Don Airey is a keyboardist who has had a quite varied career since becoming a professional musician in 1971. He began with his own group, then signed on to the group Hammer with Cozy Powell in 1974. His next band move also found him playing with Powell, this time in Rainbow. He stayed with them for a time, then moved on to Ozzy Osbourne’s group (having performed with Ozzy previously as a guest on the Never Say Die album by Black Sabbath). He stayed with that group for several years before hooking up with Jethro Tull in 1987. He left the band the following year, to work on various projects over the next few years.
He was next drafted in to play keyboards on Whitesnake’s enormously successful 1987 album, and later its follow up Slip of The Tongue. Don also contributed (both live and in the studio) to such acts as Alaska, Jethro Tull, and Gary Moore, as well as recording a solo album, K2, in 1988.
The ‘90s saw him composing music for corporate IDs (everything from British Airways to Glenfiddich Whiskey) , as well as playing on sessions, and group projects such as Quatermass II with Nick Simper, and Silver with ex-Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme. In 1997 he arranged the Eurovision Song Contest winner “Love Shine A Light” for Katrina & The Waves. He also toured with Uli Jon Roth, ELO II, Brian May, Colin Blunstone, The Bonnet / Airey Band, and from 1998-2001 Company of Snakes (reliving former glories with Whitesnake!).
In August 2001, Deep Purple invited Don to temporarily replace Jon Lord for a European tour. That invitation was extended to a permanent residency in 2002. Just like Purple bandmate Steve Morse, Airey often has different group and solo projects on the go, so it was no great surprise when he teamed up with Steve, plus his old Ozzy Osbourne bandmates Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake for the (still ongoing) Living Loud project in 2003.
A Light in The Sky is his second solo record. Airey has gathered together a different set of collaborators (though Laurence Cottle of Sting/Eric Clapton/Brian Eno/Bill Bruford fame once again contributes precision bass-playing), though naturally Don provides the record’s central creative thrust an entertaining mixture of instrumental and vocal songs, from the Bladerunner-style “Ripples in The Fabric of Time” to the hook-laden hard rock of “Shooting Star”.
And as the record’s title might suggest, there is a central unifying thread of space and space travel. “In my youth I was very interested in astronomy,” reveals Airey. “These days I live in the Cambridge astronomer belt. I have a telescope and know my way around the sky. I must own nearly 60 books about the creation of the universe, birth of stars, planetary systems, etc, so in some ways I m musing about what we re doing here on Earth.”
Musically speaking, the album is fittingly rich and diverse. “What I had in mind was making something that sounded like a cross between Rainbow, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean-Michel Jarre,” continues Airey. “There was no point in making some generic hard rock album. Probably my favorite of its tracks is ‘Light in The Sky’, which dates back to my days with Colosseum II [during the late 1970s].”