Album review: TRAPEZE – The Box Sets

TRAPEZE - Medusa

Cherry Red (Release date 18/09/20)

The talented trio at the core of Trapeze, Mel Galley, Glenn Hughes and Dave Holland, progressively elevated the band’s unique brand of hard/funk rock, constantly overhauling their own template during that lineup’s short lifespan (1970-73).

Time has continued to burnish the bands reputation. Why their reach didn’t extend beyond the cultural conventions of seventies’ hard rock is a real puzzle. A puzzle re-emphasised by the release of these 3 expanded editions.

Two of the editions are 3 CD sets and the other a 2 CD set. As well as the original albums, presented in pristine, remastered finery, all three are jampacked with bonus and live track assortments. Peak Trapeze in a box, if you will (ok, three boxes).

Trapeze (originally released 1970)

The debut tends to get overlooked, mainly because of its proto hard rock nature. It was the sound of a band in its formative years, reluctantly casting off the pop psychedelia of the sixties, tentatively embracing the blazing, stomping hard rock of the seventies. Two particular song titles alone, ‘The Giant’s Dead, Hoorah’ and ‘Fairytale, Verily Verily’ Fairytale’ kind of give the game away.

That said, Hughes’ darkly confessional, ‘Am I’ and the classic rock ballad, ‘Send Me No More Flowers’ pointed the direction home.

That powerful ballad made an indelible mark on the face of seventies rock and is celebrated here, with both the US and the UK single versions appearing on Disc 2, plus a more conservative version plucked from the “BBC Sessions” archives, dating from the previous year.

Interestingly, 3 tracks from the band’s appearance on BBC2′s pioneering music magazine, “Colour Me Pop” (1969), also appear on Disc 2. The cover of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ being the standout. Many Britrock bands appeared on this half hour show, which eventually reshaped itself into The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Medusa (originally released 1970)

Now a solid, minimalist trio, we hear the band grafting Hughes’ rubbery funk bass runs onto Galley’s crafted chordwork, most especially on ‘Black Cloud, ‘Your Love Is Alright’, and ‘Seafull’. What impacts you most is the fact that there’s a rigour to Trapeze’s music, a technical brilliance that’s hidden behind fluent, impressive playing, Hughes gets all the vocal plaudits, but Galley’s guitar, voice and writing helped lay the foundations of Classic Rock.

Disc 2 opens with two different edits of ‘Black Cloud’, later providing us with a live version, from a series of songs recorded on stage, “Live in Flushing, NY, 1971”. Followed by another 5 tracks from that same gig.

Another interesting inclusion, if only for its curiousity value, is a two track pick from TV’s “Pop Worshop” in 1970, ‘Makes You Wanna Cry’ and ‘Medusa’. In 1960s and early 1970s UK, popular music TV was based almost exclusively on Pop Chart placings. There was little opportunity for rock bands to break through.

The third CD comprises five tight, way back to the bone live versions of album tracks, recorded in 1971. Don’t know where these have been hiding.

You Are The Music… (originally released 1971)

Two albums under their belt, and the trio were really cookin’ now. This third album is full of stomping, stadium filling rock songs. Hughes hit a songwriting purple patch, contributing a significant amount of enduring material, including standout tracks, ‘Coast To Coast’, ‘Way Back To The Bone’ and ‘Will Our Love End’.

But it was to be their last album together. Soon After, Hughes took a free transfer to Deep Purple.

This hand picked collection is a particularly appropriate memorial to that famous line up. Apart from a remastered version of the original album, it centres on two seriously good live gigs, spread across Discs 2 and 3: “Radio One In Concert” (1973) and “Live in Houston” (1972). Live, they naturally pick up the better stuff from the first two albums – the rumbling sonic swagger of ‘Your Love Is Alright’ and ‘Black Cloud’ must have rocked anything that wasn’t nailed down – as well as performing “You Are…” in its entirety (almost).

These three expanded editions, single albums fleshed out to encompass the considerably awesome talent Trapeze possessed in spades, are perfectly tailored examples of how an astute compiler can take us on a thrilling journey though the best years of a band’s life. *****

Review by Brian McGowan

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