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Deep Purple: Now What?!

Just when you think it's time to write off those crusty veterans Deep Purple, they keep bouncing back with more top notch new material and endless tours that show just how vital an act they still are, 40+ years after their initial inception. Now What?! is the latest platter of classic heavy rock (notice I am not using the dreaded 'classic rock' tag here), dedicated to fallen founding member Jon Lord who passed away recently. Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, Steve Morse, and especially Don Airey are in fine form throughout this new CD, which if you are keeping track of their releases since Morse joined the band (this is album number 5), is without a doubt among their best in that time frame.

I mention Airey in particular above because he's all over these songs, given plenty of freedom by producer Bob Ezrin to lay his rampaging Hammond organ and synths throughout to surprisingly snarling effect. Instead of Morse driving the riffs, it's actually Airey, though Steve is right there with him in many instances. Tunes like "A Simple Song", "Weirdistan", and "Out of Hand" rock pretty damn hard, with huge swells of Hammond battling it out next to Morse's meaty riffs, Glover and Paice digging deep and Gillan dropping in his still effective vocals. Yeah, he's done with the screaming but he still can carry a tune just fine with his unmistakable voice. Morse's solos are lethal as always, but he's been reigned in here somewhat by Ezrin, and surprisingly you hear more than enough of him that it doesn't disappoint. "Hell to Pay" is another rousing rocker with a somewhat silly chorus that almost sounds out of place on DP record, but the tune is more than enjoyable enough, and "Bodyline" is a funky rocker with some nifty drumming courtesy of Paicey, snarling Morse licks, and Airey's tasty Hammond. Paice and Glover dig deep with some fat grooves to accompany Airey's impressive swells on the ELP-ish "Above and Beyond", while "Blood From a Stone" has a bluesy, dramatic flair to it, Airey's mysterious electric piano dropping in some Doors element, but the band muscling in with some bombast and Morse's thick riffs on the chorus. Great tune.

"Uncommon Man" is a more atmospheric piece, and a great vehicle for Morse's tasteful, graceful, guitar histrionics, and it's here that you can really feel the influence of Ezrin with all the layering of Airey's keyboards and Gillan's lush vocals. Quite the symphonic and melodic cut from the band, and a real venture into prog-rock waters. Back to a blistering rocker with "Apres Vous", a real hell-driver of a track complete with furious Hammond & guitar, snapping rhythms, and forceful vocals from Gillan, which is followed by CD single "All the TIme in the World". This is a strange choice for a single, as it's easily the most pedestrian track on the album, though a decent enough melodic bluesy rocker with a nice chorus. As it was the first song that most people heard before this album came out, it's so opposite to most of the material here that it cast the whole album in a light that it certainly was not. Ezrin drives the band to some wild cinematic images on "Vincent Price", a real hoot if you are a fan of the actor and his classic horror films, and the feel of the song is not unlike some of the material the producer worked on with Alice Cooper. Some savage riffs & Hammond swells on this one give it a real 'metal' feel, and Gillan contributes some screams for the first time on the album. Bluesy Bonus track "It'll Be Me" is the mellowest song here, and not at all mandatory listening if you don't happen to get the deluxe edition.

There is a bonus DVD included on the deluxe set, which features a 20 minute conversation with the band, and live audio tracks of "Perfect Strangers" & "Rapture in the Deep", as well as an alternative radio mix of single "All the Time in the World". The 2 live cuts are quite good as you can imagine. All this comes in a great digipack (cover art is pretty bland) with band pics and full lyrics. Overall it's pretty heavy in spots, with lots of proggy keyboards from Airey (and HEAVY keyboards I might add), some lean & mean guitar from Morse, and classy contributions from the three classic members. If nothing else, Now What?! is proof that these old dinosaurs still have plenty left in the tank and are much more than just a touring machine cranking out the classics. Hopefully there's more to come and the 'now what?" isn't a signal that the end is near. Highly recommended stuff, easily as good as Perpendicular, Abandon, and more enjoyable than Bananas and Rapture of the Deep.

Track Listing
1) A Simple Song
2) Weirdistan
3) Out of Hand
4) Hell to Pay
5) Bodyline
6) Above and Beyond
7) Blood From a Stone
8) Uncommon Man
9) Apres Vous
10) All the TIme in the World
11) Vincent Price
12) It'll Be Me (bonus track)

Added: January 18th 2014
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3963
Language: english

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