Deep Purple

Warner Brothers, 1974

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Deep Purple’s ninth studio album, Stormbringer, is a borderline obscure release from the band, coming during a time of great internal instability. Unfortunately inconsistency reigns rather than inspiration through adversity.

When the classic line-up imploded in 1973 with the sudden departure of both frontman Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, their capable replacements David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes brought with them new musical influences that caused tension and ultimately another major rift. While their previous album, Burn, was a much stronger effort than most expected, it introduced subtle funk and soul elements for the first time, and this was expanded upon noticeably on Stormbringer, a decision that would cause the departure of original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in its aftermath.

What makes reviewing this album in particular a bit complicated is that on the surface it sounds just fine, with plenty of exciting, toe-tapping hard rock goodness spread throughout that makes it easy to forget that it isn’t quite up to the standards they had set in the past. And that’s the problem – as far as generic hard rock albums go, it really is quite enjoyable, without any real stinkers, and the vocal harmonies and verse trade-offs between Coverdale and Hughes are dynamic and unique -- but ultimately, as a Deep Purple album it doesn’t quite cut the mustard.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a few superb songs here that no Deep Purple fan should be without – “Stormbringer” in particular is a classic that angrily rocks as fast and hard as anything they’d done before with a very satisfying head-banging riff, no doubt the result of Blackmore’s frustrations. Pity that it’s more the exception than the rule, since the rest of the disc doesn’t rock as much as their previous albums.

Indeed, one of the most confusing aspects of Stormbringer is that many of the songs remind me of other, more famous ones. The southern-fried, rednecky ballad “Holy Man” encroaches a little too much on Lynyrd Skynyrd territory for my liking; the hard-charging “Lady Double Dealer” sounds like a re-write of “Burn” (or Dio’s “We Rock”), the funk-rock stomp of “You Can’t Do It Right” sounds like the Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane”; “High Ball Shooter” has all the cheesy generic cock-rock ingredients of a Whitesnake song like “Slide It In”; and most intriguingly, the tragic torch ballad “Soldier Of Fortune” is eerily similar to Metallica’s “The Unforgiven,” or their cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page.” While this obviously displays the vast influence Deep Purple commanded (since you’ll likely have noticed that the doppelgangers I listed were all written after this album came out), the sad part is that these songs are completely overshadowed.

Another strange thing I noticed is the almost complete absence of Jon Lord. His lengthy, epic organ solos, prominent lead riffs (often working in tandem with Blackmore’s guitars) and classical aspirations are nowhere to be found. Every now and then he pops up with a brief solo (even uncharacteristically using a Moog synthesizer on “Stormbringer” and “You Can’t Do It Right”) to remind you that he’s still around, but he no longer seems to even command an integral role, much less acting as the creative driving force he was on the early albums. I think it’s fairly easy to assume that Blackmore wasn’t the only one unhappy with the band’s new style, judging by Lord’s mailed-in effort.

Really, considering the turmoil afflicting Deep Purple in the mid-70s, it’s fairly impressive that Stormbringer didn’t turn out to be a disaster. It’s fun to listen to in the moment, but I don’t think it’s very memorable in the long run. This is a funkier, greasier, sleazier form of the band than people are accustomed to, and while the Mark III line-up has a small cult following, it’s not really a style that I think suits Deep Purple. The confused Stormbringer doesn’t compare to their earlier work, especially the inventive first three albums.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.