REVIEW: WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE
So, after three acclaimed studio albums and a fanatically-received live album under their belts, the group is generally considered to have imploded with this album. It's almost universally given mediocre reviews, and sold considerably less than the others. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to find...that WDWTWA is at about the same level of quality IMO as all the other MK II studio efforts: two or three good songs surrounded by poor excuses for surrounding ones. I don't see what all the negative fuss is about; it sounds like all the others to me, in terms of quality ratio (there is a sonic difference on some of the tracks, however, I'll admit).
The album opens with its one minor hit, "Woman From Tokyo", considered I believe to be one of the better tracks on the album. I think it's one of the weakest, however; it's exactly the kind of classic rock number I can't stand. Perhaps it doesn't help that this song reminds me in both chorus and feel of another classic rock disaster, Foreigner's "Hot Blooded". Just ordinary, mid-tempo beer commercial music, saved just slightly by a pretty bridge section. I really don't have much more to say except that this is exactly the reason why classic rock radio sucks, they play too much of this kind of bluesy-sludgy music when brilliant 60s/70s acts like The Move, Family, Small Faces, T.Rex, Roxy Music, etc. are totally ignored.
The next track, "Mary Long", proceeds from another chunky, chugging blues base, but grabbed me for its lyric, an interesting and atypical character study. At last, a DP lyric of substance! Well, not *that* deep, but for DP this is practically "Desolation Row". The song is capped off by an enjoyable Blackmore solo and a dreamy fadeout. So, although the general musical backing of this song is just OK, it is definitely helped by nice doses of personality (and a more restrained Gillan vocal).
"Super Trouper" is a rocker which would be completely generic and uninteresting were it not for the retro-60s touches (phasing, backing vocals) applied to it. The basic musical structure of this album, however, does seem to be going for mid-tempo blues based hard rock rather than the more bruising approach of the "classic" stuff, possibly why the fans like it less.
"Smooth Dancer" has a bit of a 50s feel and is one of the heavier songs on the album. I didn't mind it so much, it at least has some energy, although again the songwriting is a little generic. Also, this entire album seems to be a victim of a trend some mid-70s albums suffered from at this time, a combination of overproduction and a cluttered, muddy mix (other albums suffering from this malady included The Who's "Quadrophenia", T.Rex "Zinc Alloy" and David Bowie "Diamond Dogs"). Lord has a good but brief solo, here.
Side two opens with the album's clear standout, "Rat Bat Blue". The riff is reminiscent of Zep's "Moby Dick" but the group do more with it here than LZ did, turning it into a crunching rocker with a great rhythm and plenty of little turns of phrase. The organ solo's change of riff and pace is equally exciting, followed by a sped-up piano bit and lots of keyboard tricks. When DP go for it, they *really* go for it, although this seems to make all their other material seriously pale in comparison.
"Place In Line" is an obligatory slow blues which sounds like filler and goes on *way* too long, with almost nothing notable to recommend it. There are the usual solo sections (and I don't think Blackmore ever sounded really inspired doing the pure blues stuff), and Gillan trying his best to emote the blues and just sounding way too white to get away with it. It's not awful, it's just really ordinary bar-band stuff.
Fortunately, the album closes with "Our Lady", the next best thing here outside of "Rat Bat Blue". This is one of the most graceful ballads in their catalogue, marred only by the aforementioned overproduction and mix that characterizes this album (the '99 remix is better). Gillan actually sings on this one, the melody is grand and gorgeous, Lord's organ riff is quirky but works for that very reason, angelic backing harmonies...the song is taken a little too heavy in spots but it also works in conjuring an orchestral feel with just the band.
Track-by-track song ratings:
1. Woman From Tokyo 2.5
2. Mary Long 3.5
3. Super Trouper 3
4. Smooth Dancer 3
5. Rat Bat Blue 4.5
6. Place In Line 2.5
7. Our Lady 4
Overall rating: 3 out of 5, or "C+". "Rat Bat Blue" and "Our Lady" make this album worth hearing, however. That makes two undeniably great songs on WDWTWA, plus the interesting "Mary Long", the same number I found on the three previous studio albums so again I really don't see much difference here. Note: the outtake "Painted Horse" from these sessions is yet another mid-tempo, sludgy, bluesy rock number no better or worse than most of what is here. Not essential.
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