Cherry Red Records [Release date 31.07.20] 6-CD set
A trove of previously unreleased Glenn Hughes’ live material – 19 CDs’ worth – has been released by Cherry Red Records over the last two years. Calling them “Official Bootlegs” has an honest ring to it. The label: What we’re saying is it’s not quite conventional quality live material, but we wouldn’t put it out there if we weren’t happy with it. Fans : damn right… are there any more?
So here we are with a 6CD, Volume 3 Boxset. With gigs from a narrower timeframe than the previous two volumes, set in exotic locations like Wolverhampton, Bedford and Belfast. The truth is, no matter where Hughes is playing, he’s on home ground, such is the geography of his fanbase.
CDs 1 and 2 cover Hughes’ 1995 gig at Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall (named for the 10th Century English noblewoman who founded the city). Hughes had just released his “Feel” album, which was a latent flowering of all the man’s talents as a songwriter and interpreter of heavy rock and funk. ‘Big Time’ and ‘The Liar’ open the gig in confirmatory fashion, and a thousand fans come to life.
Surprisingly, Hughes includes only two more track from “Feel”, ‘Redline’ and ‘Push’, instead taking us on a slick, tuned in travelogue through the raw, rock’n'soul back pages of ‘We Are The Music’ and ‘Coast To Coast’ (+2 others), from his times with Trapeze. Then treating us to a ferocious handful of the usual Deep Purple suspects, with ‘Burn’ and ‘Stormbringer’ closing the set, both delivered like blasts of superheated air, charging out across the arena.
CD3 was recorded in London. Same year, same month, same week as the Wulfrun gig, so basically the same material. And with this shorter, sharper set in the London Astoria we see a better defined snapshot of the man at work.
Even the casual rock fan knows that Hughes invests much of himself in live performance, bringing his back catalogue to life. Yes, there are a few bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s the joy of live music. The sheer visceral excitement of Hughes performing live on stage can be breathtaking. It eclipses any loyalty you feel to the pristine CD recording you’ve been listening to in the previous days and weeks.
Jump forward 13 years and we’re in the Esquire, Bedford (CD4). It was Deep Purple’s 40th anniversary, so Hughes – much a part of the band’s…er, musical muscle and blood (ok, I know, that was Hughes/Thrall) – took it upon himself to devote much of the material here to his stint with the band.
Tight, targeted versions of ‘Holy Man’, ‘Mistreated’ and an emotionally surging version ‘This Time Around/Owed To G’ are peak Hughes. And without making a false move or taking a wrong turn, he breaks the set up with picks from his time with Trapeze (Seafull, Will Our Love End), and from his debut solo album, “Play Me Out” (I Found A Woman, It’s About Time).
Hughes is very popular in Northern Ireland. His 1st show at the Spring & Airbrake (don’t ask) in Belfast (2010) sold out fast, and a second night was added. Each gig is allocated is own CD (5 & 6).
As Hughes made his way through the clean years in the nineties, he seemed compelled to stop and tell us a few tales from the darkside. Exorcising past demons in song as it were. Unsurprisingly, this cathartic collection was titled “Addiction” (1996).
This title song looms large tonight, along with several more lyrical exorcisms that were performed in subsequent albums, as we moved into the new millenium. ‘Don’t Let Me Bleed’, ‘Crave’, ‘Can’t Stop The Flood’ all tell their own personal story.
They – and others – are all here, with only a few presciently titled songs from his previous life featured, like ‘Touch My Life’ (Trapeze) and ‘Sail Away’ (Deep Purple). Effectively we’re listening to the underlying soundtrack to Hughes’ life, in the classic rock tradition. If ever an artist connected with his audience, it was tonight (x2). ***1/2
Review by Brian McGowan
Album review (Justified Man: The Studio Albums (1995-2003))
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