When you are in the course of a 55-year career that has marked permanently the wider pop & rock music culture, it goes without saying that you will have some ups and downs; the commercial pinnacles and the artistic acclaim but also the failures and the compositional misfire. But never…ever the depreciation! So it may be necessary for the younger generations out there to point down (for the umpteenth time) Ian Gillan’s contribution to music but on the other hand it’s really not that important considering the vast (although sometimes arbitrary) amount of information that one can find on the internet.
Having said that, there is a certain period in Gillan’s career that often gets sidetracked although the die-hard fans can’t get enough of it! Come to think about it, this is really the third comeback of Gillan’s illustrious career. The first one is tracked down in 1978-1981 with those great Gillan records, the second one is of course the Deep Purple reunion back in 1984 and the third one is definitely the aforementioned sidetracked period of 1990-1992. If I may put forward a personal opinion, I’d go as far as to say that this is the best Gillan period with the exception of the majestic first MK II records (from “In Rock” up to “Made in Japan”). So, what Gillan has been doing 30 years ago…?
After his second and last departure from Purple in 1989, Ian started to work on his first, pure solo record. Having by his side the excellent guitarist Steve Morris, he releases the wonderful album “Naked Thunder” that becomes instantly a fan favorite. The tour that followed was captured on film an clearly shows Ian’s rejuvenation after a troubled tour with Purple but also a strange and ill-conceived record with Roger Glover.
But what nobody…and I mean NOBODY expected the following was the steamroller assault with the majestic “Toolbox” record. This is a flawless bunch of songs that easily competes “Mr. Universe” in regards with which one of those two albums are the absolute highlights of Gillan’s career (apart from the Deep Purple years of course). “Toolbox” is a guitar-driven record with Ian Gillan’s trademark screaming voice making a much anticipated comeback. From a compositional standpoint songs like “Hang Me Out To Dry”, “Don’t Hold Me Back”, “Candy Horizon”, “Pictures of Hell” and the title track are magnificent…absolutely flawless!
Parallel to all these, Gillan was among the guests on the Rock Aid Armenia project while some of us were taken by surprise upon bumping into a weird (yet collectible) collection of songs called “Cherkazoo and other stories” that included unreleased solo Gillan endeavors from the early 70s. Out of his guest appearances, the one that definitely stands out is the “Etsi M’Aresei” record with the famous Greek artist Michalis Rakintzis. The three songs that Gillan sings on this record are absolutely amazing while the first single and video-clip has gained cult status throughout the years.
As a closing note I’d say that this time period of Ian Gillan’s career is not only a definite highlight but also so much better from most of the things that Purple did after Blackmore’s departure in 1993. Why don’t you revisit it…?