Ian Gillan – ‘The Voice Of Deep Purple: The Gillan Years’ (Store For Music) Print
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Friday, 01 December 2017 04:00

Ian Gillan Gillan Years coverAs the inane present-exchanging season known as Christmas looms ever closer, record companies scramble around in their archives to see what blasts from their vaults they can unlock and unleash on a music-loving public eager to splash their cash with gay abandon. At the same time, they look for an appropriate hook on which to hang the mass batching of re-issues and cobbled together box sets… In this case, Deep Purple’s alleged “final” The Long Goodbye tour, which has just worked its way through nefarious parts of the Über Kingdom of Rock ‘n’ Roll has provided an excuse for whoever is managing frontman Ian Gillan’s affairs to dust down this collection of three of his lesser known, and less commercially successful albums.


Now, I’m a massive fan of Ian Gillan – but this collection does a disservice to expectant admirers such as myself, by virtue of it’s misleading title: no, not the “voice of Deep Purple” reference – that goes without argument. It’s the subtitle of “the Gillan years” that has got my goat. Quick history lesson: in 1978, the singer decided to shorten the name of his post-Purple project to just his surname, with the Gillan band going on to reward him with his most productive, high profile and incoming period outside his association with Messrs Blackmore, Lord et al. Up until 1982, there were six decent albums released, with the peak coming with 1980’s ‘Glory Road’ and the following year’s ‘Future Shock’, which both generated him a handful of hit singles and appearances on children’s TV shows…


So, when I saw the tag “The Gillan Years” on this collection, and the unmistakeable Gillan logo on the cover, I was sort of expecting long-overdue remasters of those two aforementioned, and apparently long-lost releases, plus maybe the ‘Double Trouble’ studio/live package or even the patchy but still listenable final album, ‘Magic’. Bit, that’s not the case. What we have here are three albums that book end that era of his career: the Ian Gillan Band’s third and final studio album, ‘Scarabus’, from away back in 1977, his 1988 collaboration with bandmate and longtime friend Roger Glover, ‘Accidentally On Purpose’, and his debut solo album “proper”, ‘Naked Thunder’, from two years later. Ironically, the albums aren’t presented in chronological order, which confuses things a bit more.


Leaving aside the problems with the naming of the package, what have we actually got? Well, we’ve got three very decent albums. ‘Scarabus’ hails from the era when Gillan was still experimenting, with varying degrees of creative success, with jazz/rock crossover, before knocking that on the head and reverting to the more traditional hard rock approach that gained him that chart-bothering status. To be honest, like it’s two predecessors (‘Child In Time’ and ‘Clear Air Turbulence’) it hasn’t really stood the test of time and, with the possible exceptions of ‘Mercury High’ and ‘Slags To Bitches’, which both hint at his pending change in direction, sounds extremely dated and of its era.


The same can be said of the other two albums reproduced here. Neither really represents Gillan at the height of his powers and demonstrate why, apart from that brief five year run before Purple knocked at our back doors again, he never really has enjoyed either commercial or creative success outside the band set up. If it hadn’t been for the inclusion of the track ‘Lonely Avenue’ on the soundtrack to ‘Rain Man’, ‘Accidentally…’ otherwise would have passed by unnoticed -and the less said about the horrendous decision to include an equally abominable version of ‘The Purple People Eater’ on ‘Naked Thunder’ the better! What both albums do demonstrate, however, is how the singer was having to adjust his style to deal with the ever-present vocal cord problems that had forced him to disband Gillan in ’82.


Of course, such re-issues come with the inevitable “bonus” features, and so it is here, in the shape of five unearthed live tracks: ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Black Night’ and ‘Restless’ are the only genuine contributions from the elusive Gillan era, while ‘Child In Time’ and ‘Woman In Tokyo’ date back to the IGB era. There’s also a very poor quality interview recorded on a Japanese tour appended to the end of ‘Accidentally…’.


As I said, I’ve always been a Gillan fan. After all, he possessed one of those iconic voices that defined the development of hard rock as we know it today. And, boy could he scream. Unfortunately, the last time I saw him perform, back in June 2010, he was a shadow of his former glory, and it broke my heart to see him struggle for breath between songs. This is a nice package from an artist I still admire as one who was capable of making the hairs on the back of my neck curl: unfortunately, this set, in itself, does not have that same effect and serves as nothing more than a curio, and a shelf-filler, for diehard fans.


‘The Voice Of Deep Purple: The Gillan Years’ is out now.




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