Last Updated on 09:55 AM by Giorgos Tsekas
Time is the ultimate healer as also the greatest judge of everyone and everything. I guess someone has written or spoken these words as an amalgam of wisdom or just acute observation. Nevertheless in music industry or better saying in music Press journalists or critics have been deaf enough several times or just too critical as same times when they were overreacting naming gems a bunch of bullshit or calling hidden treasures several weak moments way too often. I recall my memory when in 1993 music Press in its entirety was so happy for the Deep Purple MK 2 sophomore reunion and after its release the disappointment that the record brought them when they started writing their reviews. Well with the safe distance of 3 decades I can understand both reactions which I also find impulsive and hyperbolic. “The Battle Rages On…” is the fourteenth studio album by Deep Purple and was recorded in Bearsville New York and released on July 19, 1993. It is the last album with Ritchie Blackmore and that makes it historical a priori, but the album is more than just the swan song of Blackmore with his ex-comrades. To make a long story short all those who say that the LP wasn’t strong they find big differences in quality among the ten compositions as they claim that there are many fillers among them. On the other hand I can find easily some more than excellent songs here (personally speaking even if they had recorded only the epic/progressive “Anya”, the album would have been just perfect). As for those who considered that Joe Lynn Turner was not a good choice or “Slaves And Masters” was too Rainbow or too AOR for a Purple release, then I rest my case as we speak for people that probably haven’t heard the album more than twice in their lives… “Slaves And Masters” was great and still is but their label invested in the aura of MK2, that would bring them 100% guaranteed money, rather actually gave a fuck about the material. “The Battle Rages On…” for me is a winner definitely, but I can see why some would agree with Turner that calls album “The Cattle Grazes On…” hahaha!!! Please mark that Ian Gillan returned to the band in late 1992 and had to rework much of the material already existing for the album, which had been intended for Joe Lynn Turner.
Truth be told the album lacks of balance indeed but I think that its main problem was at the same time its main advantage. The tense between its members was high. Blackmore didn’t want Gillan back but when he checked again his bank account he was conceived to work again with him; that doesn’t mean he wasn’t angry about it though! On the other hand Gillan had to prove -to no one – that he was a different, better and finally more suitable singer for the band but also was trying to overcome Blackmore. This competition between its members as it wasn’t killing the band it only made it stronger!
The opener track that named the album is a killer, with oriental direction, remarkable guitar breaking, rock solid rhythm section and a Gillan shining with his performance and bright lyrics. “Lick it Up” has a catchy chorus with funny lyrics trying to loosen things up before one of the bands finest moments grab you from the neck. Anya is a classic hymn one of so many that Purple have in their catalogue, a magical moment with Lord’s keyboards sounding divine. Of course everyone here is performing perfectly their part and the result is magnificent. Some die-hards will hear a similarity with Rainbow’s “Black Masquerade”, but no one can’t ignore Blackmore’s dry guitars (using a new Fender back then), and the epic touches of the song.
After this listening wisely again the band makes the environment lighter with two simple compositions, typical Hard Rocking songs “Talk About Love” in which Gillan was trying to get philosophical with the lyrics and Blackmore hated and “Time To Kill” that probably is the weakest track on the album, yet not so generic in order to have the graceless role of a filler. “Ramshackle Man” is a pure blues rocker and “A Twist in the Tale” is another Blackmore’s show off in which he mixes some of his Machine Head’s proto Power Metal elements and some 80’s Rainbow’s riff relics in order to create a fine example of his genius ego without trying hard after all; still an interesting song. “Nasty Piece of Work” that follows slows down the tempo with nice vocal harmonies but nothing extra ordinary. “Solitaire” is another highlight, a monstrous and mournful crescendo that Purple actually never had offered us before, being Lord’s finest moment in this album and Gillan sounding magnificent. Finally “One Man’s Meat” is a nice, heavy rocking closer.
But we spoke above about big egos and as Purple back then carried 5 ones at the time after the release of the album Blackmore left in the middle of the tour. Joe Satriani perfectly replaced him and there was a talk that he would be joining Purple full time. He also proved to be temporary there, and Steve Morse joined the band for the next 20 years bringing fresh ideas and energy. There was an official live album with Blackmore from the tour, entitled “Come Hell Or High Water” where you could see in a video from that live Blackmore throwing a bottle of water to Gillan…