Ian Gillan is, indubitably, one of the greatest vocalists ever to exercise his pipes within the rock/metal arena. Fronting Deep Purple from 1969 to 1973, and again during the eighties, before rejoining on a permanent basis in 1992, he remains within their ranks to this very day. But, of course, he's had a successful singing career peripheral to Purple, as both a solo artist, and within the context of both the Ian Gillan Band and Gillan. 'The Voice of Deep Purple - The Gillan Years' is a three disc set that celebrates that success with the inclusion of three albums from his non-Purple discography, plus a small number of bonus tracks. Liner notes in the accompanying booklet claim, "This is the ultimate collection from British rock legend Ian Gillan." Hmmm... ultimate? Certainly not. Ultimate would be an all-encompassing set containing more material than just a mere three albums. But, it is a great set.
Inexplicably, the non-chronological presentation of the three albums sees 1990 solo effort, 'Naked Thunder', occupying disc one; Ian Gillan Band's 1977 album, 'Scarabus', on disc two; and the 1988 Gillan/Glover offering, 'Accidentally on Purpose' (alongside Purple's bassist, Roger), residing on the third and final CD. Skewed chronology aside, there's some great stuff on offer here. Some of the songs sound timeless and some of it sounds hideously dated. However, there's some fine songwriting across the three discs, and all adorned with Gillan's emotively powerful voice. Even with some of the weaker tracks, where the songwriting quality takes a dip, it's Gillan's voice that elevates compositions into very listenable, likeable songs.
Songs jump around stylistically, across the three albums, particularly on 'Naked Thunder', so there's a lot of variety on offer. And, of course, there's the occasional cover. His version of the oft-tackled, traditional prison work tune, 'Ain't No More Cane on This Brazos', is phenomenal (albeit erroneously listed on the tracklist for this release as 'No More Can on the Brazo', despite the original 'Naked Thunder' release listing it as 'No More Cane on the Brazos'). Likewise, Little Richard track 'Can't Believe You Wanna Leave' is given a great workout on 'Accidentally on Purpose', with Gillan exposing his rock 'n' roll roots to great effect (he worshipped Elvis' music as a kid, apparently).
Some live renditions of Purple classics feature as bonus tracks on each of the first two discs, but these are so rough-and-ready, fairly lo-fi recordings at the end of 'Naked Thunder' ('Smoke on the Water' and 'Black Night'), that I struggle to see any merit in their inclusion. 'Child in Time' and 'Woman From Tokyo' sound much better, if still a little rough, on the 'Scarabus' disc. And 'Restless' features as an additional track on the third disc, from the 1981 Gillan album, 'Double Trouble', together with an eight and a half minute archival interview with the man himself, about one of his Japanese tours, which I guess will be of interest to the diehard Gillan aficionado.
All in all, this is a nice little package, with discs housed in a multi-panel digipak. The accompanying booklet is distinctly underwhelming, with brief biographical info across four pages, and not a single photo included. And to declare this as "the ultimate collection" is simply misleading and erroneous. I've no idea how much this will retail for, but if you can pick it up at a decent price then you'll be rewarded with a healthy dose of Gillan gratification and hear, first-hand, just why the man's vocie is so widely lauded.
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THE VOICE OF DEEP PURPLE - THE GILLAN YEARS
Review by Mark Holmes
17th Nov 2017
DISC ONE: 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; 8) Moonshine; 9) Long and Lonely Ride; 10) Love Gun; 11) No More Cane on the Brazo; 12) Smoke on the Water; 13) Black Night
DISC TWO: 1) Scarabus; 2) Twin Exhausted; 3) Poor Boy Hero; 4) Mercury High; 5) Pre-Release; 6) Slags to Bitches; 7) Apathy; 8) Mad Elaine; 9) Country Lights; 10) Fool's Mate; 11) Child in Time; 12) Woman from Tokyo
DISC THREE: 14 songs + Ian Gillan Interview
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Ian Gillan is, indubitably, one of the greatest vocalists ever to exercise his pipes within the rock/metal arena."