||MARK TAYLOR'S BIG CITY NIGHTS
MICK UNDERWOOD'S GLORY ROAD
Merton Manor Club
Mick Underwood is a seasoned drummer who has played with many of rock n' roll's greats. From receiving drum lessons at a very young age from none other than the recently departed Jim Marshall, playing with Ritchie Blackmore in the Outlaws, Episode Six, the short lived Quatermass and with Paul Rodgers in Peace, but he is more fondly remembered for when he joined up with his former buddy from Episode Six and Deep Purple's legendary singer Ian Gillan in the much underrated, much loved and highly successful act Gillan.
A band who between 1979 and 1982 made five infectious albums, all of which made the UK Top 20 with the 'Glory Road' album hitting number three in August 1980, kept off the top by Roxy Music's 'Flesh And Blood' and AC/DC's 'Back In Black' mega seller. Just eight months later 'Future Shock' went straight in at number two, beaten the the top slot by Adam And The Ants 'King Of The Wild Frontier'.
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Gillan toured the length of the country, including a headlining slot at the Reading Festival in 1981 as well as many memorable TV appearances before it all ended at Wembley Arena on the 'Magic' tour before Ian Gillan controversially joined Black Sabbath.
Since then little has been heard of Mick Underwood, although he has been happily playing near his home in the West of London, most notably in Raw Glory with Cosmo from the Heavy Metal Kids. Many would love to see a Gillan re-union but with Ian Gillan still coining it in around the world with Deep Purple, that's highly unlikely to ever happen.
Bernie Torme and John McCoy are busy with their own G.M.T and former keyboardist Colin Towns has found a nice niche for himself making soundtracks and TV themes, so I jumped for joy when I heard that Mick Underwood's Glory Road announced a rare gig and that the set would mostly include many of those Gillan lost classics.
To paraphrase the title of a Gillan bonus album, tonight was most definitely 'For Gillan Fans Only' with the majority of the crowd here now in the 40-50 age bracket with many dusting down their denim patched jackets, myself included.
As a drummer at the back, Underwood needed a great band in front of him. On guitar, playing more in the style of Janick Gers, was Jeff Summers from NWOBHM favourites Weapon and his brother Gary Summers on bass who although not the real McCoy, provided a heavy solid bass. Going to town on the ivories is Roy Shipston who in the past has worked with Peter Green, Carl Palmer and Sandy Shaw amongst many others.
Obviously the hardest job of all falls to vocalist Rob Cooksley who doesn't scream the way Ian Gillan did although he has had plenty of practice in the tribute band 24 Carat Purple. He does an amiable job stamping his own identity onto the songs.
The memory banks came flooding back straight from the opener, Elvis cover 'Trouble', closely followed by early single 'Sleeping On The Job'. Close your eyes and it was 1980 all over again.
'Black Sheep Of The Family' was phenomenal, the Quatermass classic that featured some pounding drumming from Underwood. This was a track that Ritchie Blackmore would later cover for the first Rainbow album.
One highlight was 'She Tears Me Down', a song only once performed before by Gillan way back in the early days at the Marquee club. This beauty was absorbing and pulled at the heartstrings.
This was a band effort with everyone getting fully involved. 'Mutually Assured Destruction' featured an extended solo from Jeff Summers. A surprising 'On The Rocks' got the air guitarists into motion and air keyboardists for that matter. There was a change of pace for the soulful blues of 'Heartbreaker', the Peace track recorded with Paul Rodgers.
Underwood got to show off his drumming skills with a solo in the cover of Led Zep's 'Whole Lotta Love'. It's the only time I've seen a drum solo and no one left the room for a fag or toilet break, although the bar was busy.
There was one new track written by the Summers brothers, the commercial and very good 'Road To Glory'. 'Mr Universe' ended the set which featured Jeff Summers swapping his guitar for a white Fender and doing his best Torme impression, creating plenty of feedback against the speakers.
Encores of the headbanger's delight of 'New Orleans' and an unplanned and unrehearsed stab at the Little Richard chestnut 'Lucille', which featured some frantic keyboard work from Shipston.
Tonight was simply... Magic!
Sleeping On The Job
Black Sheep Of The Family
She Tears Me Down
Living For The City
Mutually Assured Destruction
On The Rocks
Whole Lotta Love
Road To Glory