Friday, June 22, 2012

Purple and Blue Don't Mix

“Perfect Strangers” was a stellar comeback album for Deep Purple. The return of the famed Mark II lineup did not disappoint as Ritchie Blackmore’s familiar leads and Ian Gillan’s vocals were back together and it just felt “right.” The album would be a huge success for the band commercially and critically, but now they had the challenge of trying to match the greatness of “Perfect Strangers.”

Ultimately, the songwriting is not as strong and the songs are less memorable in the blue house. There are also a couple instances of bad moments like the lame lyrics and uninspiring chorus of “The Unwritten Law” and the biggest offender in the poppy “Call of the Wild.” During the track, Ian Gillan sings “operator, this is the call of the wild.” I don’t know how Gillan could manage a straight face singing that cheesy line, but I give him credit for doing so. Thankfully, those are the only painful moments lyrically.

On the musical side, there are a couple stellar tracks to be found. The opener, “Bad Attitude” has all the ingredients of great song. The epic keyboard opening by Jon Lord, a pounding rhythm of drums and bass by Ian Paice and Roger Glover, a strong vocal performance, and of course a memorable solo by the esteemed Blackmore. The keyboard ending by Lord too is very catchy and all in all a grade A song. “Mad Dog” is a riff driven song with a riff that will stick in your head for days and showcases some more theatrics from Lord and an awesome Blackmore solo to close it. The other two great songs are “The Spanish Archer” and the closer “Dead or Alive.” The former features an adventurous desperation in the guitar and showcases Blackmore at his finest as he just wails and bends the notes at the perfect times. The clarity in Gillan’s voice almost serves as a calming presence due to the nature of the song. The latter ups the tempo with the characteristics being similar to “Burn” as the musicians keep going at it with the solos and do not let it up.

However, the quality drops with some tunes that are different from what listeners expect from Deep Purple. “Black and White” utilizes the harmonica and the song sounds like something you would hear in a movie during a bar brawl. I like the bass line by Glover, but overall the track does not have that purple charm one would expect. “Mitzi Dupree” has a lounge band type feel with a strong vocal performance by Gillan to keep me interested. The song has a certain charm, but it may turn others off. A track that could have been great, but fails in a couple areas is “Strangeways.” The tickling of the piano creates a mysterious atmosphere, but is thrown out when the chorus comes in and breaks the mood of the song. It does not help that the song runs too long either.

What made “Perfect Strangers” great is that the band was on a mission to rock and show they still got it. The songs kept coming at you and provided an experience you wanted to return to. “The House of Blue Light” wavers between its sounds and it does not help when the second and third songs are stinkers in “The Unwritten Law” and “Call of the Wild.” The guys find their legs in the best song on the album “Bad Attitude”, “Mad Dog”, and “Dead or Alive.” While the stay at the house might not be the most comfortable, it certainly will not leave you feeling cold.

Friday, June 8, 2012

This Is a Comeback

When Deep Purple lost its shade after “Come Taste the Band”; it was the perfect time for the band to end. The Mark IV lineup with new guitarist Tommy Bolin provided an album that didn’t live up to the Deep Purple name with the simplified songs and a huge blues influence. By 1984, the stars had aligned for the famed Mark II lineup to comeback. Ian Gillan had just finished his stint with Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow had reached the end of the spectrum. Bassist Roger Glover, master of the ivories Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice were all back on board to give the fans what they craved; the Mark II lineup back in action.

The boys do not disappoint either delivering a great dose of hard rocking tunes and Blackmore once again regaining his edge after some poppy Rainbow albums. Songs like “Knockin’ at Your Back Door” and the well-known title track will stick in your head for days. Blackmore shows his knack for writing memorable riffs and to highlight a solo with the former and the title track is a great piece of songwriting with an awesome keyboard intro and a soulful vocal performance by Gillen.

There are no tricks or venturing of the purple mark on this record as any listener can tell how the guys were rejuvenated and genuinely happy being back together again. The neoclassical meanderings of “Hungry Daze” and the up-tempo, keyboard driven “Gypsy’s Kiss” are reminders of just how good these musicians are and the music they create. My version also has “Not Responsible” which reminds me of “A Light in the Black” from the famed Rainbow “Rising” album and that certainly is not a bad thing.

The only misstep is the ballad “Wasted Sunsets.” While I adore Blackmore’s guitar performance, the songs does not fit in with the rest of the album and breaks up the rocking, no-holds-barred pacing that was carrying on. The song is also not that good and the least memorable. Some flack is also given to “Mean Streak” for the lame chorus, but that is more of a minor quip than anything.

“Perfect Strangers” is the definitive example of a comeback album not being a failure. In fact, this is one of the best Purple releases. The songs are full of inspiring writing, memorable songs, and the formidable tandem of Lord and Blackmore dueling with the keyboard and guitar. “Knockin’ at Your Back Door” and the title track will keep you coming back for more because this is how a comeback  should be.