Here we are, folks! Today is August 7th, 2020, and Whoosh! is finally available worldwide. It’s been a long journey from that short Facebook clip I covered in February. It’s release has been delayed by a pandemic and the tour to support the album has been similarly pushed back, but it’s here.
I can only hope that the strange circumstances in which this album was released won’t blunt its success, because this is one of Deep Purple’s best albums ever. It’s hard to compare it to anything that’s come before, as it’s pretty different than their previous work, but the differences feel like a natural progression of their sound rather than a forced sound change.
The Songs in Brief
I was admittedly concerned with the iTunes snippet previews were released. For whatever reason, they all sounded rather similar to me. How this could have happened, I don’t even know, because this album is wonderfully varied. No two songs sound alike, though there are plenty of connective threads.
Not every fan will like every song, and that’s perfectly okay. But there’s something for everyone in this feast for the ears. The songs are silly and sincere by turn, with some looking into deep questions about humanity and others just existing for fun. The music touches on all variety of moods. I’ll detail each one shortly below. Since I’ve had so much fun reviewing the first three songs in longer form while waiting for Whoosh!, I intend to deal similarly with the remaining ten songs when I have the time.
Every good album starts with a bang, and “Throw My Bones” fulfills that and then some. This song is just so ridiculously catchy that the opening riff becomes stuck in my head at the drop of the hat. This is not a bad thing; it will be a cold day in hell before this song wears out it’s welcome. Beyond being just a darn good song, this sets the tone for Whoosh! very well. More on the album’s overall mood later, but suffice to say this is a good opener. If you’d like a deeper analysis on this song, go here.
“Drop the Weapon” is the most overtly political song, about the epidemic of violence sweeping the world, but it’s handled quite well and never feels overly preachy. A large part of this is admittedly because it’s very hard to focus on Ian Gillan’s lyrics. Not that they’re bad–the words on this album are some of the best of Gillan and Roger Glover’s careers–but the musical side of the song is so good that it’s hard to hear anything else. Don Airey and Steve Morse outdo themselves at every turn.
The next song, “We’re All the Same in the Dark”, is probably the best song that we didn’t get a look at prior to the release just based on how grand and beautiful it is by the time it gets going. The switching between what sounds like B Major and D Major is one of the most memorable parts of this memorable album. Another memorable portion comes in the central part, when Steve Morse’s tone becomes quite twangy and pairs with Ian Paice’s grooving line to create a brief out-of-genre experience.
“Nothing at All” in comparison is more intimately structured, with a faster tempo and less time for the musicians to stretch out. At the same time, it’s probably the most overtly whimsical song on the album. I’ve already detailed my thoughts on it here, and I find that in context it works quite well.
“No Need to Shout” is jarring after the gentler, more whimsical preceding songs. Even though “Throw My Bones” was reportedly the song originally from the Infinite sessions, I would have more readily believed that it was this one. It sounds much more like those songs, especially “All I Got is You”. It even features the same cuss words as “Hip Boots” from Infinite in a bizarre coincidence. Another throwback to a time even further back can be found in the music. Don Airey’s keyboard line begins and ends with a long-held Hammond D. Comparisons to “Perfect Strangers”, which begins on the same note, are inevitable and likely intentional.
“Step By Step” finds Airey channeling perhaps his most famous keyboard opening, “Mr. Crowley”, to begin this spooky song. He remains the dominant player as this song goes on, providing a creepy carnival organ-esque solo; it sounds not unlike the opening to his solo song “Victim of Pain” as a result. This song overall is a delight in its blending of genres. While it originally just seems like another “Vincent Price”, a sudden romantic interlude within the song sets it apart.
“What the What”‘s title made me question whether the setlist was real when it was initially revealed based on how silly it was. The song itself turns out to be a homage to early rock ‘n roll, the kind on which the band was raised. It’s got a driving, rockabilly vibe and is one of the least profound songs from a thematic perspective. Touchingly, a reference to “Long Tall Sally” is included. While the band had no way of knowing Little Richard would be gone by the time the album came out, but with his passing it becomes a salute to one of their strong influences.
“The Long Way Round” continues these temporal homages, this time turning to the era of the power ballad. The song could have ended up cheesy as a result, but is so well handled that there isn’t a speck of dairy anywhere. The song features the only minimoog solo on the album, and it’s a good one. All of the differing moods in the song also end up giving it a progressive rock flavor; the best comparison I can think of is Emerson, Lake & Powell’s sole album.
The title of “The Power of the Moon” made me wonder if Blackmore’s Night, consummate lunaphiles if the several tracks relating to the moon and nighttime in their discography are anything to go by, had been invited into the studio. However, there isn’t a trace of renaissance pop on this track. The song is one of the darker, heavier songs on the album, building to the inevitable end of the album. Much like “Throw My Bones”, the opening riff on this song is very catchy.
“Remission Possible” is one of the shortest songs in the group’s entire discography at just over a minute and a half. It’s the first instrumental the band has written since “Contact Lost” (as “The Well-Dressed Guitar” was both a primarily-Morse composition and written earlier than “Contact Lost”). Every minute oozes with intensity to become one of the heavier songs on the album, an excellent segue into the next two songs.
“Man Alive” is the emotional and musical climax of the album, excellently built starting with “The Power of the Moon”. I’ve dealt with it more here, and believe you me, there’s a lot to deal with.
We already know “And the Address” as the first track of the first album the band ever released. When it was being recorded, two members of the current lineup were struggling for success in a different outfit, one member was a university student active in his university jazz club, one member was a thirteen-year-old boy just getting to know his instrument…and Ian Paice was already at the drums. The song is appropriately updated, given a much more energetic feel and much tighter production. Morse and Airey thankfully create their own solos rather than simply try to ape their predecessors.
Instead of ending there, bringing themselves full circle, the band ends with one last new song. Metaphorically, they have thus left the door open to even more new music should they one day return to the studio. The song in question, “Dancing in My Sleep”, is a satisfying conclusion, with the album’s typical virtuosity. The theme of the song is also a palate-cleanser after “Man Alive”, even if the mood of the song is still a little dark. It ends a bit abruptly, but overall is a satisfying conclusion to an amazing album.
My favorite tracks are, in no particular order, as follows: “Throw My Bones”, “Man Alive”, “Nothing at All”, “We’re all the Same in the Dark”, “Drop the Weapon” and “The Long Way ‘Round”. I have no least favorite songs. They’re all simply fantastic, and I will be listening to them for years to come.
Personnel And The Rest
Each and every member of the group gets a moment to shine. Don Airey is particularly dominant, creating some incredible solos and handling everything from piano to minimoog with equal dexterity. His prominence has only increased with every album he’s been on, and this album proves that that is a very good thing.
Steve Morse is not one to be pushed aside musically, however! He also provides excellent work both within his solos and in the bodies of the songs proper. I especially enjoyed atmospheric his work on “Man Alive”, and found his solo at the start of “Throw My Bones” to be the best on the album, with a strong runner-up in his solo from “The Long Way Round”. Once again, he handles the differing moods across the different songs with consistent ease.
My biggest concern leading up to the album’s release was that Roger Glover would not be noticeable. Thankfully, I was wrong. It’s simply that the songs he is most prominent on, such as “Dancing in My Sleep” and “The Power of the Moon”, were not among pre-released tracks. Thankfully, he’s as strong as ever, with his bass tone a welcome anchor to the songs.
Ian Paice is another standout, probably equal to Airey in my estimate. With grooves here, fills there, and driving tempos everywhere, he’s as great as ever. Standout moments for him would be the mid-song groove on “We’re All the Same in the Dark” and the closing fill from “What the What”.
This just leaves Ian Gillan. As I mentioned earlier, the lyrics on this album are some of his and Glover’s strongest. There’s not a sour note out of his mouth as he brings them to life. He can still bring whatever creepiness, warmth, humor, gravitas or any other mood as needed. One of his standouts is the end of “Drop the Weapon”, which becomes one of the most pathos-ridden moments on the album thanks to his lyrical delivery.
Bob Ezrin, as ever, is simply a master at production. Everything sounds crisp and beautiful, as if the band is in the room with listeners. The balance is quite good as well, with almost everyone clear in the mix. While Roger Glover sometimes is less obvious, he is at least audible at times, as I mention above. I particularly enjoyed what he did with “Man Alive”, which sounds like an absolute ocean of sound. Ezrin’s long collaboration of the band is again justified by the quality of this album.
Cohesion and Conclusions
From the above discussion, one could think that this is an incoherent mess of an album with songs all over the place. That would be a horribly incorrect reading. This album never feels like they’ve pushed too far. The band has stretched out musically and thematically, but not stretched too thin. Everything is held together by some indescribable feeling. It all flows well from song to song.
The album’s overall mood has been described in other reviews as light. In a sense, this is true. It’s clear that the band were having a lot of fun as they made this album. Everything is infused with a bit of that fun, even the darker songs. Whoosh! is also a lot less hard-edged than Infinite, and feels a lot less gloomy than Now What?! It is no less profound, but the feeling of the work is more content, especially compared to Infinite.
That is not to say that it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Songs like “Man Alive” are some of the darkest of Purple’s entire canon. The themes it deals with are nothing short of terrifying. “Drop the Weapon”, too, is pretty grim, especially for a song so early in the album. It’s an album that will at times make its listeners think about serious subjects without overwhelming them. I may be biased here, but that’s my favorite kind of thought-provoking art.
In closing, I find myself simply loving this album already. I knew it was going to be strong based on the incredible preview songs, but didn’t know that every song would have something to offer audiences. Already I can count it among my favorite of Purple’s output, and expect I will be devoting many hours to come listening to it. The wait has been worth every second. I’m grateful that in a year of so much going wrong, something has gone so right.