Reviews of Bananas
Accidentally on Purple
Bananas is most certainly not another Abandon. If you were at all worried about whether Don would fit in, or whether he'd bring a "wrong" sound to Deep Purple, you can leave those worries at the door. There is Hammond all over this thing coupled with some excellent backing arrangements and fills that haven't been there for a long time.
All due respect to Roger Glover, but having Michael Bradford bring a fresh perspective to the production was most definitely a good move. From the spare, simple arrangements on Purpendicular and the dry, abrasive sound of Abandon, we are now treated to a many-layered sound where there's so much going on, and yet you're never overwhelmed. A truly "phat" sound: cowbell, tambourine, hammond and church organ, touches of other instruments all contribute.
1. House of Pain - As openers go, this one does the business. A mid-tempo rocker that sets the scene nicely: organ, screams, harmonica, guitar, bass, cowbell (yay!), catchy sing-along chorus. Obviously, this one needs a video. Are we talking about having to get back into the studio here guys? House of pain, eh? Oh, and even more cowbell please!
2. Sun Goes Down - The organ! An intro worthy of Perfect Strangers at its most majestic and a real hip-swinging groove. Good solo from Steve where he just about avoids Tumeni Notes syndrome. The chorus descends beautifully with some very tasty organ noodling on the outro. Abandon-level heaviness but with much more range.
3. Haunted - Having seen this get a mixed reception live, the finished studio version is much better: backing vocals, strings, tinkly piano. Somehow too, the forced rhyme of "haunted" to "wanted" doesn't seem quite so bad. This has Radio 2 in the UK written all over it. If Jonathan Ross doesn't pick up on it, well, words will be had. I'm still not entirely clear if this is a radio-only release or whether it'll actually get a single release but either way, it's girlfriend and grandma friendly.
4. Razzle Dazzle - This one doesn't play on my laptop. Must be the copy protection, hm? [So try another machine?! Rasmus]
5. Silver Tongue - With an intro reminiscent of an up-tempo version of Cream's "Sunshine of your Love", this one leads into a chugging groove that would sit comfortably on Gillan and Glover's excellent "Accidentally on Purpose" album. Plenty more organ and a great guitar and bass riff.
6. Walk On - A whole seven minutes gives plenty of time for a gentle spacey intro leading into a really smooth, slow groove unlike anything I've heard from Purple before. Chris Rea in the nicest way probably comes close as a description. Great soaring solo from Steve with no unnecessary filler and more lovely organ noodling over the outro, the final minute being yet more spacey noises, voices and tinkly bells. Yum.
7. Picture of Innocence - Drum and guitar noodling introduces a groove not so far removed from the "injustices" midsection of Purpendicular's "Ted the Mechanic". This deceptively then leads into an Abandon style rocking chorus. The soloing has yet more brilliant organ work on it. Again, the details leap out, but just enough: double (or more!) vocals, underpinning keys, plenty of drums and lots of bass.
8. I've Got Your Number - This started off as "Up the Wall" a couple of years back but got totally reworked. It was also played live this summer and got a more instant reaction, people "getting it" more easily than Haunted which seems to take a few listens. Again though, having heard the stripped down live version, the details on this one jump through. There are definite leanings towards Abandon style heaviness but with a much fuller, rounded sound. At a good six minutes we get plenty of verse and chorus repetition to stamp home the the main themes for those of us slow enough on the musical uptake. Perhaps there's even room, live, for an extended soloing midsection? Please? That hasn't happened (for me at least!) since Abandon's '69 at the Montreux Jazz Festival!
9. Never a Word - What on earth is this doing on here? A cod Simon and Garfunkel thing with acoustic guitars, semi-harpsichord/mandolin things plunking in the background and church organ. Someone must have slipped valium in the water cooler. Maybe this is the girlfriend-friendly track? There's always one. The block vocals are done prettily enough and the vocals heartfelt for sure. Maybe it's a demonstration that they can do pseudo-folk music as well as the other guy. Hm, maybe that's it because it's definitely better than *that*!
10. Bananas - Now this is more like it. Raucous, riff-led, simple words, it has it all. Verses, choruses, breaks and fills. A proper song. Is it strong enough to be the title track? We'll see.
11. Doing it Tonight - This is a bit of a hark back to Gillan's Toolbox or AoP again. A hymn to having pulled: yep, we'll be doing it tonight. More great organ too.
12. Contact lost - This ties in with the last Space Shuttle accident, as Purple were actively linked to it with the choice of mission music as catalogued on Gillan's web site. This is a beautiful guitar instrumental with gentle backing keys and string things and very moving for its connection. Close your eyes and let yourself drift.
So, in summary, did Ian Gillan get his Sergeant Pepper? Probably not. Are we going to see as many of these songs performed live as we did off Purpendicular in those heady days of 1996? I certainly hope so.
Rating? If I was coming to this afresh, with no Purple history it'd be a three out of five. For me it's lacking an edge. That said, the songwriting is definitely more polished than for a long time and the overall sound is "gert lush" as they say round these parts. For me as a fan though, it's definitely a four. There's so much to like and the comparisons to Toolbox and Accidentally on Purpose are good ones for me as I love both of them. Will it have a slot in the marketplace? Get onto Jools Holland's show and we'll see.