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Deep Purple: Bananas

When Ritchie Blackmore quit Deep Purple for the last time in 1994, who would have guessed that the band would not only survive, but would go on to release one of their finest albums ever with Purpendicular in 1996? Steve Morse seemed an unlikely choice for a replacement and his very American southern rock style of playing blended so well that Purpendicular ironically sounded more like classic Deep Purple than anything the band had released since the halcyon days of Machine Head. Under different circumstances, keyboardist Jon Lord departed Purple in 2001 and his role is now being filled by Don Airey, a fine player in his own right.

With two of the most important players now gone, how does the first studio album fare under the new lineup? Unfortunately, not very well. At its best, Bananas superficially rocks out the way Purple are expected to. But most of the time, the band slip into sad self-parody. "House of Pain" begins the album on a relatively high note, a heavy boogie rock stomper that features Ian Gillan's vocals very high in the mix. Happily, he sounds better on Bananas than he did on the Abandon album. Too bad things go downhill from there. "Sun Goes Down" chugs along competently but there's nothing memorable about it, not a decent guitar riff in sight. "Haunted", on the other hand, is a strange Neil Young inspired ballad featuring acoustic guitars and female backing vocals. It is the most misplaced piece of music on any Deep Purple album I've ever heard. "Razzle Dazzle" somehow manages to be even worse. An irritating chorus over Airey's chirpy Hammond organ makes me wonder if the band aren't striving to be Huey Lewis and the News. Bananas does improve after the fourth track, but not by much. "Picture of Innocence" and the title song are as good as it gets. Actually these two tracks are very good: "Picture of Innocence" features Gillan's trademark quirky wordplay and an infectious chorus. The title song is initially rather bland, but out of nowhere comes a splendid instrumental conclusion, a battle between Steve Morse and Don Airey that harkens back to those classic Purple albums. This excellent, much too brief passage makes the surrounding material appear all the weaker.

The problem with Bananas is that the songwriting isn't up to par. Producer Michael Bradford does his best to window dress the album with samba beats on "Doing it Tonight" or with strings on "Haunted", but these production touches can't disguise the inherent weakness of the songs. Too much of the album is reminiscent of American southern rock; indeed the entire album reminds me of Lynyrd Skynyrd lite. The band sound tired, confused and out of ideas. I kept my expectations of this album fairly low after the shaky Abandon but Bananas still manages to be somewhat of a turkey. Deep Purple is probably my favorite rock group and they have given their fans some interesting curve balls over the years. Stormbringer and Slaves and Masters were two records that were not well received but I personally have always liked them. However Bananas is certainly their worst album and one that is impossible for this lifelong Purple fan to defend.

Added: October 22nd 2003
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: Official Deep Purple Homepage
Hits: 2799
Language: english

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Deep Purple: Bananas
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-02-18 15:28:16
My Score:

Proving that time does not stand still for no band, Veteran rockers Deep Purple have returned with a new recording entitled "Bananas". The group has also proven that even after all the years that have gone by that they can still deliver solid rock and roll that any age can enjoy. The lineup for the group is Ian Gillen (vox), Ian Paice (drums) and Roger Glover (bass) from the original Purple lineup as well as Don Airey and Steve Morse. Don has stepped in for the now retired John Lord while Steve has been in filling the space left by Richie Blackmore for a couple of years on the guitar. While I am a die hard Blackmore fan, there was probably no wiser choice than Mr. Morse. His stellar years of creativity in the progressive Dixie Dregs has shown he is more than capable of filling Richie's shoes.

Beginning the disk is a rocking number called 'House Of Pain' which I liked a lot. Ian Gillan sounds great once again. This whole track moves and sets a pretty rocking pace. I liked the feel of this one, and found myself repeating it a couple of times. "When The Sun Goes Down" was also good because it had the most "Lord-like" keyboards going on. I miss John Lord, but he wanted to retire and no one can fault him that. Don Airey is a well known staple in rock music and plays the Deep Purple part to a tee.

"Razzle Dazzle" did not really thrill me, but I can't put a finger on what it was that I did not like. Yet "Silver Tongue" which followed it I just loved. The entire feel and groove and feel of the beat had me tapping on the desk as I listened. Guitar drove the tune like a machine press. Some of it even has a Van Halen vibe to it. That might have been what made me like it a lot. "Bananas" (the title track) is also an interesting number. This piece in particular had a very Emerson, Lake & Palmer feel to it at parts and I rather enjoyed it since I was not accustomed to Purple using this style. Don Airey did a great job at making the boards sound like that of Keith Emerson.

There are a few slow numbers on the disk but the pace of the song does not take away from the feel of tune. They are crafted well and with the exception of 'Haunted' which I felt dragged a little. I feel this song in particular would have been more suited to be a Garth Brooks sort of artist, more so than a Deep Purple. I will leave some of the CD to everyones investigation but bring up one final note on it.

Closing out the CD is "Contact Lost" which is an instrumental piece by Steve Morse that is dedicated to the Astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Apparently the band was quite popular among one of the Astronauts on the flight and they emailed each other. When the Shuttle came down and was recovered, several Deep Purple CDs were said to be found among the wreckage of the craft.

I recommend this release more for the longer termed DP fan than a newbie who is just checking out their music for the first time. This applies unless you find yourself attending the current tour as this will be a good primer for material they will probably concentrate on.

Deep Purple: Bananas
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2003-10-22 16:07:17
My Score:

It's been a few years since Deep Purple's last CD, titled Abandon, but the veteran band is back, minus one of their founding members Jon Lord, with the surprisingly musical and varied Bananas. The horrible cover and album title aside, this new release shows Deep Purple as a mature and confident band, despite losing such as staple as Lord. His replacement is none other than Don Airey, who has manned the keys for such groups as Rainbow, Gary Moore, Collosseum II, and Whitesnake, among many others. Airey seems to mesh with guitarist Steve Morse quite well throughout Bananas, even trading serious musical exchanges with the axe legend on a few tracks.

Songs like "House of Pain" , "Sun Goes Down", and "Silver Tongue" rock hard , containing all the trademark muscular guitar riffs and rampaging Hammond organ that has made DP famous. Morse lets loose plenty of sinewy leads throughout the CD's 12 songs, none perhaps more impressive than the gargantuan melodic break on "Haunted", one of the more beautiful pieces this band has ever done, coming across like an 80's Kansas ballad or a contemporary tune from Procol Harum. "Razzle Dazzle" is a fun up-tempo number with intricate guitar riffs from Morse and inspired vocals from Ian Gillan, who seems to be in better form vocally than he has been in years. Other tunes like "I Got Your Number" and "Never A Word", respectively sound like they could have come off of Who Do We Think We Are and What If. The latter piece starts out with some compelling guitar textures from Morse that recall vintage Dixie Dregs, and helps shape the song into one of the most unique songs Deep Purple has ever done. Also of note is the majestic instrumental "Contact Lost", which is hopefully a precursor of things to come from Morse and Airey.

Sure, this isn't Machine Head, In Rock, or even Perpendicular, but this is still fine heavy rock as only Deep Purple can create. They may be older, and they may not want to be the "loudest band in the world" anymore, but they still can release quality material. Out of 12 tracks, there's maybe three or four tunes that fall into the generic catagory. The rest is all colored in purple.

Pete Pardo

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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