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After a lot of drama and the departure of original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple managed to deliver a quite successful album in 1996 known as Purpendicular with their new guitarist Steve Morse. Whether its follow-up is a good album is hard to say. Abandon is a bit of a transition record, with still elements of hard rock to be found here, but with the laid back blues rock gaining the upper hand a little. I say a little here because it’s not as dominant as on 2003’s Bananas yet. This makes Abandon a good record, but quite far from memorable.
The whole band does seem to be in shape. Ian Paice’s drums sound very clear and powerful, Jon Lords Hammond sounds very clear, Roger Glovers bass sounds very solid and Steve Morse’s sound is really cool and his solos do impress me. It is Ian Gillan however who sometimes is to blame for a song to fail. Ever since the reunion of Deep Purple in 1984 his voice has been declining. Although at times he sounds clear and cool, on songs like “Almost Human” he really sounds hoarse and tired. His high notes are also not what they used to be and that really should encourage the man not to try and hit them anymore, like he does on Bananas. His vocal performance however is not so terrible that it ruins the entire album. The album starts with a very strong vocal performance, which decreases its strength halfway through though. “Any Fule Kno That” is a really cool opener with a powerful guitar riff and a powerful rap by our beloved Gillan, which he does quite cool. There are solos by both Lord and Morse and they really fit the song. This is a great and unique way to open the album. The fine line is continued for the next five songs. “Almost Human” will be noticed for its catchy chorus and “Don’t Make Me Happy” begins as a cliché blues song that reminds slightly of 70s Deep Purple, mainly due to Gillans vocals in the verses. In the chorus things will get back to the 90s and the whole results in some quality bluesy power ballad. This song is a very good one and definitely stands out, especially the solo. Then there is “Seventh Heaven” with its heavy riff featuring a pinch harmonic which is very unlike Deep Purple. This is one of the more rocking songs on this release but doesn’t really stand out, except for the solo which is being played on a very bluesy interpretation of the hard rock riff.
Then we are suddenly welcomed into “Watching the Sky” with a doomy Dio-esque intro, soon resolving into another bluesy hard rock riff. The verses are being reduced to a gentle ballad-ish part where Gillan uses his falsetto voice a little, and then they explode to the riff again to form the chorus. It doesn’t really stand out, just like “Seventh Heaven”, but it has got its moments, such as the “fury and madness”-part. Last of the enjoyable tracks on a row is “Fingers to the Bone” with a great guitar theme throughout combined with one of Gillans better performances on the album. This song almost has an epic feel to it; the themes on the verses and the chorus are so cool, and the piano solo adds the finishing touch. Now we’re at the end of the row we have a row of three songs before us that just radiate pure boredom with all of them being unoriginal, uninspiring and downright boring. They all have a laid back rhythm throughout, terrible vocals and such lameness. Those songs probably would’ve fit better on Bananas but I’m glad they’re not on there either since Bananas’ songs are still better than this. This is cliché blues to the bone without effort being put into them. It seems they needed some filler material; else this album would’ve been quite good. The titles are also so very uninspiring: “Jack Ruby”, “She Was” and “Whatsername”. Especially the last mentioned title seems really uninspired. I guess it’s songs like these that restrain newer Deep Purple albums from getting high rates nowadays. I mean, if you really want to create music like this then just do it right at once and create an entire album like this, like 2003’s Bananas.
The album ends quite stylish actually. “’69” is a fast-paced hard rocker with really good drumming and a powerful driving force throughout the song. It also has a really inventive solo part. Gillans voice is not too good on here, but at least not disturbing. Then there's “Evil Louie”. This song evidently fits with the three uninspired ones in style, but hey, this one actually has beauty! It starts off in the laid back rhythm like “Jack Ruby”, but somehow this one sounds much better. A good but simple riff, and just before the chorus we have a beautiful instrumental part with the guitar playing beautiful arpeggios. Then the chorus turns out much more powerful than something like “Whatsername”. It seems Deep Purple CAN still do it, but just don’t always have the inspiration. As a last treat Purple decided to re-record the classic song “Bloodsucker”, now entitled “Bludsucker”. This version sounds good and fits well on the album, but the original is a lot better for two reasons. The first is the most obvious: Gillans voice. He takes good care of the lower register part, but the “Oh no no no!” sounds just... not good. I must admit that he does still sound powerful here on his lower register though. The last verse is a bit spoiled, since he tried to imitate the original version where he goes sky high. The second reason is Steve Morse. I think it is very good that he plays his own solo and does not copy Blackmore’s solo, but in the end people want to compare. Where Morse is mostly showing his technical abilities here, shredding like hell, Blackmore used to rely more on his feel in the music rather than his technical abilities. Of course, it also differs on the type of guitarist, but my preference goes to Blackmore’s solo.
After this detailed look upon the album, I conclude that Abandon is a good album, but definitely not good enough. There are some nice songs, some songs sound even great, but there’s nothing truly magnificent. Nothing of the quality they used to have. There is also a disturbing amount of fillers on this album that drastically reduces my rating for Abandon, and makes me abandon this release. Overall, this album is good, but definitely not memorable, and perhaps even forgettable. I recommend this to Deep Purple fans, but if you are new with the band you should check out their Mark II stuff first.
Strongest tracks: “Don’t Make Me Happy”, “Fingers to the Bone” and “Evil Louie”.
Weakest tracks: “Jack Ruby” and “She Was”.