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RAPTURE OF THE DEEP

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.37 | 231 ratings

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Raff
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This double CD edition of DP's latest effortwas released after just a few months after the original one, as the band were embarking on a world tour. For this reason, this may look as a merely commercial operation, though this is a phenomenon that seems to be spreading. However, it would be wrong to label this one as just the latest attempt from bands and/or recording companies to milk the pockets of hardcore fans. The packaging looks very stylish, all in cool shades of blue, white and grey, suggesting a mature, experienced band who may have come a long way from their original proto-prog/hard rock roots, but who can still deliver the goods and give many younger outfits a run for their money. Then - and most important - the bonus CD is far from being a ripoff: it contains a whopping eight tracks, five of which recorded live at London's Hard Rock Café, one rather good, unreleased song ("Things I Never Said"), an alternative version of wistful ballad "Clearly Quite Absurd", and a studio version of Steve Morse's appropriately-named showcase "The Well-Dressed Guitar".

The main studio album shows a band with a long, variegated and somewhat troubled history behind it, who nevertheless seems to have found a new stability - with a lineup that is many a rock lover's dream team, though only Ian Paice remains of the original group that started out in the late Sixties. OK, Don Airey is not Jon Lord and Steve Morse is not Ritchie Blackmore - so what? They're both utterly amazing musicians, combining experience, technical skill and feeling in a way that many newer bands can only dream of. And this coming from somebody who worships Blackmore and loves Jon's Hammond sound quite madly... Ian Gillan's fabled voice may not reach the stratospheric heights of his "Made in Japan" days, but it has become more rounded, almost elegant in the delivery of his intelligent, often tongue-in-cheek lyrics. In spite of his age and repeated throat problems, Gillan is still a vocal force to be reckoned with, unlike many of his contemporaries.

All the tracks are quite strong, well-crafted and carefully thought out. Opener "Money Talks" sets things off in typical DP style, with a great combination of vocals, keyboards and guitar supported by the tried and tested rythm section of Messrs Paice and Glover. The token radio-friendly song "Girls Like That", though certainly not the album's best, is rather entertaining, as is the dynamic rocker "Wrong Man". However, the record's standout is to my mind the intriguing, mysterious, Middle-Eastern-influenced title-track, propelled along by Airey's and Morse' powerful, steady riffing and featuring an intense vocal performance by Gillan. Though somewhat reminiscent of "Perfect Strangers", this song has a vibe all of its own.

"Clearly Quite Absurd" shows that DP can do a ballad that doesn't smack blatantly of AOR; not my favourite track either, but oozing class nevertheless. There are better things to come, though - notably the irony-drenched "MTV", with Gillan at its vocal and lyrical best; "Junkyard Blues", featuring an exquisite guitar solo by Steve Morse; and majestic, thought-provoking closer "Before Time Began". Airey and Morse are the stars on most of the album tracks, trading licks and engaging in fiery duels, further enhanced by the magnificent, crystal-clear production.

The five live songs on the second CD include a version of the title-track and of "Wrong Man", as well as three of the band's all-time favourites, evergreens "Smoke on the Water" and "Highway Star", and the haunting "Perfect Strangers", all driven along by Morse's and Airey's engines of war. Morse's guitar solo on "Smoke..." sounds remarkably different from Blackmore's crystalline tones, but I find it quite effective all the same.

Though this may not be prog (though influences are never out of reach), it is really classic rock at its very best - and as such it is highly recommended to all lovers of great music. May Deep Purple live forever!

Raff | 4/5 |

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