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The RCA Years, Volume One - 100%

Metal_Thrasher90, May 23rd, 2008

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.