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When Deep Purple lost its shade after “Come Taste the Band”; it was the perfect time for the band to end. The Mark IV lineup with new guitarist Tommy Bolin provided an album that didn’t live up to the Deep Purple name with the simplified songs and a huge blues influence. By 1984, the stars had aligned for the famed Mark II lineup to comeback. Ian Gillan had just finished his stint with Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow had reached the end of the spectrum. Bassist Roger Glover, master of the ivories Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice were all back on board to give the fans what they craved; the Mark II lineup back in action.
The boys do not disappoint either delivering a great dose of hard rocking tunes and Blackmore once again regaining his edge after some poppy Rainbow albums. Songs like “Knockin’ at Your Back Door” and the well-known title track will stick in your head for days. Blackmore shows his knack for writing memorable riffs and to highlight a solo with the former and the title track is a great piece of songwriting with an awesome keyboard intro and a soulful vocal performance by Gillen.
There are no tricks or venturing of the purple mark on this record as any listener can tell how the guys were rejuvenated and genuinely happy being back together again. The neoclassical meanderings of “Hungry Daze” and the up-tempo, keyboard driven “Gypsy’s Kiss” are reminders of just how good these musicians are and the music they create. My version also has “Not Responsible” which reminds me of “A Light in the Black” from the famed Rainbow “Rising” album and that certainly is not a bad thing.
The only misstep is the ballad “Wasted Sunsets.” While I adore Blackmore’s guitar performance, the songs does not fit in with the rest of the album and breaks up the rocking, no-holds-barred pacing that was carrying on. The song is also not that good and the least memorable. Some flack is also given to “Mean Streak” for the lame chorus, but that is more of a minor quip than anything.
“Perfect Strangers” is the definitive example of a comeback album not being a failure. In fact, this is one of the best Purple releases. The songs are full of inspiring writing, memorable songs, and the formidable tandem of Lord and Blackmore dueling with the keyboard and guitar. “Knockin’ at Your Back Door” and the title track will keep you coming back for more because this is how a comeback should be.
After the almost-deadly strike given by Coverdale/Hughes society in their third record "Come Taste the Band", the world thought that was about to be the definitive end of Deep Purple, one of the two (or maybe more) bands who pioneered heavy metal. Sadness and void were attached deeply into the fans. They felt they were forsaken.
Anyway, maybe for monetary reasons and no other one, legendary Mark II was reunited. The event was legendary by itself: Blackmore, Lord and Paice with Gillan and Glover. Yeah, the crowds were going wild waiting for it and screaming loud "the Metal Gods are Returning". Like a magic trick, they drop out what would become one of their finest albums ever: Perfect Strangers.
The main opener alone can be considered a legend: Knocking at Your Back Door, with the unique rubato intro provided by Jon Lord, quickly merges the listener to a very Deep Purple universe. The catchy sex-themed lyrics and the nice beating combination by Paice and Glover makes this piece a forever living classic in the band's repertoire. Also, this piece gives us something different from Mark II. Usually, their opener songs were speedy and powerful, but this one enters in a "moderato" level. Anyway, there are no complaints, it is a masterpiece.
Ritchie, the String Sorcerer, Blackmore claimed once that his favourite song ever was Under the Gun. I don't remember exactly where or when he said that, but this piece is actually a blast. DP gives us pure traditional heavy metal, with the whole band breaking everything away. Blackmore's performance has some extra points here.
Nobody's Home has, as well, some funny lyrics with a catchy chorus. It is almost a recycled tune from "Burn" (Lay Down, Stay Down, exactly) and has some heavy metal power on it, besides the catchy spirit it has. The star here is Ian Paice. He is the one who keeps the fire up, who maintains the correct temperature for the thing.
The fist filler here, Mean Streak, is what we like to name a "good straightforward rocker". Maybe, it can sound weak alongside the bunch of powerful tunes here, but somehow manages to survive.
Following this, we found a couple of great songs in DP's catalog: Perfect Strangers, the main theme of the album, it doesn't have a Blackmore solo, but there are some rubato-like fragments which are leitmotifs of what happened in Knocking at Your Back Door. Another hit single worldwide and a powerful hard rocking song. Then, Gypsy's Kiss returns us to the heavy metal realms, speedy and joyful. Can you believe me if I tell you that there are, actually, keyboards' riffs?? If you don't, listen to this song. Jon Lord (and Blackmore, of course) gives us a powerful and speedy riff. And the singing, well, remains a bit groovy, but it is heavy metal, it has the heavy metal riffing, beating and style. A great song.
Deep Purple always gives us nice ballads. Wasted Sunsets is not an exception. Are they talking about themselves here? Maybe, maybe not. But is a dark slow piece, the darkest ballad by DP ever.
For the closing, yeah, an underrated filler by DP: Hungry Daze. Blackmore frets like hell in here, followed by Maestro Lord. But the stars here are Gillan, Glover and Lord. Those thres guys fill the atmosphere of the song, giving a total metal mood, pumping everything away. The bonus track Non Responsible also has the same feeling.
But, just for the record, the song which is beyond any reach here is Son of Alerik, the bonus track created by Ritchie Blackmore in a jamming session. It has a sublime magic power. Starts with a moody and flowing atmosphere and evolves into a slow dancing vortex, thanks to Blackmore and Lord soloing. A major piece you should enjoy as soon as possible, if you haven't done that before.
Yeah, this album is great. It has the heavy metal spirit and beat DP MK II always has with a touch radio friendly tunes. But, hey, we talk about Deep Purple, the guys that took early heavy metal to the grand masses. Remember Smoke on the Water? Well, that is. This band is very, very beyond that hit single, but they really know how to make metal songs with a nice additive of poppish sounds. Metal Gods, charismatic Metal Gods. That's what they are.
Deep Purple were one of the most influential metal and rock bands of all time. Their influence can be found far and wide the metal community. Most notably, Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Ritchie Blackmore pioneered a guitar playing style that was foreign to the listener. Ritchie, along with the other members of Deep Purple have influenced a generation of musicians.
Everything changed when the Mark II lineup (Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Jon Lord ) broke up after the release of the album "Who do We think We Are!" in 1973. A couple of solid albums followed with David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass. Albums like "Burn" and "Stormbringer" which are brilliant were soon released with this new lineup. Once again, there were line up changes. Ritchie Blackmore left the group to pursue a solo career. "Come Taste The Band" was released in 1975 to much appreciation by the fans. This album would be last with the Deep Purple name on it for almost ten years.
The year was 1984, it was a great year for metal. Judas Priest's "Defenders Of The Faith", Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" and Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" were all released. There was another brilliant album that came out that year. It was the first Deep Purple album in almost ten years and the first from the Mark II lineup in over ten years. Would "Perfect Strangers" live up tp the hype or would it fizzle under the pressure?
The opener is an instant classic. "Knocking At Your Backdoor", one of the longest Deep Purple studio songs and it kicks this album off with a bang. This song is an instant and joins others at that level like "Mistreated", "Highway Star" and "Demon's Eye". This classic starts off with a great keyboard and guitar intro. When the action finally begins, Ian Gillan proves that he hadn't lost anything. He belts out some great lyrics and hits the high notes ("It's not the kill, It's the thrill of the c-h-aaaaaaaaaa-s-e"). This song has one hell of a catchy chorus. Ritchie Blackmore provides a Godly solo that starts a little after the 3:40 mark. "Knocking At Your Backdoor" might be a seven minute epic but when it's finally over the listener will be asking themselves where did the time go because this solid tune doesn't feel long. The last ninety seconds or so is an instrumental jam to conclude this phenomenal journey.
Next up, we have "Under The Gun". This song isn't as classic as the opening track but it is still mighty fine. "Under The Gun" starts off with an aggressive introduction then kicks into high gear with Ian Gillan coming in and providing some beautiful vocals. Again, like the first song and for many others Ritchie Blackmore is a God on the guitar and kicks the listeners asses by giving a solo like no other.
"Nobody's Home" is next on deck and this track doesn't let anyone down. Jon Lord provides a spacey keyboard intro. This reminds us all of the glory days of Deep Purple with the splendid keyboard work by the master, Mr. Lord. This intro lasts for about fifteen seconds then all hell breaks loose. "Nobody's Home", like "Knocking At Your Backdoor" has a very catchy chorus and will stay in your head for days. This is not a bad thing. Ritchie plays well but John Lord steals the show with a superb keyboard solo two minutes in.
"Mean Streak" is next. This tune is right to the point. No keyboard, drum or guitar intro. This is a good thing because a few songs have intros and you don't want repetition. "Mean Streak" slows the pace down a little after the non stop action from the previous songs. Ritchie shows that he didn't lose anything while in Rainbow and gives us some good guitar work. "Mean Streak" finishes with a little keyboard outro.
"Perfect Strangers". What can I say about this song that hasn't already been said? Along with "Knocking At Your Backdoor", "Perfect Strangers" is an instant classic and fan favourite. In twenty years, when people are thinking about the songs that defined Deep Purple's career, there will be songs like "Hush", "Smoke on the Water", "Pictures of Home" and "Woman From Tokyo" but "Perfect Strangers" and "Knocking At Your Backdoor" will get the same recognition. John Lord provides a great keyboard intro to get this song started. This song has a good feel to it and Ian Paice does a tremendous job on the drums. Ritchie Blackmore teases your ear with a killer riff that just won't quit. Ian Gillan does some great vocal work on this track. At the four minute mark this song truly explodes into greatness with a simple but elegant jam to finish this classic.
"A Gypsy's Kiss" follows the title track and continues the trend of greatness. This track starts off with a full head of steam. The presence of John Lord and Ritchie Blackmore is exquisite with a brilliantly simple but mesmerizing drum beat from the main man on the kit, Ian Paice. At one point, this songs plays like it was written by a regular power metal band. After listening to this, trying to explain that Deep Purple didn't have much of an influence is futile. This is one of the best songs off of this album. A must for all fans and for people researching the roots of metal. The guitar and keyboard work could not be better and if it was it would be illegal.
"Wasted Sunsets" is next and is the obligatory ballad. I'm not complaining because Deep Purple know how to do ballads. Ian Gillan sings with emotion and it comes out beautifully. Not much to say about this song except that is some great lyrics and a fine guitar solo.
"Hungry Daze", wow! This tune came from nowhere. Like the other reviewer said, this song has the feel of "(We Are) The Road Crew" and other songs of that nature. The lyrics are enjoyable as it is a retrospective of a holy career. Ian Paice starts things off with a blistering drum beat. Then the song turns into some sort of neo classical piece. This is for sure the dark horse of the album. Again, a great guitar solo which makes a good song even better.
Now depending on the version of "Perfect Strangers" that you have or are planing to buy, there are the possibility of two bonus tracks. "Not Responsible" and "Son of Alerik". The first of the two is typical 1970s Deep Purple song. There is nothing outstanding about this song but it only solidifies this album. "Son of Alerik" is an epic for the ages. This ten minute instrumental is definitely not for the weak of heart. This song brings us back to the epic days "Child in Time" and other great songs. This instrumental jam brings out the best in everyone. It's a shame that not everyone might have access to this track.
In conclusion, "Perfect Strangers" is one of the best reunion albums on the market. Deep Purple lived up to all the hype and expectations. The Mark II lineup shows us its dominance and leaves us wanting more. This album is filled with great tracks but especially the two classics, one being the title track and the other the opening song. This album is recommended not only to the die hards who were dying of joy when the reunion took place in'84 but for all casual fans and metal/hard rock fans in general. Depending on the version of the album that is available, some might miss out on two tracks. If this happens, download these songs so you can experience this album in its entirety.