Monday, January 2, 2006

Review: Deep Purple - Rapture of the Deep (2005)

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Rapture of the Deep

Deep Purple  need no introduction, having been an integral force in the formation of the hard rock scene of the '70s and oft cited as an influence of rock and metal bands ever since. For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Deep Purple, wipe the snot from your nose and go listen to your Slipknot CDs 'cause you clearly don't have a true appreciation for heavy music.

Rapture Of The Deep is Deep Purple's 18th studio album to date and features a core lineup of Ian Gillan (vocals), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums), and Steve Morse on guitar. Paice has of course been with the band from the start, with Gillan and Glover coming aboard in 1970 and Steve Morse (formerly of Dixie Dregs and Kansas) joining in 1995. New to the ranks for this album is keyboardist Don Airey, who has had himself quite a storied career with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, and Rainbow (among others). Jon Lord's retirement opened the door for speculation to circulate regarding the future of Deep Purple's music, what with Lord's Hammond organ so thoroughly a part of the band's recognizable sound. I won't go so far as to say Airey makes Lord's departure a non-event, but Don has certainly filled the void and not only provides the organ we're all accustomed to, but adds a flair all his own and further enlivens the new album.

If you're a Deep Purple fan, you will love Rapture Of The Deep. The band makes no attempt to "update" their sound or venture into uncharted territory through pointless experimentation. Instead, Gillan & Co. rely their organ-heavy, hook-laden formula that has earned them success over the past two decades. Do not make the mistake of assuming the album sounds dated, however. While the 11 tracks of Rapture Of The Deep could have been at home in the late '70s or early '80s, they have a contemporary and mature undercurrent to them which reminds the listener that this is a legendary band making music that is, above all else, ageless. The album starts with the bluesy rocker "Money Talks", having a deep groove and a catchy chorus. Gillan is in top form, his distinctive voice soaring above the music in a carefree manner that seems at the same time both detached from the song and firmly rooted to the music. The first song to really grab my attention is "Girls Like That", with a hot little riff to begin the tune played over a building organ backdrop. The song is fast-paced, as far as Deep Purple songs go, with driving organ/bass breakdowns and an infectious chorus. Steve Morse's guitar is a strong force in making this song a highlight of the album, proving yet again that he's a more than capable replacement of Ritchie Blackmore.

Another highlight for me was the Eastern flavored title track, which features some spacey keyboard licks from Airey and deep, thumping bass lines from Mr. Glover. Steve's lengthy solo is one of the best on the album, as it dips and soars before being chased by a solo from Airey, only to return a verse later for another go. This mid-paced track has a quality to it that makes you want to just lay back and listen, giving yourself to the music and letting it enshroud you with a sonic weave. Definitely a favorite. The next track, the ballad "Clearly Quite Absurd", is just as moving as the title track though at a much slower pace. Steve's wistful licks and leads lend a dreamlike quality to the song, while Don's ethereal keys and piano passages provide a soft backdrop for Gillan's heartfelt delivery. The overall song structure is simple, but the subtleties make it as powerful as it is - the prize in the pudding, as it were. Following the ballad, "Don't Let Go" has a bit of that '70s funk to it along with memorable choruses and a fuzzy solo from Morse. Not having as much of an impact as the previous two songs, this track nevertheless has the appeal to make it on rock radio. Yet another interesting track is "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye", with a bit of a Swing beat from Paice that gives the song some get up and go. Morse lets go with another quality solo, once again followed up by a flourish from Airey. The album closes with the moody "Before Time Began". Morse strums the mellow licks as Gillan breathes the lyrics to a soft beat from Paice. While not as captivating as the other highlights of Rapture Of The Deep, the song nevertheless is one of the better tunes to be heard on the album.

Deep Purple fans, and fans of classic rock in general, will find Rapture Of The Deep to be an enjoyable album. The nostalgia is there, but the band refuses to succumb to the repetitiveness that has doomed many other outfits with similarly long histories.

Track Listing
1 Money Talks 5:32
2 Girls Like That 4:02
3 Wrong Man 4:53
4 Rapture Of The Deep 5:55
5 Clearly Quite Absurd 5:25
6 Don't Let Go 4:33
7 Back To Back 4:04
8 Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye 4:19
9 MTV 4:56
10 Junkyard Blues 5:33
11 Before Time Began 6:30

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