Artist: Deep Purple
Release: Rapture of the Deep
Label: Eagle Records
Date: November 2005
A great album produced late in a band’s career is always a pleasant surprise, a welcome treat for longtime fans, and a deserved chance for a veteran group to refresh their repertoire. This year the stars must be in the right place because like The Rolling Stones (whose “Bigger Bang” album was their best studio output in decades) and Robert Plant (who offered up the awesome “Mighty ReArranger” disc), Deep Purple has recorded an amazing set of tunes on “Rapture of the Deep”. The eleven songs presented on their first release for Eagle Records rock as hard as any of the group’s “classic tracks” and many show great potential for live performance.
Production and engineering by Michael Bradford (Uncle Kracker, Kid Rock) is punchy, modern but decidedly devoid of any current recording affectations. As with the best of Purple’s catalog each member shines but never overwhelms or outshines the song. The interplay, counterpoint, and tandem riffing of guitar and keyboard – the sonic stew that defines Purple – is well balanced throughout. Drums are tight with a minimum of ambiance; Ian Paice’s snare drum opening for “Back to Back” feels like it’s in your lap. Bradford’s mix keeps all tunes within a similar “sound stage” which bolsters the cohesive feel of the album.
Don Airey now permanently wields the DP keyboards (following the retirement of founder member Jon Lord) and churns out enough overdriven Hammond organ to keep the band’s signature sound alive (“Money Talks”) while also getting his own style and influences into the mix. His scope is as wide as the litany of bands he’s played in (Ozzy, Rainbow, Gary Moore to name just a few). On “Don’t Let Go” his piano solo alludes to Rod Argent’s nimble style, synth leads on “Back to Back” dip into fusion territory and he alternately flavors the Moroccan curry of the title track by either doubling Steve Morse’s eastern tinged guitar runs or comping swirling organ chords.
Although it’s hard to pick favorites on a record that hangs together so well, the streamlined riffing and snotty/punky chorus of “Girls Like That”, the elegant melody of the proggy ballad “Clearly Quite Absurd”, and the jazzy, Frankenstein funk of “Junkyard Blues” have sent me back to those tracks individually.
As Purple suggests in their Web bio, “nostalgia is not a creative word”. They take the opportunity to extrapolate on that thought in the biting, but funny, lyric to “MTV”. The song references everything from the demise of Britain’s off-shore Pirate Radio stations (which offered “uncontrolled appreciation of music” much to the establishment’s dismay) to clueless sycophants grinding out “classic rock radio”. An hilarious jibe at a DJ interviewer includes the lines “Mr. Grover ‘n’ Mr. Gillian, you musta made a million, the night that Frank Zappa caught on fire” and “Oh yes, I love you dearly. But why do you exist?”
On “Rapture of the Deep” Deep Purple blow a hole through the lie that a thirty-year-old band is only as good as it’s thirty-year-old hits. Buying this one is a no-brainer. Put it on your iPod. Listen to it a lot.
1. Money Talks
2. Girls Like That
3. Wrong Man
4. Rapture of the Deep
5. Clearly Quite Absurd
6. Don’t Let Go
7. Back To Back
8. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
10. Junkyard Blues
11. Before Time Began
Official Website: http://www.deep-purple.com