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Reviews of Bananas
Ed 'Janx' Jankauskas
Mark Dorson King
New album stuff
Gatefold vinyl Bananas
2003 promo photo
Jon Lord's Bananas
Jon Lord like Bananas?
Bananas in Berlin
The pros of Bananas
Roger Glover's website
Ian Gillan's website
Michael Bradford's website
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A musician's Bananas
Before I start, I have to tell you that I sing
in a Deep
Purple cover band, so I am going to analyse Bananas from a musician's point
of view as well as a dedicated fan's of course.
not too positive, I'm afraid. First of
all, I don't like the title and the cover, either. Deep Purple had the tradition
of picking really interesting and mystical titles and covers upon which you
could ponder for years, and I loved that! Now Bananas is breaking that tradition.
As far as the music is concerned, after five years of
waiting and hoping, expectations grow high as to what the new record is going
to be like. Maybe this is the reason why my immediate emotion after listening
to it the first time was disappointment. I thought the album was just like its
title: soft, easy, funny, and weird. My band received five copies of Bananas
before the official release in my country, thanks to a fan of ours, and the
guys in the band were calling me on the phone one by one asking, ''What the
hell are we gonna cover from this album?. But Dear Reader, if you haven't
heard Bananas yet, don't worry, it gets pretty good (at places very good) after
listening to it a couple of times!
It's not a continuation of the Purpendicular - Abandon
line, by any means, you can hear it at the first listening. It's softer, more
melodic, and more colourful representing a whole bunch of different styles.
From a musical point of view it's interesting to notice
that Bananas have a lot more songs and sections in major keys, which also helps
create that happy, easy atmosphere. But the real heavy (like Fireball and Speed
King), and the real deep (like Child In Time and Blindman) material always comes
from the minor keys. The only great DP hit in a major key that I can think of
right now is Woman From Tokyo. This musical change also results in the slow
songs of the new album being very different from the earlier ones.
The lyrics sound very Gillan/Glover (I don't know if they
were joined by other members or the producer), and as usual, they have done
their homework well. My favourite line comes from Silver Tongue: ''You know
I can dream in any language, Flying in my magic bed. However, the wittiest
lyrics can be found in Walk On, and the title track, Bananas.
IP and RG, the ultimate Purple rhythm section provide the base for the band
yet again. Tight and exciting as ever. Although, you can hardly hear any fills
by Paicey on the album. I wish the times back when he had a great break at the
end of each line. Nowadays he seems to look for challenge in the world of rhythm
rather. You can hear some exciting patterns by him. Rog seems a bit more restrained
too, but I love his bass line in I Got Your Number (mid-section).
The performance I had been looking forward to most was Don's. And he wasn't
a disappointment for me at all. He has a lot of great solos, although sometimes
I miss the melody from them. I could always sing or whistle Jon Lord's solos!
As far as the sound is concerned, I prefer Jon's settings on the Hammond, more
direct, more expressive. And one thing our organist remarked, the balance between
guitar and organ has been lost in DP for a long time now. Ever since Steve joined
with his powerful sound, the Hammond has been forced to be inferior. It's true
for this record, too.
Nevertheless, Steve is great as usual, especially in the slow numbers. Both
Haunted and Contact Lost have some really outstanding guitar work. His rock
solos seem a bit standard, but maybe it's just that we have got used to his
playing over the nine years he has spent with Purple.
Ian Gillan sounds confident again, that opening scream
tells it all. I'm glad he has left those strange rapping-like vocals he used
on the previous two albums behind, and I'm saying this in spite of the fact
that Ted The Mechanic, and Any Fule Kno' That are two of my favourites from
the 90's. This time he has a lot of classic IG vocals, but at times - especially
over verse riffs - he sings real clichés. But I like that shining tone
in his voice, he sounds like he's happy to sing again.
And now let me have a look at each song more specifically:
1. House Of Pain
I had the fortune/misfortune to hear this track as
an appetizer before listening to the whole record. Fortune, because it's a great
song, and misfortune, because it gave me a totally wrong idea as to what the
rest of the album was going to be like. It's a heavy, mid-tempo Purple song
based on a cool riff. It starts off with aggressive cowbell playing and a classic
scream from Big Ian, and surprises you with a harmonica solo at the end. Strangely
enough, in a way it reminds me of The House Of The Blue Light album. Actually
it was the first song my band agreed to cover, as it is the most ''purplish
on the record.
2. Sun Goes Down
It's a slow, dark, and heavy number with a dissonant
chord sequence that never seems to build up into a real harmony. Being a Black
Sabbath fan as well, I don't find anything wrong with dark music, but for some
reason it has never worked for Deep Purple. I don't really like the Sabbath
album ''Born Again (feat. IG) for that matter, either, but as I know,
Ian hates it, too. He is a rock 'n roller, not a heavy metal singer, and the
same applies to the band.
And here we are at the song that will divide the world
of DP fans. The first really big surprise for the unsuspecting listener. It's
a ballad, but nothing like the ones before. Robbie Williams could have sung
this one. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration
But let me share a personal
experience with you. After having listened to Bananas twice, I was playing this
song on my stereo to my wife to astonish her how commercial Deep Purple had
gone. But while we were listening to it, I had to admit that I liked what I
heard (you see, it only took three times to get to like it), and then as the
last notes faded out my baby said, ''What's your problem with it? It's a great
song! And she was right. I still can't get used to the female backing
vocals, though. What?! To me it's a bit like the brass band in Highway Star
on the Olympia record
What's next? A saxophone solo?
4. Razzle Dazzle
A very commercial, and very American song. When it
starts, in my mind I can almost hear Joe Lynn Turner enter with the vocals.
Of course it doesn't happen, but apart from that, this track would fit nicely
between Breakfast In Bed and Too Much Is Not Enough on Slaves And Masters. Razzle
Dazzle along with Sun Goes Down are the two songs I still couldn't make friends
with after listening to the album about 10 times.
5. Silver Tongue
A classic Purple riff leads us into a progressive
rhythmic pattern, Dream Theater style (maybe not that progressive
sounds like real good hard rock stuff, but then IG comes in with a happy 60's
type tune, which doesn't fit the song. This effect is even fortified by Steve's
fills of the same spirit in the second verse. But it's a good idea that the
third verse sees Don playing the fills in the same place, and they are bluesier,
too. The song also has a great chorus, and a kind of mid-section á la
Steve Morse. All in all, a great Purple track we might welcome back on stage
6. Walk On
This is the track I loved as soon as I had heard it.
The classic Purple blues. There's a psychedelic frame around the actual song.
Big Ian came up with superb tunes here, catchy, but not commercial, perfect!
Steve has a very neat solo half way through, in which he proves that he can
play the guitar very well with half as many notes as usual, too. ''Walk On,
my first good friend from the new album.
7. Picture Of Innocence
It starts very bluesy over a groovy shuffle. In that
well-known and much loved atmosphere of Lazy, and Fire In The Basement. This
bit returns later after a very 90's Purple chord sequence, and a hard rocking
riff that could have been written for Abandon, too. The mid-section has quite
a progressive rhythmic pattern again, and it is followed by Steve and Don's
solos. Jon Lord is indicated as one of the writers under the title. It's good
to see his name up there again.
8. I Got Your Number
A song Purple has been playing live for a while now,
and having read all the enthusiastic remarks about it in the tour reviews, I
was really looking forward to hearing it. And yes, the contented fans were right,
it's a very good song. It has eight different parts, and all of them are great,
except for one, and it's the verse again. This time it's not only the vocals
that don't fit, I think the riff also should have been used in a completely
different song. But the rest of this fantastic piece of music does compensate
for that weakness. And I absolutely love that psychedelic mid-section. It's
simply wonderful! Kind of like Watching The Sky from the previous album, or
maybe even Fools from the Fireball LP.
9. Never A Word
Here comes surprise number two! A song you would never
have thought Deep Purple would ever write. The music gives you the first surprise,
although we have heard similar stuff from Steve, e.g. in Aviator. But then the
vocals come in and we get the real surprise, because we have never heard IG
sing like this. I told our keyboard player that I had heard this sort of singing
somewhere, but I don't know where, and he was kind enough to inform me that
it must have been Simon and Garfunkel. And he was right! Another friend of mine
remarked that he had known this musical theme from a Yes song. But if we concentrate
on the song alone, we have to confess that it's really pretty.
After a weird ''sci-fi intro we get to my other
immediate favourite, the title track, which is also the fastest song on the
record. I can hardly wait to sing it, and play it (on the harmonica) on stage,
but it will be a real challenge for my band to play, first of all because of
the rhythm. The verses and the solos are in 7/4, the chorus is in 5/4. And then
there's that fantastic classical bit, in which Don Airey plays like crazy! When
I listen to that part, The House Of The Blue Light comes into my mind again.
It's not a lengthy track, but one of the absolute highlights of the
new record. And I love Ian's harmonica playing. Awesome!
11. Doing It Tonight
Purple playing soft rock over a very light rhythm
pattern. About half a year ago I heard the same musical theme on MTV in a pop
song. I think it tells a lot about it. Unfortunately I can't recall the artist
and the song, but if you can, please write me, because I keep thinking about
it and it drives me up the wall! Or to be more appropriate, I'm going Bananas!
12. Contact Lost
A breathtaking piece of music, demonstrating Steve's
emotional side, just like Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming, except that here
he has only a minute and a half to show how much feeling he can squeeze out
of his guitar. It's a nice tribute for the victims of that tragic spaceship
accident, and a nice ending to this colourful new record.
So this was Bananas, the new DP album the way I see
it. I think we have to accept that the last Purple album that contained only
potential super hits came out in 1972, and instead of bitching about it, we
have to appreciate the fact that these guys can still come up with some fantastic
stuff, and the rest is not that bad, either. This album has its highs and lows
too, but it's very complex, and very exciting. Much more interesting than Abandon
was. And it surely is the typical album that you have to listen to several times
to get to know, and to get to like.
After the first listening I almost jumped out the window, and
now I'm starting to love it! And I started my review by saying that after hearing
Bananas the first time, my DP cover band could hardly name one song worth covering,
and now my phone keeps ringing, ''We must play I Got Your Number!, ''We
must play Bananas!, ''We must play Silver Tongue!etc. I can hardly
wait to add these exciting new songs to our setlist.
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