I suppose an argument could be made that Deep Purple had turned to crime a long time ago with some of their less than classic albums. I enjoyed Deep Purple up to the Mark IV version (Wikipedia), with some reservations about the Come Taste The Band album in 1975. Then the wheels fell off for thirty years. And then their new album, Turning to Crime, came out on November 26, and I fell in love with Deep Purple all over again.
I liked the original Deep Purple and still have most of their early albums, which I occasionally go back and listen to, Shades of Deep Purple, Machine Head and Live in Japan in particular. Those albums captured an era in both my life and in the history of rock and roll music. They are considered one of the founding father bands of heavy metal music.
Back to the future, Deep Purple released Turning to Crime, and it grabbed my attention right off the bat with the first track, 7 and 7 Is, a retake of the classic rocker from Arthur Lee. The current lineup of Deep Purple, Mk VII, amazingly retains three members from their earliest years as a band. Ian Paice has been on percussion since 1968, Roger Glover and Ian Gillan have done their work with Deep Purple since 1969. Steve Morse is a relative newcomer not joining the Purple parade until 1994, and Don Airey has been on the keys since 2002, an impressive run in its own right of close to 20 years. I never had a single job for 20 years in my career; 14 and 16 were the longest I was at any position. Kudos to all the members of Deep Purple for hanging in there as long as they have.
The Deep Purple attack track #2, Rockin Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, they don’t just do a cover; they pull out the jams with this number.
The next song is a bit of an outlier from Fleetwood Mac, Oh Well. This song never featured on an album and was initially released as a single. Peter Green was the writer and singer, and this is a bit of a forgotten gem that makes it an interesting choice as a cover for the Deep Purple lads.
Next in the queue is Jenny Take A Ride which was initially a medley by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels‘ built around the blues standard See See Rider. The Deep Purple are giving us a history lesson with their choice of songs on Turning To Crime.
Continuing the blues feeling, we have Watching The River Flow, yet another song initially released as a single; this one is by Bob Dylan. Watching The River Flow eventually found an album home on the 1971 Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. Deep Purple ramps up the energy and breath new life into the song.
Track six takes us into twelve-bar blues with the song Let The Good Times Roll, originally the B side of a release by Louis Jordan, Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens. The Hammond organ sounds Deep Purple had in their early years, through the contribution of Jon Lord, are featured on Let The Good Times Roll, played by Don Airey on their cover of this all out rock and roll tune. It still amazes me that the original versions of these songs are seldom recognized as being early versions of rock music. Yes, they had jazz, blues or even big band sounds but they still rocked.
On the topic of chickens, the next track is Dixie Chicken, arguably the signature song for the band Little Feat. I need to get a copy of this and the rest of the Lowell George era albums by this often overlooked band. Fortunately, Deep Purple didn’t ignore them, and they give us this energetic cover of Dixie Chicken.
Next up, we have the song Shapes of Things which The Yardbirds initially recorded. I like the Deep Purple version better myself.
The next track is The Battle New Orleans, written and originally recorded by Jimmy Driftwood but popularized by Johnny Horton. There have been umpteen covers done of this song, and Deep Purple have recorded a respectable job of it, but the Johnny Horton version is so ingrained in my brain that I find it hard to get my mind around alternate versions. Just for the fun of it, give the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s performance from their album Symphonion Dream a spin on your virtual turntable.
Lucifer, by Bob Seger taken off his third studio album, Mongrel, is a deep-cut cover. I must have handled hundreds of copies of Against The Wind, but I don’t remember ever holding a copy of Mongrel. Apparently, Deep Purple had because they do a cover of it on Turning To Crime. Heck, Apple Music didn’t even have a copy of it. I had to listen on YouTube to hear what the original sounded like, which reinforced why I don’t own any Bob Seger albums.
The second to the last track is my favourite cut on this album, White Room. Cream, of course, did the original, which is a staple of any rock and roll collection. Yes, I do have a copy of it in my collection. Deep Purple do an excellent cover of this iconic song, which I applaud because the original is so deeply embedded that hearing a new version can be jarring. Deep Purple pull it off with great aplomb.
The album Turning To Crime ends with a medley that they title Caught in the Act. The listed songs are thus, Going Down, Green Onions, Hot ‘Lanta, Dazed and Confused, and Gimme Some Lovin’. Caught in the Act an ok closer, but I feel it is too scattered and doesn’t have enough glue holding it together to make it a strong closing statement.
At the end of the day, I consider Turning to Crime a good album. I would give it 8 out of 10. A better closer would have brought it up to 9, and the last digit is scattered through the album. Congrats to Bob Ezrin for suggesting this project to Deep Purple, and congrats to them for pulling it off as well as they did. Just because we are old don’t mean we’re slow, rock on Deep Purple, rock on.