The Judge Victor Valdivia Band has endured constant line-up changes since its inception. Given his sparkling and vivacious personality, he just can't understand why.
"Heavy Metal at its Best"…from a 1980 Gillan album poster.
Gillan: The Glory Years collects rare and previously unavailable live performances and TV appearances from former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. It's a good introduction to one of the most underrated artists of hard rock.
Facts of the Case
Gillan: The Glory Years shows Gillan and his band performing at Oxford
Polytechnic on February 18, 1981. The show was filmed for a special to air on
the BBC, but was never released until now. Here is a listing of the songs he
performs in concert:
The line-up of Deep Purple that toured and recorded between 1970 and 1973 (referred to by fans as "Deep Purple Mark II") remains one of the most influential and groundbreaking hard rock bands of all time. A big part of the credit for that must go to vocalist Ian Gillan. Though guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was a phenomenal talent, and the other band members were accomplished collaborators, it was Gillan's remarkable voice that made the band stand out from most other hard rock bands of the era. Rivaled only by Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant in pure power and versatility, Gillan was the crucial element that made such songs as "Child in Time," "Highway Star," "Woman from Tokyo," and of course "Smoke on the Water" enduring classics.
But after Gillan left Purple in 1973 (burnt out after years of non-stop touring and recording), he had a hard time finding a musical identity that fit his voice as well as Purple had. For the rest of the decade, he issued several solo albums of strangely obscure and inaccessible music. Albums like Scarabus (1978) were full of skillful musicianship and complex song structures, but were so arcane and devoid of anything approaching hooks or melodies that they were generally ignored, both commercially and critically. It wasn't until 1980's Gillan that he finally put together a hard rock style that began to define a post-Purple direction for his music.
Gillan: The Glory Years captures Gillan during this crucial time in his career. Filmed just before the release of Future Shock, which would be his most commercially successful solo album, it shows Gillan and his band still finding their footing. The first two songs in the concert are lively enough, but sound like Deep Purple redux, only not as interesting. It isn't until the third song, "No Easy Way," that the band finally hits its stride and delivers a style that combines hard rock toughness with mainstream accessibility while also making the most out of Gillan's outstanding voice. As the show progresses, the band gets into a groove, despite playing too many covers and a few ill-advised instrumental solos. Significantly, Gillan does not perform much of his pre-Gillan solo work, nor does he sing any Deep Purple songs. It's clear from this show, as short as it is, that he was interested at the time in firmly defining a very specific hard rock sound. The concert shows that he was only intermittently successful, but those moments when the band clicks are as thrilling as any in hard rock.
The extra performances on the DVD, most of which were filmed after the concert, only highlight how focused Gillan was once he felt he had finally hit upon a style he was comfortable with. There are various TV performances from the BBC's singles countdown show Top of the Pops, as well as German TV's Musikladen and a promo video. During this period, Gillan actually enjoyed a considerable amount of mainstream success in England (though his albums weren't even released in the U.S.) and seized the opportunity to perform his new music as much as possible. If the covers (Elvis Presley's "Trouble" and Gary "U.S." Bonds' "New Orleans") are only pleasant, at least they are performed energetically. The best song, "No Laughing in Heaven," shows the band hitting an artistic peak and finding a sound that no other band could have. Sadly, Gillan's solo career ended just as it was finally catching fire. Barely a year after the concert documented here, Gillan pulled the plug on his band. By 1983, he joined Black Sabbath (replacing Ronnie James Dio) and recorded what would be one of the most controversial albums of their career, Born Again. By 1984, he had rejoined Deep Purple, where, apart for a couple of years in the early '90s, he has remained ever since. Still, this release does give fans (especially U.S. fans, who may never have heard much of these songs before) a chance to discover a band with enormous potential that was ultimately never really met.
As always, Eagle Rock proves to be music fans' favorite DVD label with an exemplary package. The concert has been remixed with new Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround mixes. Both are appropriately deafening. The full-screen transfer is surprisingly sharp and crisp. Though there is some grain here and there, this show looks astonishingly good for being over 25 years old. The extra performances, all in mono, sometimes show a little wear, but also look better than could be expected. Though an interview with Gillan himself to discuss his solo career might have been welcome, it's not a grievous omission.
Gillan: The Glory Years serves as a welcome opportunity to reassess a career that has been long forgotten, especially in the U.S. Fans of classic hard rock, particularly Deep Purple, should definitely seek this out.
It's not heavy metal at its best, but it's still pretty good. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• "Vengeance" (from German TV)
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