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Ian Gillan

One Eye to Morocco

Review by Rick Damigella

One Eye to Morocco is Ian Gillan’s first new album of original solo material in a decade and, once again, The Voice has outdone himself. Following the release of the retrospective recordings of Gillan’s Inn in 06, I was left wanting to hear new material from Gillan and the musicians who made up the core band and sound of that album. This disc is exactly the kind of earworm I was hoping to hear.

The guitar/bass combo of Michael Lee Jackson and Rodney Appleby are back and build upon what they started with the updated recordings on Gillan’s Inn. The new material here is very well balanced and shifts from fun to bluesy to introspective moods. I’ve always been a fan of IG’s signature lyrical style and his stories about them featured in the “Wordography” section of his website. Indeed, already he has three entries there from …Morocco, which I highly recommend to the reader to check out for yourself. The title track especially has a fun story to it, which I shall not attempt to paraphrase here.

Something about the overall sound of One Eye to Morocco makes me think of this as the perfect follow up to his previous solo release. If Gillan’s Inn was the “raging party at the pub” record, this album definitely continues the party, in a more shoes off, toes in the sand kind of refined way, with shifts to quieter moments, in darkened rooms, several beverages later, late at night, as the band mellows the mood. Or I could be completely wrong and it’s just a damn fine listen without a single weak song to speak of. It’s all subjective and really you need to hear it for yourself to appreciate what Mr. Gillan does away from his day job.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
One Eye to Morocco
The title track sounds exactly as it should. From the exotic percussion and desert influenced guitar chords and sax riffs, this is not unfamiliar sonic territory for IG, but it feels and sounds completely fresh and unique in its structure. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
No Lotion For That
When I saw this song title I immediately knew this would be an up tempo rocker. Yes, that’s what it is. If we are graced by even the shortest of solo tours, I would imagine this would be an excellent show opener, with its fun, party atmosphere, sound and lyrics.
Don’t Stop
There’s an island feel to the rhythms and tone on this one. It’s another upbeat number that reminds me a bit of something that might have been done back during the Accidentally On Purpose era but sat waiting for the right time to appear.
Change My Ways
Oh yeah, we need more of Gillan on the harmonica like the opening of this number. The third song in a row in the upbeat, party-at-the-beach-front-bar mode. This has a seriously infectious groove that will make all but the staunchest want to get up and shake it.
Girl Goes to Show
Here the mood shifts to a bluesier space. It’s definitely not downbeat, just the party has now gone inside. I absolutely love the riffing by Michael Lee Jackson on this, from the brightly played chords making up the majority of the song, to the wailing riffs he plays when Gillan is off the mic.
Better Days
Now we are talking. I have always loved when Gillan gets down and dirty in the blues. This is straight up, 12-bar bars, played slow and gritty. His voice drops to the low register to vamp out the opening of the story. It’s impossible to not picture the band sitting at the edge of the stage strumming this one out, as smoke paints the air around the lighting.
Deal With It
Steve Morris is credited with all the instruments on this number he co-wrote with Gillan. It’s got a very different feel, unlike anything I have heard Gillan perform. The production is a bit lusher, more electronic instrumentation is present. The groove and chorus remind me of something that could belong in a well placed moment in a movie soundtrack, however I am glad it exists here, so I can put my own mind’s eye visuals to it.
Ultimate Groove
As the name implies, the band are working a groove on this one. As throughout the album, the guitars are much more focused on melody than crunch, which is a welcome sound. We also get one of Gillan’s well placed signature screams.
The Sky is Falling Down
There is something just so right about the combining of Gillan’s voice with Hammond organ and electric guitar, whether they be screamingly loud, or more mid-ranged in tone like here.
Texas State of Mind
When he performed this live on the Gillan’s Inn Tour, Gillan declared he was intending to steal this song from Michael Lee Jackson. He made good on his promise and has done so. This is a classic Ian Gillan performance, invoking the feel good party atmosphere spirit of the disc’s earlier numbers.
It Would be Nice
It’s getting a bit more introspective and quiet now in the opening of this next one. But don’t let that fool you, as the chorus belts out loud with some of Gillan’s strongest vocalizing on the album. The fun back and forth from quiet to loud repeats throughout the song to great effect.
Always the Traveler
And back to the blues we go. Warm organ keys greet the ear as the band plays out a mellow backing sound. The party is winding down. Finish the last of your drink. Find the person you are going home with. Expertly played saxophone from Joe Mennonna closes this number and the album.
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