It ain’t Machine Head, but let’s be reasonable here: Comparing Deep Purple’s just released 20th studio album inFinite to what may well be the greatest classic hard rock albums of all time is also a bit unfair.
The fact that at this stage in their long career Deep Purple invested the substantial amount of effort to record new music is laudable in and of itself. Based on posts I’ve seen on the band’s Facebook page, it sounds like inFinite took quite some time to make. Because of the extraordinary commitment it takes to record a new album, other music artists who also became big during Deep Purple’s most successful period essentially no longer bother – so kudos to Deep Purple!
In the era of music streaming and digital downloads, the band is unlikely to make much money from the album’s sales. Sure, you could say it should primarily be about the music and giving something new to their loyal fans. Plus, they’ll be embarking on an extended world tour in May and no doubt will earn cash. And, yes, with reported album sales of more than $100 million, it’s safe to assume these guys don’t exactly live in poverty. Still, wouldn’t you want to get rewarded for work you put so much time and effort into?
As I started listening to inFinite, my first thought was the music still has one the key ingredients I’ve always loved about Deep Purple: Giving equal roles to distorted guitar licks and the seductive sound of a Hammond organ – almost nothing else gives me more goose bumps in music than a growling Hammond!
There is also a refreshing amount of energy in many of the tunes. Let’s not forget most of the band is in their late 60s and early 70s, except for guitarist Steve Morse who at age 62 is almost a bit of a baby – okay, let me rephrase, a teenager! In one of the clips on their Facebook page, singer Ian Gillan said, “I used to be an angry young man, and now I’m fucking furious again!” Yep, I’d say this definitely comes through in some of the songs.
The album kicks off vigorously with Time for Bedlam, after a spoken intro that lasts about 30 seconds. It’s a great example of what I said above – giving equal weight to electric guitars and a roaring Hammond can make for a terrific combination. While there is probably nobody like Jon Lord, I have to say keyboarder Don Airy really shines in the song’s instrumental part and also does a great job on the album’s other tunes.
Hip Boots, the album’s second song, also reminds me a bit of the Mark II era. The band’s classic line-up from late 1969 – 1973 recorded the two albums I still think are their best: Deep Purple in Rock and Machine Head.
Other songs on inFinite I’d like to call out as nicely rocking along include One Night in Vegas and On Top of the World. And there is the cover of Roadhouse Blues, The Doors’ classic from 1970. While I find Ian Gillan’s singing a bit subdued here, he does a cool job on the blues harp. Saving this cover are Don Airy’s cool honky tonk piano and the driving groove provided by drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover – proving once more you can’t have a great band without a great drummer and a great bassist!
Like its predecessor Now What?!, inFinite was recorded in Nashville and produced by Bob Ezrin. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Ezrin has worked with an impressive array of other music artists over a 40-year-plus career, including Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel, to name some. Something else I find cool is the album’s cover art. It combines a cursive style p and d to form the infinity symbol, making it appear it all was created by an icebreaker – pretty neat!
There is speculation inFinite may be Deep Purple’s final studio album. That’s perhaps not surprising, given the band named its upcoming word tour The Long Goodbye Tour. After all, the physical demands of the rock & roll business and touring in particular become tougher with age. And in June 2016, Paice suffered a so-called mini-stroke. But as this review rightly points out, inFinite and The Long Goodbye Tour seem to be contradictory names. Plus, a few years ago, the Scorpions were also talking retirement – just saying…
Here’s a clip of Time For Bedlam.
Sources: Wikipedia, Deep Purple Facebook page, TeamRock.com, YouTube