The biggest mistake I made before even hearing this record was reading the reviews, especially those from British press. British music writers often seem to want to make themselves look more important than the piece of music they're trying to write about. Well, after reading the reviews they gave Bananas, I didn't want to expect too much from this record. When I finally got it and played it, though…I loved it. From the very first listen, this album hit the right chord with me.
Bananas is a very diverse record. It fits with the ages of the band members, who may not always be moving in the direction of, let's say, "Highway Star." It's also a very musical record that really shows all faces of Deep Purple.
The biggest surprise for me was the performance of the new keyboard player, Don Airey (Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake). Airey's live performance with the band prior to this recording left a little to be desired, but here he completely shines, and more power to him. So, now two out of the three most identifiable aspects of Deep Purple -- guitar and keyboards -- have been replaced, and it still works. Of course the hardcore fans may argue that point, but you just can't keep everyone happy.
This album should make any Deep Purple fan quite a happy chap because it features just about anything the band is known for. From the hard-hitting numbers that will keep your heartbeat going, to ballad-y tracks that will allow some sentimental thoughts to creep in. In fact, this writer's two favorite tracks are the gentle Deep Purple numbers such as "Haunted" and "Walk On." Both of these songs have the feel Glover and Gillan captured on their excellent Accidently On Purpose (now that's an album worth investigating) album back in the 80's.
Producer Michael Bradford did a great job capturing the Purple sound; everything sounds very clear, and Gillan's vocals come across very distinctive. Bradford added some loops, and other modern recording tricks. These new additions, however, do nothing to the overall sound. It's just a sign of the times I suppose. When listening to Deep Purple you usually go for that middle-gut sound the band is known for, and that cannot be easily overwritten.
Steve Morse delivers quite a good performance here. It's good to see Morse slow down a little in his soloing. Solos like the one in "Haunted" are exactly what Deep Purple needs more of. There's no need to have 10,000 notes in one solo, when you can get that great feel with three or four. In other words, mean everything you play. Morse did a very satisfying job, and he seems to be understanding the dynamics of the band very well now.
Ian Gillan's lyrics are, as always, very impressive, and so is the delivery. Some American influence is noticeable in Gillan's usual British jargon, but it nicely fits in with what Ian has gotten us used to through all these years.
Bananas is an excellent record. It's an album for every occasion. The album obviously does not bring anything new to the band's long-established style, but it's solid, melodic, and catchy, yet also surprising and adventurous at the same time. Great one, guys!!!