A few years back, Edsel released the Gillan
back catalogue with bonus tracks. Again the Gillan glory years are being
revisited with this vinyl box set. This current set, the Gillan vinyl box set
is entitled ‘The Vinyl Collection’ an this new box set will feature 5 chart
albums (7 LPs in total) and is the first time they have been reissued on vinyl
in this cracking box set
There was a time in
British rock history that Ian Gillan was not in Deep Purple. On leaving the
Purps in '73 and rejoining in 1984 he set about a solo career as either Ian
Gillan Band, Gillan or the delightfully named Garth Rockett & The
Moonshiners. With 'Future Shock' we join the band four albums in. This is another
CD from the Edsel reissue series of Gillan albums. 'FS' was the first of two
Gillan releases in 1981, the other being 'Double Trouble'. This was a Golden
period for the NWOBHM, especially for Gillan. Between Oct 79 and Nov 81, Gillan
racked up both album and single success. In this two year period, they had 3
albums that hit the Top 20, all within the Top 12. Future Shock went to number
Gillan disbanded the jazz fusion Ian Gillan
Band and took just Colin Towns over to the newly formed Gillan. In came guitar
virtuoso Bernie Torme, bassist John McCoy, and drumming stalwart Mick
Underwood, he of The Outlaws, and Gillan’s old stomping outfit, Episode Six.
The set covers the ‘Glory’ Gillan years so
to speak. From Mr. Universe through to Magic. And we start with Mr. Universe…..
It was the one Gillan album I didn’t buy originally
back in the day , so fast forward 30 odd (37!!) years and it’s a new listen for me.I’d
heard a couple of tracks, the two main standouts being the title track, the
building block and staple sound that Gillan would expand on in future albums.
Frenetic guitar frippery from Torme, pounding rhythm from McCoy/Underwood, and
the ovary inkling prowess of Towns. ‘Mr
Universe’ is a rip roaring, pulsating, melodic and soaring track with Gillan’s
voice the main instrument. The other main standout being ‘Vengeance’ the more
melodic/straight down the middle rock side of Gillan’s repertoire. ‘Secret Of
The Dance’ set the stall out for Mr Universe, a fast paced, blinding opener
(ignoring the intro track ‘Second Sight’). Gillan were off and running….
If you are like me, and fit into the 40+
age bracket of which I am a member, then you probably can remember some, if not
many of your album purchases, I mean good ‘ol vinyl. Most of the young ‘uns today
probably call them ‘big cd’s!’
Well this text one was one such purchase. I
was flicking through the vinyl at my local Woolies (in the days when they had
quite an extensive collection and not just the pop shite represented in the
charts today), and I came across the ‘GLORY
ROAD’ album, attached was a big sticker proclaiming “includes FREE album
‘For Gillan Fans Only – Limited Edition’”
And it was, as I still don’t know of many
who managed to get their mitts on this masterpiece, even though over 25000 copies
were sold! All this for the princely sum of £1.99!!! It was a bargain.
I loved this album, as it was my first official
foray into “Gillan”, (oo-er missus!). This was released in 1980 and was the 2nd
official Gillan album, after Mr Universe,
and, unlike the other ex-Purple offshoots, Gillan went for it with fiery
and explosive gusto.
Glory Road was issued prior to Gillan’s
Reading festival appearance for the Fri night support slot of Rory Gallagher.
‘GR’ enabled Gillan to enter the charts for the first time since his Purple
days with ‘No Sleeping on the Job’ reaching No55. It was a strange choice of
single. The album fared better reaching No3. They were on their way.
‘Unchain Your Brain’ still stands out as
being a great rock song and typifies this (the best) line-up, with Hendrix like
riffs courtesy of Bernie Torme, one if not the most underrated guitarists of
the 80’s. McCoy and Underwood form the backbone of the rhythm section,
pulsating and driving the songs along. But the highlight of the band is the man
himself, screaming and wailing like the proverbial banshee on ‘Are You Sure’.
There’s not many people who have been able to sing the same range as Gillan
(extending from the E2 to the G above soprano high C, and beyond!)
‘No Easy Way’ kicks off with a wild,
frenzied axe solo before settling into what I believe should have been one of
the singles. How this album only spawned one single in ‘Sleeping On The Job’ is
beyond me. What on Earth were Virgin up to? ‘Unchain..’, No Easy Way’ and
‘Running, White Face, City Boy’ could have been worthy contenders, as these the
have/had Top 20 written all over them. The very underrated ‘If You Believe Me’
is a classic blues song, and typical of some of the crackers, it was written
very quickly, and was a cracking staple of the then live set
So……what of the bonus album? Well, this was
the prize asset for me, something I still refer to in my many ramblings to this
day. ‘For Gillan Fans Only’ is a collection of leftover songs, general studio
tomfoolery and was put together by the band and its road crew (aka The Franks).
You must listen to it, even today, as it doesn’t disappoint, and is a great testimony
to a band set out for having a great time.
The main highlights are all the ramblings
in-between the songs, one of which you still need vinyl as its difficult to
play a cd in reverse! ‘Higher and Higher’ deserved its place on the Glory Road
album and was only on here as it was a B side to ‘Sleeping…’ single. Gillan was
a master in wordplay, who can forget the bands spotlighted, ‘Cosmo Toons &
The Split Knee Loons’ with ‘She was A Real Egg Timer’ and the legendary Arthur
Guitar & his Hamster Cage Ensemble performing the Harry Lime Theme (Fucking
Brilliant even to this day! Its my wife’s ringtone FFS!). Its up there with a
lot of comedy albums, and it still makes me laugh (a lot) a mere 36 years down
the line! That said there’s some belting songs that never quite made it.
The band that recorded the excellent 'Glory Road' were still in place.....just!
is probably the album
that most defines Gillan. 'Future Shock' spawned two singles, 'New Orleans' and
'No Laughing in Heaven'. It’s a missed opportunity to include 'Mutually Assured
Destruction' (probably THE DEFINITIVE Gillan song) but they have gone for true
relication of the originals.
'FS' is a more experimental album than its predecessors, possibly down to the
fact that it was the first to be produced by the band. The sound is more
stripped and raw. Opener is the title track, and by now is a typical Gillan
offering, fast paced and frenetic, with vocals to match. The single 'No
Laughing in Heaven' is a real surprise, a merging of rap and rock years before
Run-DMC/Aerosmith ever thought of it! 'New Orleans' the other single taken from
this album is another cover in the Gillan back catalogue, all of which have
proven to be firm favourites with the fans. 'Bite the Bullet' again is a
typical signature song, followed by a real surprise of a ballad, (I don't
remember Gillan being known for his ballads) 'If I Sing Softly'. Once again the
strength of the songs rise higher than a lot of the competition at the time
As I mentioned above, changes were afoot. To keep it short and sweet, Virgin
offered to fly the band from Germany to appear on TOTP to promote the 'No
Laughing...' single. It was on one of their rare days off, and Bernie Torme
refused to go. Net result, in comes Janick Gers but he was not allowed to be
seen on TV performing another musician's solo.
Like Glory Road, I had a similar buying
experience. ‘DOUBLE TROUBLE’ was the
second album release in 1981, following ‘Future Shock’. As a randy adolescent I
was attracted by the two lovely ‘hooker-esque’ young ladies on the front cover.
It was a toss-up (no pun intended honest!) between this and ‘FS’. Something in
the trouser department won and I bought ‘Double Trouble’. Knob 1, Chesy 0.
Out had gone the wonderful Bernie Torme and
in came (you either love him or hate him, ask any Maiden fan) Janick Gers from
White Spirit. I thought he was Swedish for years, turns out he’s from
This was the Golden period for Gillan, even
though the album, nowhere near as good as the previous two, still managed to
spawn two Top 10 singles in ‘Restless’ and ‘Nightmare’. I probably haven’t
heard it in more than 5 years, and still sounds fresh.
Gers fitted into Torme’s place seamlessly,
with his widdly trickery trademark guitar work suiting Gillan perfectly. An
ideal replacement! DT opens with a massive statement of intent, a thunderous
flurry of drums leading into the primeval ‘I’ll Rip Your Spine Out’, followed
by the melodic first hit single ‘Restless’. ‘Men of War’ is your typical Gillan
‘screamer’ of a song, concluding with the key changing ‘Life Goes On’. The 3
part epic ‘Born To Kill’ featuring ‘The Franks’ aka the road crew on backing
vocals finishes things off. Whilst its not my fave Gillan album, it still has a
lot of positives going for it
Finally we are up to ‘MAGIC’. In came Janick Gers for Tormé for this his second album, a
Blackmore influenced guitarist if ever I heard one. This is evident on the
opener ‘What’s The Matter’, typical if what Ritchie was up to with Rainbow, a
sign of things to come….
‘Bluesy Blue Sea’ a mid pace song with a
very repeatable and insistent chorus, penned and inspired as Ian sat staring at
the sea off the Devon coast, mulling over his problems during the songwriting
of this album.
What’s waiting around the corner for me is
a real surprise in ‘Long Gone’. This is a very melodic offering which is a good
two years prior to its soundalike and obviously more famous ‘Jump’ by Van
Halen. A blatant copy if ever I heard it! ‘Driving Me Wild’ is more typical
up-tempo track with surging riffs and Colin Towns’ nightmarish keys. What is
noticeable is Towns return to the fore as main songwriter, which is why there’s
a more radio friendly album to be heard here. ‘Demon Driver’ is a very dramatic
song which is almost Broadway in style. It experiments with distorted vocals,
and dark in nature, before picking up speed and letting rip as it draws to a
close. ‘You’re So Right’ is a more
sunnier, uplifting song, very American in sound and has a very sing-a-long-a Gillan
chorus. The final track was also the single from the album, an excellent
metalled-up cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’. The CD also
includes 8 bonus tracks, of b-sides and more cover versions.
This is without doubt the most commercial
album by the band I’ve heard. It’s surprising looking back, how it never
performed better than its predecessors. This line up deserved another stab at
success. Problems beset the band, Gillan had tonsillitis and struggles through
the rest of the tour, couple this with financial problems and the end was nigh.
The album was released in the September, the final gig for the band was
December. Obviously what happened next is history, Gillan joined Sabbath, and
then no sooner had he joined, the Purple bandwagon was rolling, and what a
comeback, but that’s another story
It is truly an essential record of one of
the best exponents of rock in the 80’s. Go out and buy all of them, a worthy
addition for any CD collection.
What we have is one of Britains finest
vocalists covering an important period in the developing rock scene in the
early 1980s. Full of experience and quality, Gillan, like Blackmore in the day,
proved that there was more to life than just Deep Purple. The band was
surrounded by controversy (internally) over the years from what Ive read, and
the likelihood of reformation is as close as Blackmore sending Gillan a Xmas
That said, this box set is a fine example
of a man and band in their prime, growing abd combusting in equal measure. Its
hard to review a vinyl box set when you only have the CDs to review. I
revisited my personal vinyl and have hoped that the exact same is to follow.
Should you have a spare £80-100, at todays stupid vinyl prices, a little over 10
quid each is an absolute bargain
Gillan is truly an essential listen of one
of the best exponents of rock in the 80’s. It was a short lived ride (79-82)
but they road the coattails of the blossoming NWOBHM, headlined Reading back in
the day, whuch was no mean feat in itself, and cement their place in British
rock history. What more could you ask for….?
Mr Universe 75/100
Glory Road 90/100
100/100 as a package. The inclusion of ‘FGFO’ still makes me laugh
some 30 odd years later
Future Shock 80/100
Double Trouble 75/100
Standard version - http://amzn.to/2bmddPe