not my review but early impression of it by Simon Robinson
Having been playing this for a few days now it will be interesting to see what everyone else makes of it. Now What did mark a bit of a change in direction and experimentation and this one feels like it was recorded in much the same spirit. Overall it's very solid musically; there are nods to Purple's past which many will pick up on, but it's often a grungier and denser sound than the last album, and were they to graft a large chunk of these tracks into the stage set this year (if!) it should make for a killer show.
In a way it is a shame they feel they can't trial tracks so much on stage now for fear of pirating, as some of the material does sound like it comes from a standing start, whereas the one cut they have done live is quickly becoming a favourite. There are a couple too many good time late night bar stories from Ian Gillan lyrically for me, in these uncertain times there are more pressing matters which might have inspired another barbed lyric or two, and certainly the backings would take a heavier approach in this department from the front man. But when he does find the muse outside the tavern it all comes together and Birds Of Prey is a good example, sounding very grown up. I think this is the one Classic Rock sort of dismissed as a Zepp knock off (in fact I was more reminded of Yes at one point, maybe CR's prog rock comments were more on the button than I realised); yes Steve gives it a real Pagey type rhythm, but takes it much further and to me CR missed the point rather; once you move on from the opening few bars it is very much a Purple track and it'll be a proper humdinger on stage, believe me.
Time For Bedlam most have now heard and it makes a strong opener. I can hear the Pictures Of Home echoes which some have mentioned, reinforced mostly by Ian's vocal melody line and Steve Morse's work, but it's hardly a distraction. I still can't make my mind up about the chanted vocal section which top and tail this but otherwise it is infused with the spirit of Purple throughout.
The Surprising is one of the longer offerings, and they range far and wide over the course of a sometimes slower more laid back track. Lovely vocals from Ian, full of emotion at times. The band sort of go for epic, me I'd have been as happy to edit out the wandering middle section and tighten it all up, but it clearly gives them a kicking off point for a live take. There are nods back to Gates Of Babylon here, and even Clannad at one point for those old enough to remember them.
Hip Boots is one which has been around for a while and whilst it may not (though give it time) be a killer track, it has grown on me a lot and you can see why they gave it second place in the running order. I love the loose rambling feel to it and Steve's playing (which is has to be said is stunning here) is absorbing, while Don likewise gives it just the right amount of Hammond. Worth the price of admission alone.
The band get dirtier on One Night In Vegas, which reminds me a little of Almost Human, one of my favourites from the SM era, and the same vibe runs through Get Me Outta Here although lyrically the latter doesn't really stir the pot enough for me.
The riff to Johnny's Band is bugging me, it'll click eventually I'm sure. Ian has covered this sort of ground before on Purpendicular and places. It's OK in a road house sort of way and Radio 2 apparently went for if big time the other week, so at least listeners there will know about the album.
Elsewhere people will love as I do Roger's thumping bass through On Top Of The World which should sound great via some decent speakers. I'm less convinced by All I Got Is You, despite the care worn vox and often caustic lyrics, while for me the cover version which they inexplicably tag onto the end of the album is a box set bonus at best. Though Ann reckons it's IG's best singing on the album, so it's already dividing opinion at DPAS towers. On first listen it just sounded like a studio warm up, and it has since been confirmed that's exactly what it is. It might have worked better sequenced earlier in the album, but I won't be rushing back.
Well, some good tracks to add to the now two decade long Steve Morse era output and I'm sure everyone who has stuck with the band thus far will find something here to enjoy in varying degrees. I should add I've been listening to fairly compressed official MP3s (with permission!) so it seems silly to try and comment on overall sound and production until I buy the CD. And buy it I will. Simon Robinson