Following 2013’s Now What?! and Infinite from three years ago, Whoosh! is the third successive album Deep Purple have made with producer Bob Ezrin. Hats off to him and the band, this is another step forward – the sound of a band making music without constraints or pressure. Purple are enjoying themselves, and you can hear it.
Opener Throw My Bones and last track Dancing In My Sleep both, coincidentally, feature vaguely funky riffs, but no two songs between them are alike, with the band confident and mature enough to strive for variety yet still produce a cohesive whole.
They’ve further honed their songwriting – most of the 13 numbers on Whoosh! fall well short of four minutes, and only two stretch beyond five. That economy of presentation gives them superpowers.
The only mystery is why the running order means that just at the point where you might expect the quality to dip, up pops a belter. Or three in the case of tracks 9-11 – Power Of The Moon, Man Alive and the instrumental Remission Impossible in between.
The first is atmospheric and mysterious, with a stellar Hammond break by Don Airey (who is brilliant and different on every track); Man Alive is a moody, slow-building rocker on which Ian Gillan ruminates on ‘the transient nature of man’s existence’ and even pulls off some spoken-word interludes.
It helps, of course, when you have Ian Paice – the planet’s most dynamic rock drummer – underpinning it all. And that every time guitarist Steve Morse takes a solo he kicks the track up another notch. But Gillan stars. Long after some had written him off, the singer delivers lyrics that combine the curmudgeon and the comic, and does so beautifully. His stab at dumb-ass politicians on No Need To Shout is particularly on the money
Musically, the raucous piano boogie of What The What harks back to the rock’n’roll era, Step By Step paints a quasi-gothic masterpiece, and The Long Way Around updates the ‘driving rocker’ template.
Full marks too for a fresh version of And The Address, the instrumental opening 1968’s Shades Of Deep Purple debut (note: Paice is the only current member who played on the original), while the sublime best is probably Nothing At All, on which bassist Roger Glover is rampant and Paicey swings like a bell.
Purple’s anthem days might be behind them, and some tracks here might surprise on first listen, but surprise quickly gives way to joy. This is superb.
Deep Purple are the cover stars of the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is on sale now.
In issue 278, we talk to Paice, Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse and Don Airey about Whoosh!, life in and out of Purple then and now, and what lies ahead.