When Deep Purple went into the studio to record their new album during 1995, there was a new kid on the block. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had quit the band in the middle of their last tour and had ridden off into the sunset for the third time. His replacement was former Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse and so the Mark VII line-up of Deep Purple was born.
Morse was a different type of guitarist than Blackmore. He was not as flashy but was just as technically adept. He had a more fluid style and was a more straight-forward rock guitarist who did not incorporate as many styles as his predecessor. He fit into the band’s line-up surprisingly well and it did not miss a beat in the studio or on the road.
Purpendicular (1996) emerged as a very good modern day Deep Purple hard rock album. Gone were a number of outside influences that Blackmore tended to bring to much of their material, and in their place was a cohesive album of hard rock. Songs such as “Ted The Machine,” “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming,” and “Somebody Stole My Guitar,” have remained a part of its live act for the past 15 years.
The album was only a moderate commercial success and signaled a transition from the band relying on album sales to fuel its popularity. Now it was the band’s constant worldwide touring that enabled it to remain one of the premier concert attractions in the world.
It also marked a change in approach for singer Ian Gillan. His voice was beginning to show the years and miles he had put on it. Now he began to rely on phrasing and showmanship rather than the constant upper range that made him one of the best rock vocalists in the business.
The record began with “Vavoom: Ted The Machine,” which emphasized the guitar-based foundation that once did and now again increasingly dominates their music. While keyboardist/organist Jon Lord would remain an active participant; his influence would begin to decline. The long-time balance that had existed between the guitar and keyboards now moved back toward the guitar sound. In the final analysis, “Vavoom” was a no frills rock song which looked ahead to a lot of the material that would inhabit their future releases.
“Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” featured an acoustic beginning, a technique and style that Morse would return to on a number of occasions. “Hey Cisco” was a track that went in a different direction, as it got a little jazzy in places. The most interesting track was “Soon Forgotten,” which contained a number of tempo changes by Morse and Lord.
Purpendicular proved that Deep Purple was alive and well in the post-Ritchie Blackmore era, as it was an album of proficient and modern hard rock. If you want to explore the music of Deep Purple beyond their classic releases, then this is an album for you.