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DEEP PURPLE - Whoosh!

Release date August 7, 2020 (earMUSIC)

Album #21 from esteemed hard rock veterans Deep Purple up for consideration now, representing the seventh release with guitarist Steve Morse and fifth with keyboardist Don Airey. Otherwise, the core remains intact, with Ian Gillan at the mic, Roger Glover at bass and Ian Paice pounding the skins.

First things first, dispense any notions or hopes for hard charging rock a la In Rock or Machine Head, those days have long passed. Most of these guys are in their seventies after all.

A little history. The first two albums of the Morse era (Perpendicular and Abandon) were underrated hard rock gems, great focused songs bundled together not too dissimilar to the Perfect Strangers opus. Then things began to fall apart in this fan's mind, the band losing its edge, deteriorating into a shuffling, toothless entity during the Bananas / Rapture of the Deep / Now What? trilogy between 2003 and 2013. Thinking that Deep Purple had embarrassed themselves into a well-earned retirement, the band issued the surprisingly strong Infinite in 2017. Does the comeback continue with Whoosh! or was Infinite just one last gasp of a battle hardened unit before extinction?

It's great to report the former. Containing the same mix of lush choruses, intelligent lyrics and magnificent muscianship as their last album, Whoosh! is one of those albums that introduces different nuances the more often you listen to it. Morse is front and centre again, his unique guitar phrasing providing the core, but it is Airey's keyboard work that steals the show here. Playful, diverse and imaginative, the textures he lays out are a joy to consume.

Highlights include the uber-memorable opener "Throw My Bones", the Abandon-esque "We're All The Same In The Dark", the barrel-house rock'n'roll of "What The What" and the muscular "The Long Way Round". However, the jewel in the dozen is "Nothing At All", a monumental piece of light rocking elevated by some surreal keyboard work that sounds like a church organist encouraged to cover for a priest's unscheduled washroom break. Sublime.

Hey, if Deep Purple keep putting out albums of this calibre and intelligence, they're welcomed to continue to do so into their old age home days. They literally may become toothless, but they sure as hell won't be that way musically.

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