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Deep Purple - Rapture of the Deep

The new Deep Purple album Rapture of the Deep isn't working for me. The musicians sound like they're having fun working on complex, interesting ideas, and there is some good songwriting on there. But the record keeps losing momentum because between great tracks like the title track and the set closer "Before Time Began" there are too many duff pieces that sound like 1980s FM rock written by numbers. Tracks like "Don't Let Go" and "Back to Back" just make me nod off.
Mind you, that title track is really very good - proof even that these guys still have classic material in them. Other reviewers have mentioned that it reminds them of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", but a closer parallel is the work of the Canadian 1990s group The Tea Party. Another strong track, "Clearly Quite Absurd", makes the grade despite being in the despised Rock Ballad idiom. It has an interesting chord progression and takes an odd turn towards the end.
One other good thing about the new album are the tantalising glimpses we get of what Ian Gillan can do when he uses the lower end of his vocal range. More of that, please, and less of the screaming; that has long lost its relevance and become nothing more than a party trick. Generally, I like the conversational style of much of Gillan's present-day singing; it isn't quite rap but combines the flow of good rap with actual, if understated melody. It works well with Steve Morse's guitar playing, which is also, in a way, quite chatty.

What I think would have improved the record is a few more songs breaking away from the hard rock style. Those made the difference between, on the one hand, Purpendicular from 1996 and Bananas from 2003, two latterday Deep Purple albums I still play regularly, and on the other hand 1998's Abandon, which I don't. One or two tracks like the quirkier pieces on those albums to replace the uninspired rockers would have made the whole thing a lot more convincing.


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