Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Connoisseur's Choice: Glenn Hughes

Hailing from Cannock in Staffordshire, Glenn Hughes has carved out a fine career in music over the years, and continues to do so. Dubbed 'The Voice Of Rock', this man's vocals are instantly recognisable on every record he has been a part of, bringing to them a unique form of soul-tinged rock. His craft has only improved with age, as you can hear in the progression from the young raw voice in Trapeze, through to the smoothness in Deep Purple, his solo records, right up to Black Country Communion.

One of the harder working characters on the scene, Glenn Hughes brings his talent to venues across the world, blessing our ears with sublime vocals and bass playing. His latest tour, 'Glenn Hughes Performs Classic Deep Purple Live', pays homage to one of the greatest rock bands in musical history, as well as acknowledging the part he played in contributing to their achievements. Deep Purple fans of the Mk III and Mk IV eras will be delighted to hear a set consisting purely of Deep Purple tracks, which Hughes has either recorded in the studio or performed live (therefore including a couple of Mk II tracks). Hughes has not performed an exclusive Purple set since their last show in Liverpool, 1976.

Looking forward to the London date of this tour on October 15th, we take a look at Glenn Hughes' finest work. It's certainly a hard task to choose only a handful of records from such a vast and impressive back catalogue.

Trapeze - You Are The Music... We're Just The Band (1972)

Trapeze initially made themselves known to the world as a five-piece band from the West Midlands. In 1970 they released a rambling, mildly psychedelic debut before shedding two members and becoming the hard rock trio that recorded the powerful Medusa LP. They were to reach their peak in 1972 with the album we're looking at here, You Are The Music... We're Just The Band.

While subsequent history has ensured that Trapeze is very much regarded as an early vehicle for the talents of Glenn Hughes, it would be wrong to overlook the songwriting skills of Mel Galley - who would later appear briefly in one of the many line-ups of Whitesnake - not to mention his magnificent guitar tone and tasteful playing. On drums Dave Holland supports their efforts with a genuinely musical approach that is a far cry from the meat and potatoes style he was later to pursue with Judas Priest in the early 1980s.

Finding a weak spot on this album is near impossible, it's a profoundly satisfying experience for the listener throughout. Primarily the music fits comfortably into the hard rock bag, but there are elements of heavy funk and soul too. The opening track 'Keeping Time' grabs attention with an early example of double bass drumming. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the elegant 'Coast To Coast'. For the most part though, it's thick riffs and hefty grooves all the way, with Hughes reaching some terrifying vocal heights.  (GC)

Deep Purple - Burn (1974)

The double departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover in 1973 may have given Deep Purple fans cause for concern, but with the determination of Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice, the band refused to fold. They had already started looking for a replacement bassist (which may have caused Roger to bail out before he was removed), and went on to recruit Trapeze vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes. Initially dubious, he was persuaded by the notion that they would enlist the singing talents of Free frontman, Paul Rodgers and vocal duties would fall between the pair of them. Alas Rodgers, although initially intrigued, declined the offer and went on to form his own band Bad Company. This could be seen as a blessing in disguise, as without the chance to hold auditions for a second 'lead vocalist', unknown Saltburn-by-the-Sea based singer David Coverdale may not have come into the mix.

The deep, husky, bluesy voice of Coverdale harmonised with Hughes' cleaner and higher pitched style, creating a vocal partnership that could have been made in heaven. Burn thrust Deep Purple back into the limelight with a bang; the opening self-titled track an absolute powerhouse of frenzied riffs layered with keys over a tight rhythm section. The hard rock style of Deep Purple got an injection of soul from their new recruits, creating the embryonic sound that was to be explored on later albums. Burn truly showcased the talents of each member, as the vibe throughout the whole album flows seamlessly, from groovy tracks such as 'Lay Down, Stay Down' and 'You Fool No One' to the stunning slow-burners 'Mistreated' and 'Sail Away'. Watch Deep Purple's set at 1974's 'California Jam' if you can. You wont be disappointed by the pure magic.  (MG)

Deep Purple - Stormbringer (1974)

The funky stylings of this Burn follow up might have resulted in the departure of an unimpressed Ritchie Blackmore but to our ears, it’s pure groovin’ bliss. The combined lead vocals of Hughes and Coverdale weave a special kind of magic throughout the entire record - from the climactic fever of the opening title track right through to the touching and truly beautiful closing ballad ‘Soldier Of Fortune’. There’s plenty of soul present, courtesy of Glenn Hughes, particularly in the form of ‘Holy Man’ and ‘Hold On’ and although Blackmore has no praise for the album himself, as Hughes puts it, “Ritchie Blackmore is damn funky, whether he likes it or not. He played wonderfully on the album.” Deep Purple backbone Paice, of course takes to the new sound like a duck to water as does the ever impressive Lord. This writer would challenge anyone who claims that funk has no place in hard rock to get through Stormbringer without breaking into song and dance.  (LD)

Deep Purple - Come Taste The Band (1975)

The one and only album to come out of the Mk IV line-up and the last Deep Purple album from the 1970s, Come Taste The Band is a musical triumph in its own right. Although there have been debates as to whether it can be considered a true Deep Purple album, there is no doubting the quality of musicianship involved. Here at Born Again, it's an absolute favourite.

Once again finding themselves back at square one with the exit of Ritchie Blackmore (one of the band's founding members), the vital position of 'lead guitarist' needed to be filled. Enter the highly rated Tommy Bolin, fresh from a brief stint in the post-Joe Walsh line-up of James Gang. There are conflicting stories of how he came to be in the band, but free from the limiting (albeit, genius) shackles of Blackmore, the band was allowed to explore the outer reaches of their style, with Bolin bringing in even more funk to compliment the sound that Glenn Hughes contributed. Together with the founding duo of Lord and Paice and the now unique dual lead vocals of Hughes and Coverdale, the line-up was complete again.

The recording process and, more pointedly, the subsequent tour were affected to some extent by the personal demons of certain members of the band. However, despite that, the album demonstrates the remarkable array of talent in the group. The stellar opening track 'Comin' Home' setting the guitar-driven tone of the album. Although very different to the classically-influenced Blackmore, Bolin's laid back but intricate playing style propelled the 'new' Deep Purple sound admirably. The fun-loving 'Gettin' Tighter' is a highlight on the album for Hughes as he takes centre stage with vocals, and even drives a funk-inspired break with Bolin halfway through the track.  As well as backing vocals on 'Comin' Home', Bolin also contributed a lead vocal to the mid-section of' 'Dealer'.

Lord's exquisite piano playing coupled with the emotionally powerful vocals of Hughes join in perfect harmony on the first part of 'This Time Around / Owed To 'G', which then leads to a magnificent piece of guitar work by Bolin, driven by the force that is Ian Paice. If we were to sit here and pick out the best tracks on Come Taste The Band, every single song would make an appearance on the list, but one that maybe stands out above the rest is the album closer 'You Keep On Moving'. What an absolutely perfect ending to a brilliant album, a masterpiece which was written by Hughes and Coverdale for 1974's Burn, yet rejected by Blackmore at the time. Much to our auditory delight, it was finally committed to vinyl. And what a show-stopping number it is.  (MG)

Glenn Hughes - Play Me Out (1977)

After the disintegration of Deep Purple Mk IV in 1976, Glenn Hughes returned to the studio to record a solo album that pushed his love of soul music to the fore. Originally surfacing in 1977, Play Me Out received little in the way of promotion and the few Purple fans that encountered it often had trouble relating to the absence of hard rock.

For these reasons and others that we will touch on here, it would be fair to consider the LP something of a lost classic. It has aged well and exudes an air of sincerity. Hughes was clearly making the music that he felt deeply, regardless of whatever expectations some might have thrust on him. Much has been made of his supposed fixation with the work of Stevie Wonder, and while that influence - as well as an apparent fondness for Donny Hathaway - is hard to deny, this is a recording that could only have been made by Glenn Hughes.

The writing, arrangements and performance reveal a supremely gifted artist at work, one unafraid to follow his instincts. If you love the Coverdale/Hughes era of Purple and have yet to investigate Play Me Out, then you know exactly what to do now.  (GC)

Hughes/Thrall – Hughes/Thrall (1982)

Five years after the release of his solo album Play Me Out, Hughes got together with former Pat Travers guitarist Pat Thrall in Los Angeles for a collaboration that resulted in the appropriately-titled Hughes/Thrall album. Taking Hughes into a different direction, now with added synth, and rock/pop driven tracks, his distinctive vocals still stand out; soulful, tinged with a rock edge, ever adaptable to any style of music. Although the album failed to make much impact upon its release, it's definitely an over-looked gem of its time. From melodic and catchy tracks such as 'The Look In Your Eyes' to power-driven ones like 'I Got Your Number' and 'Muscle And Blood' (the latter which often makes an appearance in Glenn Hughes' live solo sets), Hughes/Thrall epitomizes the classic sound of radio rock from that era. Let's not forget the brilliant guitar playing of Pat Thrall. The album could have gone further with more promotion, but unfortunately due to continuing problems with drugs, momentum for the record was stunted.  (MG)

PhenomenaPhenomena (1985)

The first time someone recommended Phenomena to me, I had no idea that Glenn Hughes was featured on it. Until that first echoey vocal line from ‘Kiss of Fire’ sounded, it immediately became one of my most favoured albums. Featuring the likes of Mel Galley, Cozy Powell, Ted McKenna and Don Airey (to name but a few) this album is made up of many respected rock musicians. Full of ultimate AOR goodness and displaying so much talent in each individual instrument consistently on every track. Songs like ‘Still the Night’ and ‘Dance With the Devil’ are melodic masterpieces, but it’s Glenn who once again brings that raw sentiment to surface. Like no other.  (KG)

Black Sabbath - Seventh Star (1986)

Never heard Seventh Star? Just one spin and you’ll be sold. If there’s one thing Glenn knows how to do, it’s how to collaborate and this time with none other than Tony Iommi - the guitar master who has this relentless skill of turning everything he touches to gold. And when you throw Hughes into the mix, well, you have an album like no other. This 'Black Sabbath' album however, is criminally over-looked and underrated which is a real shame. It has a truly dark, cutting atmosphere which can be incomparable. Darkness, power and passion runs through Hughes’ emotional vocals as each song cuts right through you. Songs like ‘Danger Zone’, ‘Heart On a Wheel’ and ‘In For the Kill’ encompass everything that a Sabbath and/or Purple fan could possibly be looking for, with added depth and feeling. A must-have album!  (KG)

HTP - Hughes, Turner Project (2002)

What do you get when you put two of rock’s most esteemed vocalists together? You get the brilliant Hughes Turner Project… and what a debut album it is! With what could be considered pretty average song writing, the vocals alone make this album what it is. Mind blowing vocal melodies and power from start to finish, both Joe Lynn Turner and Glenn Hughes are the perfect duo... not to mention the addition of Mr John Sykes on ‘Heaven’s Missing an Angel’. It wouldn’t be untrue to admit that Hughes’ vocal range does surpass that of Joe Lynn, particularly as he showcases both his bluesy tones and ability to blow the roof off with his impressive range. Regardless, this is an album worth having in your collection for the vocals alone. Both Joe and Glenn make this album what it is and we’re just waiting for the day they bring these songs to the stage once more!  (KG)

Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion (2010)

Born out of a jam session between Hughes and Joe Bonamassa, Black Country Communion came thundering along in 2010 to assure the world that Mr Hughes had yet more to offer. With Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian completing the line-up, the self-titled debut is an example to all ‘supergroups’ of how things should be done. Hughes’ vocals are on top form from start to finish, the best they’ve been in many years. His belting out of that soulful power he’s best known for is goosebump inducing. Bonamassa lends this album a sexy, bluesy touch but there’s no shortage of a hard hitting rock sound in his playing. The quality of the music is so consistent here that it’s genuinely difficult to pick out key tracks but at a push, ‘The Great Divide’ and ‘Down Again’ couldn’t fail to hook any listener in.  (LD)

Intro: M Godding
Contributors: M Godding, Kayleigh Griffin, Louise Dornan & George Colwan

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