Wednesday, 31 December 2003

Deep Purple - Bananas - Album Review

On Monday, August 25th, a Bank Holiday here in Britain, veteran rockers Deep Purple released their latest album, Bananas. A landmark of sorts, as Purple are now one of the few musical acts to have released new studio albums in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's.

This album marks the first studio album of the latest Purple line-up, featuring Ian Gillan on vocals, Roger Glover on bass, Ian Paice on Drums, Steve Morse on guitar, and relatively-new recruit Don Airey on keyboards. Airey replaces the legendary Jon Lord, who left the band on good terms last year. A friend of mind who attended Lord's last concert in Ipswich informs me that it was quite an emotional night.

So how does the album compare to other recent releases. This may be because I'm getting on in years (I'm 31), and I'm a die-hard Purple-ite, but compared to much of the new pop music, and for that matter so-called nu-metal, this album blows them all out of the water, and goes to show that age is no barrier as far as making new music is concerned. Purple have been doing this since 1968, and this album shows that their song writing and playing skills have not diminished as time has gone on.

The first track, House Of Pain, is an indication of what you can expect. It's hard rockin' at it's finest, and a great way to start off the album, which stays strong right through to the title track, right to the end and Contact Lost, a tribute to the crew of the recent space shuttle disaster.

My main trepidation as far as this album was concerned was Don Airey, and could fill the gap that was left by the legend that was Jon Lord. I had been a keen fan of Airey's work in Rainbow, but an even bigger fan of Lord, especially his solo album's Sarabande and Before I Forget. Lord seemed to have a kind of special relationship as far as the group was concerned. His work on Purple records seemed to involve a friendly form of musical one-upmanship with the guitarists, first Ritchie Blackmore, and later Steve Morse. I was worried that with Lord now gone, such duels would become a thing of the past. While Morse and Airey work well with each other, it's just not the same. Airey is good at what he does, but at the moment he just can't compare with Lord. Of course, this may change over time and in future studio releases.

So overall, I consider the album good, certainly on a par with my other favourites of 2003, Metallica's St. Anger and Fleetwood Mac's Say You Will. However, compared to, say, Abandon and Purpendicular, it's a little bet of a let down, but still far better than The Battle Rages On.

Who cares if these guys are approaching bus-pass age? They've certainly kept this 31 year old happy over the past twenty years!