Excellent news: I’ve finally been reunited with my Shure SE530 headphones! After procrastinating for months I finally sought out and found my sales receipt and mailed them in. Less than a week later, they sent me a brand new pair. Man, I really should have taken care of that sooner! I was expecting 6 to 8 weeks or something ridiculous.
So now it’s time to celebrate with a really good album, something that really makes these guys scream, something that…
Oh, Deep Purple’s The House Of The Blue Light huh? Yeah… that’s cool I guess.
I’ve said it many times, the 1980′s were not kind to music. Deep Purple, in the two albums they made in the 80′s between breakups, reunions, and then breakups again, managed to go from defying the conventions of the 80′s to fully embracing them.
I’m not sure who to blame here, I mean Perfect Strangers, the predecessor to this album, sold remarkably well, and Deep Purple embarked on one of its most successful tours ever where every show sold out, including the ones they had to add last minute. That album didn’t sound much like the 80′s to me, so they recorded The House Of The Blue Light, apparently with the intention in mind of making an 80′s sounding album, and it sold… well not so well. So do I blame the 80′s for sucking or for Deep Purple for falling for it? Either way, this album isn’t actually that bad, considering all the elements that went into it.
For one, it didn’t take very long for the band to realize that this very lucrative get-together was taking a toll on everyone’s patience even faster than the first time (though not as fast as the band’s second reunion, which spawned one terrible album before the “Mark II” lineup was dissolved forever). For this reason, the album took a long time to make, and a lot of parts had to be re-done.
The thing about re-doing parts in the studio forever is that the free-flowing sense of improvisation and “a group effort” is impossible to maintain. This is not the Deep Purple who recorded “Machine Head”, from which the biggest hits were a song that was improvised on the spot and a song that was nothing more than the ridiculous true story of how that album was recorded.
No, instead what we have is a glitzy but chugging album of homogenized rock, every part played to perfection, but miles away from each other. That is, the album doesn’t have the feel of a group of guys playing together and rocking out. It’s a feeling that might be a bit subtle, but over-production has that effect.
Having said all that, there are some excellent bits to this album. There is a song called “Strangeways” that opens with Ian Gillan singing in 4 part harmony (possibly at the same time?) It has a good sense of arrangement about it, sounding kind of mystical, cheesy, and, well, video gamey. I like music that sounds video gamey, and I just realized I wrote that about a song on Perfect Strangers. Man I don’t even want to count the amount of times I’ve repeated myself on this terrible blog.
Anyway, another highlight happens to be my favorite song, though one that I would normally hate. It’s called “Mitzi Dupree” and it’s about Ian meeting a girl on a flight. One of the lines in the song just kills me, because the titular character asks Gillan “What do you do?” and his reply is “I’m a siiiiiinger in a band” which is delivered with his trademark “rocker” voice. I just love to picture that going down exactly like that in an airplane. If I were Ian Gillan I would always introduce myself by screaming out a line like that. The song is a bit dirty in a delightful way, as Mitzi introduces herself as “The Pinball Queen” and later that she’s “an entertainer”, and well read for yourself:
I said “What is this ‘Queen of the Ping Pong’ business?”
She smiled, “What do you think?
It has no connection with China.”
I said “OooOOOoooOOoh! Have another drink!”
Well i knew right away
That I’d seen her act before
In a room behind a kitchen in Bangkok
And three or four times more in Singapore
That’s actually pretty great, and actually it’s not the only naughty song on the set, certainly “Hard Lovin’ Woman” would have made Spinal Tap quite proud. Nearly every line is just a wonderful euphemism for gettin’ it on with a woman who has clearly had a lot of mileage under her belt.
“Dead Or Alive”, which ends the album, is one of the few songs that are what I would consider close to “original” Deep Purple speed. Unfortunately, like with the rest of this album and the previous album, Ian Paice’s monstrous drumming is kind of just there. There are precious few fills to speak of, and back in the day that guy could throw out already amazing drum-lines with fills that just melt your face. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not thinking about his performance on the black and white “Live In Denmark ’72″ video, and believe me that’s a lot of time for a red-blooded totally straight man like me to be thinking about another man with no shirt on.
Anyways, there is one unfortunate thing about this album that unfortunately couldn’t have been helped by anything; Ian Gillan’s voice was all but wrecked by this time. Though he can toss out as many high notes as he ever could, the overall tone of his voice was just permanently set to “squeal” mode. Indeed, this wasn’t such a huge problem on this album, honestly he had worse problems (video hint: JUST LOOK AT HIM), but really, singing like he does and doing hundreds of shows per year is just not something a human should do. I really have to admire the guy and his fluffy hair.
So yes, good album, not great, some funny moments, and now I’m off to listen to even more stuff with my majestic headphones. Until then!