DEEP PURPLE – NOW WHAT?!

deep_purple_now_what

Out now on Ear Music

Fifth studio album from the rejuvenated Steve Morse era of the legendary rock outfit and one which find the band still sounding fresh and vibrant.

Continuing the slight progressive tint heard on its predecessor “Rapture Of The Deep”, “Now What?!” is a fresh vibrant release which sees the classic MK.2 purple sound still there in areas but is mostly one which has left the 20th century behind and is setting a new course in the 21st century.  Given than Morse has been in the band longer than Blackmore has will still stop some from failing to give this a chance, more fool them.

Granted, opener “A Simple Song” might not be the strongest opener in the bands history but “Weirdistan” soon sorts that with its marauding groove.  “Out Of Hand” continues the darker tone and it’s  this kind of track that drummer Ian Paice always powers along with precision yet always with a skip in his play whilst the chorus is an infectious bugger.

The fast tempo of “Hell To Pay” fuses both vintage and modern Purple into another strong number, you can tell Gillan is having a blast singing this one, and his often underappreciated lyrics are noteworthy here too, the track also allows Morse to let his fingers fly with Airey playing some nice back up and counterpoints come solo time all making this is one of two definite highlights of the album.

The band go a little funky on us for “Body Line” which leads into the multi-faceted “Above & Beyond” which is home to some great keyboard orchestration from Airey (who over his two albums has slotted into the band perfectly) although its a quite disjointed track that still manages to work as a cohesive unit.

The initial mellow blues of “Blood From A Stone” transcends into a heavier chorus with screaming pinched harmonics from Morse before settling back down for a Fender Rhodes solo from Airey with the mood not a million miles away from The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm”.

Another highlight follows in “Uncommon Man”, beginning with gentle guitar swells from Morse before he delivers some highly melodic lead lines over sustained chords from Airey (think Gary Moore’s extended versions of “Empty Rooms”) before the atmosphere darkens and Morse introduces the band main melodic hook over which orchestration grows before a jubilant horn fanfare announces the main riff (a nod to Concerto perhaps?),the whole build up and majestic nature of the main riff makes this track a stunner and this is sure to become a concert favourite.

From here the album is seen out by “Après Vous” which could be seen as standard fare from this incarnation to the retrospective and “All The Time In The World” which is home to some great hooks and could be catchy enough to garner some radio interest.  Album closer “Vincent Price” is as the title suggest dark, a little eerie and amongst one the heaviest tracks the band have done with Morse’s guitar riffs being particularly heavy.  This is backed up with choirs and BIG Hammond parts and closes the album on a high.

“Now What?!” sounds fresh, given this is a band in the fourth decade of their career it clear this is the sound of a band that is not living on former glories, its not looking to rewrite “Smoke On The Water”, “Highway Star” etc over and over, this instead is the sound of a band that sounds happy with each other, inspired by each other and a band that still sees new horizons and fans to conquer up ahead and is making sure it produces strong new music with new elements to try and win them over.

Highly recommended.

Rating – 93%

JON LORD – RIP

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.

Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with Whitesnake & many bands and musicians throughout his career.

Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.

Jon’s solo work was universally acclaimed when he eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002.

Jon passes from Darkness to Light.

Jon Lord 9 June 1941 – 16 July 2012.

LARS ERIC MATTSSON – OBSESSION

Out now on Lion Music

Lars Eric Mattsson delves into his back catalogue for this remastered version of his fourth solo album, 1998’s Obsession.

Gracing one of the worst album covers we’ve seen in a while might not give off the best first impression of what’s contained within, but fear—ye-not, for this is highly likeable hard rock with neo-classical touches.

Vocals come courtesy of the  gravel throated Bjorn Lodin (Baltimoore) who teamed up with Mattsson on a number of releases, and really Lodin’s distinctive voice is in many ways the perfect foil for Mattsson’s unique guitar work.  Very European in nature, there is a definite Scandinavian tint to most tracks. Whilst lacking the progressive sophistication of Mattsson’s more current releases, the more simplistic nature of this material (albeit still with a frequent doses of Lars’ “outside the box” progressions and lead motifs) makes the likes of openers Caught In Your Web and Alive accessible and agreeable from the off.  Lodin comes across as a man possessed which his voice in fine fettle, whist Mattsson rattles off the riffs with considerable aplomb.  Fans of Malmsteen’s earlier works will get a kick out of this no doubt.

For the most part the production is basic, the opening of Just A Leo being a good example, but in some ways this adds to the albums charm even more and won’t really detract from your enjoyment.

What also adds to the albums charm is Mattsson’s ability to thrown together rock motifs which almost traditional Scandinavian folk in the likes of Messenger which is unique to say the least but highly enjoyable (good solo on this one too).  Long Way Home will please fans of Deep Purple with its driving delivery and parping Jon Lord style Organ and piano flourishes.

Time And Again throws us another curve ball with a smooth 80’s pop meets metal approach.  Sense And Obsession manages to give an epic feel despite only being under 5 minutes long.  Mother Forgive sees Mattsson break out the wah pedal before the acoustic nature of As The Sun Meets The Sky is one of the albums more lo-key numbers yet deceptively strong with a delightful solo from Lars which exudes an almost Jen Johansson keyboard style fluidity to it.

Eyes Of A Child is one of the more serviceable numbers on the album before Lay It On The Line throws everything including the kitchen sink into its arrangement and is in some ways a precursor of later Mattsson works.  Album closer  And The Road Goes On sees more good guitar work yet is perhaps a little too long to really hit the spot.

Overall Obsession is still a very likeable album some 16 years on from original release.  Whilst its origins stylistically lay a decade or two before even its original release its nice to hear an album which is essentially about good songs from a good guitarist and a good vocalist.  Yes it’s a little twee in places, and yes some parts might sound a little dated in 2012, but the bottom line is its got character and is still an enjoyable listen in 2012.  Don’t let that original album cover art put you off.

Rating – 84%

 

IAIN ASHLEY HERSEY – VINTAGE LOVE: THE BEST

Out now on Avenue of Allies

American guitarist Iain Ashley Hersey has always been a player that commanded my respect.  Great tone, great phrasing and all round tasty player it’s a shame he’s never made it out of cult status which to some degree is a surprise considering he’s released albums on Frontiers, Lion Music and Perris Records.  If you like classic hard rock ala Purple/Rainbow and pre perm lotion Whitesnake then you are strongly advised to use this compilation as a starting block.

15 tracks in total with 4 off debut “Fallen Angel” (1999), 5 from “The Holy Grail” (2005), 5 from 2008’s “Nomad” and one all new track “Red Head Rampage”.  To compliment Iain’s finger picked tones (for he eschews a pick) there has been no shortage of vocal talent over the albums as well and featured here we get Dante Marchi, Paul Shortino, Carsten Schulz, Graham Bonnet and Doogie White amongst the more recognisable names.

With the track listing in chronological order we get “Goin’ Down & Dirty”, “Distant Memories”, “Hold On” and “The Outcaste” from “Fallen Angel”.  All strong selections with the pick of the bunch being “Distant Memories” and “Hold On” which still scream “class” 12 years on from original release, lush vocal melodies and a guitar solos to die for make these compulsive listening.

“The Holy Grail” is represented by “Blood Of Kings”, “ Walking The Talk”, Calling For The Moon”, “Blink Of An Eye” and that albums title track continue the quality levels with a less aggressive approach to their predecessors.  “Calling For The Moon” still is a song that Whitesnake would kill for and its nice to hear Carsten “Lizard” Schulz belting it out.  Graham Bonnet is his trademark shouty self on “Walking The Talk” but a little more subtle on “The Holy Grail”.

Hersey’s, to-date, last solo album “Nomad” was arguably the weakest of the three though in the most part its cause wasn’t helped by a lousy mix.  Sonically the remaster has helped somewhat but the flaws are still there to some degree i.e. lead guitar being mixed way too low etc.  A shame as Carsten Schulz once again delivers the goods on “Voodoo Spirits”, “Sacrifice The Sun”, “Vintage Love” and “When Will My Love Fade”.  Doogie White appears on the mic for the faithful rendition of the Rainbow track “L.A. Connection”.  In hindsight the tracks are good indeed and it one you might hope Iain might remix down the line and perhaps make available to a European market better (considering the majority of personnel on it where), not to mention Perris Records did a lousy job marketing it.

Finally we get the bonus track “Red Head Rampage” which is a nice addition, bluesy rock in a Deep Purple “Burn” way.

Overall, whilst some of my favourite tracks are missing this is a nice starting point for the uninitiated and is highly recommended for classic rock fans, or fans of A1 guitar work.

Here’s hoping for a new studio album soon.

Rating – 90%

VOODOO CIRCLE – BROKEN HEART SYNDROME

Released February 25th 2010 on AFM Records

When they are not delivering Teutonic metal during their day job, Alex Beyrodt and Matt Sinner like to relax with classic 70s rock. Voodoo Circle’s debut was an impressive calling card for everyone who likes Deep Purple inspired hard rock.

No big changes for the follow up. “Absolution Blues” kicks off proceedings in true vintage Whitesnake style. The opening riff to “King Of Your Dreams” owes more than a little to Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” but takes a twist towards Dougie White era Rainbow once it gets going. “Devil’s Daughter” references Purple Mk3 while “Blind Man” takes a more bluesy approach and hints at early Rainbow balladry.I think you get the gist of it. Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake are the main inspirations here.  I don’t think anyone does this style of music better than Voodoo Circle at this point in time.

The songs stand strong with a solid foundation of skilled musicians. There’s no overplaying, there’s no filler. Beyrodt is a killer guitarist. Tasty, technical and melodic. The whole album is an example of great Strat tones. Yngwie, are you listening?  There’s more of a Coverdale influence in the vocals (“Don’t Take My Heart” for instance) than first time around. You won’t hear me complain… David Readman does an exceptional job.

Highly recommended for all lovers of old school hard rock.

Rating – 93%
Review by Sancho