Sound: Going solo seems to be a labor of love more often than not, and it's an opportunity for an artist (frontman or otherwise) to delve into unexpected genres or styles. Deep Purple's Ian Gillan is no stranger to the solo project, with many of his personal endeavors of the past 20 years taking a more watered-down approach to the Deep Purple tradition. His last album of original material, Dreamcatcher, began to stray from the Gillan that the music world had come to know, with many songs bouncing somewhere between soft rock and blues. That particular record was not completely embraced by critics, but Gillan's latest album One Eye To Morocco, while not a perfect album, shows that the singer might be returning to form.
An album that was originally spawned due to a break in Deep Purple's touring schedule, One Eye To Morocco does features a much richer arrangement of instruments than Gillan's past work. It all starts off with what Gillan call the centerpiece of the album, the title track. With the help of a soprano sax and cellos that are meant to mimic more exotic instruments, One Eye To Morocco gives off a mysterious vibe in several sections. It usually morphs back into what is essentially a soft-rock tune, but Gillan does deliver some solid harmonies to enhance the piece.
Gillan is still a capable vocalist, but the edge that was present in songs like Highway Star is gone at this point. At the age 63, this shouldn't be a huge shocker and edginess probably wasn't the singer's intention anyhow. There is a heavy helping of energetic, bluesy tracks, but Gillan is better suited for mellower songs like Better Days and Deal With It, with the latter featuring some excellent vocal/guitar doubling.
In a way, One Eye To Morocco has a similar feel to Queen + Paul Rodgers' latest release Let The Cosmos Rock. Both records are full of nice, benign songs that are enjoyable enough, but they don't necessarily match the work the artists have done in the past. While the title suggests that Gillan might try to venture out into other cultural musical influences, usually it stays in the same basic blues genre. In the end, there is a solid group of musicians (guitarist Michael Lee Jackson is a huge asset), and they actually end up being the most impressive aspect of the album. // 7
Lyrics: There's quite a mix of lyrical approaches on the album. On one hand you have almost a poetic layout to the title track with lines such as, Conversation; Is fading away; The last thing; I heard you say; Was just a murmur. Around the next turn you have the happy-go-lucky No Lotion For That. It's probably tongue-in-cheek with lines like She don't mean nothing to me; She set my spirit free; She claws on down my back; And there ain't no lotion for that, but it still sounds a little offbeat with the now-older Gillan behind the mic. // 7
Overall Impression: One Eye To Morocco is an improvement on 1997's Dreamcatcher album, and it does take the time to try out a variety of percussive styles that allow the material to stray from a typical rock format. The musicians behind Gillan actually are the highlight of this record, with songs like Ultimate Groove proving that the guitarist Jackson definitely has some impressive chops. Gillan's voice is not necessarily what it used to be, but that's to be expected. If you're a fan of Deep Purple, be prepared for an album that sounds nothing like the hit singles that the legendary band churned out back in the day. One Eye To Morocco feels a bit more like an introspective piece for Gillan himself, and it's advisable to listen to it with that same state of mind. // 7