Showing posts with label deep purple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deep purple. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Yeah, I know, I should have posted this two days ago, but given that I was hitting burnout and I needed a day or two to recuperate (plus, my birthday and such), I wanted to get this out.

And on the note of getting things out, time for some long-overdue catchup - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

album review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Look, even despite being a longtime Deep Purple fan, I don't think anyone expected their 2013 record Now What?! to be as great as it was. 

Their first record in eight years and their first after the death of long-time keyboardist Jon Lord - it showed a band reinvigorated yet again, surging forward with the sort of progressive experimentation and flair that didn't reflect a band that had been around for over forty five years! And sure, you might be able to pass along some credit to legendary producer Bob Ezrin, but it's also hard to ignore that Deep Purple are one of the most resilient hard rock bands still working. Let's get brutally honest, you can probably count the number of rock bands who tour as extensively as Deep Purple does for as long as they have on one hand, and to see a resurgence of quality in the compositions and songwriting - long one of the areas the band has struggled on weaker albums, of which there are a fair few - was a true marvel. 

But like it or not, you can't do it forever, and there's a part of me that knew it would only be a matter of time before Deep Purple set their instruments aside, perhaps to go off on one glorious high note as hard rock legends. They had finally been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an honor many had said they had deserved for decades, they were coming off the most critical acclaim and popular attention they had received in years if not decades, and unfortunately drummer Ian Paice had suffered a minor stroke in June of last year, which affected his right hand and fingers. And to end things off with one last ride called The Long Goodbye Tour and a record called inFinite, I had the feeling that this might just be the last record we get from Deep Purple. So enough reminiscing and nostalgia, what do we get on inFinite?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the top 25 best albums of 2013

And now we're down to the final list - my top twenty-five albums of 2013. This year, I reviewed 135 albums - and frankly, I should have done more. But I feel it's a plenty big sample size to discuss my choices, and all of these earned their slots on this list. I'll also try to keep this as quick as I possibly can - I've already talked about all of these albums in detail, and you should all check out my reviews if you want a more in-depth discussion. Also, my list isn't exactly going to correspond with common critical consensus - there are albums I have picked that have been ignored, and there are certain albums that some critics lauded that I didn't find nearly as strong. Got all that? Good, because we're not waiting any longer, let's GO!

the top 50 best songs of 2013 (PART TWO: 25-1)

Whew, that takes care of that.

Last one is the long-awaited albums of the year - stay tuned!

the top 50 best songs of 2013

Some of you are probably scratching your heads with confusion at the title of this list and wondering, 'Wait, didn't he already make this exact same list a few days ago?' Well, this list is significantly different than the last one, mostly because we're no longer talking about the hits. No, these are the songs, singles or otherwise, that appeared on the albums I listened through this year and stuck with me. They aren't the hits - most of you might not recognize the songs I mention, but all of them bear the highest of my personal recommendations. That's right, from the 135 albums I reviewed this year, these were my favourite songs. I'm not segregating them by genre or success - singles or deep cuts all have a chance to make this list, which was initially reduced from thousands down to 436, which was then narrowed down to fifty. And believe me, even with that I had to make some painful cuts, and what is on this list will surprise you. So, without any more delay, here are my Top 50 Songs of 2013! Let's get started!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

album review: 'dancer and the moon' by blackmore's night

In the fall of 2012, many mainstream music critics were hailing the new indie rock explosion, and at the forefront of that wave we had acts like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers and Phillip Phillips. Now, granted, I was never a huge fan of any of these acts, but I understand what they do and they occasionally managed to impress me. Yes, even Mumford & Sons (I stand by my criticism of the act that they really don't contribute anything to music as a whole, but they certainly don't embarrass themselves that badly unless you dig deeply into their lyrics).

But what I took a little umbrage to at the time was the genre classification of the majority of these acts, and how people were calling them 'folk rock'. It wasn't that I disagreed, per se - indeed, if I were pressed to come up with a genre classification of these acts other than indie, I'd probably call them contemporary folk rock and run with that. But what annoyed me a bit was the level of mainstream acclaim these acts received. Once again, I wouldn't call any of these acts bad, but at least to me, they sure as hell didn't represent the folk rock with which I was most familiar.

And with that, let's talk about Blackmore's Night.

As I mentioned before, when I was younger, I skipped straight from pop music and Eminem to power and symphonic metal, and in the process of using that old, unreliable bit of vapourware Limewire, I came across several songs that were mistakenly noted as Nightwish songs. As most of you probably remember, getting accurate song titles and band names in the days of Limewire (to say nothing of album names) was a nightmare, and pre-Wikipedia (this was around 2005), it required a fair amount of legwork to figure out what these songs actually were. Eventually, I managed to discover that these songs came from a  medieval folk rock act known as Blackmore's Night, founded by former Deep Purple virtuoso guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and his wife Candice Night. 

And as a teenage fantasy nerd, I immediately fell head over heels for Blackmore's Night. Almost all of the elements clicked - Ritchie Blackmore's impressive guitar work, Candice Night's ethereal voice, the backing instrumentation was properly modulated to build to impressive crescendos, and the lyrics were steeped in fantasy and Wiccan culture. They immediately set in my impressionable mind the definition of what I thought folk rock was, and that definition persisted until my uncle introduced me to Bob Dylan. 

So coming back to Blackmore's Night as a more mature music critic, does the band hold up to my expectations? Well, for the most part, yes. As with Deep Purple, the instrumentation is easily the biggest strength of Blackmore's Night, and Ritchie Blackmore's guitar work has remained as solid as ever. And I must admit a certain fondness for Candice Night willowy, ethereal delivery that perfectly matches the quasi-mystical feel the band is attempting to cultivate. Unfortunately, while the band does have an impressive repertoire of material in myth and legend to draw upon, they do occasionally repeat cliches between songs a little more than they should. And while they are more innovative and interesting songwriters than Deep Purple, I would hesitate to put them on any sort of pedestal here. It also doesn't help that they've done some pretty hit-and-miss covers over the course of their careers (the most egregious example being of 'Times They Are A Changin', which is just awful and embarrassing).

But if anything, I think the biggest 'barrier to entry' with regards to Blackmore's Night is the fact that they're a bit difficult to take seriously, specifically due to their genre. As much as I have issues with Game of Thrones, I will admit that the one net positive the HBO series is doing is increasing the mainstream public's tolerance for fantasy in their pop culture (a process begun in most cases by The Lord of the Rings films). But even with that,  it can be tough to buy into an act that sings about magic and fae and fantasy with wholehearted sincerity, and Blackmore's Night doesn't have an ounce of cynicism or winking in their subject matter. They believe what they're selling, and thus it's absolutely no surprise that they only tend to play live at Renaissance fairs and smaller, medieval-themed venues - which also puts a definite ceiling on any mainstream success they're aiming to have. But then again, I'm not sure Ritchie Blackmore is actively looking for mainstream success in the same way he was with Deep Purple - to him, Blackmore's Night is a passion project, and he's not going to turn it into work.

So with all of that in mind, how is their discography? Well, I'd describe all of their previous albums as good, but I'd have a hard time calling them great, mostly due to inconsistency. Typically per album you'll get three or four great songs and a whole lot of passable material, but not much more. Their most recent album Autumn Sky (released in 2010) was probably on the lower end of that spectrum - not as shaky as their debut album Shadows of the Moon, but not as strong as Village Lanterne (yeah, they spell 'lanterne' with an extra 'e' - they're that kind of band).

So, in the past week, they released a new album, Dancer And The Moon - how does it fair?

Monday, April 29, 2013

album review: 'now what?!' by deep purple

A bit less than a year ago, a group of artists that included Carlos Santana, Iron Maiden, The Flaming Lips, and Metallica got together to produce an album cover of the 1972 album Machine Head by Deep Purple. That same year, Deep Purple was denied a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which earned the institute a fair thrashing at the hands of Billy Corgan (of the Smashing Pumpkins), Gene Simmons (of Kiss), Geddy Lee (of Rush), Kirk Hammett (of Metallica) and Slash (of Guns 'n Roses). And really, it's not like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hasn't earned that contempt - I mean, the induction of ABBA, Madonna, and Randy Newman over Deep Purple, a band that is widely considered one of the founders of heavy metal? I mean, fucking really?

But putting aside the obvious fact the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is completely full of shit, I did begin to ponder the impact of Deep Purple on rock. I mean, even though every would-be guitarist on the planet learns 'Smoke On The Water' (often incorrectly, because Ritchie Blackmore uses an alternate tuning of 'all fourths' instead of just power chords), how much had Deep Purple really affected rock & roll? With fifteen different members over forty-five years, who could even say was the definitive Deep Purple? 

Well, if we go by the annals of history, most would say the iconic lineup of Deep Purple was the 'Mark II' lineup (Ian Gillan on vocals, Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Roger Glover on bass, Jon Lord on keyboards, and the iconic Ian Paice (who is, incidentally, the only band member to last all forty-five years) on drums). And while David Coverdale (future Whitesnake vocalist) cut his teeth with the bad throughout the 70s, the majority of Deep Purple fans consider the Mark II lineup the best, mostly because they were responsible for the classic album Machine Head.

And make no mistake here: Machine Head is one of the best goddamn albums of all time. It is one of the very, very few albums that I'd award five stars without compunction, an album I'd consider damn near perfect and one of my personal favourites (funnily enough, it only came out a year and a half before one of my other favourite albums of all time, The Who's Quadrophenia). Not only does it contain 'Smoke On The Water', but also 'Pictures of Home' and 'Highway Star' and 'Lazy' and 'Space Truckin'', all songs that are classics of hard rock and heavy metal. It blows my mind to this day that the band chose 'Never Before' as the lead-out single ('Never Before' is a great song, but there were smarter choices), meaning it took until the spellbinding Made In Japan for Deep Purple to get their American breakthrough. 

It also meant that any album of covers was inevitably going to be compared to that classic - and it was ultimately the reason I didn't finish or post the review of Remachined (which is what they were going to title the covers album), because it would have been the drawn-out caterwauling of a rock snob. And while I will say immediately the album isn't nearly as good as Machine Head (like it or not, Chickenfoot even at their best isn't within spitting distance of Mark II Deep Purple), I can also say that damn near nothing is as good as that album. It's like trying to make a digital photocopy of the Mona Lisa - even if you manage to get every detail right (and they didn't, mostly because Carlos Santana and Ritchie Blackmore both have distinctive and different guitar styles and that's me being the most charitable), you lose something in the transition.

Now many people would think that on the strength of Machine Head alone, Deep Purple deserves a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. But I think that's an incomplete picture of the band, a band that went though eight different lineups and over four decades of albums. I mean, not even including live albums or compilations, Now What?! is their nineteenth album of material - and even as a longtime fan of Deep Purple, I can admit that there are large chunks of Deep Purple's discography that sucks. And while I would say that the band never released an absolutely worthless dud, they have made a lot of material that doesn't quite stand up well years or decades later.

Now, part of this problem is an incoherence of vision, and they've never been an act to make album statements (on that factor alone, I can imagine some critics would disqualify them). But the bigger problem is that they were never great or innovative songwriters either, preferring to concentrate their attention on intricate instrumental segments and virtuoso solos. Keep in mind that guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was a fantasy-obsessed guitar nerd known for awkward tunings and customized gear, and that former keyboardist Jon Lord was a classically trained and classically minded pianist. As an act, particularly in the late 60s and early 70s, Deep Purple were almost prog-like in their pursuit of musical excellence and complexity over lyrical craft. And it's pretty much due to the fact that they were so damn great on those instruments that I can appreciate them to this day, and this is coming from someone (as anybody who has read my reviews can attest) who holds lyrics to a high standard.

And so, as a fan, I can vouch for dozens of their songs off of multiple albums, but I'd be hard-pressed to find lyrical excellence in the band, particularly in comparison to the awe-inspiring instrumentation and vocal delivery. I wouldn't say their lyrics are bad, per se (okay, some of them are pretty goddamn bad, particularly throughout the 90s), but they certainly aren't offensive. What they also aren't, however, is all that thought-provoking or intellectual, particularly in the early years - Deep Purple is a band that tends to writes about simple rock star themes and concepts, and for the most part, they do it very well. Now there is an art to writing simple, potent pop songs - hell, most of the best songs of all time have a charming simplicity about them that only enhances their appeal - but here's where I'll note a real dichotomy with Deep Purple: for as phenomenal as they are musically, they've never really impressed me lyrically.

At the same time, though, at nineteen albums into their career, the members of Deep Purple are getting up in years, and I have to admit, I was more than a little worried going into this review. The last album with the 'Mark VIII' lineup for Deep Purple was Rapture Of The Deep, which was pretty damn solid, but nothing that's going to set the world on fire. And with a worrying title like Now What?!, I was a little concerned that Deep Purple may have just given up with this album.