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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Gillan

Toolbox

Review by Larry Toering

In 1991 Ian Gillan had come off a huge tour and regrouped himself and come up with of a lineup of Lenny Haze (Y&T) on drums, Steve Morris on guitar and Brett Bloomfield on bass. It proved to be a good idea to get back to hard rock and these were the guys for the job. They played phenomenally and Gillan sang his heart out on this album that was produced by unsung hero Chris Tsangerides. It's by far one of the highest points in Gillan's over 40 year history in the business. While some may not agree with that and think it was all smoke and mirrors, well, to each their own. Of course, I am a die hard Gillan fan and I would buy this no matter who it was. It's his post 1983 magnum opus outside of Deep Purple, if you ask me. Every single track contains the type of screaming Gillan is famous for, with not one bum note on it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hang Me Out To Dry

Kicking things off in raunchy fashion, a tasty little guitar lick comes out of nowhere in  a traditional Gillan style (something like Bernie Torme would do) and then things go into a nice riff before Gillan screams into the cut. This features an appearance by Leslie West on guitar, but his solo didn't make the final cut, and he commented that he didn't like that. It's about getting hung out to dry more ways than one.

Toolbox

The title track is a fast little number with guitar all over the place by Morris and a great vocal with plenty of trademark screams. What the song is about is too dirty to tell, but it's probably a Gillanism in-joke or something. It's really just about getting on your feet and getting busy. “Everywhere I go there's bad news on the radio / I want some music in my car / Life's a box of rocks / I'm gonna get out my Toolbox.” Toward the end Gillan belts out one that indicates where thing are going from here out, piercing!

Dirty Dog

And here we go... Starting off with a killer riff, that’s just magnificent, things build up to Gillan's entry and it's pretty much over, but then that is business as usual. Of course, business as usual with Gillan is plenty strong and this is simply one of his hard rocking best. It features tons of screams of different pitch levels, and one slap back scream done three different times in the song. Those screams have to be heard to be believed. Everyone here is at the absolute top of the game, and we get some fantastic drumming from Haze. This one is about getting kicked when you're down.

Candy Horizon

Once again, the screaming is multi dimensional, and there’s lots of it. The guitar is vibrant here, as well, including a brave solo that goes a little Van Halen but still finds its way back to the song at hand. It's another great track with a nice crash ending, great stuff as usual. Things just don't let up as they go on this disc, as it's just getting started.

Don't Hold Me Back

This is one of the definite highlights. It's basically a ballad but it has more screaming in it to complicate that label. No matter what you call it, it’s at least a semi ballad with beautiful modern sounding guitar. Gillan goes over the top with the screams here. While this is just sheer madness, it’s not even close to some of what's to come.

Pictures Of Hell

Another highlight follows here with Gillan accounting the Desert Storm footage being shown on TV as it was happening. He lets it rip like no other on this one. His screaming never got any higher than this. It also features a very Iron Maiden-like riff and groove in the guitar and rhythm section. Just outlandish maniacal banshee wailing makes this one of the ultimate Gillan songs.

Dancing Nylon Shirt pt.1

This is where things are really peaking, as Gillan evaluates the system with an almost rap-style vocal in parts that are just as wild as can be. It has a killer riff, as well, with a lot of those Gillan style guitar fills throughout. Of course he has to let a huge scream rip because it's not like he hasn't been shrieking to the max already. The lyrics are excellent, as usual, but this deals with humanity. “The madness descends from the planet that's covered by money and hunger and hate and disaster / the misunderstanding that goes hand in hand with our profits of doom.” If you run those words together real fast, you get the idea of the rap effect he has in this. The essential meaning is about certain minds not being made up in the world, apparently important minds. I call this one “the oxymoronic plague song.” And it's part one, but by far the better statement, as part two is more like a reprise.

Bed Of Nails

Some nice modern bluesy licks start this one and Gillan goes into a story about a girl who likes to stick around and play house. It's another consistently great track, but it probably contains the least screaming. Then, it doesn't really call for it. However, it does sport a fast and freaky guitar solo.

Gassed Up

This is more of the same, really, but it does get back to some ear piercing screams, and it's one of the more metal numbers on the whole thing. The backing track just has that left over hair metal essence to it, but more in the sense of showing them how it's done. While that style of rock may have died, Gillan was out to prove rock was still alive on this project.

Everything I Need

Moving right along, this is better than the last two as it kicks in with the drums. It's one of my favorites of the sleepers here. Once again, the screams are multi dimensional and all over the place. On this one Gillan lays it on the line because he's got a lot of time.

Dancing Nylon Shirt pt.2

Things close with a wicked guitar growling away in the background and Gillan coming in with a different sort of rapping, and the oxymoron phrases he comes up for it are genius. It's very unique but not as unique as part one. In the mid section it goes back into a style like part one, and it rounds it off perfectly before going back to the rather odd, but, oh so good rapping bit.

 
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