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The Highway Star

Abandon -- Brad's review

Wow, there's a lot going on here. One of the things I've always loved about Deep Purple is the accessibility of their music. I mean, here is a band that has some of the most impressive instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills in the industry - a killer combination - and yet many of their most famous tunes are relatively simple. They're embellished. They're adorned with great solos, great vocals, and exceptional production values. But Smoke on the Water, Space Trucking, Knocking at Your Back Door, Black Night, Woman From Tokyo - these songs and others - you know whether or not you like them within four to eight bars.

Not so Abandon.

Is this bad? No and hell no. Deep Purple was my favorite band when I was 12, so I'll credit myself with sophisticated musical taste, and my taste has matured. I think that plays into my disappointment with the likes of Slaves and Masters - it was a rehash of a rehash. /-\ is new, different, ambitious, fun, challenging to the listener and - above all - Purple to the core.

If _|_ was a transitional work - sort of Purple-meets-Morse-meets-the-fans - then /-\ is the fruit of that transition. HOBL suggested Purple needed to progress. Slaves and Masters and TBRO tried , but largely failed to progress. Purpendicular was a major shift in direction, and /-\ is a positive, definitive step into that direction. The songs might not be catchy and accessible, but they're shit-hot and startling. Liberally sprinkled with dissonance and a lot of boppy syncopation, it's a fun new twist - Purple '98.

Jon Lord is the star of this disk, because in so many spots he shines, and Morse's guitar directions frame the progressive character of the work. Add to this Gillan's great-as-ever vocals, interesting and fun lyrics from the Gillan/Glover lyrics department, a very solid rhythm section with modern production, and folks, we have a winner.

On to the individual tracks: Any Fule Kno That is a great hard rocker with modern touches. Any lazy critic who uses the terms "Deep Purple" and "dinosaur" in the same sentence (or review) gets sued for the heinous crime of writing-the-review-without-listening-to-the-album (they do that, you know). Fule has a similar song structure to Ted the Mechanic, but vocally owes more to rap than Ted, which was more scat.

Almost Human is sort of a straight ahead rocker with a twist - it's got a shuffle feel underlying. This is a great melody. Don't Make Me Happy is a nice blues tune that owes a debt to "You Led My Heart Astray" from Cherkazoo. Anyone (for example Ritchie Blackmore) who has the delusional atrocity to say Ian Gillan can't sing has to hear this whole album and this track in particular. Get a hearing aid, Ritchie! J Seventh Heaven just f**king rocks, but incorporates some nice, jazzy syncopation as well. During the guitar solo, the bass part is economical and the keys are absent - this is a real departure!

Watching the Sky has a syncopated progression with dissonant chords thrown in. It mixes eerie mellow with aggressive, and sounds not unlike the Chili Peppers or something. More proof that Purple can preserve the integrity yet keep with the times.

Fingers to the Bone is my early favorite. Great lyrics, rich, deep vocal from Gillan, a stop-time rocker with breaks straight out of The Aviator if you can imagine it. Great piano and lyrics to boot.

Jack Ruby's a cool, boppy jam. She Was borders on an 80s new wave sound. Fun non-standard progressions and great guitar/keys interplay. WhatsHerName sounds like Purpendicular Waltz with great solos. 69 has a nice, mellow start then it quickly rocks. This is a straight-ahead rocker with killer keys.

Evil Louie is a slow, straight-ahead rocker with a very "unchained" vocal melody. The chorus is oddly infectious. I found myself going around singing it right off. Finally, Bludsucker is a relatively faithful remake. It rocks.

All in all, this is one bears several initial listens - there are no "Space Truckins" here for quick foot-tapping. Dig the subtlety of vocals and lyrics. Marvel at the guitar/keys interplay and Jon Lord's renaissance continuing. The rhythm, the production - my Purple cup runneth over. Take a bow, guys.

Brad DeMoranville

Donor Section

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