Slaves And Masters is a very divisive album - among Purple fans it caused the Blackmore v Gillan arguments like no other. It has its fans but most will agree its not classic Purple and is one of their marmite albums - you love it or hate it.
Essentially what happened was that Ian Gillan, who was vocalist from 1969-73 and from 1984 onwards was sacked in 1989 by a band increasingly dominated by Ritchie Blackmore. In the aftermath, a former Rainbow (Blackmore's own band from a few years earlier) vocalist was brought in to record an album that was more American AOR than British Hard Rock. The band had existed with Gillan and Blackmore at opposite sides with the other 3 in between, smoothing over the cracks and making the band still a functional unit. When Glover, Lord and Paice sided with Blackmore (or were eventually persuaded by him) then Gillan's days were numbered. In a twist, a few years later for the follow up album, the others had a change of heart and demanded Gillan be brought back in to the fold. Blackmore left during the support tour and the band eventually brought in Steve Morse as a replacement. This takes us to the current band.
At the time this album came out I thought it was laughable and an absolute turkey. I was never a fan of the Joe Lynn Turner era of Rainbow and here he was in Deep Purple! These guys were in their late forties at the time and shots of them on tour wearing black leather with a big haired American singer just seemed wrong. Maybe they had thoughts of trying to crack America again by going down the AOR/metal look, fairly short-sighted though as this was already old hat by then and grunge was about to creep up and kill it off anyway.
As time has gone by and one ages, my view of it has mellowed. Don't compare it to other Purple albums, it's really a continuation of Rainbow (3 ex members in Purple at this point!) and a follow up to 1983's Bent Out Of Shape (Rainbow's last studio album) as such its actually not bad. I've had the original CD in the car for a few weeks before listening to this re-release. It's quite catchy in places and before long the songs were sticking in my head. If you like Foreigner/Survivor/AOR then it's very good. The production (by Glover) is excellent. Lord and Paice are fairly pedestrian on the album though, whether it's the style of music that requires them to be, I'm not sure. I find Paice guilty of it for a lot of the reunion. He used to come up with some intricate patterns and drum based tracks in the 70's. A lot of the time over the past 30 years he's quite happy playing a straight beat. Just my personal opinion though, he's still a great drummer and always does it live! Ritchie has some nice solos and I find it more satisfying than any Blackmore's Night album. Apparently the lyrics to King Of Dreams was a retort to Gillan's earlier Smooth Dancer lyrics, although this was so vague nobody really noticed at the time!
This reissue here includes the original album plus 3 bonus tracks - 2 single edits and a b-side. The single edits are probably a bit of a waste actually as both tracks, Love Conquers All and King Of Dreams were flops as singles and all it means is that you've got the same track again only slightly shorter! The b-side Slow Down Sister is a good addition as an extra, saves hunting down the old Love Conquers All CD single on eBay. There was another studio track released by this era of the band, a track called Fire, Ice & Dynamite. It was given by the band for use in a Harold Faulkmeyer film of the same name (starring Roger Moore who must have been about 120 at the time!). The soundtrack is fairly hard to find so including it here would have saved fans looking for the track and completed the output of this era of the band. They haven't though so that's a wee bit annoying. A few live tracks from the tour would have made some great extras and I guarantee they would have boosted sales for this CD as no live tracks with Turner as vocalist have been officially released yet. They performed Burn and Hey Joe as well as tracks from this album on the tour.
The liner notes include a basic history of the band and then essentially quote from various band member interviews at the time. This is actually a bit better than some guy from Classic Rock magazine gushing about how great the band was/is. At least this way you get a feel for the bands thoughts at the time. As for rare photos, well not so much of the rare - the Love Conquers All cover is reprinted a few times. Mind you she's better looking than the band.
It comes in a digipack, which I'm not a huge fan of. They just don't last. At least jewel cases can take a bit of punishment and can be renewed if cracked etc, a digipack can't be. It just gets dog eared and worn. I guess it must be cheaper to produce a digipack - that coupled with falling CD sales I suppose. Sonically there's not much between them as the original production was good, although I think the original CD has a bit more bass. Synth and guitar parts are a little clearer on the reissue so I'm not sure if a touch of compression was involved in the mastering. That said it's nowhere near as compressed as some of the Whitesnake remasters so don't let that put you off!
All in all it's not a bad album, just not a Purple album and if the price of this album gets down to a fiver it's definitely worth a punt. If you've got the album already you don't need this one.