Album review: IAN GILLAN & THE DON AIREY Band and Orchestra – Contractual Obligation Album #2 Live In Warsaw

IAN GILLAN with the DON AIREY BAND - Contractual Obligaiton #2 Live In Warsaw

earMUSIC/Edel [Release date 26.07.19]

Recorded in November 2016, while Deep Purple were on some downtime, and vocalist Ian undertook this short tour with current Purple pianist Don Airey’s band. Oh, and an orchestra.

Deep Purple have, with their current line-up, recorded some fantastic albums and continue to work hard. Gillan, Glover, Morse, Airey and Paice are a tight and stable unit, and I’ve seen the current set-up live a few times and each gig has been fantastic.

This was an opportunity to go off-piste a little, and perform tracks Deep Purple usually wouldn’t. And although Don’s now a band member, he still records and tours solo (when time allows). Throw an orchestra into the mix and it’s a very different experience.

The set includes several post Gillan solo tracks (aka the ‘Toolbox’ and ‘Naked Thunder’ albums) and a wonderful ‘Hang Me Out To Dry’. Purple’s ‘Pictures Of Home’ follows and is tighter than a camels arse in a sandstorm. The trademark sound is not only Gillan’s voice but also his phrasing which is spot on.

There’s some fantastic guitar work from Simon McBride, and it’s nice to hear bassist Laurence Cottle out and about again. The mix for the main band is pretty good. ‘No Lotion For That’ is a great track and the intro to ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ shows that Don has, much like Morse has the Purple guitar parts, made things his own. The orchestra comes through on ‘A Day Late’n’ A Dollar Short’, and Ian takes time to introduce to the crowd.

Between keyboards and violin, the intro to ‘Lazy’ is given a classical arrangement. There is a jam feel to parts of this track and it runs to 10 minutes. And then there’s the band intros – Ian the perfect frontman as usual.

The Purple tracks ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ and ‘When A Blind Man Cries’ (the latter very nicely orchestrated) finish disc 1, the arrangements magical.

Over to disc 2 and we get some very special moments. After ‘You’re Gonna Ruin Me Baby’ and ‘No More Cane On The Brazos’ (now THERE is a fantastic Gillan track) is ‘Difficult To Cure’, which Gillan introduces as written by three people; Don Airey, Beethoven and Blackmore. A strange choice maybe. But it is a great track with an arrangement perfectly suited to rock band and orchestra, and it is also the first piece jammed by Don and Ritchie when Airey joined Rainbow.

‘Anya’ and ‘Perfect Strangers’ are classics; check out that brass intro to Anya.

Deep Purple tracks also round off the set – ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Hush’ and a lengthy take on ‘Black Night’. Wonderful.

Now here is proof that some tracks should be played live more than the predictable, but also that rock and orchestra also work well (as if you need proof, given classical music’s influence on trad heavy metal). For me the eclectic set list (in places) and arrangements make it all worthwhile.

Essential listening. *****

Review by Joe Geesin

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