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To prepare for the recording of their new album, Now What?!, their first set of original material since 2005's Rapture Of The Deep, the members of Deep Purple (vocalist Ian Gillan, guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Don Airey) held three writing sessions – in Spain, Germany and England – last year that yielded, according to Morse, an overabundance of material.
"I guess you can never have too many good songs," says Morse, "but by the end, we had so much stuff that I was begging everyone, ‘Let’s just record. We’ve got too many songs. I can’t remember everything, and if we keep writing, I’m going to start repeating myself.’ It was great when Bob finally came in and waded through everything."
That would be veteran producer Bob Ezrin, who came to the band via a suggestion from the group's booking agent. Morse had worked with Ezrin years earlier on Kansas' 1988 album, In The Spirit Of Things. The guitarist laughs when he says that he would have brought up Ezrin's name, noting that if he did, the band might have gone for somebody else. "It's funny how that works sometimes," he says. "This way, because it wasn't my suggestion, I could go, "‘Oh, Bob Ezrin? Yeah, he’s great!’"
Morse calls Ezrin a "direct, pull-no-punches kind of guy in the studio," and he gives the producer high marks for his sonic and arrangement sensibilities. "Bob's forte is knowing how to collect all of our ideas to make them work as songs," he says. "He also had a clear vision that this album should sound like Deep Purple live in concert. Each track has a real fresh energy, and Bob was instrumental in capturing the best from us."
Morse cut most of his solos live but punched in some "repairs" when the rest of the band was taking a break. Some solos were comps of as many as three different passes. "I’d give Bob a few different choices," he says. "That way he could pick parts and figure out what worked best."
The virtuoso axeman relied on two guitars for the album, his Music Man four-pickup Steve Morse signature model and his Music Man Steve Morse Y2D, but he also employed Ezrin's treasured Les Paul Goldtop for some textures. "Bob has a superstition that every record he does has to feature that guitar in some way," Morse says with a laugh. "It sounded good, just as a little spice.”
Deep Purple's Now What?! will be available starting 26 April (it can be ordered at this site). On the following pages, Steve Morse runs down the recording of the album track-by-track.