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.