Ian Gillan Band - Live at the Budokan

Live at the Budokan was recorded at the Japanese sumo-wrestling venue in 1977. When Ian Gillian Band was dropped from their record label, this live album was released before the guys went their separate ways. As a solo artist, Ian Gillan had his share of fine moments in the studio, but it was on stage where he was at his best, and this performance may be considered as one of the highlights of his career.

The album has strong versions of classics like Smoke on the Water and the moody ballad Child In Time, as well as some songs he'd recorded for his solo projects, including Clear Air Turbulence and Over the Hill, and songs expected to have been on their next release Searabus. Unfortunately, the album begins with a track that is over 12 minutes long, which includes a four-minute instrumental. For a live show a track with a long intro and lasting this long would be an amazing performance and would really get the crowed worked up. On an album, this is too long to listen to the same beat and may have you pressing the skip button to track two. Regrettably, what could have been a great live album begins badly and sadly carries on in the same way. After one very long instrument based track, there are several more to come, all of which are over eight minutes long. To see a musician on stage experimenting with the sound is great, but to have to sit and listen to these songs for four minutes as they try different things with their sound is not so good. They do however attempt and keep the listener, and viewer back then, interested by experimenting with different instrumentals, and not just electric guitar repeatedly. Colin Towns and John Naussef have their chance at centre stage for bass and keys based instrumentals; Child in Time even has a panpipe feel to it.

If we put the length of these tracks to one side and focus on the way each of the tracks are presented, it is a sigh of relief. What was great about this album was that the amazing vocals were not lost over the supporters screaming, which is the case with some live albums. The vocals sound just as good, if not better when they are singing live. Ian and the fellas really are able to sing and play live and get the music and lyrics heard by everyone. The instruments are first class. Each of the guys experiments with the instrumental, and takes the songs to new lengths, literally, while still keeping the fans interested.

If you don't mind long instrumentals, then this is an amazing listen. If you're not too keen, then why not give one of their studio albums a listen. Think the talent presented here will surprise you.