utterly useless

Smoke on the Water: A Tribute (Shrapnel Records)
Various Artists

By Mark Clark

Let me get this straight: Somebody decided to organize a tribute album to Deep Purple, one of the '70s finest heavy rock acts and this is the best they could muster? Performances by a collection of hacks (Kip Winger), has-beens (Yngwie Malmsteen) and never-weres (Don Dokken)? This is Deep Purple we're talking about, a band whose music is still reverberating through the work of alternative bands like Soundgarden, Stone Roses and Ride.

Departing from typical tribute album strategy, Smoke on the Water presents covers of classic Purple tunes by a quartet of backing musicians (Dean Castronovo, drums; Jens Johansson, keyboards; Todd Jensen, bass; and Russ Parrish, rhythm guitar) joined by a different lead singer and lead guitarist for each track. It's a new approach that doesn't work. Even with ten different vocalists and ten different guitarists, all this stuff sounds alike.

Worse yet, it all sounds virtually identical to the original Deep Purple versions. There's no experimentation, no new ideas. For instance, "Woman from Tokyo" (with Tony Hamell on vocals and Vinnie Moore on guitar) is faithful, almost note-for-note, with the original. But what's the use of that? Anybody who gives half a whit about Deep Purple already has the original. Who needs a sound alike rendition? Fans who truly want to pay tribute to Deep Purple ought to drag out their old copies of Made in Japan and revel again in the real deal.