DEEP PURPLE - NOW What?!
May 8, 2013, 10 years ago
The chorus of ‘Hell To Pay’ is the worst decision since ‘Razzle Dazzle’ but once past that and the album’s strange lack of treble, DEEP PURPLE spreads keyboard-grinding joy all over their pan-world listening audience of UN proportions, underscoring the fact that they are probably the most creatively vital of all hoary rock acts with roots in the ‘60s. Seriously, for the first time there’s dialogues brewin’ about the noticeable effects of age on some of these guys. It used to be just jocularity at various intensities of ill-meaning, when we’d be grousing ‘Pack it up and go,’ but some of these guys are falling asleep on stage.... Not Purple though; NOW What?! is a tour de force of funky heaviness, loaded up by Don Airey and producer Bob Ezrin with a bag of keyboard tricks, as the rest of the band tries to keep up with the prog metal zaniness of the parts and arrangements, everybody the winner, including the listener who might find this an elixir. To generalize, NOW What?! to these ears sounds like a cross between ELP, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and the best intentions of the classic Purpendicular album, the first of this esteemed Morse era, especially anything funky and circular, recalling perhaps the Coverdale era to some extent. But yeah, I suspect a weird feedback logic, where Ian and Roger have taken to heart their own assessments of the band as jazzy, proggy, hard rock, a jam band, improvisers, a live band, a blues band, anything but a metal band, but then coyly injected enough Egypto snarl and Ritchie riffing into things so that NOW What?! comes out marbled heavily with metal, although it never quite dominates. I’m totally digging, in this regard, ‘Uncommon Man’, ‘Out Of Hand’ and the killer attack of ‘Apres Vous’. Late in the smug boomer trip is ‘Vincent Price’, on which Ezrin goes to town loading up on scary movie accents on a muscular mid-paced rocker smeared with camp Hammer horror. And what of Morse? His riffing is quite lost in the warm and layered mix, but that’s OK, and then when he solos, it’s usually quite memorable, seemingly composed, and singularly Morse in style, Steve lodging in that group of 25 or so hard rock guitarists who has that extra feather in his cap: an identifiable sound, and even one rarely copied. Conclusion: I’m trying to temper my admittedly off-average enthusiasm for modern Purple and call this an 8, ‘cos I now rate both Bananas and Rapture Of The Deep as 8s, although I’ll argue ‘til the last Hammond is toppled that both Purpendicular and Abandon are drop-dead 10s.