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by Martin Popoff
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Deep Purple - Rapture Of The Deep
(Spitfire)

MTV is a cutting analysis of the woeful life of a "classic rock band," and there's good reason "Grover and Gillian" are indignant: Deep Purple are making better record's now than they ever have. Them and Motorhead have a right to be upset. And you know... I can't think of anyone else right now. Maybe Heep, you know, the poor man's Deep Purple (made good - good on ya, Bernie!). That's a big leap for some who find the early stuff sacred, and we're all entitled to our opinions, but here's mine: my favourite Deep Purple albums of the whole catalogue are Rapture Of The Deep, followed by either Purpendicular or Perfect Strangers, In Rock or Fireball. Bananas was good (but the worst of the four), Abandon better, but now the fine Morse era has produced a record that feels cohesive, percolates and rocks hard but not too hard, and bless their aging knee joints, contains a total of one and a quarter ballads amidst 11 tracks (I'm not splitting hairs over bonus tracks here). Let's dispense with a bit of an odd thing first - Ian Paice's sweet science is for the most part missing. It's almost as if the plan was for him to time-keep, and that at a plod, with his drums recorded a bit boxy and in total, overwhelmed by the mountainous clumps of keyboards, guitar and bass. This is evident in opener Money Talks, where Ian recounts a thing we sorta know about his colourful past, how money's been known to come and go, a fool and his money are soon parted and all that. But as this song opened, I was kind of shocked at the garagey din of it, the hobbledness of Paice, the subservience of all to the slightly clumsy, amusing and elephantine riff. 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye': same thing at full speed - here he bashes. MTV, there is groove, but again, not of the warm, behaved high fidelity type Ian's famous for. Just an avenue to be explored - Paice is different all over this album, a little wild, and recorded harshly. But what a bounty of amazing songs. Rapture Of The Deep is playful, subtly progressive everywhere, rarely show about it, and like I say, almost uniformly heavy. And that uniformity can be found within Morse's slightly Blackmore-esque (the party rock version) circular but bulky riffs. But, in fact, Morse turns in a welcome, exotic Egypto-Blackmore performance on the title track, an incredible pageant of a palace of an epic, its only slip being that its vocal melody recalls the Beatles' Got To Get You Into My Life. Even the one ballad is pretty good - didn't like it at first, but there is so much going on. And it's kind of cool how Girls Like That rides one of those puffy riffs, then a Deep Purple funk - both items on their dresser - but then the chorus is a new poppy hard rock from them (and maybe it's just poppy because it's strange to hear Ian talking about "girls."). Wrong Man adds to this cohesion factor, the record starting with three songs roughly as heavy as each other, Airey duct-taping each with the same honking Hammond tones. The album has a really funky, percussive late middle, with Don't Let Go being a bit of an uptempo blues, again, with an irresistible pop nugget of a chorus like Girls Like That. Back To Back is both funky and heavy (there's an element of Burn to this record), while again, cohering to the front three tracks with a fat rack of a riff from Morse (y'know, he re-wires Hard Lovin' Woman a lot). Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is heavy with an added Bo Diddley beat, plus some prog progressions from Morse. 'Junkyard Blues' is just wildly entertaining, again Deep Purple imprinting this album as joyous, buoyant, funky hard rock more than anything. But it is closer Before Time Began that is the album's masterpiece. Even if I can't get Faith No More's RV out of my head when I hear the opening verse salvos, this is one of the finest songs Deep Purple has ever written, ambitious, artful, a gorgeous softly sung vocal from Ian, and a typically smart lyric. Add to that some sinister heaviness, lots of prog, and arrangement fer miles (and yes, some sweet science from Paicey), and you've got a career classic. It might be a little anti-climactic and even somehow beneath this track's plush majesty to bring it up, but this one's got the scope of a Born To Kill or Fighting Man from Gillan. Damn if the last minute of this song isn't scarier and more apocalyptic than anything Dissection or Ulver or Khanate could come up with. Geez, back to that Gillan stuff... I bring that up as a segue into the fact that, weirdly, it's recently dawned on me that my favourite band of all time just has to be Gillan, followed by Deep Purple. Ha! So to add Gillan into the mix, and my favourites of the two bands would go Mr. Universe, Glory Road, Rapture Of The Deep, Perpendicular, Double Trouble (I have to ignore the live album to make this happen), Perfect Strangers, Future Shock, In Rock, Fireball, Magic, Machine Head... sick, huh? Anyway, without a doubt, this is my album of the year. Deep Purple have come up with a mature yet lively, humourous, event-packed, energetic record, track after track underscoring the now four records deep personality and creative vitality of the Morse era - these songs hang together on the album and between the albums. Not like that's a big deal, it's just... nice.
Rating 10

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