GILLAN — Mr. Universe

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GILLAN - Mr. Universe cover
3.68 | 5 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1979

Filed under Hard Rock
By GILLAN

Tracklist

1. Second Sight (2:34)
2. Secret of the Dance (2:55)
3. She Tears Me Down (4:52)
4. Roller (4:25)
5. Mr. Universe (6:07)
6. Vengeance (3:31)
7. Puget Sound (4:05)
8. Dead of Night (3:47)
9. Message in a Bottle (3:10)
10. Fighting Man (7:25)
11. On the Rocks (live) (6:33)
12. Bite the Bullet (live) (5:25)
13. Mr Universe (live) (7:13)
14. Vengeance (live) (4:26)
15. Smoke on the Water (live) (8:46)
16. Lucille (live) (3:19)

Total Time: 78:38

Line-up/Musicians

- Ian Gillan / vocals, harmonica
- Bernie Tormé / guitar
- Colin Towns / keyboards, flute
- John McCoy / bass
- Mick Underwood / drums, percussion

About this release

Originally released on Acrobat in 1979.
A variant of the album was released in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand with a different track listing.
Virgin re-released the album in 1989 with six live bonus tracks.
Demon Music Group re-released it again in 2007 with additional liner notes by Ian Gillan and only one bonus track, a live recording of "Smoke on the Water".

Thanks to Time Signature, voila_la_scorie for the updates

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voila_la_scorie
This is the first Gillan album after the Ian Gillan Band was folded basically with Ian Gillan firing himself. Well, okay, technically there was one Gillan album before this but it was only ever released in Japan, so this one becomes the real first album.

Ian Gillan had essentially retired from music after he quit Deep Purple and he went and opened a motorcycle garage and a hotel. But he was poor at managing money in a business capacity and soon found himself in trouble. He was saved by a call from Roger Glover who asked him to sing for the live performance of his "Butterfly Ball" production. Ronnie James Dio had sung on the album but as he was now with Rainbow he was not permitted by Ritchie Blackmore to sing outside the band. So Glover called up his old songwriting partner and asked him to sing. When Gillan walked on stage, the applause was deafening. He knew that he needed to get back into singing.

The process was slow. His first project, a kind of children's fantasy in a "Yellow Submarine" style never took off, and so he assembled a new band: the Ian Gillan Band. They played fusion and managed to release three albums before folding. The reason was that keyboard player Colin Towns had come up with a beautiful piano piece that the other band members didn't think suited the band's sound. But Gillan loved it. So he took Towns and left the band, who, without its namesake, curled up in smoke.

The album title track, "Mr. Universe", is a reference to a song Gillan recorded with Episode Six shortly before he and Glover left to join Deep Purple. The Episode Six song is very different, though still shows Gillan's trademark voice developing toward the approach he'd use with Deep Purple. Drummer Mick Underwood also played with Gillan in Episode Six at the time, so two Ep. 6 alumni appear here. Other members include guitarist Bernie Tormé who was not on the original Gillan album, and bassist John McCoy.

The album is a cross of rock, hard rock, and late seventies heavy metal, with some progressive aspects namely due to Colin Towns' influence. I stress late seventies heavy metal here because in the late seventies, heavy metal included a good variety of music as long as it featured loud distorted guitars and powerful long-haired vocalists. I mean, Blue Oyster Cult, April Wine, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and KISS were all being called heavy metal. What makes Gillan (the band) stand apart from those others is the heavy emphasis on keyboards as Colin Towns was a key musician in Gillan's music. Hear his piano and soundtrack composition style in the opening track, "Second Sight", and his piano work in "She Tears Me Down" as well as organ solos in other songs. Then of course there's the album closer "Fighting Man", which features the music he wrote that turned off the other members in the Ian Gillan Band.

The album includes rock styles from the slightly bluesy "Puget Sound" with slide guitar and harmonica, to the piano-dressed and somewhat prog-inspired "She Tears Me Down" to the speedy "Secret of the Dance" and the aggressive, steamroller track, "Roller". "Fighting Man" is a seven and a half minute almost-epic track that, like "Stairway to Heaven", builds slowly and reaches a climax and then concludes with an epilogue. Here Ian Gillan's trademark high-pitched scream-singing is showcased near the end, and I'll say he does a fantastic job.

As a rock/hard rock album, I think this is a pretty solid piece of work. For late seventies metal it often strays a little too far outside of the territory, especially considering that Gillan came on the scene just before the New Wave of British Heavy Metal burst loose. Thinking of bands like Saxon, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, and Raven, Gillan's music was rooted in a time several years earlier.

My one gripe with this album is the production. I once owned the 1989 Virgin release and later replaced it with the 2007 remastered version. Neither version sounds as good as I think the music could sound, which I blame on the original production. It sounds a little two-dimensional to me, lacking warmth and depth. Other than that, Ian Gillan delivers a solid vocal performance, and Bernie Tormé exercises his talent well, though the guitar solo (a real solo with no other instruments) in the title track sounds a bit dated now with its delay and dive bombs. Fans of Ian Gillan would do well to hear this if they haven't already.

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