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Paice Ashton Lord - 1977 Malice In Wonderland

ARTIST: Paice Ashton Lord
ALBUM: Malice In Wonderland
LABEL: Polydor
SERIAL: 2417 313
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1995, Repetoire (Germany), REP 4568-WY * 2005, Purple Records (UK), PUR 320


LINEUP: Tony Ashton - vocals, keyboards * Bernie Mardsen - guitars * Paul Martinez - bass * Ian Paice - drums * Jon Lord - keyboards, organ

TRACK LISTING: 01 Ghost Story * 02 Remember The Good Times * 03 Arabella * 04 Silas And Jerome * 05 Dance With Me Baby * 06 On The Road Again * 07 Again * 08 Sneaky Private Lee * 09 I'm Gonna Stop Drinking * 10 Malice In Wonderland

Overlooked for years and often forgotten by the formation of Whitesnake is this exceptional one off effort from then ex Deep Purple members Lord, Paice and Ashton, who had been a musical accomplice of Lord for several of Lord's solo projects and also featured on a few of The Who bassist John Entwistle's albums. This has little in common with Purple as a whole, but virtually throughout the style is identical to Purple's 1971 classic 'No One Came', heavy funk with Ashton's vocal style taking on the best of Ian Gillan's more sarcastic moments, again see 'No One Came'. Reportedly David Coverdale was offered the vocal position but refused, and based on this his unique delivery would have been out of place, despite the latter 70's Purple albums being infused with funk overtones. Mardsen and Martinez were both features of the British rock scene, and the lineup could hardly have been more poised to make an impression.

The Songs
Recorded over ten days with Purple veteran Martin Birch handling production, the familiarity with Paice and Lord obviously helped his and the bands cause. The bulk of the album is mostly restrained, with few histrionic outbursts of hard rock might that once graced Paice and Lord's former band. Lord's keyboard supremacy lends an atmospheric edge to 'Ghost Story' and along with Ashton's Gillan drawl backed by an obligatory horn section, this is prime 70's jazz/fusion. Gillan himself recorded a succession of albums in this tone post Purple. 'Remember The Good Times' has an American feel, and the funk element is at its height thanks to Martinez's bass work. There's a hint of ELO to 'Arabella (Oh Tell Me)' followed by the heaviest track rock wise 'Silas And Jerome', where Ashton resembles Gillan so much that they might as well have roped Ian in himself. The bands rock and roll influences aren't ignored, 'Dance With Me Baby' quite harmless boogie while 'On The Road Again' is a clear precursor to Whitesnake thanks to Mardsen's riffing. The guitar solo during 'Sneaky Private Lee' could be Joe Walsh, but the repetitive funk drone starts to nag by this juncture. Blues ballad 'I'm Gonna Stop Drinking Again' is another miss but the band comes alive near the conclusion of the title track as Lord pulls out an organ solo in true Purple fashion, Paice coming alive for the only time, held back throughout by the mid tempo speed.

In Summary
The band looked ready to take a shot at rock aristocracy but while recording the follow up disbanded. Maybe given the restrictions of the funk formula that wasn't a bad idea. Whitesnake was a far more representative vehicle for Paice, Lord and Marsden, Coverdale returning them to their hard rock past. 'Malice In Wonderland' was a brave venture, indicative of the era and with much merit due to the hard hitting manner of the fusion that you'd swear all five had been handling their whole careers. It is curious that Paice and Lord continued to pursue this direction after Purple, they must have developed a taste for it after 'Stormbringer' and 'Come Taste The Band'. With it out of their system they wisely got back to business with Coverdale. Bonus tracks from the unreleased second album reveal much of the same as the debut it must be noted also, adding value to the notion the band was a one off special.

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