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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”.