a complete success. Supposedly, Ritchie milked this "Kashmir"-style sound to death in his time in Rainbow, so it might not sound that great to longtime followers of all of Ritchie's work, but it sure sounds great to me. For one thing, the opening has Lord bringing out the distorted Hammond organ of old and putting away the synths, which is a rare thing on this album for sure. However, when he brings out the synths again, he puts them to good use, playing a hypnotic "Eastern" riff that pops up from time to time. The rest of the band gets into the same act effectively, from Ian 'bending' his vocal notes in largely the same way Plant did on "Kashmir," to Ian's monotonous rhythms actually functioning as hypnotic instead of boring, to ... whatever. Point is, this is the one track here that really oozes inspiration, even if it's somewhat secondhand.

The other six tracks (seven if you count a bonus on the CD, which isn't any better than the rest), though, just don't appeal to my ears at all. "Under the Gun" is only memorable for the INCREDIBLY cheezy use of "Pomp and Circumstance" at one point near the end (a move comparable only to Spinal Tap's use of a classical quote at the end of "Heavy Duty"), "Nobody's Home" starts with a ridiculous cheezy synth introduction and moves into a set of riffs presented in the lamest way possible, "A Gypsy's Kiss" is fast without having any of the classic DP power ... it just goes on. "Mean Streak" has a little guilty-pleasure appeal for me, but not much more; "Wasted Sunsets" is an average terrible mid-80's power ballad (with terrible singing - the way Ian sings "sunseeeeeets" is downright painful); "Hungry Daze" has a slightly interesting (but dorky) synth-guitar pattern that pops up from time to time, but completely loses me otherwise (except for those TERRIBLE synth *konk* noises that sound like something from Jethro Tull's A). MEH.

Strangely enough, there are some fans that consider this comeback a success. All I can say is that, if you're one of those people, you have a far greater tolerance of and love for 80's metal in all its various forms than I do. For me personally, this kind of music is one of my inner circles of rock'n'roll hell. I give it a ** because I like a couple of the songs, and there are some *parts* in the other tracks that slightly catch my ear in a good way (such as the occasional good Ritchie passage), but I simply cannot go any higher than this. It's a looong way from here to "Speed King," I'll tell you what.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |

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