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Gillan, Ian: The Voice Of Deep Purple: The Gillan Years (3CD set)
In many ways this is a curious collection from The Store For Music label. Billed as The Voice Of Deep Purple: The Gillan Years, the first thing to mention is that this is not a collection of the vocalist's work with that band. Instead it's actually three albums from across Gillan's times outside Deep Purple. In truth there isn't even a clear link between the album's chosen to represent Gillan's excellent non-Purple catalogue, disc one arriving in the shape of 1990's Naked Thunder solo release, while the second is 1977's Scarabus, recorded by The Ian Gillan Band. To truly shine a light on the varied fare the singer has recorded under his own steam you'd expect the third disc to by any one of the album's released by the band Gillan, but instead we get Accidentally On Purpose, the offering the singer released with his co-Purple bandmate Roger Glover - although there's very little mention here that it arrived under the Gillan-Glover monicker. Therefore, if you play the discs in order, things jump from 1990 to 1977 and then back to 1988…
Across the three discs five bonus cuts appear alongside a short (8 minutes, or so) interview with the man himself about a Japanese tour from many years ago. However with the booklet comprising only 4 pages and deciding to be a decidedly brief overview of Gillan's full career, there's no context given to the Purple covers of "Smoke On The Water", "Black Night", "Child In Time" and "Woman From Tokyo", the Gillan track "Restless", or indeed the interview, as they are tacked onto the end of each disc, two at a time.
Thankfully the albums themselves stack up better, Naked Thunder finding the singer in as near an AOR setting as you'll ever hear him; chart success sounding like it was possibly on his mind as the album was created. Even the original cover that found Gillan staring into the middle distance as he sits astride a sand dune suggested smooth melodies and floating ballads. With a sublime vocal performance throughout and some catchy, lightweight (by Gillan's standards anyway) fare on show, the likes of "No Good Luck", the duet of "Loving On Borrowed Time" with Carol Kenyan and jaunty "No More Cane On The Brazos" carry things along nicely. It's doubtful Naked Thunder will be the favourite album of many Ian Gillan fans and yet it proves a most interesting diversion.
Scarabus, from some 13 years previous, is a different kettle of fish altogether. The last of three studio efforts from The Ian Gillan Band, the outfit's more jazzy approach proved impressive but a turn off for many of Gillan's ardent Purple following. A little more powerful than their previous two outings, the band featuring Colin Towns (keys), John Gustafson (bass), Ray Fenwick (guitars) and Mark Nauseef (drums), had really found their groove. This approach may sound dated now, but Gillan positively thrived behind the mic in this setting, clearly loving the freedom given him by the darting bounce of "Poor Boy Hero", the more driven "Pre-release" and the deep grind of "Mad Elaine". From here the singer would change tack, responding to the suggestion that his fanbase wanted something heavier and more straight forward; the band Gillan being formed and arguably beginning the strongest period of the frontman's time outside Purple.
Making it all the more frustrating that this three disc set completely sidesteps that story. Instead being rounded out by the cult classic and one-off album from Gillan-Glover, Accidentally On Purpose. Released in 1988, this collaboration was waited for with baited breath by the Purple faithful, the pair by now both back in the band they made their name with - although Gillan would leave again before once again re-joining. Many wondered what the two would come up with outside of the bristling rock day-job; a shimmering, technical soft-rock pop amalgamation being the answer. Beautifully arranged and dripping with atmosphere, opener "Clouds And Rain" showed that the pair had embraced the electro-themed mood of the day through big booming beats, echoing vocals and stabs of synths. Although to anyone who'd followed Glover's work outside of Purple and Rainbow, maybe the surprise wasn't so unexpected. Through the clipped beats and brass/synth stabs of "Evil Eye", gently progressive twist of "Dislocate" and its sax solo, or twanging swing and boogie of "Via Miami" it's no wonder that Accidentally On Purpose has gone on to be lauded by the technical AOR crowd.
The confused nature of the packaging and the almost total disconnect in sound as you journey from the 90s to the 70s and then back to the 80s makes The Gillan Years much less than the sum of its parts. That said all three albums land somewhere between good to excellent, but maybe this isn't the best way to experience them…
1. Gut Reaction
2. Talking To You
3. No Good Luck
4. Nothing But The Best
5. Loving On Borrowed Time
6. Sweet Lolita
7. Nothing To Lose
9. Long And Lonely Ride
10. Love Gun
11. No More Cane On The Brazo
12. Smoke On The Water (Bonus Track)
13. Black Night (Bonus Track)
3. Poor Boy Hero
4. Mercury High
5. Pre - Release
6. Slags To Bitches
8. Mad Elaine
9. Country Lights
10. Fool's Mate
11. Child In Time (Bonus Track)
12. Woman From Tokyo (Bonus Track)
1. Clouds And Rain
2. Evil Eye
3. She Took My Breath Away
5. Via Miami
6. I Can't Dance To That
7. Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
8. Lonely Avenue
9. Telephone Box
10. I Thought No
11. Cayman Island
12. The Purple People Eater
14. Restless (Bonus Track)
15. Interview - Ian Gillan
Added: December 3rd 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Gillan Years at The Store For Music
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