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That album cover is one of the worst I've ever seen in my entire life. And, you know, I've seen lots...
I promised myself not to write a review about this album, the harassed and bullied "Slaves and Masters". But I couldn't resist myself and here you got me, bashing the worst release of one of my top-3 favourite bands in heavy metal. Yeah, I did say "the worst" and it is the worst one, forget about Bolin's tragical death after "Come Taste the Band", ancient hippie oriented psychedelia in the late 60's with hit singles like "Hush". Let go the idea that, since Purpendicular, Deep Purple released a succesion of bad records, cause that's not entirely true (Bananas and Rapture of the Deep are respectable, though distant from those magic grooves made by the MK II and some portions of Coverdale/Hughes era). This one, no other but this one, is THE VERY VERY WORST album by DP.
I mean, here you can find a song with the devious and terrible title "Love Conquers All". Even for that australian duo Air Supply, those guys singing extremely pink and mellow cursi love songs would be embarassed to put this on a track. But, hey, DP did it, as they created heavy metal, they made the finest metal album ever and stuff. You know, Ritchie, my dear one, the only moment in my entire life when I said "Blackmore Sucks" was, precisely, after listening to this. Because we are all quite aware that this record was a whim of yours, and the good guys, Lord, Glover, Paice and Turner did their best, as they are very talented, to make this thing work... But, you know, Blackmore is a human after all...
I've been mistreated! I've been abused!
Believe me, darling, that's exactly what happens when every fan of heavy metal or Deep Purple, most particularly, listens to this. The fan starts to scream loud "I've been mistreated, I've been abused" and it comes from the bottom of the heart. It actually happens, give it a try. This thing is truly painful and you got no choice but to remember better times.
Even if we forget that this was made by Deep Purple and we think it was crafted by Foreigner, White Lion or even, to get even worst, Celine Dion, the content here sucks so much that it makes you believe that Dio's stomach adenocarcinoma started to grow right after he listened to this. I bet *insert ammount of money here* of dollars that you can't find some lyrics more stupid and dramatically mellow, cliché and oriented as the ones you get in "Fire in the Basement". Mix that with a weak and uninspired melody and there you get an example of how bad this thing is.
"You've got it bad, you're hopelessly addicted
You're always searching for the cure
Love is the crime, you stand convicted
You keep on coming back for more" ("Too Much is not Enough" - Fragment)
Mein gott!! Read that?? Am I getting clear enough to explain how lame this have got?? Add to those lyrics some gutless and flat rythmical lines and melodies and you will understand. It Is not bad to talk about love, mind you. The bad thing is to do it in this pathetic way. What happened with Deep Purple, those five guys in that live album "Made in Japan", filled with heavy metal power?? What happened with Ritchie Blackmore, the guy who smashed cameras, exploded equipment during massive live shows without giving a fuck about anything while he was fretting his guitar like no one else in this world ever did, does or will do. That guy here is posessed by a dark spirit (the same one who owns him now in Blackmore's Night, but with a little more dignity) and perhaps is even reflected in the cover picture. No doubt that spirit has the shape of a woman.
Maybe the formula is not that bad with a couple of songs, like "Fortuneteller" or "King of Dreams", pieces where the band remembers its real identity as metal (or hard rock, in this case) gods and throw us a couple of enjoyable songs ala AOR, like JLT Rainbow era (which is just slightly inferior to Dio's era of early epic power metal, in some places), with not so silly lyrics and some nice additions in the instrumentation, most of them by Maestro Lord. Link to these ones "The Cut Runs Deep", which contains the only riff to be remembered by Ritchie in this album (a good one, by the way) with some intrincate keyboarding lines and ballsy beats and, there you go, a good track (not excellent, good). Joe Lynn Turner does what he can but we all know he was not suitable for the job. And that's all we can say about him in this review, period.
And then, simply, there is nothing and I mean nothing to be highlighted here in the rest of this album. It is wrongdoing at maximum of the expressions. A non-suited vocalist with a terrible art cover and pathetic lyrics with no sense of creative music and there you go: "Slaves and Masters", a vomit by Blackmore, cause he can puke as well as every mortal does. For some fragments of "Fortuneteller" and "King of Dreams" and the riff and keyboarding at "The Cut Runs Deep", I give to this album 10 points. Because it is Deep Purple, they got some 20 extra points. And one extra point for actually recording some of the most pathetic lines ever sung in the rock world ("Love Conquers All" et al.). That should recieve some credit too.
Get away from this thing.
After the famed Mark II lineup of Deep Purple came back together, all felt right again and they delivered an all-time classic in “Perfect Strangers.” Grand record sales and a successful tour ensued and they churned another album, but this time a bit uneven in “The House of Blue Light.” Throughout that time, vocalist Ian Gillan and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore decided they didn’t like each other again and now it was time for another incarnation of Deep Purple. Gillan was out and Blackmore turned to the guy he hired to bring his other band Rainbow commercial success, Joe Lynn Turner. Essentially, this was now a band mixed like a pack of Skittles. Bassist Roger Glover also played with Rainbow as Ian Paice and Jon Lord were the only members not to ride the spectrum.
In essence, this album is a mix of material that could be found on the last albums of Rainbow and also songs that still fight with the Deep Purple spirit. The opener “King of Dreams” has thumping keyboards and mystical guitars that suit Turner’s voice perfectly. In fact, Turner puts some of the strongest performances on this album.
Turner receives some unfair criticism at times about his voice and while he can croon with the best of them, he knows when to insert attitude and enhance the songs. “Fire in the Basement” has the blend of attitude and sharp singing that is also one of the stronger cuts on the album. “Truth Hurts” has Turner oozing emotion that is a combination of one of Purple’s best songs from the David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes years in “Mistreated” and Rainbow’s “Can’t Let You Go.” The team of Turner and the melancholic rhythm sparked by the bass and keyboard make for a great song.
Musically, Blackmore shows bite with his guitar work on the closer “Wicked Ways” with a driving rhythm and a nice touch of the violin sprinkled in to deliver a more striking gesture. “The Cut Runs Deep” did not connect with me the first couple times I listened to it, mostly because of the awful sounding voice shouting “the cut runs deep.” Otherwise, the guitar effects and the drumming make it a winner. “Fortuneteller” has a brooding, mysterious atmosphere about a lady who wields the cards of the future. The bombast of the chorus and the string of keyboard notes further add to the aura and is a very memorable song.
It’s unfortunate that all the songs could not be as good as “Breakfast in Bed” tries to sound like “Lazy” in the beginning with the keyboard, but quickly devolves into an inoffensive, AOR that is rather underwhelming. However, when “Love Conquers All” hits, I found myself in a true face-palm moment. Deep Purple doing a power ballad? Say it ain’t so. Deep Purple is much better than this and for them to try to hop on that train for more success is pathetic. Needless to say, the song is super cheesy and super sucks. The last bit of badness arrives in the form of the commercial, poppy “Too Much is not Enough.” It sounds like a Rainbow reject and I had enough after one listen.
“Slaves and Masters” is a solid Deep Purple album and Turner provides energy to a band that lost some spark with the last effort “The House of Blue Light.” I can’t see Gillan singing the material on the album, let alone the power ballad, but that’s a good aspect as Turner was not forced to sing something that may not have been comfortable for him. “Wicked Ways”, “Fortuneteller” and “Fire in the Basement” provide incentives for repeated listens and enjoy yet another version of Deep Purple.
So Gillan left the band in the early-90’s and Deep Purple were once again looking for a replacement – Turner eventually got the job as Jon himself recalls:
“I myself was against Joe Lynn Turner from the beginning on. He just wasn't the singer I imagined. It's funny because in fact none of us wanted him, but he was the only one that was left. The guy we actually wanted (if we had to work with a replacement for Gillan), was the singer of Survivor (Jimi Jamison), a very nice, very quiet and very pleasant guy. He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers”.
“So one of us said: Why not try it with Joe Lynn Turner? And the others said: Not Joe again! I mean, he once was in Rainbow, then wasn't and then was – he was a kind of a “rent-a-singer”! But Joe agreed with the audition (something which surprised me), and he came and he sang like an angel, wonderful!”
The previous record The House Of The Blue Light didn’t satisfy the fans as much as Perfect Strangers did, as these guys committed a huge mistake by following an explicitly commercial direction in the vein of what most heavy metal/hard rock bands were doing by that time – Black Sabbath’s Seventh Star, Saxon’s Destiny or Accept’s Eat The Heat, for instance. Despite being preceded by a less convincing album, the following tour was a success – though soon personal differences between certain group members led to Ian’s departure. On Slaves And Masters, the group still focus on a more accessible, mainstream sound – inevitably reminiscent of 80’s Rainbow but featuring still some heavy, energetic tunes and 2 instant classics often included on this group’s countless hit compilations.
“King Of Dreams” exposes Deep Purple’s predilection by that time for sophistication, melody and certain poppy touch – verses and choruses are repetitive, while instrumental section avoids complex patterns to provide straight-up, refreshing heavy metal you can sing along. Riffing is as competent and powerful as usual – simplistic and truly polished this time, offering Turner’s vocals a solid basis, along with Lord’s unique Hammond textures. So there you go, another classic which shows these guys capability to compose current, well-arranged music without much pomp or ambition. Other tracks like the dynamic “The Cut Runs Deep” or the casual, fast-paced “Fire In The Basement” incorporate strong melodies and emphasized choruses too, revealing a greater instrumental effort from Blackmore and Lord, who deliver some lengthier solos, meticulous fills and a bigger quantity of arrangements and versatile structures. This new Mark-V line-up works particularly well – the chemistry between the combo Ritchie-Jon designs some admirably rich passages and refined arrangements, while Turner accompanies them with his charisma and elegant tone on those 2 fine cuts in particular. “Too Much Is Not Enough” and “Breakfast In Bed” still maintain the efficiency and competence in instrumental terms, adding a more casual, cheerful feel with even cleaner, more melodic arrangements, cool synthesizers and harmony vocals – embracing a totally commercial sound that however, doesn’t get necessarily unlistenable, cheesy or exhausted. “Wicked Ways” proves they can combined insistent verses with tastefully-constructed Arabic licks and lines as well, creating a cathartic climax in the style of Rainbow‘s “Eyes Of Fire” with a more dramatic feel here – while “Fortuneteller” slows down, presenting another emotional performance by Turner at his best.
This new formation I insist is working together immaculately, efficiently, not only on the execution of the music but on its design. Turner didn’t came in to sing and sign autographs only, he also got involved substantially on the song-writing process, incorporating his particular touch and own ideas to the equation. It seems he modified the original concept Blackmore & Lord came up with on certain cuts, as Jon says:
“There was this beautiful piece, which Ritchie and I had written, “Love Conquers All”. We once played it late at night, that is Ritchie and I played it together. It was very sad, very melancholy, it was introspective, but it was absolutely a Purple song, a bit like “When A Blind Man Cries” or the quiet parts in “Child In Time” or “Wasted Sunsets” – a ballad of the kind we sometimes play, a blues ballad but then Joe appeared and turned it into some sort of cabaret song”.
Definitely, Mr. Turner never intended to impersonate Gillan, nor imitate his style, tone or character – rather adding his distinctive talent, also providing the band of distinct charisma and attitude from previous Deep Purple singers. Lord admitted:
“Joe really has a super voice, he is a great singer. But he just isn't a Deep Purple singer – he is a pop-rock singer, he wants to be a pop star, who has girls at his feet as soon as he comes on stage (laughs), and I wish him all the luck. But Deep Purple surely wasn't an intermediate on his way to this... ”.
Certainly, the band followed a clearly mainstream direction on these cuts, but they never succumbed to the glam pop clichés – of course, the music is much better produced, including greater sophistication but that doesn’t mean Blackmore & co. have betrayed their roots completely. The bluesy touch is still present on “Fire In The Basement”, ferocity and speed prevails on “The Cut Runs Deep”, while the eternal baroque influence Ritchie and Jon can’t live without makes tunes like “Wicked Ways” richer and deeper. They also incorporate some immaculate, orchestral arrangements, particularly notable on the unforgettable ballad “Love Conquers All”, on which these guys create a truly touching, sentimental climax none of the previous 4 line-ups ever obtained. Although there’s no organ as Jon recalls:
“On the album the organ was missed and I have only noticed afterwards that this was a mistake, since it was exactly that (besides Joe Lynn Turner's voice), what made one question the identity of the band. But at the time it seemed inevitable to me, since the songs we had were not right for organ, it had to be synths (…).It was simply the case that I looked at the songs and searched for places to fit in the organ, but there were no such places. There were only places in which sometimes a fill was lacking (for which synths are much better), but there was no room for organ solos”.
So you see, the album is much better-arranged and produced certainly than the previous attempt or any of the Rainbow Turner era records – the atmosphere, sonic balance, the textures and the tasteful alternative elements added to Purple’s classic sound gave the music notable color and depth. The job of Mr. Glover should be highlighted as Lord expressed:
“Roger did some real Herculean work at the time to keep everything together – sometimes he went to Joe, sometimes to us, always to try and bring us together musically”.
Slaves And Masters is a solid record, the music comes out with fluidity, good chemistry and harmony between these guys, with cool melodies, lyrics and consistent instrumental basis – accompanied by Turner’s unique voice and presence. Sadly, the album wasn’t well-received by most fans, not even Deep Purple themselves seemed to be satisfied with the results. Jon explained:
“Joe's vision on this band was not our vision, he wanted to make something out of the band, which it couldn't be and we wanted to change him into something, which he couldn't be. It was marriage made in hell, not in heaven, and this hell became extremely hot very quickly. (…) The album seemed quite okay to us at the time and about some tracks – “Truth Hurts” or “Breakfast In Bed”, which I thought were interesting, I said: Yes, okay, I can live with that – but in the back of my head I kept hearing Gillan sing and I can't imagine any other singer for this band”.
Despite the bad reviews and ferocious criticism and vituperation, this record gives us the chance to enjoy some distinct production, feel, a new sound from a new incarnation of the Purple family, which shouldn’t be thought of as a sequel of the 80’s Rainbow years, nor this group’s answer to the reigning glam fashion.
"Slaves and Masters" is the only studio album (thankfully) to feature ex-Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, who Ritchie Blackmore bought into the band against the wishes of the other bandmembers. As Blackmore and bassist Roger Glover were also members of Rainbow this albums sounds like (what'd you expect?) Turner-era Rainbow. That means it sounds less-heavy and more AOR radio-friendly than Purple's best albums.
There is not a single song on this album which doesn't sound like Rainbow. Album single "King of Dreams," "Fire in the Basement," and "Fortuneteller" particularly fall into this category. "Love Conquers All" is a sappy ballad. "Breakfast in Bed" is weak and poppy. There aren't really any standout tracks on this record, but the heavier ones would be "King of Dreams" and "The Cut Runs Deep." There's no lack of musical ability on the part of the bandmembers, but (how many times must I say it?) this doesn't sound like Deep Purple!
This is a stylistic misstep and a confusing record which deviates greatly from the classic Deep Purple sound. Fans of latter-day Rainbow or Joe Lynn Turner might enjoy this, but for longtime Purple fans or anyone new to the music of this legendary band, "Slaves and Masters" is the one album which should be overlooked.