Despite disappearing from view in the US, at least until their recent induction to the somewhat pointless Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, Purple have actually been going strong for almost 50 years. They are a big draw in most of the world still, even though Ian Paice is the only original member from the bunch of young men who unleashed Hush on the world in 1968. That said, the present line up of said drummer with long-term members Glover and Gillan on bass and vocals, joined by Steve Morse (now longer in the band than Blackmore was in total, though people seem to have a hard time processing this) and relative new boy Don Airey (only there for 10 years now), is probably as stable as the band have ever been.
This might be their last studio album, if only because they are all getting a bit long in the tooth, but they still rock in a manner that is unmistakably Purple-esque. So yes, bombarding, bass heavy riffs, swirling Hammond organ and fiery guitar solos, with Gillan perhaps showing a bit of age but uniquely recognizable throughout. If the previous effort, Now What?, also produced by Bob Ezrin, was a late life return to form for the band, this is more of the same: dense, heavy, with lots of interplay between Morse and Airey. Surprisingly, perhaps, there's more than a few singable tunes here with melodies that catch the ear, though Gillan is indulged a bit too much I think with spoken parts in two tracks, most annoyingly on side 1's Time for Bedlam which opens with a synthesized voice part that will be tire very quickly. There's a few other notable tracks here, mixing the more epic style of old Purple in Birds of Prey with the looser, jam style of Johnny's Band, again with a catchy chorus that sort of works its way into your cranium. Plenty of solo flourishes from top players here, though Paice's drumming is rarely foregrounded. Can't help but feel there's a few places where I've heard that riff before but they're fleeting. Oddest moment might be the last track, a cover of the Door's Roadhouse Blues done in a bar-room boogie style that sounds like it was recorded live, with an unusually musical and laid back Morse solo. Maybe a tip of the hat to the rumor that this is indeed nearly the end of the road for these guys as a touring outfit.
I have the double 45rpm LP version which is nicely packaged in thick vinyl slabs and picture sleeves but my copy is pretty noisy, even after an ultrasonic clean, and the production is a bit dark sounding, and the layers of sound are dense, lacking some of the space and air that the band possesses live. Comes with a DVD of the making of the album which I have not viewed yet but others tell me is worthy. Glad the boys are still rocking away, this won't replace Machine Head as their definitive statement but it's a solid effort that warrants more than a few listens to really appreciate.
The Bowie Box set as individual LPs
Finally got around to listening to the various releases of the Bowie box set that came out as individual LPs earlier this year. I suppose over the years I've owned three copies of some of these, particularly Aladdin Sane, and I decided it was probably a good time to fill in the gaps or to determine if the new pressings were a step up on my old worn copies.
I'll make it brief -- the answer is no. While there's a little more upfront presence and high-end detail on a couple of these, I don't really think the sonics are greatly improved. More, they really do sound quite digital in nature, which in and of itself would not bother me too much if they had the best aspects of good digital reproduction but I don't hear that with these. Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust are both acceptable, and even quite good if you have nothing else but I don't feel I am really being transported into the heart of the music with these recordings. Still, they are great albums and it's nice that people can find copies now that are clean, decently packaged and quiet. And no matter what, Lady Grinning Soul still makes me catch my breath every time I hear Bowie utter the opening phrase "She'll come...she'll go".