Although his solo career never reached beyond a cult-sized group of Deep Purple fanatics in the States, over in England, singer Ian Gillan enjoyed chart success in the late '70s/early '80s with a string of hard rock-based solo outings. For the proof, just check out the amount of "Gillan" patches you spot on longhaired headbangers' denim jackets entering the Hammersmith Odeon to see Iron Maiden (in 1982) on Maiden's The Early Days DVD. And as evidenced by the 2008 DVD, Glory Years, Gillan certainly had a top-notch rock band to back him up on-stage during this pre-Purple reunion era. Originally aired as part of the Rock Goes to College TV series (a show that seemed to showcase just about every band that played a U.K. college during the time), the show was recorded during Gillan's Glory Road Tour, on February 2, 1981 at Oxford Polytechnic. As always, Gillan's voice is in fine form (does the man ever have an off night vocally?), and he even shows off his bongo skills at various points of the performance. But as mentioned earlier, the Gillan band was one fierce rockin' beast, and comprised of some unforgettable characters. One prerequisite of just about every single hard rock/heavy metal band of the era was for all bandmembers to have shoulder-length hair, and bassist John McCoy flips the bird at conventionality here -- by having shaved half his head bald (and wearing a ZZ Top-ish beard). And on guitar, you have Bernie Tormé, who sports a look best described as a "glam rock pirate" (one black shoe, one white shoe, a white ruffled shirt, and a tattered jacket, as well as a thunderbolt painted on his face and multi-colored long hair). But forget the looks for a second, the fact of the matter is that Tormé was one of the most underrated guitarists of the era, and his over the top six-string heroics show why Ozzy Osbourne tapped him to be Randy Rhoads' initial -- albeit short-lived replacement -- in the Ozzy band. Just check out the track "Mr. Universe" for the proof, as his style is a hybrid of Gary Moore and Eddie Van Halen. And while the inclusion of a few Purple classics would have certainly helped (or any Purple era tracks, for that matter), the set opening, Motörhead-esque barn stormer, "Unchain Your Brain," is a definite highlight, as well as the Spinal Tap-esque "Mutually Assured Destruction on the Rocks" (a little ditty about nuclear destruction...did every bloody metal band of the early '80s have a song about this topic?). All in all, The Glory Years is a faithful and fitting reminder of the oft-overlooked Gillan.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato