This one’s bound to take a few people by surprise. I know it certainly had me pondering over its pros and cons for more than several plays, but eventually it’s won me over, and now I have to admit I’m of the thinking that this is one of Ian Gillan’s finest ever works.
With Gillan shifting deliberately away from what he sees as the confines of heavy metal, Naked Thunder is possibly the most diverse work I’ve heard the man come up with. From rampaging hard rock to poignant, soulful blues, Gillan proves that he may not be as young as he once was, but he’s still got talent and is capable of producing supremely classy music.
On the hard and heavy front, tracks like Gut Reaction, Love Gun, and Moonshine bring to mind early Eighties successes like No Easy Way, Sleeping On The Job, or Trouble, and are more than sufficient to keep Gillan’s fans’ heads nodding up and down.
But for me, the finest moments of Naked Thunder are where Gillan stretches out into territory one may not normally associate with the man. The simple blues lament that closes the album, No More Cane On The Brazos, is a perfect example. More soul than a hundred Britny Fox albums could ever have, it shows Gillan’s voice in fine fettle and his understanding of the blues is most impressive.
The first single, No Good Luck, revolves around a unique little guitar riff and catchy chorus, with sufficient mainstream appeal to possibly get the man back in the charts (he hasn’t been in the Top Thirty since the beginning of 1982 with Restless). Nothing To Lose is more experimental, hinting at the kind of thing he did with Roger Glover on Accidentally On Purpose, whilst the ballad Loving On Borrowed Time is a stylishly mellow affair.
The whole Deep Purple affair may not be completely clear yet, but what is clear is that Ian Gillan is back as a solo star to be reckoned with. Naked Thunder is an album that puts many of Ian Gillan’s younger competition well in the shade.