GILLAN The Vinyl Collection 1979 – 1982 (7 LP + 7” box)
Demon Original Release date 7 October 2016
One of the main offshoots of Deep Purple (alongside Whitesnake and Rainbow), Gillan formed in 1978, from the ashes of the more fusion inspired Ian Gillan Band. Between 1978 and 1982 they released six blistering hard rock albums of the absolute finest quality that saw them run in parallel to the then New Wave Of British Heavy Metal explosion. And they played Reading Festival almost every year too.
The first album, simply called ‘Gillan’ or ‘The Gillan Album’, was released in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but was imported (at a price) significantly enough to find the band success on home turf.
The five subsequent albums (1979 to 1982) are what we get in this vinyl package, reproducing the original UK pressings; in the case of ‘Glory Road’, there’s also the bonus outtakes and rarities LP ‘For Gillan Fans Only’. Two double albums (‘Double Trouble’ was half studio half live) and a bonus 1-sided 7” make for 7 LPs, 8 discs in all.
The band had a unique sound, and energy, and chemistry; as bassist John McCoy tells us: “It’s a little clearer why we were so successful in retrospect, we had the best singer to start with, he just needed a push back to the right direction and we were the band to push him! The commercial singles opened people ears to our more serious work and converted a lot of people to hard rock…the timing of Ian’s return to heavier, more accessible material could not have been better, we really were an incredibly volatile bunch and I think that helped in some way to the music and the success.
We had great musicianship and great songwriters, we were always one step away from contemporaries creatively but we never took ourselves too seriously. Image too of course is important and we certainly didn’t look like any other band. Who knows why it was so successful; Luck?, The right chemistry? Or was it just sheer hard work and belief in ourselves and each other?”
Ian’s history with Deep Purple has been well documented, but on leaving in 1973, he became in ventures outside of the music industry, ultimately culminating in the purchase of the De Lane Lea studios in London, which would become the Kingsway studios that the band would frequently use. Recording projects would become the fusion Ian Gillan Band, When the project ended, Ian formed Gillan, retaining only pianist Colin Towns who, under pressure from Ian to get more involved with writing, came up with the now acclaimed ‘Fighting Man’. The aforementioned Japanese album was completed with bassist John McCoy and drummer Liam Genocky (both ex Zzebra) and guitarist Steve Byrd. Touring with drummer Pete Barnacle, the band’s presence in the UK started to take off, with one show even featuring guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (after Ian had turned down an offer to join Rainbow).
This set kicks off with 1979’s ‘Mr Universe’, the title taken from a track Ian had recorded in his pre Deep Purple band Episode Six, albeit a different track. Alongside Ian, Colin Towns and John McCoy were drummer Mick Underwood (also formerly of Episode Six) and guitarist Berne Tormé (a former McCoy bandmate). Tormé’s guitar mixed Hendrix and punk and added a fresh bite and a serious punch to the music.
On the album’s sound, Mick Underwood tells us; “We started recording the ‘Mr Universe’ album the day after the line-up came together, I think and it seemed to me the potential was apparent right from the start. The musical chemistry seemed there right at the beginning and I think it just grew and grew as the album progressed. Sound wise we covered a lot of diverse material and it seemed to work well”.
The original LP’s chart run was short lived when the record label when under, so a decent pressing is SO welcome here. A repro of the original that sounds as good as it looks.
The change of line-up led to a Colin Towns lead on many of the tracks, typified by the ‘Second Sight’ opener that builds to the blistering ‘Secret Of The Dance’. An album so good that many labels the band had previously been turned down by were knocking at the door. A deal with Richard Branson’s Virgin label followed and, led by the opener ‘Unchain Your Brain’, 1980’s ‘Glory Road’ had a more metal leaning. There’s the blues of ‘If You Believe Me’, Ian’s poetic song writing of ‘Are You Sure’, and the hit ‘Sleeping On The Job’ (referred to by Ian as ‘Cacking On The Yob’).
The original edition featured a bonus LP ‘For Gillan Fans Only’, featuring a b-side, some studio outtakes, specially recorded material, a Mick Underwood solo track and even a jam between Bernie, John and drummer Thunderstick. That is reproduced here and it’s as good as it fun, not one throw away track. One rarity is a Colin Towns track from an otherwise unreleased solo album (I have a cassette of the full set, and love it).
Proof that the band are solid, versatile and had a great sense of humour.
1981’s ‘Future Shock’ was a hit LP, and rightfully so, and again the original packaging is reproduced here. Despite the dodgy front cover portrait, the original fold out booklet sleeve exemplifies the glories of LP packaging. Like ‘Glory Road’, it sold loads, made the top 5 in the charts, but is very difficult to find in decent condition. With the hits ‘No Laughing In Heaven’ and ‘New Orleans’ seeing the band play Top Of The Pops, it was a good time for the band and for rock music in general.
With Tormé leaving mid tour, in came White Spirit guitarist Janick Gers (now of Iron Maiden) and the double album ‘Double Trouble’, a slightly more melodic affair but the two singles ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Restless’ continued to see the band frequently on UK TV, and the nine minute ‘Born To Kill’ showed a progressive leaning. The second disc (hence the album’s title) featured six live tracks, five recorded at Reading earlier that year (Gillan played so often they had their own dressing room).
The band’s final LP, ‘Magic’ was the band’s most melodic affair, more solidly produced. The song writing as solid as ever and Ian’s vocals as strong as they always were. Gers’ guitar solos as good ever, even if it doesn’t have Tormé’s Electric Gypsy edge. A very underrated album, ‘Demon Driver’ is an epic and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’ one of the best covers you’ll here.
Gillan were the absolute epitome of British Classic Rock, without compromise, and always loved on vinyl. There have been numerous reissues, including a series by Demon that have taken in all the bonus tracks (fans will have also have the CD repro singles box set), this set is all about the reproduction of the original UK LPs and there it does the perfect job. And as a bonus there’s the one sided 7” ‘Spanish Guitar’, a track originally released on a flexi disc.
The band were always tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm, and some might say not as energetic on record as they were live, as Bernie puts it; “Production wise I think the records sounded a lot tamer than the band did live. It would have been impossible for it to be otherwise in that studio in those days though, Chas Watkins worked wonders with us. Other than Chas there never really was any producer as such in my day. We all pretty much produced our own parts along with Chas. There were too many arguments otherwise. That resulted in pretty raw minimalist recordings, AOR or MOR it definitely was not, but it undoubtedly kicked major ass. The recording process obviously changed when I went, I think there was some pressure from the record company to sound more radio friendly, but you would have to ask the others about that, I don’t really know. It sounded different”.
This set is testament to a wonderful legacy and does it fantastic justice.
I’ll leave you with a final word from Bernie; “I remain eternally grateful to Ian for giving me the chance to be in the band, and the chance to make a name for myself, and out of that have a career and be able to make a living doing what I love. I owe all that to Ian and I am daily conscious of it and thankful for it. For the record I would still love to do one or two or even three reformation gigs for the fans, I feel we owe it to them; but definitely no recordings, no tours: that would be trying to flog a very dead horse”.
Want proof that classic British hard rock looks, sounds and feels good on 12” vinyl, here’s the proof, and worth every penny. Most Gillan original vinyls are overly played. Here they can be played, enjoyed and treasured. Beautiful, crisp, clean and blisteringly rocking.
Ian Gillan Interview
Joe How do you think this box set has come out?
Ian I’ve not seen it yet (laughs)
Joe How did you feel about the albums at the time?
Ian It was a very hectic time, very overwhelming. It was all a quick progression, from the previous incarnation to this. The jazz/prog bit had run its course, it was a new era.
Live it was spectacular but difficult to get a deal at the time. Easier after Acrobat, we had a lovely time with Virgin. Looking back now, professionally, the albums were great but of the time.
They showcased the importance of vinyl. An LP was a significant purchase then, with the artwork, lyrics, the quality of the sound. If you play an MP3 now and turn it up loud you can really tell the difference. Lots of great memories, good times.
Joe What were the highlights?
Ian Every day was a highlight, very hectic, that’s touring for you. Do a gig and travel to the next one. A memorable one for me was the 17 week tour we did, travelled 17000 miles.
For tracks, ‘Unchain Your Brain’ from ‘Glory Road’. And ‘No Laughing In Heaven’ from ‘Future Shock’, although I prefer the live version from Reading. It was an epiphany, for me; I wouldn’t want to go to heaven as I wouldn’t want to meet a lot of the people who would go there. Man created god and I’ve lived by that ever since.
Joe How involved were you with the packaging?
Ian We were all very involved, some came out much better than others. We were a bit disturbed by the cover of ‘Future Shock’, I think they misread the brief there, but inside it turned out great. ‘Glory Road’ was done by Richard Branson, like putting a stamp on something. But with the lyrics, pictures, some great packaging there.
Joe What’s your view on the Vinyl vs CD debate?
Ian Most of my collection is on my computer, taken from CD (and those from LP transfer). CDs are convenient, but they got a bad press from the early days, were just transfers and they sounded flat. The first pressing of ‘Machine Head’ was dull, flat, awful. They didn’t realise what you had to do back then but it soon got better. There’s also the downside of the packaging. If you print red on purple, which we’ve done, you can’t read it on a CD, you lose all the visuals. The optimum length for an LP is 38 minutes, 19 minutes each side, which was a perfect length for an album. A minute over that and you start to compromise the levels and depth. On a CD you can get over an hour and people expect that. CDs are the end of the artwork era, the whole package. And MP3 is the end of it all.
Joe What tracks would you most like to revisit now?
Ian I’m doing a solo tour in November, with an orchestra. I may do ‘No More Cane On The Brazos’, which was a later track anyway. Maybe ‘No Laughing In Heaven’. But I’ve been there and done it all, that’s as good as it gets, it’s of an era.
Joe How do you think Brexit will affect the music business?
Ian I can’t imagine. We did 48 countries last year and most of them were outside Europe.
Joe Any message to your fans?
Ian For all the packed concerts, people standing outside the venue in Oxford in minus 20 degrees in their Gillan t-shirts, chatting with them, thank you. We did this great gig in Portsmouth Guild Hall in 1982 and I’d lost my voice. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. The audience sang the entire show at the top of their voices.
So, for all of that, thank you.
The Box Set Includes
- Mr Universe
- Glory Road + (For Gillan Fans Only)
- Future Shock
- Double Trouble
- Ian Gillan – Vocals
- John MCoy – Bass
- Mick Underwood – Drums
- Bernie Tormé – Guitar (Mr Universe, Glory Road, Future Shock, Double Trouble disc 2 only)
- Janick Gers – Guitar (Double Trouble disc 1, Magic)
- Steve Byrd – Guitar (Fighting Man and Abbey Of Thelema only)
- Liam Genocky – Drums (Fighting Man and Abbey Of Thelema only)
- Thunderstick – Drums (Come Tomorrow only)