Deep Purple is one of those rare bands that have been going for well into several decades and continue to record new music that is not just good but in some cases, on par with earlier classic material. The various versions of the band and the tumultuous personality clashes of key members has long been a thing of the past. The line up these days has been intact and functioning beautifully on the international live circuit for at least a good couple of decades.
Whilst veteran rock guitar virtuoso Steve Morse may always be the ‘new guy’ for the guitar slot, his contribution to the band, post Ritchie Blackmore, are nothing short of essential. Similarly, keyboard wizard, Don Airey, is one of the few living musicians that can reinvigorate the virtually incommensurate musical legacy that the late, great Jon Lord established with the band’s timeless tunes that continue to inspire new generations. Having said all that, the core band members are not resting on their laurels and are certainly not churning out derivative music for the nostalgia market.
Now releasing their twenty-first studio album, Whoosh!, with the two comparatively recent prior albums of Now What?! and Infinite both being well received, vocalist Ian Gillan has found a more bluesy, almost deeper timbre to his voice, less reliant on the screams of the past. Also, the rhythm section of intricate bassist Roger Glover and jazz influenced drummer Ian Paice are simply untouchable, with a push-pull quality that breathes life into the songs.
Opening with Throw My Bones, the song’s grooving, percussive guitar riff is backed by smooth keyboard lines that add tension as the various instruments synchronise at the chorus. Gillan’s vocals are strong, even if sometimes doubled, with the melody floating over the top. Morse’s guitar solo adds signature chromatic runs with distinctive tone and apt vibrato as it climbs. His use of accents, and slow scalar runs, convey a musical story, before synchronising with Airey’s masterful keyboard skills.
Next track, Drop the Weapon, is even better, as a muted guitar riff and blues tinged keyboard flourishes add funky spice to a swinging, shuffle feel that ushers in a simple, catchy chorus. Lyrics adopt some seventies street lexicon that set an interesting feel next to classic Deep Purple, walking bassline elements and a slinky, reverb doused, solo that trades lines with the keyboards, before a brief synchronised passage to quickly showcase Paice’s drumming brilliance with quick, in-the-pocket rolls and fills. The track includes one of the musical interlude highlights on the album.
We’re All the Same in the Dark and Nothing at All are two very different tracks but sit well together on the album. The first is soulful, with a driving groove and has chords that pop out against the rhythm section and even with pop aspects, has Gillan showing he can still hit some higher notes. The guitar tone used is also rolled back on this track during the solo, giving a more stinging sound with Morse digging in to coax out notes and bluesy intervals.
The second of these two tracks, Nothing at All, starts with a gentle descending rhythm figure as a floating guitar line bounces off a similar keyboard line, both reminiscent of dancing, Bach partitas. Meanwhile, Gillan captures vignettes well with lyrics centred on the song title’s universal expression.
Airey’s keyboard prowess shines here with his use of counterpoint and lush organ textures, bolstered with smooth guitar tones.
Gorgeous organ sounds continue within No Need to Shout and work nicely against the tight, grooving rhythm section, guided effortlessly by Glover’s bass power and Paice’s unmistakable sway. Gillan again offers up suitably acerbic lyrics and his judicious word choices convey the sentiment of the song clearly. Airey is further in top form on Step by Step whereby an opening keyboard figure, reminiscent of his early Ozzy Osbourne material, segues into the band instrumentation following the time signature execution of the song, never missing a beat. Key changes provide a lift in the chorus showing how adept the band is at constructing songs. It is in album highlight with sweeping Baroque elements, rising in grandeur as the song proceeds.
What the What is the only track that doesn’t appeal greatly, but listeners since early days may embrace it, and in context of the depth of styles here, it works. It is a repetitive but entertaining enough twelve bar blues shuffle and an ode to raucous, piano based rock and roll music, celebrating lost inhibitions. Morse’s solo is faithful to the rockabilly vibe, almost crossed with pedal steel aspects. An authentic turnaround concludes the track.
Fast paced rock tunes with plenty of cymbals follow, with The Long Way Around also surprisingly seeing some cool, spacey seventies styled synthesiser sounds during Airey’s very progressive solo. Morse answers that with a melodic guitar solo which soon harmonises with Gillan as the chorus resumes. An impressive but brief dual guitar and keyboard part introduces a song breakdown before the crescendo. Some atmospheric volume swells at the end offer a segue-way into the next track.
That track is The Power of the Moon and is certainly another album highlight. A brooding, haunting song, with a simple, repeated arpeggiated figure, but structured to hit the sustained chorus quickly and with Glover’s perfectly bass audible throughout. Excellent production, arrangements and instrumentation throughout indicate why Bob Ezrin as producer is a worthwhile investment. Morse’s guitar lines are suitably restrained to aid the song’s dramatic feel whilst Airey’s solo is more loose, but neatly completed before the bridge, after which the reprised opening figure, with subtle variations, closes the track.
The first of two instrumentals ensues with the quick Remission Possible gaining quick pace as keyboards tap exotic scales before playing a scalar patterned theme in unison with guitar. It abruptly morphs into a keyboard and guitar swells fade, offering another segue-way to the subsequent, curious track, Man Alive. Vocoder effected vocals and keyboard lines over a pulsing drum part with tasty guitar parts feed into the full band launching into the song. Multi-tracked vocals with interesting lyrics catch the attention before a virtual band tacit lets Gillan indulge in an interlude of dialogue or a profound narrative about an extinction event. The song ramps up again with Morse’s guitar solo a slow and melodic section with a twinning effect. There is a little more dialogue which provides a slightly ambiguous explanation of the album title, after which the song fades out.
The second instrumental is a more traditional adventure that musos will love titled, And the Address. If that is via a time machine, the destination is very seventies funk and hard rock groove with an almost dance time signature from the post Hendrix, three-piece influenced era. Morse’s guitar effectively holds the vocal line but once into solo, he lets fly, sounding almost improvised but reined in by the rhythm section. Airey’s solo is more expressive whilst Morse hammers out the guitar chord stabs. Paice throws in plenty of rapid drum fills, keeping in lock-step with Glover’s driving bass parts.
Dancing in My Sleep concludes the album but is possibly something of a departure from what many would expect from Deep Purple. Commencing with some synthesiser sounds that are more nineties electronica than seventies hard rock and funk, the song has an interesting mix set up. Whilst vocals have some effects added and guitar parts are panned slightly left with the effects on the right hand six and a deeper mix placement, Airey’s keyboards are soon loud and proud, blasting from seventies Hammond sounds. Morse utilises an octave effect for his guitar solo which gives his tone a deeper resonance. It is Deep Purple meets Gary Numan crossed with Mick Jagger. So, an up-tempo, album closer with a modern angle which actually works and isn’t as jarring as it sounds.
Deep Purple is well rehearsed and locked in throughout Whoosh! Overall, there really are no weak tracks on the album. Playing together over decades for both studio and live performances, from years of listening to each other musically and making contributions flow is second nature to Deep Purple. Put another way, there is virtually nothing that Deep Purple cannot play and would probably do it better than most others of their era. Simply, the talent pedigree within the band is astonishing. That skill and ability is again evident on Whoosh! It is a truly rewarding album, well worth your time.
- Throw My Bones
- Drop Your Weapon
- We’re All the Same in the Dark
- Nothing at All
- No Need to Shout
- Step by Step
- What the What
- The Long Way Around
- The Power of the Moon
- Remission Possible
- Man Alive
- And the Address
- Dancing in My Sleep