Album review: GLENN HUGHES – Justified Man

GLENN HUGHES - Justified Man

Cherry Red Records [Release date 31.01.20]

Part One: Feel (CD1), Addicted (CD2), The Way It Is (CD3) :

This clydebuilt boxset plugs into Glenn Hughes’ solo career in 1995, kicking off with his fourth solo album “Feel” (CD1). It’s the first of a 6 CD cross section cut from a 14 CD body of solo work that’s spanned 40 years, and counting.

Having survived the hedonistic, life shortening spoils of fame with rock monsters, Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes arrived in the nineties clean and with no regrets.

Reunited with Pat Thrall and writing with Bruce (Unruly Child) Gowdy, Hughes’ abilities burst into bloom all over “Feel”. It was a latent flowering of all the man’s talents as a songwriter and interpreter of heavy rock (Big Time, Redline), streamlined percussive funk (Save Me Tonight, Coffee & Vanilla) and blue eyed soul (Does It Mean That Much, Maybe Your Baby). The whole shebang sounds weighty and dynamic, especially on this remaster.

CD2 1996: As Hughes made his way through the clean years, he seem compelled to stop and tell us a few tales from the darkside. Exorcising past demons in song. Unsurprisingly, this cathartic collection was titled “Addiction”.

No doubt there are many fans who would salivate over the pitch black darkness of ‘Down’ and ‘Addiction’, the album track, and indeed many who would revel in the bruising hard rock of ‘Death Of Me’ and ‘Justified Man’. But few could make sense of such an approach stacked up against Hughes’ stated ambition of emulating Elton John and/or George Michael. But the purge did its job, reaffirming what we already knew … that Hughes is an immense talent. It was perhaps only his audience that had shrunk.

CD3 1999: Having washed the toxins from his system, the religious intensity of “Addiction” was now replaced by “The Way It Is” and a freedom to move seamlessly between pop, rock and funk. Too many moving parts, you might think, but let’s face it, with purification you’re gonna get a musician let loose.

Some great tracks here. ‘You Kill Me’, written and recorded with Steve Salas and Matt (G’n’R) Sorum, is a bulldozing, shout-it-out rock song, cut and shaped to fit a funk framework. It’s the perfect partner to the trio’s other contribution, the snake hipped, dance floor dazzler ‘Second Son’. Hughes and his “solo” bandmates, guitarist JJ Marsh, and bassman Sampo Axelsson (now of Lions Share), punch their songwriting weight too. The rushing, strutting hard rock of ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’ and the funkier, sharper ‘Rain On Me’ are probably the picks.

Part Two: Return Of The Crystal Karma (CD4), Building The Machine (CD5), Songs In The Key Of Rock (CD6)

CD4 : 2000 : By the time he got to “Return Of The Crystal Karma” , Hughes had put his serious head back on. It was his seventh solo album since leaving Purple, and, have you noticed? The voice? Still 100% intact, no fading in the sun, no ragged edges, still muscular, rippling with energy and duracell power. Like it was when it all began. The remastering emphasises the point.

The music here is densely constructed, discordant in places (The State I’m In), pained and feverish in others, (Midnight Meditated), and both these tracks become profoundly unsettling as they spiral down, deeper and deeper. Yet, in places, though this is more rare, as a band, Hughes, JJ Marsh, Gary Ferguson and new boy, Hans Zermuehlen on keyboards, lock onto an elusive groove. It works best on ‘It’s Alright’ – blissed out, souled out funkrock, laced with frilly Philly soul.

Overall though it’s a bit of a patchwork quilt of rock, funk and soul that in places is perhaps just a little too threadbare.

CD5 : 2001 : On “Building The Machine” the needle on Hughes’ artistic compass stops precisely between rock and funk, serving up two of his all time best with ‘Can’t Stop The Flood’ and ‘Inside’ (with Bobby Kimball), both maintaining a seismic, funk rock rumble that mercilessly surrounds two cleancut choruses. It’s a similar scenario with the Stonesy ‘Out On Me’ and Deep Purple cover, ‘High Ball Shooter’. The arrangements are lean and mean, precision tooled, with every piece oiled up, friction free and rocking hard. The remastering focuses on sonic separation, cleverly unlocking individual sounds that weren’t all that obvious, even in 2001.

CD6 : 2003 : With a nod to Stevie Wonder on “Songs In The Key Of Rock”, Hughes goes on to make it clear that you just can’t stop the rock. He ignites the album with the blazing opener, ‘In My Blood’… it’s full of funk flourishes and pumped bass lines, but at its core this is a hard rock bruiser. Still, it’s the gut punch of the hardbodied ‘Gasoline’ that floors us. It comes out of its corner swinging wildly and doesn’t slow down till it’s drawn blood.

Elsewhere, Hughes is never over eager, patiently building songs like ‘Standing On The Rock’ and ‘Courageous’ into unstoppable forces.

What this album makes clear is that not only did Hughes emerge from years of addiction with his voice intact, but those years added a gritty veracity to his vocal delivery, turning each set of lyrics into a lived in experience. The remastering only serves to underline that very point.

Several bonus tracks are spread across this 6 CD selection, none better than ‘Holy Man’, written with Jon Lord and David Coverdale for Deep Purple’s legendary “Stormbringer” album back in 1974.

Review by Brian McGowan

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