Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Steve Creedy Tony Hil­lier

In­fi­nite Deep Pur­ple Sony Deep Pur­ple, the last of the 1970s “holy trin­ity” of Bri­tish heavy rock bands, is head­ing to­wards 50 with its heart still beat­ing strongly. This new al­bum won’t knock Ma­chine Head, Deep Pur­ple in Rock or even Per­fect Strangers off their pedestals, but the band’s 20th record will make a de­cent swan song if that’s what it turns out to be. The live wire here is the ir­re­press­ible Don Airey who, along with guitar guru Steve Morse and the band’s su­perla­tive rhythm sec­tion, pumps en­ergy into a pro­gres­sive but dis­tinctly Pur­ple sound. Airey, who re­placed Jon Lord in 2002 to com­plete the present line-up, puts in a per­for­mance un­der the watch­ful eye of leg­endary pro­ducer Bob Ezrin that his pre­de­ces­sor would have ap­plauded. The al­bum’s lyrics aren’t des­tined to win a No­bel prize, but Ian Gil­lan’s voice is still good, al­beit with­out the highs. An at­ten­tion-grab­bing first track was al­ways a Pur­ple hall­mark and Time for Bed­lam — with its ear­worm vo­cal melody, thump­ing rhythm and in­ter­play be­tween Airey and Morse — does just that. It’s the al­bum’s best track but other no­table ef­forts in­clude Birds of Prey, One Night in Ve­gas and a sprawl­ing prog bal­lad, The Sur­pris­ing. The al­bum closes with an un­ex­cit­ing ver­sion of the Doors’ Road­house Blues. I once asked bassist Roger Glover, now in his 70s, how he man­aged to en­joy him­self on stage af­ter all th­ese years. He said he played each con­cert like his last “be­cause it very well may be”. De­spite the lat­est tour be­ing billed as The Long Goodbye, let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from an in­dus­try leg­end. Fair­port Con­ven­tion Matty Groves/Planet Fair­port Con­ven­tion’s 50th an­niver­sary al­bum could not be more aptly named. Be­sides ref­er­enc­ing im­pres­sive longevity, the ti­tle of its lat­est re­lease ac­knowl­edges that the 14 tracks are split be­tween live and stu­dio record­ings, thus tele­graph­ing the band’s pro­fi­ciency in both realms. While all cuts are new, the se­lec­tion pro­vides an un­con­ven­tional ret­ro­spec­tive of Fair­port’s dis­tin­guished ca­reer. In­stead of an­cient odes such as Matty Groves and Tam Lin with which the band suc­ceeded in trans­form­ing the dusty, musty image of tra­di­tional Bri­tish folk into some­thing that had snap, crackle and rock,

of­fers mostly orig­i­nal songs from its reper­toire. Th­ese in­clude al­lu­sions to early clas­sics Walk Awhile and Meet on the Ledge and a trib­ute track in Chris Les­lie’s jaunty ditty Our Bus Rolls On that in­cor­po­rates a toast to Fair­port and a ref­er­ence to the com­poser’s vi­o­lin­ist band­mate Ric San­ders’s haunt­ing in­stru­men­tal Port­meirion, which fol­lows. Two songs writ­ten and sung by the man­dolin and bouzouki whiz, Eleanor’s Dream and Mercy Bay, are more solemn, cen­tring on Les­lie’s fas­ci­na­tion with John Franklin’s ill-fated ex­pe­di­tion to nav­i­gate a north­west pas­sage be­tween the At­lantic and Pa­cific oceans. None of th­ese, how­ever, is as im­pres­sive as the live ren­di­tion of Steve Til­ston’s The Naked High­way­man from band­leader and guitar whiz Si­mon Ni­col that’s given a hint of a Latin pulse by Dave Pegg’s fivestring bass. Les­lie’s banjo lends Ap­palachian feel to The Lady of Carlisle, on which Jac­qui McShee re­vis­its a song she first recorded with Pen­tan­gle in 1972. Fel­low guest Robert Plant’s singing of the gospel stan­dard Je­sus on the Main­line fails to match that of Ry Cooder’s mem­o­rable 1970s cover.

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