Paice Ashton Lord: Malice In Wonderland - Album Of The Week Club review

Ditching Deep Purple’s full-throttle grandeur, Ian Paice and Jon Lord's new endeavour was conceived as a hybrid of the blues groups, jazz outfits and big bands they had grown up with

Paice Ashton Lord: Malice In Wonderland cover art
(Image: © Polydor)

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Paice Ashton Lord: Malice In Wonderland

Paice Ashton Lord: Malice In Wonderland cover art

(Image credit: Polydor)

Ghost Story
Remember the Good Tim
Silas & Jerome
Dance with Me Baby
On the Road Again, Again
Sneaky Private Lee
I'm Gonna Stop Drinking
Malice in Wonderland

After Deep Purple Mark IV split, Jon Lord needed “a band I can have a bloody good time in and feel satisfied musically”. 

So he called singer/pianist buddy Tony Ashton, with whom he’d made First Of The Big Bands in 1974, and fellow Purple alumni, drummer Ian Paice. Guitarist Bernie Marsden, a brass section and female backing singers then turned Paice Ashton Lord into a swinging jazz/blues/rock hybrid. 

“It’s like Mad Dogs And Englishmen”, Marsden observed, referring to Joe Cocker’s legendary ensemble, “but more your good old English rock’n’roll”. 

And he was spot-on. From the belting Ghost Story, through the Ian Dury-like Arabella, to Ashton’s I’m Gonna Stop Drinking Again – a booze blues Tom Waits would have been proud of – the album was loaded with quality. 

Paice and Lord decided to call time on the band before they finished the second album, and the two of them eventually joined David Coverdale’s Whitesnake. Ashton, meanwhile, began to step back from music, concentrating instead on a parallel career as an artist. 

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Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in March 1977 

  • High Class in Borrowed Shoes - Max WebsterQuiet Riot
  • Quiet Riot - Quiet Riot
  • Foreigner - Foreigner
  • Islands - The Band
  • Works Volume 1 - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • The Idiot - Iggy Pop
  • Let There Be Rock - AC/DC
  • Whatever Happened to Slade - Slade
  • Live! - Status Quo
  • Dandy In The Underworld - T. Rex 
  • Saw Delight - Can
  • Something Magic - Procol Harum
  • Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk

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What they said...

"The heavy groove of Ashton and Lord’s keyboards dominate, but Marsden’s guitar and Martinez’s bass take it in turns to play their parts. Swathes of brass and female backing vocals add yet another layer to the sound. Ashton’s idiosyncratic lead vocals, sometimes singing, sometimes spoken, almost rap-like, create a distinct identity. However, it’s Paice‘s drumming that drives the band and, without showiness or flash, brings the various parts together to form a whole." (Now Play This (opens in new tab))

"Paice Ashton Lord's sole album is a rather anonymous-sounding late-1970s hard rock/AOR effort. There's more funk, soul, boogie, and jazz influence than you would expect from Deep Purple alumni, but at heart these are typical period mainstream rock songs that don't lend a distinctive personality to the short-lived band." (AllMusic (opens in new tab)

"Malice in Wonderland is a damn fine album in its own right. Tunes like Ghost Story, Remember the Good Times and Arabella are catchy, crisp numbers with just enough hard rock edge but relying more on jazz, funk, and R&B, featuring the tight guitar work of Marsden (later to find fame with Whitesnake), the duelling keys of Lord & Ashton, Paice's funky drum work, the nimble bass grooves from Martinez, and the occasional horn section, which added an almost Chicago-ish flair." (Sea Of Tranquility (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Uli Hassinger: All I knew about the band was that the album wasn't successful and the band split up. Therefore this album never caught my interest, which was a good thing because I wouldn't have liked the album back in the time. Now I feel mature enough to give it a chance. The album seems to be pretty much out of focus because I couldn't recall that I have ever read something about it in at least the last ten years. To bring a lost gem up is a big bonus of this group.

I really was hesitating whether I should listen to the album, but now I'm pretty confident about doing so. The album is really special and a great revelation to me. The first thing that was sticking out was the funky bass lines. Martinez (never have heard of him) did a terrific job. The next thing was the twin keyboards. I love the sound of 70s organs and keyboards and you get loads of it on that album. Bernie Marsden is a classy guitar player and keeps the album rocking. I didn't know he did something worth mentioning before Whitesnake. Ian of cause isn't a slouch on his instrument too. Combined with brass sections and background choirs, it's a massive get together.

The songs are very funky, jazzy, laid back. Perfect to relax in the armchair and sip a single malt. There is no chartbreaker included but all the songs are are good. The album has a certain vibe I hadn't heard before. I enjoyed it very much. Great pick.

Adam Ranger: A great album. Great playing. Didn't realise Bernie Marsden was on it.

But ultimately for me it's a bit forgettable. I listened to it three times, and also the live recording. Enjoyed it when on, but can't really remember it after. Hooks are not all, but to my ears there are no immediate standout tracks.

Rock was changing in 1977. The advent of punk was one thing, also look at the successful rock albums of 77. They all had something. Low, Heroes by Bowie, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, A Farewell To Kings by Rush. Even proggy stalwarts Pink Floyd had Animals, which was a bit more angry than The Dark Side Of The Moon.

So a great album and great playing, but perhaps not one I shall rush to hear again.

Kev Moore: This project captured my imagination at the time and I was lucky enough to see them live at Birmingham Odeon in ‘76. They were superb. The reissue with the unfinished and unreleased tracks suggests they’d already run out of inspiration, but Malice was a superb piece of work. The funk of Martinez and Paice, the virtuosity of Lord and an eminently less portly Marsden, the kick ass brass. 

But it’s the unhinged humour and genius of Tony Ashton that steals the show here. What an underrated performer he was. He could really sell a song, and like all great comedians he could do pathos. I’m Gonna Stop Drinking Again is genuinely moving, Silas and Jerome is just a masterclass in storytelling with a great payoff. 

So many great moments on here, like when when the brass lets loose on Ghost Story the band are on fire. in Arabella, a love song to a hotel – yes really – Ashton’s delicious delivery of "Your chandeliers are tarnished, with the breath of seven ages" is a particular highlight. Listening to this album today, 45 years later, it sounds as fresh as ever. A triumph.

Patrick Vyncke: A great album, got some classic songs.

Lars Holm: Great album, just love it.

Paul Cropper: Excellent album. But how could it not be with that line up?

Richard Cardenas: First time listening and I really like it. Great record.

Michael Ladd: Excellent LP. Ghost Story is a fantastic cut with a great Ashton vocal.

Старик Хэнк: Excellent, though obscure to most. An underrated album.

Chris Elliott: Another West Yorkshire Woolworths bargain bin find. At the time it seemed like a waste of 50p. It so wasn't what I expected. It hasn't improved since., but at least I knew what was coming this time. If the words "jazz rock" make you cringe and run, this won't change your mind.

Andrew Bramah: After all these years Malice In Wonderland has kept its appeal. Instead of going down the Rainbow or Whitesnake route Paice and Lord went back to their roots and played they loved themselves. Tony Ashton sounds great and the lyrics are very reflective of their musical journeys. Bernie Marsden and Paul Martinez play really well. All the songs are stories. Some more interesting than others. Very much a jam album its a shame they folded so quickly.

Ben Cuddihy: A joy to behold, a completely different shade of the Purple machine.

Al King: I think you'll find the secret weapon was Bernie fucking Marsden.

Nick Cooper: An excellent album from excellent musicians, but let's be honest: at the time, the Deep Purple fans just weren't ready for this type of music.

I liked the album at the time and was enthralled by the BBC in Sight & Sound concert broadcast.

As we know, sadly, there was no money in it so it was doomed to fail. The one good thing that did come out of it was it brought Bernie Marsden to the attention of David Coverdale, and the rest is history.

Shayne Ashby: Came across this album after reading a random internet review. So glad I gave it a spin. I love it. Brings a whole new vibe from their previous bands. Bernie Marsden says it's the best album he has made, and I agree. His playing is fantastic as always.

Bill Griffin: I read about the album before listening to it and was dreading the horns because I just don't like them, especially the trumpet. Except for Ghost Story (which otherwise is an excellent track) though, they really weren't intrusive. I quite like this album and regret both that I hadn't heard it earlier and that they didn't release another one. That being said, Ashton was not a great singer. Competent at best.

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Final score: 7.25 (43 votes cast, total score 312)

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