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As the Bananas ripen

Treat this one as an editorial essay rather than your regular update. It's been a busy month or so all round what with the summer tour and the excitement over the new album.

Firstly, the tour. I was lucky enough to catch Karlsruhe and Bonn, then Wembley and Birmingham and finally the Liverpool Pops. If you've read the reviews, you'll see what a mixed bag it was with festivals, barns and theatres and a tweak in the setlist that seems to have made all the difference. For those of us who generally catch a couple of gigs on pretty much every tour, it's tempting to demand some variation if not gig by gig, then certainly from major tour leg to the next.

Having spoken to many people on this tour, it's time that people like me shut the hell up! It's clear that the songs people want to hear come from the big three from the Seventies and Perfect Strangers. Get over it. The band feeds back on the vibe from the crowd and it's Smoke on the Water, Black Night, Speed King, Lazy, Space Trucking, Perfect Strangers and so on that provide that wave of energy from the crowd that engergises the band. Even "new oldies" like I'm Alone didn't really hack it despite some screaming organ from Don Airey.

Speaking of Don...I've often complained that when crushed up against the rail that Jon's keyboards are inaudible. I didn't have that problem with Don this time, I managed to fluke the best seat in the house, standing next to Mickey (more of whom later) getting the sound out of Don's monitors. I hear that "I'm Alone" didn't do much for most of the audience, but from where I was it totally screamed. No offense to Jon, who we love madly, that pulsating organ sound was back. Yes, Don's a trouper but Purple is more than just another notch in his belt. I had goosebumps like I haven't had since '96. Don "I've had the organ enhanced you know" Airey rocks.

There's been a little banter on the forums about the summer tour being the "cul de sac" tour. It was certainly a detour. With a new album coming out it was a way of getting the band out in Europe, blowing the cobwebs off, reaching a couple of hundred thousand people, getting some press done ready for the new release and making sure there's no danger of the new album being released surprisingly early.

At this point I'd just like to say what an amazingly professional crew the guys have. In true Garfield style I can sit and watch work for hours and watching the well-oiled gears run through the logistics of getting to a show (ok, so the coach had Birmingham surrounded at one point but never mind), setting up, dealing with all the demands of everyone at the venue, putting on a show and then the aftermath, well, I could watch it again and again and from every angle. One day there will be a DVD or somesuch from the viewpoint of everyone involved.

A word about Skynyrd. They rocked. That was two words, never mind. Freebird was part of my adolescence, hearing it live for the first time was very emotional and being a mid-life crisis candidate, the words mean more now than they did then. They put on a great show and blew the roof off night after night, winning over the sceptics and raising the bar for Purple to follow. Now, for me this raised an interesting question. Like Purple, Skynyrd are down to one or two "original" members but with guys the quality of Rick Medlocke and Michael Cartellone, who cares? And the response of the audience in Germany shows that whatever the politics, the regular guy still shows solidarity with their counterparts across the pond.

So what about the new album? Mike Bradford's happy with it. The band seem pretty chuffed. The record company is stirring like a behemoth rising from the deep. A few lucky souls have been able to have a sit and listen with pen and paper and do a proper review. Me? "Here, have a listen to this, this is a good bit...ok, now what do you think of the tambourine on this one, too loud isn't it?". *sigh*. Just let go! Mr. Bradford is a fine midwife and it's a really beautiful baby.

The machinery is winding up to launch this one. The first promotional efforts will happen towards the end of this month and August will be a frenzy of singles, airplay and all kinds of other record company magic. Do you want to participate in any grass roots stuff, like making sure Haunted gets airplay? That's the kind of stuff the Highway Star should be promoting, right? Let me know.

For the fans out there, one little nugget is the the wonderful, lovely Mickey Lee Soule has been doing some writing with Roger helping out in the process. I for one am really looking forward to this. No pressure Mickey!

Anyhow, nearly there and expect more regularly scheduled updates as the time gets closer!


Dave Hodgkinson


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