There's no doubting that singer Ian Gillan is a rock legend, and a new album by a rock legend, especially when it's ten years since the previous one, is a special occasion. Special occasion it is but, just as special occasions can turn out to be a bit disappointing after all the hype and build-up, so does One Eye to Morocco.
One Eye to Morocco is Gillan's first studio album with all new material since 1997's Dreamcatcher. Most of these songs are collaborations between Gillan and long-time collaborator Steve Morris. The exceptions are "Change My Ways", which Gillan penned on his own, and "Better Days", "Ultimate Groove" and "Texas State of Mind", written by his guitarist Michael Lee Jackson. Another "Gillan's INN" US tour collaborator joining him on this album is bassist Rodney Appleby. The excellent band line-up is completed by Howard Wilson (drums); Joe Menonna (saxophone); Lance Anderson (Hammond Organ); and Jesse O'Brien (keyboards).
The band is excellent, as you would expect them to be when supporting an artist of Gillan's stature, and Ian's voice is in fine fettle, quite amazingly so for a 64-year old. It remains powerful and flexible, retaining its trademark timbre. It's till a fine rock instrument! As such, firmly established fans will probably enjoy the album, as the songs themselves are also good.
The songs, however, are the weak point. They are good but they are not great, landing squarely in the region of AOR. Nothing fancy here. They are too "nice". Not even the three "rockers", "No Lotion for That", "Change My Ways" (my favourite track off the album) and "Texas State of Mind", have sufficient fire in their belly to lift the album from this "niceness". Elsewhere, "Deal With It" and "Ultimate Groove" toy with slight funk and there's a mish-mash of ballads and slightly more up-tempo numbers, of which the title track is the pick.
We review many albums on this site from young bands starting out in the business who approach their music with enthusiasm, drive and passion, and who are sometimes let down by insufficient musicality. Here we have the opposite: we know the man and his band are full of musicality but I sense none of the fire and desire that drives those young bands. The end result is an album full of unquestionable musical ability that is a disappointment to listen to. In fairness to all of those young artists who sometimes get a rough time on here, One Eye to Morocco's ranking has to reflect that fact.
If you're already a fan of the man then you'll probably get this anyway and enjoy it - just don't expect Fireball! - but if you're not then my advice would be to look elsewhere.
1) One Eye to Morocco (4:05)
2) No Lotion for That (3:11)
3) Don't Stop (2:35)
4) Change My Ways (3:26)
5) Girl Goes to Show (3:59)
6) Better Days (4:08)
7) Deal With It (3:44)
8) Ultimate Groove (3:48)
9) The Sky is Falling Down (4:09)
10) Texas State of Mind (3:49)
11) It Would Be Nice (3:10)
12) Always the Traveller (3:17)