A new Deep Purple studio album is always an event for a rock magazine. Especially when it's their first for eight years, since "Rapture Of The Deep", and the first for 17 years, since "Purpendicluar", which doesn't leave the CD player after three compulsory runs. "NOW What?! is a successful record, which will certainly pass the everyday test, but of course it can't keep up with the big works of this still extraordinary band. The linchpin on "NOW What?!" is keyboarder Don Airey. The much-travelled Brit had taken the place of Jon Lord eleven years ago. For several years he has been the most conspicuous actor live with Ian Paice, and he plays this trump card on almost every one of the eleven new tracks. Some songs even seem to be draped around an Airey solo. On the other hand, the 64-year-old benefits from the fact that Purple have worked on the new tracks at Jamsessions and that Don is the centre of attention as a playful-creative asset. In addition, the rhythm crew with Roger Glover and Paice works at the highest level, while guitarist Steve Morse is mostly inconspicuous. And unfortunately Ian Gillan's age is now even noticeable in the studio. The songwriter credits are shared fraternally with star producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Kiss, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel and others). Especially strong seems to have been Ezrin's influence on the last track of the album. "Vincent Price" sounds like it was left unfinished in Alice Cooper's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" sessions. There is no doubt that Purple will add their sound to every song. While "Vincent Price" does this exceptionally well, the group should have held back with their trademarks on "Blood From A Stone". This Nick-Cave-meets-Lou-Reed-meets-Eric-Burdon- piece didn't necessarily need the classic Purple-Sound stamp. Just as unusual, but fitting and well integrated, are the Emerson,-Lake- &-Palmer-sounds of "Uncommon Man". Even Emerson's previous troupe The Nice are taken from some sound quotes on "Après Vous". For long stretches, "NOW What?!" sounds as if Deep Purple had built in some "In Rock" remnants based on "Perfect Strangers". The first three songs, "A Simple Song", "Weirdistan" and "Out Of Hand", become classic purple material that could and should be on future setlists. However, it's to be feared that the weakest track "Hell To Pay" also manages this.
Top track: Vincent Price