For NOW What?!, their first studio album since 2005, the legendary Deep Purple decided to enlist the services of an equally legendary producer. Bob Ezrin, who helmed classic albums by groups such as Kiss, Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper, is working with Deep Purple for the first time. The results are a strong album that mixes familiar Purple elements with modern production touches.
The lead track, "A SIMple sOng" (Yes, all the song titles are written this way), reflects its title with its laid back, bluesy intro. Steve Morse lays down some subtle guitar lines over a keyboard backdrop courtesy of Don Airey. The song soon breaks into a Hendrix-inspired groove with strong vocals from Ian Gillan and a powerful organ solo from Airey.
"WeiRDistAN," one of a few cuts with double tracked vocals from Gillan, offers a hint of Middle Eastern influence over a driving psychedelic rock beat. The song is a huge production, with modern sounds on the keyboards and melodic leads from Morse. "OUt of HANd" has a classically influenced intro that would make original Purple keyboardist, the late Jon Lord, proud. The song has a great groove and heavy riffing that is reminiscent of "Perfect Strangers" in parts.
The band sounds as if they are having fun on the raucous "HELL to Pay." An up-tempo rocker, the song features prominent organ from Airey and gang vocals on the chorus. Less successful is "AbOVe aNd bEYOND," a somewhat proggy track that wastes a good vocal from Gillan.
The album ends on a strong note with "aprÈS VOus" and "VinceNt PRiCE." The former is another great groove with Airey and Morse trading leads during the song's break while the latter, appropriately enough, has a horror movie vibe, complete with eerie keyboards and guitars.
Deep Purple has released albums in six different decades. While their core sound remains true to their original vision, NOW What?! Finds a band still willing to explore musically and is proof positive that even at this stage of their career, Deep Purple remains a musical force.