Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi

There are some of us still scratching our heads about the time Ian Gillan became the lead singer for Black Sabbath. Certainly, the Deep Purple vocalist had the credentials and lungs, but how would he sound on "Iron Man" and "Paranoid"? Those of us who were there have mixed feelings about the union and the album they released, 1983's Born Again. All was not lost, however, when Gillan and Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi got together with Purple organist Jon Lord, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, HIM guitarist Linde Lindström and Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, and recorded 'Out Of My Mind" and "Holy Water" in 2011. It was definitely a notch up with the songs going on to benefit the project WhoCares, part of Gillan's two decades of helping Armenia after the Spitak Earthquake of 1988. The next logical step: the WhoCares album.

"Out Of My Mind" and "Holy Water" are the only real "new" songs featuring all the aforementioned players. Whether additional songs were recorded may forever be shrouded in secrecy; obviously with Jon Lord's recent passing, subsequent gatherings of this scale are most definitely out of the question. That means Gillan and Iommi, or whoever assembled the WhoCares collection, plucked out some rare and unusual items from the vaults to fill out the two CDs. Collectors will eat this stuff up; casual fans not so much. The original take of "Zero The Hero" from Born Again reminds us of the aching potential behind Gillan's time with Sabbath. Interestingly, an odd run at "Trashed," another one from Born Again re-recorded for Gillan's Inn featuring Gillan's Purple band mates, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice, sounds considerably less like a Sabbath track and more like a heavy Purple track.

From there, it's a hodge podge of "rare" Purple and Sabbath songs, a handful of Ian Gillan ditties, and contributions from former members of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath's extended family. Once bassist for Purple and later a singer on a Sabbath album, Glenn Hughes pops up on a couple of heavy hitters with Tony Iommi, "Slip Away" and "Let It Down Easy." Ronnie James Dio, who played with Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow and later replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in 1980, shows up on a previously released version of "Smoke On The Water" recorded with Deep Purple and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Black Sabbath's "Anno Mundi" features Iommi and the 1990 lineup - drummer Cozy Powell, singer Tony Martin, bassist Neil Murrray and keyboardist Geoff Nichols.

Some of the selections from Gillan will undoubtedly throw Sabbath and Purple diehards for a loop. The singer likes to style himself as a sort of Renaissance man, so he makes no bones about diving head first into a myriad of uncharacteristic forays. "Get Away" is a Middle Eastern flavored pop song that Gillan breezes through rather effortlessly while an even more commercial sounding song like "Hole In My Vest" may have you running for Machine Head. OK, so maybe "Can't Believe You Wanna Leave Me," which Gillan cut with Roger Glover and Dr. John isn't exactly "Child In Time," but you have to admit it's a catchy, 50s style romp. If nothing else, "Dick Pimple," an early 90s jam with then new guitarist Steve Morse, along with Gillan, Glover, Paice and Lord, brings the whole thing to a nice close by showcasing what a great band Deep Purple has always been. Such a grand variety, WhoCares not only benefits Armenia, it inevitably pays tribute to a number of incredible musicians, including the great ones no longer around llike Cozy Powell and Jon Lord.

~ Shawn Perry

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