Just the few of us walk arm in armIan Gillan, first verse of “Nothing at All”. Retrieved from here.
It’s innocent and charming
The children seem to be getting along
Don’t worry kids, it’s nothing at all
So far, Whoosh! has been nothing short of awesome. From the time of the first teaser and the cover art reveal, the album has slowly but surely been rolled out. Today, we’ve gotten the third song from the album. So far, the songs have been catchy. They’ve been epic. They’ve been thought-provoking. They’ve even been a little terrifying. How could they possibly follow all of these sentiments up?
As it turns out, this newest song is laden with vocal whimsy and instrumental wizardry. And, as usual for this album, it’s magnificent.
As always with these reviews, I first have to dispense with the technicalities. This song has the quickest tempo of anything we’ve thus far heard, undertaken in straight 6:8 time devoid of syncopations. The song simply drives on forward without giving anyone time to stop for breath, courtesy of a simple, repetitive, driving drum pattern from Ian Paice. The closest comparison I could think of for his work here comes from Ringo Starr’s drum line on the song “Tomorrow Never Knows”. This drum pattern is a little tighter and less cymbal-heavy, as well as being in 6:8 rather than in common time, but the effect on the piece is quite similar for me.
The key of the piece is predominantly E Major, with a short set of shifting keys during the instrumental solos. Steve Morse’s is hard to exactly figure, but my closest guess would be G Major with several accidentals. Don Airey’s, on the other hand, is pretty easy to peg as primarily D Major, helped along by Roger Glover’s consistent bass tone (and sadly, besides this solo, Glover is once again the least audible member of the group. My apologies to Mr. Glover that I say little about him…again).
And yes, that’s right. On the third song, we finally have two instrumental solos. I will deal with them in due course, but I do want to say here that I am beyond excited that we have a keyboard solo after two songs devoid of an Airey spot.
This song has a simple melody, built around an “E – D# – C# – B” progression which begins the piece. This serves as the building block both for the main riff of the song, a quick set of runs batted between Morse and Airey with so much ease and virtuosity on display that one can’t help but smile listening; it also provides a starting point for the the verses of the song. The chorus, on the other hand, is built on an “E – G# – F#”, before ending on a “B – E” progression. This dominant – tonic motion has been used to close songs since the time of Johann Sebastian Bach as a stable, satisfying conclusion to a work of music, which is definitely present in this cheery work. All of this combined with the quick tempo leave a cheery effect on the song, definitely the first time “cheery” could be applied to the music of Whoosh!
Near the middle of the piece, the two instrumentalists take their solos. First comes Steve Morse, whose solo here will inevitably be compared to the pair he took on “Throw My Bones” and “Man Alive” respectively. This one here is the shortest of the three, taken as quickly as the rest of the song. Even though it’s short, it’s nonetheless memorable, relying on almost-chromatic motion up and down the scale to build up the epic factor that seems to be ever-present in Morse’s solo work. The notes here are longer than the short notes he and Airey use in the body of the piece, with no frills whatsoever. It’s absolutely a simple solo, even compared to the relative simplicity he brought to his “Man Alive” solo. As such, it is pretty different from his work within the body of the song, providing a very nice contrast. Something about this solo is also epic, and might even be my favorite of the guitar solos yet presented from Whoosh. Given they’ve been quite good so far, that’s saying something.
Then comes Don Airey’s first keyboard solo yet heard from Whoosh, and let me say that the wait has been worth it! Unlike Morse’s simple, long-note solo, Airey absolutely rushes up and down the keyboard, creating a neo-Baroque sound clearly influenced by Bach’s great works. Airey is very familiar with Bach’s work if the many, many quotes of Bach works ranging from the very popular to the more obscure within his onstage solos through the years is anything to go by, making this similarity only fitting. Turning to the Western Canon of music is a proud tradition in Deep Purple as well, making his choice an even better fit. The way he blazes through this quick-paced solo is also impressive, providing another great contrast with Morse’s earlier solo and balancing the piece well.
Interestingly, it almost sounds like Airey took his left hand off the keys for this particular solo, or at least brought it up fairly high on the keyboard, leaving Roger Glover’s bass sound to come through pretty strongly and keep the piece anchored. Of the other four members of Deep Purple, Glover was the first Airey performed with, and they clearly have kept up the strong interplay they perfected onstage even early in their partnership.
As one last note, I was inexplicably reminded of the third portion of “Dancing Mad” from the soundtrack to Final Fantasy VI at some points during Airey’s piece. This is also a neoclassical number with strong Bach-ish influences, which might be where it comes from. When I write on “Dancing Mad”, I’ll be sure to bring this piece in for further analysis.
I must now deal with the lyrics, which are another major difference from previous previews of this album. Ian Gillan uses a verse-chorus structure to bring up different snapshots of friendship as he walks along and the song goes on. The main themes seem to be how simple it really is to remain with the world in the present moment, and not to worry about things to come. It provides an odd comparison to the last song they revealed from the album, “Man Alive”, which is all about a future without anyone.
On an emotional note, as I live in an area seriously affected by COVID, I’ve been feeling very socially starved lately. The gentle themes of easy interpersonal connection present within this song feel almost like an unattainable fantasy, and really hit home. Already they’ve proven a small comfort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes one of my go-to songs for sadder times in my life.
The only thing I didn’t completely love about this song was the production. Bob Ezrin has rarely failed in his now eight-year collaboration with Purple, but something about this song feels flatter than his truly exceptional work on “Man Alive”. Where that felt like an ocean of sound cascading over me, this one just feels like a song. I wasn’t as completely taken into the world of music this time like I was last time. Part of it is probably to do with the different moods of the song, with this one being less of an immersive story of a world and more of a snapshot of a moment. It’s still noticeable, and my only disappointment in this otherwise-excellent song.
Now that we have three of the thirteen songs in wide circulation, or just under a quarter of the total album, I’d like to take a brief moment to reflect on the character of the album as a whole. Deep Purple haven’t had the massive media campaign which accompanied Infinite to promote this album, but what they have said about it is quite revealing. Comments from the group have showered praise on the album, both suggesting that it’s “very deep, very purple” and at the same time that it will be different from previous albums. This song in particular is a definite departure from the darker Infinite or the songs heard thus far from Whoosh!
Overall, the biggest thing that the tracks thus far have offered is diversity. The differences between the three tracks in musical content, lyrics, overarching concepts, and even production suggest that this album will present a very expansive experience, with many different kinds of music present. If there’s any uniting theme of what we’ve seen so far, it would probably be time, but even that is very loose. Focus on the present? Prepare for the future? Don’t prepare for the future, because it’s not going to end well for us? I expect my questions about an overall theme will be answered in due course.
With just over a month left before Whoosh! finally becomes commercially available, we probably won’t get another preview before August 7th. Until then, I am suitably excited, and look forward to hearing the completed album.