Why Deep Purple Stumbled on Second Reunion LP ‘House of Blue Light’
Though Deep Purple’s 1984 reunion effort Perfect Strangers was greeted with mixed reviews by critics, it was a triumph with fans. The tour in support of the album was a massive success, cementing the legacy of the Mark II lineup, and leaving hopes high for the follow-up record, The House of Blue Light, which came out on Jan. 12, 1987.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as rewarding, dividing fans with a confusing mix of the classic Purple sound and an attempt at a contemporary tone. “The House of Blue Light was a weird album and hard to put together,” keyboardist Jon Lord later told Modern Keyboard. “We made the massive mistake of trying to make our music current. We discovered that people didn’t want us to that. They wanted us to do what we do best.”
Lord is responsible for many of the high points on the record. His playing is such a part of the signature Deep Purple style, and on tracks like lead single “Call of the Wild” and the rollicking album closer “Dead or Alive,” he’s doing much of the heavy lifting.
Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore certainly doesn’t slouch, breaking out memorable riffs on “The Unwritten Law” and “Mad Dog,” along with wiry solos on “The Spanish Archer” and “Strangeways.” But The House of Blue Light as a whole is hardly a guitar album like the band’s watershed moments Machine Head and Deep Purple in Rock.
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Frontman Ian Gillan is in fine form vocally, even if his lyrics are a bit heavy-handed. “Mitzi Dupree,” for instance, blunders down the familiar path of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” and Purple's own “Knocking at Your Back Door” in being about a woman with crude talents, in this case involving ping-pong balls. Gillan himself was critical of the album to a degree upon its release, pointedly telling Kerrang! that “Dead or Alive” was, “a pile of shit.”
“I'm pretty pleased with it,” Gillan conceded. “I would say delighted, but I won't because I feel there should only be eight tracks on it. Still, it is a good album overall."
Uneven – particularly in the second half – The House of Blue Light would prove unsatisfying and result in more band acrimony. Gillan would be ousted following the supporting tour, replaced by Joe Lynn Turner – though he would rejoin Deep Purple for a 25th anniversary tour in 1993.
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