“The University of Deep Purple was an extraordinarily amazing school to learn”. Just over forty years since he made his first indelible mark on the world of rock music with Burn, David Coverdale felt it was time to reflect on his remarkable beginnings and pay tribute to the band that gave him his opportunity. ‘The Purple Album’, as Coverdale puts it, is a salute to Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice as well as a celebration of the incredible music they made together all those years ago.
Having initially developed some exciting ideas for a super collaboration with Ritchie Blackmore, Coverdale was reluctant to abandon the project completely once it became clear that Blackmore did not share his artistic vision. Rather than let the concept die, Coverdale brought it to his bandmates in Whitesnake. They were enthused by the idea of ‘Snaking up the old material from Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band.
“We just wanted to play the damn songs!” says Coverdale.
Thirteen tracks from the Deep Purple canon have been dusted off and injected with new life and made ready for 21st century listening. The results are surprisingly diverse.
Rather than a perfunctory attempt to re-record the material verbatim Whitesnake have made an honest attempt to interpret the songs in their own way. Sail Away, originally a riff-based groove, is given the unplugged treatment; this is perfectly appropriate given the almost ethereal quality of the lyrics. Elsewhere, the memorable organ intro from Jon Lord on Might Just Take Your Life is substituted initially with a bluesy slide guitar and then electric guitar, which ultimately presents it as a more direct hard rock song than the original.
Other tracks are truer to the original material. On iconic tracks such as Burn and Stormbringer, the general template is respected but more subtle alternative arrangements are incorporated and more liberties taken to allow guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra in particular to fully express themselves and explore their own interpretations of the source material.
Part of what bestows classic status on material is quite simply the time it came from. Purists may be perfectly content going on regular nostalgia trips back to the ’70s and feel distant from ‘The Purple Album’. But in 2015, a time when the true spirit of rock music can often elude modern musicians or is virtually unrecognisable in its current manifestation, it is sometimes satisfying to hear material that is equal parts classic and modern.
Whitesnake’s respect for these songs is quite clear. The interpretations are exciting and at times unpredictable. It is clear, however, that they only made their mark where they felt it appropriate. Otherwise, all of the tracks received a new lease of life, brought back from the crypt of classic rock history. It is both an exciting journey back to the past for Deep Purple fans and an important modern introduction to classic rock for young budding rock enthusiasts.