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As I read in one review about this album, the mood in here is "oh, we are on vacation, this album is a vacation album" with no ambition at all. Yes, the reviewer was right about it, and most of his review, as well. But here we have three members of the band enjoying the relaxation and tranquility while the other two members were actually hard working to save the band from the definitive stagnation and eventual break-up it was poised to: Don Airey and Steve Morse.
Morse was already a veteran in the war effort here. In "Purpendicular" he gave a gasp of life to a band still crying for Blackmore's departure and in the last brilliant moment of Jon Lord, they together built a solid release from which a couple of songs now are part of Deep Purple's canon in live shows. Remarkably, "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" can be in any "Best Of" because it is plain great, but after that, "Abandon" almost comes as a deadly blow to the band.
So Jon Lord left. He did the best thing, but he wasn't just in the mood for staying where he found no more inspiration nor ambition, and the three other guys said, "well, we make more money with our Purple releases than in any other one", so they hired, just for that sake, Don Airey.
But Airey, besides of a trio of guys with no ambition whatsoever for doing something else, finds a younger fella who was working very hard to get things well done. Stevie, at last, gets new blood and new visions for keep on rolling the dice. And here you got "Bananas", an album driven totally by Airey and Morse, while Gillan, Glover and Paice were "on vacations".
The record is solid as a whole. There are no stand-up songs here, but everyone of them are joyful, funny, and tasty licks of music. Here, you will not find a hard & heavy rocker song or anthem worthy of your praise, just simple bluesy and rooted tunes with easy, but effective riffs and some atmospheric keyboarding with eventual solos for filling the air.
"Sun Goes Down" contains many ideas that would be exploited later on in Rapture of the Deep, with Airey taking the full lead here. Even Gillan gets somehow infected here and tries to remind us of the early days when he sang with "very tight trousers". Same thing with "Silver Tongue". There's some hidden heaviness waiting for development in those pieces. Laying dormant, but cute and cheeky. I'm not saying "those songs are remarkable" because they aren't. They just work it out. Same happens with "I Got your Number"; funny, driving, smart in some aspects, and a not-so-complicated guitar moment which actually finishes correctly the ambition of the product.
You can also find some ethereal gospel-like moments here, ouvre et gráce of Don Airey and Stevie Morse. "Haunted" is an example of this in a very fashioned way. Purple returns to the experimental notions they once did in the '60s. Lightly, though, but we appreciate it. New blood refreshing the thing.
Overall, an average-good album. Airey and Morse are the leading forces here and without their effort, this thing could have been way much worse. The songs I mentioned above are the highlights here, though there isn't any particular track better than the others. The album itself has not a "special moment", it's just plain solid and works it out. Even Gillan and eventually Paice try to re-enter in the Purple realm once in awhile, so that's a good signal, a very good one.
I remember I used to buy Bananas in the store because I thought the front cover was funny. The cover is a perfect definition of the album itself: it’s a funny record. I doubt Deep Purple were in a serious mood when they wrote these songs (with the exception of some). There’s an overall relaxing atmosphere and songs with an uplifting mood. Especially when you take a look in the booklet and see Ian Gillan having to restrain himself from bursting out in laughs, Steve Morse looking very funny in the camera and the whole band having dressed themselves as tourists in a warm land, you can see the light atmosphere on the album reflecting in the bands attitude.
Where Abandon was a record that had an uninspiring balance between hard rockers and blues rockers or ballads, Bananas is one record full of the bluesy stuff. Though the riffs are not the most original and vocals are not what they used to be, the songs sound very spontaneous and relaxing. There is no “Child in Time” or “Hush” on here to make this album become a masterpiece, but this release does not aim to become the next masterpiece, and I think Deep Purple have chosen this more relaxing style on purpose on their journey to retirement. They no longer try to surpass albums like Machine Head, Perfect Strangers or Stormbringer. This is a vacation CD, recorded by a band that likes going on vacation. There are songs that make you believe you’re walking on an island full of banana trees like “House of Pain” and “Razzle Dazzle”, there are very inspiring ballads with at times even gospel influences like “Haunted” and “Never a Word” and there are songs with a more serious approach like “Sun Goes Down” and “Silver Tongue”. Overall, I don’t think there are abominations on this album are anything like a weak song. This album is built with all the songs as necessary bricks. Let’s go a bit more into details.
The album opens with the light “House of Pain”. The relaxing riff we hear is not the most original one, but gets us in the perfect Banana-mood. We also have Ian Gillan give a high scream at the beginning, giving us a false idea about his voice still being good. On the rest of the album he does not pretend to sing high, like on Abandon, but stays within his safe range where he sounds good. The rest of the opening song is quite funny actually, hearing the backing vocals echo Gillans ‘back to the house of pain’. “Sun Goes Down” begins slightly more serious, with a great Hammond intro by Don Airey, and then results into a more serious riff. Highlight of this song is the verse just after the interplay when only Gillan and drummer Ian Paice are playing. Gillans vocals really shine there. Next we have a beautiful ballad with gospel-esque backing vocals in the shape of “Haunted”. It’s really something new for Deep Purple to have a song like this, but the theme is beautiful and Gillan performs well. One of my favorite songs from this album is “Razzle Dazzle”. Despite the somewhat odd title it does contain a great relaxing blues rock tune, making you feel surrounded by bananas. Also this riff is not very original, but I really like the outcome of it. We continue on a more serious note on the rhythmic “Silver Tongue” and on the slow bluesy “Walk On”. When the guitar intro to “Picture of Innocence” begins we are back to the relaxing part of the album. This guitar intro solo is really great and the song that follows after it also has this laid back feel to it. Especially the chorus is notable with its raving vocals and lyrics.
As we hear the somewhat troublesome intro to “I Got Your Number” we are surprised to hear a riff that heavily reminds me of the music in the old pc game Blake Stone. Probably and hopefully just coincidence though. The chorus of this song is of the same level of the intro and somewhat hard to grasp, but the bridge and the solos totally makes up for it. The gentle ballad “Never a Word” takes the level of seriousness slightly upwards with a very relaxingly gentle instrumental first half. The second half of the song features Gillans falsetto voice and he does a great job there. Then there’s the title track “Bananas”. By the time you’ve reached this song you’ll be totally convinced that Deep Purple have actually gone bananas. The main riff is happy, just like on “Razzle Dazzle” and “House of Pain”, and the verses feature some rock ‘n roll influences and a harmonica playing fills. They implemented an odd time signature though and that’s probably what attracts your attention first. As far as I understood the lyrics are about nothing. Then there’s highlight “Doing It Tonight”. I think most will discard this song as being ‘unoriginal’ or ‘not Deep Purple’. The riff is indeed not the most original riff ever created, but the outcome of the song is delicious. The verses, the solo and the main theme... I love it. All seriousness has faded from this album and one more glimpse at Ian Gillans picture in the booklet will make us realize what Bananas really is: a record by a band that is making music solely for fun. The album is nicely closed by instrumental “Contact Lost”, featuring a beautiful gentle guitar solo by Steve Morse.
So this album is relaxing, fun and light. It’s a great album to just play while you’re doing something. It creates such a light atmosphere that you just get totally happy after listening to it. For the full experience a legal copy of the CD is recommended, since you’ll have the pictures and the funny front cover. If you can accept all that I said in this review, then I’ll recommend this album to you.
Strongest songs: “Haunted”, “Razzle Dazzle” and “Doing It Tonight”.
“Turbo”, “Hammered”, “Forbidden”, “Load”, “Virtual XI”… Almost all of the metal gods had their uninspired moments… And the Deep Purple’s stumble is called “Bananas”.
In fact, this album is very poor in coherence. There are very despicable and forgettable tracks (“Haunted” and “Never a word”) and others that could be classic works (“Sun Goes Down”, “Silver Tongue”, “Walk On”, “Bananas” and “Contact Lost”). To give a real idea of this fact, the negative and positive prominences will be shortly described.
The Purple’s misleading first: “Haunted” is the lower point in this album. It’s a dispensable and commercial ballad. The only thing profitable in this track is the praiseworthy Guillan’s vocal work. Ian Guillan, in fact, is more technical yet, but less daring. Where are the falsettos in high tones? In the rest of the song, there’s still irritating feminine backing vocals… It seems Gospel music!
“Never a Word”… Well… Well, the keyboard intro with organ timbre is epic… And nothing more. There’s country music here. A disastrous moment in the Purple’s career. It’s a very good song… For the Beatles
The other sad error is called “Doing It Tonight”. It’s a very, very strange song (it remembers James Brown sometimes!). It alternates despicable moments and a little more inspired passages. It has a good guitar solo, but the backing vocals singing “yeah, yeah” transform the music in an awful thing. It’s just another misleading.
Now the songs that don't allow the disc to be a total disaster: “Sun Goes Down” is a dragged song, wrapped up in heaviness. Great guitar riffs! Great guitar solo! There’s an exciting part when the vocal is alternated with the guitar, and Guillan sings over the drums and bass only, during the guitar silence, ‘till the next guitar entrance… It’s fantastic!
“Silver Tongue” is the heaviest one. Tremendous guitar intro and too much heaviness. Its riffs show the best Morse’s technique: the alternate picking. It’s heavy metal!
Then the bluesy “Walk On”. It’s a heavy but sad song, almost a ballad. The chorus has a perfect insertion, and the arrangement is very rich and consistent, with a great work by Roger Glover and Don Airey. The track-title “Bananas” is an excellent song. It could be a classic. The duel between guitar and keyboards is brilliant! It’s an inspiration island lost among a lot of “more or less” songs.
It’s mandatory to do a special mention to the last track. “Contact Lost” is a short instrumental act, some of the more beautiful seconds of Deep Purple’s composition. It begins with a long and emotive distorted guitar solo, changing to a set of classical harp-like guitars and keyboards, with a soft medieval touch. At least in the end…
The songs that complete the set-list of the album are just the usual hard’n’heavy of almost 40 years, however more hard than heavy in this album and without the brightness from other times.
Another point to consider is the quality fall of the Morse’s work. He’s elaborating very good riffs, but not how he did in albums like “Purpendicular”, for example, and the guitar solos are very shy and short, ignoring the virtuosi and choosing to hide behind pragmatic scales. There’s more keyboard solos than guitar solos in this album.
The lyrical part brings no surprises. It’s the Purple’s classic thematic: women, rock’n’roll, love, life experiences and internal struggles. There’s a lack of the bright of Deep Purple here too. There are, however, interesting things in some songs like “Picture of Innocence”, “Bananas” and “Walk On”, that just says: “If you don’t like what you see/If you can do better than me/Walk on”. This says just a little but says everything.
In overall lines, “Bananas” is just one more album of a great band that will not be a classic but will sell millions of copies. It’s very difficult to criticize a band as Deep Purple, but its grandiose and masterpieces-replete past does us hope much more than this. For the time being, it’s better listen to “In Rock”, “Made in Japan”, “Machine Head” and “Perfect Strangers” and take out bananas from the menu.