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You know what's funny? Slaves And Masters is a very misleading album. If you think about it, if you hadn't heard a note off of it, but had only heard what the band members themselves had said about it, and just read a few reviews around, you'd probably think it would be at least a pretty good album. Mainly because, Ritchie himself said he thought it was the best album Deep Purple ever did after the reunion, Ian Gillan said it was a pretty good album, and Joe Lynn Turner said that it was the last truly great album Deep Purple ever did. And if you did just look around, you'd see it was somewhat criticized but there are still a lot of fans of it and besides that it's just sort of forgotten.
But overall, you'd assume it would be at least a halfway decent release, but it REALLY isn't! But they honestly were clever in how they set up the album because they put the best track first. "King Of Dreams" isn't particularly special, but it features a mysterious sounding Jon Lord keyboard intro which catches your attention instantly. It then leads into a poppy but very catchy track with a unique solo from Ritchie, some very "Perfect Strangers" esque drumming, and a chorus you'll unfortunately find yourself humming a lot. But like so many bad albums, it only goes downhill from there...
Next we here "The Cut Runs Deep" which has (again proving how good the band was at structuring this album) a rather exciting opening keyboard line and riff that leads into a rather driving groove. However, it simply goes on to long(5:42) and gets a tad too repetitve despite the consistently solid keyboard/organ work. From here, the album basically proves itself to be a tease because at the beginning or middle of each song, they will throw a really strong powerful part at you making you think it's finally going to get good but then they just go back to the same generic Whitesnake worship the rest of the album has.
To be fair, overall the first two tracks are good enough, nothing to write home about but they're still fun. It's after this that the album actually begins to get offensive.
First of all, Joe Lynn Turner's vocals will DRIVE YOU FRIGGIN' MAD! Having to endure 45 minutes of generic 80's crooning not helped by cliche heart break lyrics is just too much. Don't believe me? Give a listen to "Love Conquers All" which is a complete POWER BALLAD! I'm dead serious, this is more syrupy then "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" and "Street Of Dreams" combined and yet without the guilty pleasure aspect (well at least for the latter) in terms of melodies. It's just completely uninventive, and the only thing it will get out of you is frustration in hearing a once great band throwing out such lackluster material.
That's the only song that actually conjures up such frustration. No the real thing that makes this album such a stinker is really just because it seems to go on forever. These song have absolutely nothing to keep you interested. "Truth Hurts", "Breakfast In Bed", and "Wicked Ways" are completely devoid of qualities could tell you I found the slightest bit memorable other then a few guitar or keyboard leads. It's all just generic pop fluff that occasionally gets more bluesy in attempt to satisfy the old school fans, but we all know that doesn't work. I swear you'll find yourself looking at the track listing more often then you'll spend actually focusing on the music. I'm sorry, but if I find reading about sports more interesting then listening to your music then you know there's something wrong. Everything is underplayed, almost as if even they really don't give a crap about what their playing and are only doing this to get the paycheck that comes with it. I hear absolutely no enthusiasm in anybody's performance here except for maybe Turner but that doesn't really help here.
One of questions I found asking during hearing this was: Why did this album have to be made? Honestly all it's really doing is trying to cash in on the commercial market by fusing syrupy 80's pop(a sound that has no place in Deep Purple) with rock music which was very dated at the time this came out. I mean think about it, this album came out at the end of 1990, and the material on here MAY have been somewhat successful had it been released in 1984, but by October of 1990? That was a different era, and obviously their plan didn't work because this album wasn't very successful when it came out. I mean JLT said himself they were commercializing their sound to get money, but why on earth in 1990 would you think playing THIS type of material would get you that? Okay so maybe the obligatory power ballad might still get you some success, but pop induced blues rock? It's just a combo that never quite works. So, in the end, wouldn't have just been better to make music naturally instead of thinking "lets make money" since you clearly weren't capable of doing that in aforementioned era.
I guess it's only appropriate I mention some of the better aspects of this album. As I mentioned before "King Of Dreams" is a solid fun track with some strong musicianship and "The Cut Runs Deep" is decent enough in terms of vocal harmonies and guitar/keyboard leads to keep interested enough for about 3 and half to 4 minutes, but you may be wondering what else? Well, "Fortuneteller" seems like it's going to be good but like the other songs get sucked into the vortex of boring (again sounding like "we want to be popular but we don't really like the music we're playing") when it starts to repeat itself over and over and over. "Too Much is not Enough" and "Fire in the Basement" both have some finer qualities and solid grooves, but aren't anything truly exceptional. I will say that the latter has Turner's best vocal performance on the album, proving he can be a good singer when he wants to, but rarely does he actually put the effort into it.
Overall, this is a desperate album coming from a then desperate band. It's too bad though because they could clearly still play, and by watching the live shows of the era you can really see they had a playing chemistry, but they obviously DIDN'T have a writing chemistry because this album simply sounds scatterbrained and forced with the still amazing musicianship of Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and Glover simply not able to save it. So, in conclusion I think we can safely add this to the "albums that prove 'insert band name here' CAN do wrong'" list.