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Energetic Bananas

by Martin Karski

Don't you think that it's walking on the thin ice politics - making five years of break in releasing albums and during last two years lots of talk about how great the new CD is going to be? Bananas' is not worth these loads of cheap talk about Purple Sgt. Pepper etc., still, thanks to the Higher Powers, it's not another Abandon. Having in mind how terrifyingly disappointed I was with the 1998 Purple release, Abandon, I have to say it - I feel relief after listening to Bananas. It's not a perfect album - it raises some doubts and can't be taken without a bit of criticism. Still it's much better than the previous Purple production. First listening has revealed four great songs, plus some more quite possible to grow with the passing time. In comparison to Abandon then, launch off results are fairly better. On Jun. 2nd, 1998 there was only 'Fingers To The Bone' that I accepted from scratch.

What is more joyful to me on this CD is the sound of the band. Wonderful. If Michael Bradford is the man responsible for encouraging Don Airey to record as rich keyboard passages as he did, then God please bless them both. The keyboardist has built up a wonderful, monstrous sound. The Hammond parts to me lack nothing and the synth ad-libs here and there create a great atmosphere. If there is a weaker side of the keyboards it's the soloing. On the organ Don does it very well, but the piano parts ('Razzle Dazzle') are lacking the vibe of Mr. Lord. But, after all, nobody's perfect, right? Mr. Airey remains the greatest man to take as responsible music function, as the organist of DP.

Steve at last fits the general mix with clear, low, heavy riffing. It's such an relief to hear him playing without all these noises an weezes he liked so much yet few years back. Solos of his still remain overfilled with hi-speed licks at times, still they sound better and better with every album. Once more he has proved to be a marvelous composer - "Never A Word" and "Contact Lost" - each of the two instrumentals is as astonishingly beautiful, as much too short. Such a beautiful ideas just cry to be more developed and lasting longer to fully joy them. Especially "Never a Word" ends too rapidly. But let me tell you more about it. It's going to be a long time "difficult to cure" J track for many, I'm sure. You just can't pass by such a beautiful melody. The cathedral toned organ is fabulous, this sound wasn't that tasteful even in 'Bad Attitude' from the way back. Here it works perfect, Don, you've done it superb. It's my great big favorite of mine. I felt like it could nicely do without the vocal part at first, but now I'm getting used to it. In fact I'm full of respect for Ian Gillan for singing it in the way he did - it defies comparison to 99% of things he'd done in the past. It reminds me of the most non-Gillan sounding vocals of his ("Painted Horse", "If I Sing Softly" verses, or "Cherkazoo" stuff), but it's very gentle and distinctive. Maybe these multiplied voice lines could be arranged better, but I won't complain. It's just beautiful.

The rhythm section plays as great as always, I find Mr. Glover having a lot of fun doodling some complex bass lines at times. Great work! As it comes to big Ian - well - in "House Of Pain" his voice traits him in couple of times, and the screams sound a bit outside his control. Thankfully in the rest of the material he sounds great, it's true what they write - you wouldn't say he's 58! It looks like at least in some songs he has resigned from recording his vocals in two overdubs. A man with such a voice doesn't need such security methods I think. And there's one more topic that needs underlining: on Bananas Ian Gillan has overcome even his own highly set standards of ridiculousness in the lyrics. This feeling is irresistible here, the presented level of the lyrics is scaling from the empty platitudes ("House Of Pain") to untold level of nonsense, which the author himself may not fully understand, as far as we know him. ("Bananas"). Remember Ian's confusion about the ''vavoom'? Things go far more serious here. My favorite lyric lick is: "Now my love is richer than rich, 'cause I've studied mathematics". What the hell is that? To me it fits like the fist to the nose. Does the soloist know what he's singing about? J

Other compositions imply some more mixed feelings. I'm sorry to say that, but Gillan-Bradford writing team completely failed to bring the freshness and intriguing compositions to the spot. The "House Of Pain" opener lousily covers ,All Night Long', it sounds so similar to it in verses and choruses. But I guess that Roger and Don have enjoyed playing it for some certain reasons. Ah, and the cowbell in it is the biggest kitsch in Purple song since the synthesizer solo in 'Mad Dog'. Sorry Ian! It ain't another 'You Fool No One'! But even more than with the first track, I was disappointed with 'Walk On'. I have read so much about that in revives… I was at least expecting for it to be another 'Don't Make Me Happy' if not 'Since I've Been Loving You'. What I got was a Dire Straits tribute, the song that the names of Mark Knopfler or Chris Rea have possibly recorded couple of times on their records. The chords also create the feel of similarity to the poppy hits of The Hooters - "All You Zombies" and "Five Hundreds Miles". Plus it's so simple, almost amateurish. Awful. Where does it take us? Deep Purple is not a participant in the amateur songwriting competition, trying to win it with another weak remake of 'Mistreated' (tempos are quite alike in these two). "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" is a monument in comparison to it (if 'Walk On' was ever thought as the song for this sort of vein).

Ballads then did not turn out well for Purple here. 'Haunted' completes the Purple grotesque trio of the album. It's dreadful, in most aspects and I hope that the band will see the reviews pointing it out as one of the ever worst tracks in Morse era. Thousands of other bands could write a song like this and barely be recognized for it. While the strings add a nice edge to the final result, the female choruses are horrible. Where do they got this chick from, somebody tell me? Miss Candice Night would sing them a hundred times better than this self-claimed-singer. Yack! Couldn't you guys let do these vocals to - let's say - Vicky and Sam Brown? They would handle this part much more in style!

OK, enough of riding on 'Bananas' back. The remaining part of the material is good, or even excellent. I'm not a declared fan of the two party tracks on the record, relating in a way to the moods of Gillan/Glover "Accidentaly On Purpose". Have to say anyway, that that both "Razzle Dazzle" and "Doing It Tonight" sound very good. Played with a audible vibe and energy both make you shake yer hip and stomp yer feet, baby!. J

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we've come to discussing the golden goodies of the 'Bananas' release!

The honor of the best album track goes to the 'Sun Goes Down' in my opinion. What a fantastic song this is, people! A blaster with great organ intro, superbly dense sound, terrific riffing and imaginative solos. At the first listen I thought: "Hell, Mr. Tony Iommi wouldn't be ashamed to play this stuff!" It would nicely fit 'Born Again' or maybe even 'Mob Rules' (I can imagine Ronnie James singing this). I dare to point this one out as the best rocker of the post-Blackers decade. Fantastic! I hope the Purples will discover this tune for a great live show premiere. A great track from the very first sounds. The other two smashes took two or three rounds to fall in love with.

"Silver Tongue" shines with the imaginative blues-based riff and the great section of interplays between organ and vocals. Don does some groovy 'wild Hammond animals' J nearer the end as well. The only thing I don't get is why Gillan's screams are pushed to the background in the first part. The under-the-verse band backing is bad in contrast - it is awfully monotonous. Also the breaking part before solos is shamelessly rewritten from 'Almost Human' Morse-Lord dialogue, or - if you want - Gillan-Morse duel from live 'Fools'. Nevertheless the song drives very nicely, with the rich, heavy climate - it must get thumbs up.

'Bananas' is the next in line to be described as a great piece. In climate for me it combines the gallop of "'69" with the broken, irregular rhythms of 'Purpendicular Waltz' or '7th Heaven' - an effect that sounds strange at the first take but with the next ones it turns out gorgeous! Great chord sequences during verse finale and the piece de resistance: the soloing part. Hear this - extremely fast guitar-organ headlong, with the out-leading, jazzy and progressive slide down the chords at the end, and just you wait when it catches up on you.

Finally there are two tracks that need a mention, it's "Picture Of Innocence" and 'I Got Your Number'. Well, the songs from the 'Bananas' album at times suffer from dreadful simplicity of the structure (Gillan/Bradford songs and 'Accidentally…' continuers are exemplifying that). Their predictability not exactly match the trademark of Deep Purple in context of their previous achievements. These two developed structures of the song break this sad tend. They sound the most complex structurally out of all the banana flavored premieres. "Pictures…" confuse at the start with a bit "Ted The Mechanic" alike verses enriched with funky bass, but later the real hell breaks out. Chorus enters like a hurricane with the great melody, being redirected into metal heavy finale with furiously phrased text. My, oh my. This is great, maybe the heaviest thing in last decade. Right after that you yet have a solo section where Steve spoils the climate a bit with his windmill licks, while Don plays nothing short, but fantastic. The last part with it's rising chords remind me a bit of "Loosen My Strings", which only makes me liking it all more. This one really steps close after "Sun Goes Down", might take the leader position soon.

And what about the progression of "Up the Wall"? Excellent. Monotonous verse again, with unnecessary multiplied repeating of the title leads to a very nice break in the middle. After the stilled section a strong riff-drummed back to the tempo appears with continuation of excellent solos section. The similarity of this idea to 'Watching The Sky' song is quite striking, nevertheless the track is excellent, much more convincing than the predecessor. The outro is as well worth mentioning - the basic tune of the song is played in the mood that some Minstrel in Black would probably like very much. Very Greensleevish, if you know what I mean (I know you do). It's a brainwave.

To make a nice conclusion I have to say it - it's a good record. Apart from some unnecessary fakes here and there, where the quintet goes dangerously close to putting their unique style on the shelf the record leaves you if not satisfied, then at least stilled for the proper class of this release in terms of acceptable Purple canon. In the most of the material there is a whole palette of the elements for which Deep Purple is known and loved by many. Comparing 'Bananas' to the Mk II achievements or the glorious past of 30 years before is useless - it's the new line-up, quite a different group of people - but still Deep Purple. A band having a great sound again, still having fun, and still writing at least in half of the percentage - good or great songs. To add some more positive oversight, please notice how positive and loaded with good energy this record is. Just turn around and tell me what you found: are there that many bands that with the 35 years of history baggage and drastic personal turnovers - can maintain THAT level of performing classic rock music? I doubt you to name that many of them. Plus the Purples are joining this difficult task with having good time while doing this - at their age, with such a good condition and being somehow outside the pressure of the market and its trends - it's amazing. Stick on to your portion of banana fresh cream then and have a good time with it. "It's no big deal - just go with the flow". J

Martin Karski, Wroclaw, Poland

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