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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Friday 23 September 2016

Gillan - The Vinyl Collection Box Set Review

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 2!!

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! ‘FUTURE SHOCK’ 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 Hartlepool! 

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 card.

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
Magic                          80/100

Amazon exclusive Version with 7” - http://amzn.to/2bE86v2

Standard version - http://amzn.to/2bmddPe

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