GILLAN — Future Shock (review)

GILLAN — Future Shock album cover Album · 1981 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
I was in a secondhand record shop in downtown Vancouver, sometime around 1986, just looking around for hard and heavy rock albums that were not well known among my generation, and then this really cool hard rock guitar riff came over the speakers. I went and asked the store clerk whose music it was and he said it was Gillan. As a Deep Purple fan, I knew who that was, and fortunately for me, there was a cassette of “Future Shock” in stock, featuring “Night Ride Out of Phoenix”, the song that had first caught my attention.

“Future Shock” is Gillan’s third album and includes the same members that were on the previous two albums: Gillan (vocals), Colin Towns (keyboards), Bernie Tormé (guitars), John McCoy (bass), and Mick Underwood (drums). The album strikes me as being more intense and harder rocking than the previous two albums in that the speed and hard rock approach are more consistent, all the while maintaining a variety that makes each track distinct. The title track is a rousing rocker while the next track “Night Ride Out of Phoenix” is a mid-tempo, heavy rock number. It’s only “If I Sing Softly” where things slow down for a pretty ballad with flute and acoustic guitar, pretty but kind of haunting, and a power ballad-like guitar solo part. The final track “For Your Dreams” combines a lonely and cold piano part with a bass/drum driven verse and a hard rocking chorus.

It may be because I listened to this album in my teens, but after I got the other Gillan studio albums that were re-released with bonus tracks in 2007, I still felt that this album was the most satisfying. The interesting thing for me is that the tracks “(The Ballad of) The Lucitania Express” and “Sacre Bleu” were not on the cassette I had but instead “Trouble”, “Mutually Assured Destruction” and “One for the Road” were on. Also, I’m pretty sure my cassette had a different version of “No Laughing in Heaven”. There are several bonus tracks here which include not only the tracks I knew from the Canadian cassette I had but many others. I often find that bonus tracks that include outtakes and B-sides have a lot of duds mixed in, but in this case the quality is quite consistent with the album. The sound quality dips a little for a couple of tracks but not terribly so. If there’s anything to get on one’s nerves, it might be Gillan’s slowed-down vocals at the conclusion of “The Maelstrom (Longer than the A Side)”. He sounds like Grover from Sesame Street bawling and moaning about not wanting to go down the hole in the middle.

Gillan does tend to employ a sense of humour in his song-writing as can been heard in the lyrics to “No Laughing in Heaven” and his exaggerated French accent in “Sacre Bleu”, but you might also get a kick out of the lyrics in “Your Sister’s on My List”: “I’m writing to you / To say that we’re through / You’re boring as shit! / But your sister’s a hit / ‘Cause she’s got BIG TITS”.

“Future Shock” is a fun and solid album. What makes it not like contemporary metal bands is the outstanding keyboard performances (organ/synthesizer/piano) by Colin Towns. He’s not the kind to play atmospherics and rhythm only and gets a noticeable share of solo time. He is a fantastic player, though sometimes the keyboard sound does wet down the metal feel of Bernie Torme’s guitar.

The Wikipedia article states that this album was ranked number 467 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of “The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time” in 2005.
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