Deep Purple is in the midst of their “Long Goodbye Tour.” The British heavy metal band formed in 1968, and despite a change of lead singers and other personnel, they have managed to inspire adoring fans and critical acclaim. However, after the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, persistent rumors have swirled that Deep Purple was calling it quits.
Those rumors seem less than speculative after singer Ian Gillen talked about the band’s future and possibility of reuniting with former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Blackmore left the band in 1993. The “Long Goodbye Tour” began in May 2017 and is scheduled to end during the fall of 2018. The band will cover North and South America, Asia and Europe. According to the band’s schedule, a date in Montreux, Switzerland is included. For those who might have forgotten, that city is the setting of the true story Deep Purple made famous in “Smoke on the Water.” The current tour supports the group’s latest album, “Infinite,” which was released April 2017.
Just in case this is the last time audiences will have a chance to see Deep Purple live, and because the band’s 50-year history is remarkable, it seems necessary to look back on some of the group’s most unique and memorable songs.
“Pictures of Home” by Deep Purple
While “Smoke on the Water,” and “Highway Star,” and even the muscular “Space Truckin'” receive an awful lot of attention for the roles they play in the sound of Deep Purple’s debut album, “Machine Head,” the darkly poetic “Pictures of Home” deserves to be part of that discussion as well.
Arguably, “Machine Head” is one of those albums that doesn’t have a bad song on it. “Pictures of Home” and the aforementioned songs are all proof of that. The soundscape is dominated by an organ, probably a Hammond, as played by the late Jon Lord. The notes are dark and urgent. The sound of the chords recalls winter, and the stark bitterness of the season. The lyrics help to draw that picture of a cold, unforgiving land. “I’m alone here/with emptiness, eagles and snow/unfriendliness chilling my body/and whispering pictures of home.”
The chorus is effective in summing up the song. Bird imagery works well, too, in this song. References to the “black footed crow” make the song dark. The line “how can they find me” further points to a narrator in need of rescue. The compact song has the feel of an adventure narrative and is a classic that most people had to hear on the album, as opposed to waiting for radio play.
“Stormbringer” by Deep Purple
From the ninth studio album “Stormbringer” (1974) the title track is a stirring song. The near-mythical power of the title character is brought to life with then-frontman David Coverdale’s rapid-fire lyrics. Squelchy, hard-driving keyboards coupled with pounding drums open the song. “Coming out of nowhere/driving like rain/Stormbringer dance on the thunder again” is a standout line that kicks off the song and sets the pace. The instrumentation includes heavy, nuanced guitar work that must be heard to be appreciated. Lines like “Stormbringer coming/time to die” keep the song dark.
Coverdale’s work here is underappreciated, and this song doesn’t get discussed often enough. The moody, fast-paced song is rare, and it works for this 1970’s era of Deep Purple.
“King of Dreams” by Deep Purple
“King of Dreams” by Deep Purple is found on the band’s 1990 album “Slaves and Masters.” While it is not as danceable as “You Can’t Do It Right,” “King of Dreams” kicks passion and pursuit into high gear. Lines that audiences might never have thought they’d hear in a Deep Purple song: “I’m a real smooth dancer/I’m a fantasy man/master of illusion, magic touch in my hand.”
The classic Deep Purple sound is updated for the 1990s: the pulsing organ that sometimes sears, the classic guitar work from Ritchie Blackmore, the prowling bass played by Roger Glover and the ever-present thunderous drumming of Ian Paice. However, this version of Deep Purple features former Rainbow lead singer, Joe Lynn Turner. His muscular vocals are perfect for the brooding and confident lyrics.
The video is darkly engaging and plays up the song’s theme well. Fans and critics will continue to wait to see if the current tour is the last. In the meantime, the band has 50 years’ worth of material to appreciate again and again.