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A Welcome Return - 75%

Superchard, November 10th, 2018

I'd imagine if there was anyway to describe how the most iconic deep purple lineup probably felt after 11 years of their main man Ian Gillan not being in the band, and being completely inactive for a long, hard 9 years after 1975's Come Taste the Band put a one too many nails in the coffin by prompting Ritchie Blackmore to make his exit to get away from the funk aspirations of mid 70's Deep Purple and Ian Gillan having already left to pursue his own sadly overlooked solo career that carried on the old Deep Purple sound that fans would be missing out on on releases like Mr. Universe and even exploring jazz fusion and funk on Clear Air Turbulence. He'd even join up with Black Sabbath for a highly controversial release by the name of Born Again, an album I am not particularly fond of, but admire the effort considering the clashing styles that were being put together. Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Roger Glover would all follow suite as well to pursue their own solo careers, and of course David Coverdale would form his very own Whitesnake. Wow, a lot can happen in such a ridiculously long span of time, and it would seem that Deep Purple was dead and gone as early on as 1975.

And then Perfect Strangers happened. It's an album that has insurmountable odds stacked against it, and yet fan reception was overwhelmingly positive to the point that they had become the most successful touring act of the year, second only to Bruce Springsteen, a little factoid that puts a look of complete disgust on many a Deep Purple fan's face. Not only would they be a hit out on the road, they'd actually managed to sell and go platinum for the second time in their career, the first being the sales for Machine Head. Now call me crazy, but I don't necessarily think that the numbers necessarily reflect the true merit of the album. It's certainly not perfect (no pun intended). I'm sure the sales have more to do with the fact that Deep Purple had died for a grueling nine years, and we hadn't seen mk II Deep Purple for eleven. Oh sure, they toured in that time, but it's not the Deep Purple you think it is, it was actually the original singer Rod Evans who had set up a complete farce of a band comprised of members of Steppenwolf. Shows resulted in riots and Evans was sued to the great beyond. As much as it'd have been cool to see a genuine return of the original singer in a proper reunion with the actual band, I'd take Gillan over him any day on Perfect Strangers.

More to the point though, as I previously stated, I don't think this album is really all that and a bag of chips as the sales may have indicated. Sure it's good and all, but there's some really weak material here too such as the opening track, "Knocking At Your Back Door". The worst song on the album and they made it the attention grabber? This was a poor choice, they definitely should've started off with something like "Under the Gun" or "A Gypsy's Kiss" instead because my first impression with Perfect Strangers wasn't even lukewarm at best. Halfway through the long-winded, boring and painfully average opener and I was ready to put the album down and come back to it another day where I could try to give it another shot with perhaps a more open mind. Yet still to I think this song, if anything was probably an inspiration for Dire Straits "Money for Nothing". It has that same mid-tempo songwriting that's predominantly riff lead in and overly repetitive. The title track doesn't have much going for it either other than some pleasing vocal melody transitions and a desert nomad empiric march quality soaking the verses. Half the song is well written and cohesive, the other half is Blackmore plucking notes that do nothing more than carry the song along for Gillan to sing over it.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, I think Perfect Strangers represents a remarkably well-crafted return to form that hadn't been present on the Coverdale albums proceeding it. Not to say that any one of those are necessarily bad albums either. I think each of them all brought something new and fresh to the table, but the overwhelming consensus is that Coverdale was moving Deep Purple into a more commercial light as evidenced by the more upbeat pop numbers on Come Taste the Band or the soulful fan favorite ballad "Soldier of Fortune" from Stormbringer. Bringing Gillan and Blackmore back to the fray brought back the raw spirit that hadn't been present since Who Do We Think We Are?, and mk. II Deep Purple pulls that off here so convincingly well here that newcomers won't notice that the band had been disbanded for so long. Aficionados on the other hand may have more nuanced opinions over this album. As for me, I think it's a little bit on the generic side and plays the game too safe to stack it up with the only other album in their discography to go platinum, with the only exceptions being the title track and "Hungry Daze" where Gillan gets a little too into his vocal delivery towards the end of the song and sounds like he's about to vomit. If that doesn't bother you, you'll be in for a song that offers much the same as the title track. I think it could've been omitted and replaced with "Not Responsible" or perhaps the epic 10 minute instrumental epic, "Son of Alerik" which weren't included on the original release.

As great as Perfect Strangers was, it was a short-lived claim to fame, and they'd prove they could only manage to come back for one good album with most fans having distaste for its followup, The House of Blue Light. Whatever magic they'd been able to muster up here on now overlooked classics here such as "A Gypsy's Kiss" or "Mean Streak" would all too soon be gone for most fans. For me personally, I'm just glad that Ian Gillan isn't singing for Black Sabbath anymore and that Ritchie Blackmore had cut the crap with the washed Rainbow of the early 80's. Likewise, having David Coverdale replaced with what I consider to be a superior vocalist is a welcome addition as well.

Superchard gets super hard for:
A Gypsy's Kiss
Under the Gun
Nobody's Home