Deep Purple have never quite been placed in the revered 1960s canon that includes the Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or any of the other British rock bands who continue to reunite in various configurations to tour and even periodically release new albums, but given that the group has always been a riveting and brilliant live act, part prog, part heavy metal, part funky R&B, and imminently theatrical, that second-tier designation seems like both an oversight and a shame. Returning with this set, the band's first since 2005's Rapture of the Deep, and featuring a near-classic lineup of vocalist Ian Gillan, guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Don Airey (Jon Lord, whose distorted organ parts were so much a part of the classic Deep Purple sound, left the band in 2002 and died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer), one can only marvel at how timeless it sounds, as if it were actually recorded in the early '70s and not tracked a little more than a decade into the 21st century. Produced by Bob Ezrin, Now What?! sounds exactly like Deep Purple in the band's prime, moving from swirling, massive soundscapes to tight, riff-laden sections and back again with a swaggering confidence that is really pretty amazing, particularly given the senior-citizen ages of the band's members. The opener, "A Simple Song," is vintage Deep Purple, while "Weirdistan" and "Hell to Pay" simply rock by anyone's definition of the term, while the closing track, the massive, powerful, and just slightly eerie "Vincent Price," seems like a prog rock metal opera scaled down to single-track size. It's easy to imagine this version of Deep Purple slipping any of these songs into their live set alongside the group's classic tracks from days past without skipping a beat. Now What?! shows a band that still knows what to do, and that the album doesn't cater to the current studio tricks and processes only makes it feel and sound even more like it comes from the golden age of British prog metal. Some things really shouldn't change, and Deep Purple recognize that. They haven't changed a bit, and the group's many fans are going to find this release comforting in that regard.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
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