Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi and Deep Purple's Ian Gillan at work on a full-length album project

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Photo by John McMurtrie

Following the well-received release last year of a two-song benefit single as WhoCares, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan have announced a pending 2012 full-length album filled with rarities, b-sides and studio jams.

The WhoCares single “Out of My Mind,” a Sabbath reunion of sorts since Gillan fronted Iommi’s band briefly after Ronnie James Dio left, benefited the rebuilding of a music school in Armenia that was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1988. The forthcoming album, will include both that song and its b-side “Holy Water,” along with additional songs from the two metal legends’ vaults. Highlights will include a Deep Purple studio jam, two previously unreleased tracks featuring Iommi and Glenn Hughes, a never-before-heard tune from Gillan’s side band Repo Depo, plus other b-sides and radio-broadcast performances.

The 63-year-old Iommi, also currently at work on a reunion project with the original lineup of Black Sabbath, has been battling early-stage lymphoma. He is the only member to have appeared in all of Sabbath’s many incarnations since its founding in 1969; the initial Black Sabbath lineup hasn’t made a new studio album since 1978’s Never Say Die. Meanwhile, Gillan is also at work on a new Deep Purple album, the group’s first since 2005. Producer on that project will be Bob Ezrin, who made his name working with legends like Pink Floyd, Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Alice Cooper and others.

The new WhoCares compilation is due out on June 22 on earMusic.

As if Iommi and Gillan weren’t enough, the rest of the WhoCares band reads like a who’s who of heavy rock. Gillan’s former Deep Purple bandmate Jon Lord handles the keys for the project. Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain and ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted make up the rhythm section. Representing the younger generation is guitarist Mikko “Linde” Lindstrom of HIM, who, at 34, is 14 years the junior of Newsted, the next youngest member, and 35 years younger than oldest member, Lord, who is 69.

“Some of these pieces never really fit into their contemporary program and got sidelined or forgotten, and some of the album tracks never had much exposure,” Gillan tells Ultimate Classic Rock. “As the tracklisting for this album came together I noticed many of the titles had character similarities; a combination of freshness as they finally felt the sun on their backs and rebellion in a ‘yeah told you so’ kind of way. And that adds up to a wonderful time. And that adds up to more money for the music school we are building in Armenia.”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on WhoCares, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

WHOCARES, FEATURING TONY IOMMI AND IAN GILLAN, “OUT OF MY MIND” (2011): This first single is very much in the Black Sabbath mode. The song opens with a low rumbling as Newsted thumps a bass line that sounds just a bit like the main riff of “Black Sabbath,” while Iommi provides a quiet, slightly distorted guitar lick. It slowly builds into one of those trademark Iommi power chord beasts of a riff, and Gillan’s vocals, even at age 65, are great. The b-side of the single (can you call it a b-side anymore?) is a song called “Holy Water,” which should please the other half of this band’s target audience. The song fades in with some Persian-flavored sounds before going full on rock. Lord has a more heavily featured role in this song, as his Hammond gets behind Iommi’s main riff and pushes it along.

DEEP PURPLE – TOTAL ABANDON: AUSTRALIA ’99 (2012): An intriguingly presented retrospective set, as the newly added Steve Morse brilliantly reexamines a group of signature Deep Purple tunes. Before the show is over, Total Abandon recalls not so much the Ritchie Blackmore years as it does the band’s fiery Tommy Bolin period. There’s a similar level of front-line guitar craft, and a similar level of energy. Deep Purple sounded like it was having fun again. And, to my ears, the group never really looked back so intently again. By the time they issued Bananas, some five years later, original keyboardist Jon Lord was gone — and Deep Purple had metamorphosed. The addition of Morse, like an ozone-producing jolt of lightning, had transformed what once seemed like a ghost band trying to reclaim its glory days into a freshly rejuvenated force to be reckoned with.

BLACK SABBATH – SABOTAGE (1975): The end of Sabotage also begins the fade out of the Ozzy era of the band. Though the two records that followed both have their moments, it wasn’t until 1980 and the entrance of Dio that the band put out another truly amazing record with a sound so altered that, at times, it would be hard to identify the music as Sabbath. There’s also a very powerful argument to be made for that record as the band’s best, but I’ll save that one for another time. Sabotage isn’t likely to overtake the groundbreaking debut record or the hit-filled Paranoid as Sabbath’s best work in most people’s minds, and I understand that. But the next time you’re looking for a Sabbath fix, dig a little deeper and give it a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it in a while. It might just be a much better record than you remember.

DEEP PURPLE – SHADES OF DEEP PURPLE (1968; 2011 REISSUE): Coming together in 1967, Deep Purple were like a lot of bands of the day, as their mission was to push the sonic envelope as far as possible and create something new and exciting. Based out of Hertford, England, the group achieved their goal straight away. Dramatic and bombastic, Deep Purple played a tumultuous blend of heavy metal and progressive rock before such labels arrived into being, tagging them pioneers of the genres.

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