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Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers CD (album) cover

PERFECT STRANGERS

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

3.40 | 410 ratings

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Raff
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In 1984, eight years after they had disbanded in a mess of drugs, death and inner turmoil, Deep Purple regrouped with their classic, MKII lineup. A dream come true for the millions of dedicated followers of that legendary band (though probably motivated by purely financial reasons), it was not to last long, as the profound hostility between Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan resurfaced soon afterwards, affecting the band's performance and their interpersonal dynamics. However, their comeback album, "Perfect Strangers", is a timely reminder of what the rock world had been missing since Deep Purple's melancholy split in 1976.

Now for the burning question: is it prog? Probably not, and certainly not in the traditional sense of the term - though the album is very strongly keyboard-driven. Jon Lord's brooding, powerful Hammond underpins most of the tracks, duelling with Blackmore's scintillating guitar in the time-honoured tradition of the band's immortal Seventies classics. Obviously, there are some more typical, straightforward hard rockers like "Mean Streak" or "A Gypsy's Kiss", while other tracks have a more diverse, interesting structure - as it is the case of opener "Knocking at Your Back Door". After having been plagued by vocal problems in the early years of the Eighties, Ian Gillan is back to form again, both as a singer and as a lyricist. His vocal style is not as wild and untamed as it was in the former decade, relying on stratospherically high, trademark screams - now he takes advantage of the slower, more laid-back sound of the band to cultivate a more expressive, refined delivery, which still lasts to this day.

Ritchie Blackmore is.. well, Ritchie Blackmore: that is, the guitarist that defined playing for most of the aspiring axemen of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Though there may be more gifted guitarists in a purely technical sense (I think of a certain American gentleman whose surname starts with P...), no one has his elegance of touch and his distinctive, crystal-clear sound. You can try to imitate Blackmore, but you sure cannot sound like him, nor contribute to the development of rock in the same way he did. The lengthy instrumental "Son of Alerik", included as a bonus track in the remastered edition, is proof enough of his abilities.

The title-track is possibly the highlight of the album, together with melancholy ballad "Wasted Sunsets", in which Ritchie's guitar dominates the proceedings together with Gillan's impassioned voice. "Perfect Strangers" is instead heavy on keyboards, and its distinctive, Oriental-flavoured riff recalls in some way Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", though by no means a rip-off. The metronomically precise rythm section of Roger Glover (an understated, underrated bassist if there ever was one) and Ian Paice (enough said.. one of the greatest drummers in rock, period) does as usual sterling work, providing a rock-solid backbeat to Blackmore and Lord's fiery exertions.

Sadly, Deep Purple MarkII Take 2 lasted the space of just another album, the vastly inferior "The House of Blue Light" - if one does not count the later, already doomed comeback of "The Battle Rages On", whose title fittingly described the struggle that led to Blackmore leaving the band for good. However, when "Perfect Strangers" was released the Purple star was still burning bright... and it still does to this day, though in a different incarnation. Highly recommended.

Raff | 4/5 |

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