Monday, August 18, 2014

Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers Turns 30.

1984 saw the return of the classic or "Mark II" lineup of one of the most popular bands in the world: Deep Purple. The waters of forgiveness were set to be tested in 1982 with plans for a comeback album and tour to follow but vocalist Ian Gillan was sidelined by his doctors and ordered not to sing for at least six months or risk permanent damage to his vocal chords, thus canceling the remaining dates of touring with his solo band Gillan. The remaining Mark II alumni carried on a while longer with the bands they were in at that point: Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and bassist Roger Glover in Rainbow, keyboardist Jon Lord in Whitesnake, and drummer Ian Paice with Gary Moore. In the spring of 1984 the members got together once again and began planning a triumphant return with a new album and tour. It's rumored that Ritchie Blackmore wanted Whitesnake vocalist and former Mark III member David Coverdale on the mic but apparently that was not to be.

In my opinion, DP returned in fine form with their signature blend of classical and blues influenced yet slightly progressive hard rock solidifying why some have called the band 1/3 of the Unholy Trinity of British Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The album Perfect Strangers was recorded in the state of Vermont in the summer of 84 and released that fall. It reached #17 on the Billboard Top 200 and went to #5 in the UK. Roger Glover is named 1st in production credit and would explain the bass guitar being in the forefront of the album mix. The album produced three singles. The title track Perfect Strangers reached #12 on Billboards Mainstream Rock Tracks and the opener Knocking at Your Back Door reached #61 on the Billboard Hot 100. Both of these songs, for me, are very underwhelming. A third single, Nobody's Home, reached #20 on Billboards Mainstream Rock Tracks. It's this track, along with the two other songs sandwiched between the album opener and the title track that is the hot spot for me. Under The Gun is a tight organ/guitar driven rocker with solid bass and drums creating firm foundation. Nobody's Home begins with a bit of tell tale early 80's synthesizer before busting in with a fat guitar lick and great bass groove. Mean Streak is pure vintage Mark II Deep Purple; blues-kissed hard rock.

A massive and quite lucrative world tour would follow the album release and carry over through the following year. This classic yet fragile lineup would go on to release 2 more albums; The House Of Blue Light in '87 and Nobody's Perfect( Live) in '88 before Ian Gillan would be axed due to continuing tension between Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore. But as luck would have it, the vocalist would return again in '92 and the classic Mark II lineup would record their last studio album The Battle Rages On in '93. Ritchie Blackmore would exit Deep Purple for good in the Fall of that year. Who knew how prophetic Perfect Strangers would become? To this day, Deep Purple have continued to tour and record music.  Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse has since taken over on guitar. Keyboardist Don Airey joined in 2002 when Jon Lord retired from the band. Lord passed away in 2012. Throughout the bands 38 years of combined formation, drummer Ian Paice has remained the only member who has not left and returned to Deep Purple while they were active. For me, DP are truly one of the few true pioneers of hard rock and Heavy Metal. They have influenced countless American and European bands, as well as The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Personally, I prefer the material from the Mark II and Mark III lineups, but their catalog as a whole is brilliant. 100 million albums sold worldwide can't be wrong. 
Happy 30th Perfect Strangers!

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