Deep Purple, ‘Turning to Crime': Album Review
It's hard to believe, and easy to forget, that Deep Purple were once defined by cover songs. In fact, the group's first four singles came from the catalogs of others - Joe South, Neil Diamond, Ike & Tina Turner and the Beatles - rather than the hands of the Purple gang.
That changed in fairly short order and certainly by the time the Mark II lineup with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover formed in 1969. From In Rock onward, they left the notion of covers in the rearview mirror - on the outside and knocking at the back door, if you will. And that makes Turning to Crime a bit of a shock.
The 12-track set is an all-covers album and not necessarily songs you'd expect to hear Deep Purple handle. Coming just 18 months after 2020's Whoosh! it's Purple's quickest turnaround since the mid-'70s, spearheaded by producer Bob Ezrin as a pandemic-busting alternative to the quintet's usual creative process of in-studio jamming. That Purple can sound authentic playing just about anything isn't necessarily the novelty here; it's what the group chose to cover that raises eyebrows.
It's an understatement to say that selections such as Huey "Piano" Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken," Louis Jordan's brassy "Let the Good Times Roll," Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow" or Jimmy Driftwood's "The Battle of New Orleans" seem out of the box. But these surprises are surprisingly convincing. Guitarist Steve Morse gets to employ some different playing techniques, Don Airey rolls out a little barrelhouse piano on some of the tracks and drummer Ian Paice sounds assured in the different rhythmic approaches. Gillan, meanwhile, can sing just about anything, so his voice winds up being the best ambassador for this unlikely fare.
Turning to Crime has plenty of heavy, too, with an array of flavors such as the blazing psychedelics of Love's "7 and 7 Is" and the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things," or the garage-y romp of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' "Jenny Take a Ride!" Cream's "White Room" is totally in the Purple wheelhouse, and the group tears through Bob Seger's "Lucifer," a particularly astute deep dig, like it's something off of Fireball. The closing "Caught in the Act," meanwhile, fuses together bits of five '60s favorites - Jeff Beck Group's "Going Down," Booker T. & the MG's' "Green Onions," the Allman Brothers Band's "Hot 'Lanta," Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" and the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" - into a mostly instrumental medley that shows why Mark VIII is one of the group’s best lineups and more potent than most of its Purple predecessors.