In 2011, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan reunited with his old Black Sabbath band mate, Tony Iommi, to record a charity single to benefit a music school in Armenia that was destroyed in the 1988 earthquake that devastated the region. The pair recruited a number of A-list musicians for the lead track, “Out Of My Mind,” including Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain on drums, Jason Newsted on bass and the late Jon Lord on keyboards. That track, along with its B-side, “Holy Water,” is included in the two-CD compilation album, WhoCares, the profits of which will further aid the charity.
The album features the WhoCares single, along with rare or underappreciated tracks from both Gillan and Iommi’s illustrious careers. “Out Of My Mind” leads off disc one and shows that nearly 30 years later, the pair’s chemistry on record is unmistakable. The song has a swampy intro, before pummeling the listener with its heavy riff. It’s a fine track and one that makes the listener wish they’d record another album together.
Up next is “Zero The Hero,” from the sole album Gillan recorded with Black Sabbath, Born Again. The song begins abruptly, as it is missing its intro from the album, “The Dark,” but it is as menacing a riff as Iommi has ever written. Original Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward, adds a plodding drum beat serving to make the track even heavier. The song may be the pinnacle of this short-lived partnership.
“Trashed,” another track originally from Born Again, but rerecorded by Gillan with Iommi and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice and Roger Glover for 2007’s Gillan’s Inn, follows. An up-tempo rocker, the new version differs little from the 1983 original, save for better production on the 2007 version. “Slip Away” is one of two previously unreleased Iommi tracks featuring Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals. Originally intended for their Fused project, the song features a massive riff and Hughes’ soulful vocals. “Don’t Hold Me Back,” from Gillan’s Toolbox album is a fine pop song with a great vocal from Gillan, who really pushes his upper register on the chorus.
Disc one closes with a meeting of rock gods. Ronnie James Dio joins Deep Purple on stage, along with the London Symphony Orchestra, for a rousing rendition of “Smoke On The Water.” The two legendary singers sound great together, breathing new life into a song we’ve all heard 1,000 times before.
Disc two leads off with “Holy Water,” the other new song from the WhoCares project. A ballad, the song showcases a fine, if restrained, vocal from Gillan and a tasteful solo from Iommi. “Anno Mundi,” from Sabbath’s album Tyr, features Tony Martin on lead vocals. While the intro recalls “Children Of The Sea,” the song veers off into a different, equally powerful territory, with a fine riff and vocal performance from Martin.
“Hole In My Vest” is a track rare enough that the original tapes no longer exist. The B-side to “Nothing But The Best,” the version presented here came from a needle drop of the original 12-inch vinyl. It is great slice of 80s pop music, with all the production that comes with that. Gillan showcases his love for the great Little Richard on “Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave Me,” featuring Dr. John on piano. Both men turn in astounding performances worthy of its composer on this rollicking track.
Good music for a good cause — that’s the basis of what Gillan and Iommi were trying to achieve with the WhoCares single. Expanding the concept to a two-CD set with rare tracks makes Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi WhoCares a no-brainer for fans of either artist.