How do you follow up your best album in three decades? If you’re Deep Purple, you enlist the same producer (Bob Ezrin), pray the muse is still on board, and stay the course. Four years after Now What?! showed the world Deep Purple still had the roar, riffs and raunch to piece together a cohesive rock record, comes inFinite, the band's 20th and quite possibly final studio album. As they embark on their “Long Goodbye Tour,” one can only speculate that if this is, in fact, Purple’s final lap, they apparently want to go out with a bang. Rising to the occasion, cast in all its glory and gumption, inFinite strives to leave a savory taste in everyone’s membrane, right to the very last drop.
If you pick up the CD/DVD version of inFinite, the 90-minute ‘From Here To Infinite’ documentary offers some remarkable insight into how the album was made — from writing and molding the songs, to recording in Nashville and Toronto. It’s a revealing examination of the process, Ezrin’s role in tying it all together, and the exceptional musicianship of Deep Purple. The chemistry is the foundation of Purple, and to see and hear it breathe and exhale from one song to the next is why the album, as bassist Roger Glover notes, is the best format for this band to summon their magic.
There’s a bit of whimsy and humor on tracks like the pedestrian “Hip Boots” and the more than slippery “One Night In Vegas.” Perhaps this helps balance the material for the heavier, proggier numbers blooming with drama, flair and sheer heroics. It’s easy enough to wrap yourself around the melody of “Time for Bedlam,” thrill at Don Airey’s keys on “All I Got Is You,” and raise your fist to drummer Ian Paice’s Zeppelinesque muscle on “Get Me Outta Here.” The scattered majesty of “The Surprising” pulls you in from the heat before “Johnnie’s Band” lightens the mood with a loose rock and roll tale of survival.
You’ll notice, at this point, that at the core of the band’s perilous sonic assault are Airey and guitarist Steve Morse — each punctuating the music with an indelible stamp all their own, while staying ever so mindful of the imprint of their predecessors. Nowhere do the elements coalescence so beautifully as they do on the album’s most ambitious tome, “Birds Of Prey.” Built on a monumental riff from Glover, singer Ian Gillan delivers a fervent, controlled vocal, Paice sets a definitive tempo, and Morse’s guitar sings over the home stretch with all the breadth, grandeur and passion of Carsuso. You really have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after this one. Then a cover of the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” comes tumbling across as an afterthought — and an unnecessary one at that.
Nevertheless, if this is the last big sendoff, inFinite stands as testament of Deep Purple’s immense power and prestige. If you listen to the record’s drive and intensity, your first impression is that this doesn’t sound like a band ready to retire. It sounds more like they’ve caught their second wind and could carry on for another 10 years. You hear it all the time about groups calling it a day, only to make a comeback the very next year. The Scorpions announced their retirement in 2010 and they’re still going strong. Countless others see no end in sight. With extensive touring plans ahead and momentum in the works, Deep Purple’s long goodbye could very well be inFinite.
~ Shawn Perry