Deep Purple has gone through so many line-up changes that the first thing fans want to know about a new release is who is in the band. For this set of new music the band consists of singer Ian Gillan, drummer Ian Paice, bass man Roger Glover, longtime guitarist Steve Morse and keys player Don Airey.
Lead off track "A Simple Song" begins with a mellow and jazzy, very prog-gy passage, but a couple of minutes in an explosion of loud guitar and organ puts the song in more familiar Purple territory.
"Weirdistan" and "Out of Hand" are also prog numbers but "Hell to Pay" is classic Purple hard rock obviously influenced by oldie "Highway Star."
Album highlight "Blood from a Stone" is a slow, eerie-sounding shuffle inspired by the blues where Paice's time-keeping anchors the music while the other instruments and Gillan's voice bob and weave through the ether.
"Uncommon Man" showcases Morse's guitar work, allowing him to rip it up for fully half of the almost 7-minute song before the vocals kick in, "Apres Vous" opens with Airey channeling Keith Emerson and "Vincent Price" closes the album on a spooky a la Alice Cooper note.
Longtime fans may need a bit of time to warm up to NOW What?! but the album is a fine example of how a band can continue to evolve while also retaining familiar elements.
Deep Purple - NOW What?!