GLENN HUGHES – The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume Three: 1995-2010

Upon release in the summer of 2018, the first Glenn Hughes official bootleg box gained a mixed response.  Some fans were delighted to have access to several hours’ worth of rare and unreleased live material at a bargain price, while others bemoaned the audio quality.  Yes, five of its seven discs were sourced from audience recordings – and in a couple of cases, Hughes sounded as if he were miles away in a very large venue – but it’s hardly like the record company made secret of  any audio roughness: the word “bootleg” should have set alarm bells ringing for the kind of audiophiles who consistently expect perfection.   The first official bootleg box was rough in places, but for the more obsessive fan (or perhaps those who came to Glenn’s work late) it was a great collection filler.   If nothing else, it was worth owning for a handful of spirited performances from a Brazilian show, a disc’s worth of near pristine acoustic tracks and a very welcome reissue of ‘Burning Japan Live’.  A second set released in 2019 was similarly of a scattershot quality, but was worth having for a 1996 show promoting the heavy ‘Addiction’ album.

Those listeners who had major issues with the previous sets will, naturally, have similar problems with the third.  The best advice for those people is to move on, or perhaps spend their money on a different Glenn Hughes release when the time comes.  Those who value a little historical importance and enjoy live material in…its rawer forms will find plenty of enjoyment here.

The first show comes from Wolverhampton in 1995.  As you’d expect for a show promoting the ‘Feel’ album, the playing is tight and funky.  Set opener ‘Big Time’ demonstrates this better than most with the band latching onto a groove that never feels a million miles away from Glenn Hughes covering Living Colour,  and via ‘Push’, the funk hits hard during an unashamed James Brown infused banger.  The sound quality of the show is adequate rather than great; the volume wavers in places and there isn’t much bass.  That said, everything is clear throughout – the band are never drowned by any crowd noise and providing you’re happy to accept the limitations of the audience source, the band sound superb from a technical perspective.  Glenn comes close to soulful vocal perfection on a sparse ‘This Time Around’ and the hard funk rocker ‘Way Back To The Bone’, while on a run of Deep Purple tracks closing the second half of the show, he hits most of the huge rock wails with ease.  While the double whammy of a funk derived ‘Stormbringer’ and a raucous ‘Burn’ are undoubtedly the show’s highlight, those who enjoy Glenn’s rock chops will almost certainly get a kick from a heavy ‘Muscle & Blood’, even if the band sound a little distant.  The only big disappointment with this show (and with regards to the technical limitations) is that ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ isn’t a little sharper.  The band sound like they’re playing up a storm: the clavichord rhythms are clacking along apace; the lead guitar work shreds and Hughes is especially on point.  The woolly audio wavers to the point where the closing riffs and refrains shift between bassless and thin to slightly distorted, as if the taper is still trying to find that perfect sound balance, despite the performance appearing very close to the end of the set.

A second show from the ‘Feel’ tour – this time from the much missed Astoria 2 in That London – may or may not be complete.  The set is almost identical to the Wolves show with all duplicate tracks played in the same order.  The featured set list omits ‘The Liar’, ‘You Keep On Moving’ and (regrettably) ‘This Time Around’, but evidenced by what we are given here, the band are on almost equally good form.  This becomes obvious about two minutes into a great version of ‘Muscle & Blood’ where Glenn genuinely attacks his vocal performance.  He’s eventually outdone by the lead guitarist [presumably George Nastos – this box set, in bootleg tradition, isn’t big on sleeve notes] who plays up a storm.  Other highlights include an eight minute rendition of Deep Purple’s ‘You Fool No-One’ where Glenn really gets to work those blues drenched wails and a thunderous ‘Burn’, where the band sound ready to tear the roof off the small underground venue.  As with the other 1995 show, the audience recording wavers somewhat, but is actually better than the Wolves recording in that there is a little more warmth and you can actually hear the bass on a good proportion of the performances.

With the rough stuff out of the way, the remaining shows give this set every reason to be a worthwhile purchase for most fans.  An acoustic set from Bedford Esquires in 2010 has an absolutely pristine sound throughout.  With audience noise kept to an absolute minimum, it’s almost like hearing Glenn play in your living room.  This is a great listening experience from the word go, but hearing ‘Stormbringer’ arranged for acoustic guitar and electric piano is a real treat, as is experiencing the mighty ‘Mistreated’ scaled back to its bare essentials and a wonderfully indulgent cover of the Moody Blues classic ‘Nights In White Satin’.  Best of all, though, is a soul drenched take on Trapeze’s ‘Coast To Coast’.  The duo set up really allows the song to breathe and with Glenn’s voice joined by a fantastically 70s keyboard performance, it sounds more like a lost Stevie Wonder performance than that an old classic from a rock band’s repertoire.  Seriously, this is one live show you cannot afford to miss.

The other essential listen this time around (no pun intended) comes from a set recorded at The Spring & Airbrake, Belfast in 2010, during an extensive tour of the UK.  The show sounds like it may have been sourced from a soundboard in that it’s a little flat and lacking in atmosphere.  What it lacks in feel it makes up for by being of a decent (and releasable) audio standard.  Set list wise, there’s less of a leaning on the old Purple classics, but it’s great to hear Glenn and band really cutting loose on some lesser known material like ‘Can’t Stop The Flood’ (from 2001’s ‘Building The Machine’) and ‘Crave’ (from the then still quite new ‘First Underground Nuclear Kitchen’ album).

In terms of highlights, it’s a show that really doesn’t leave the listener wanting. Worth the time on its own, there’s a roaring twelve minute version of Trapeze’s ‘Keepin’ Time’ which is as much a worthy showcase for the rest of the band as much as Hughes himself.  The way the bass locks down a funk rock groove against an old style organ before stretching into a full 70s style jazz funk groove is impressive, and although drum solos can be laborious, the one that sits at the heart of this lengthy performance has just about enough variation and interest to be genuinely worthwhile. The aforementioned ‘Crave’ has an edge that’s funky enough to rival some of the ‘Feel’ material, but played as sturdily as it is during this live set, it’s possible to also pick up on a faint King’s X inspired groove which comes through much more obviously than on the studio take. Showing off the heaviest side of the musicians, ‘Addiction’ sounds really grungy and acts as the perfect reminder of one of Glenn’s lesser appreciated albums.  Also brilliant are the really robust versions of Deep Purple’s timeless ‘Sail Away’ and ‘Burn’ – both a celebration of an era gone by and of the current musicians’ love of being on stage.  For tunes some thirty six years old by the time of this recording, the assembled band tackle them with a real vigour.

Yes, some of this archive material is rough and ready and you might only play those shows from the ‘Feel’ tour once or twice, but that’s more than made up for by the other two shows being utterly fantastic. If you’re a massive Deep Purple/Glenn Hughes fan, the balance between decent recordings and price makes picking up this box a no-brainer even if, ultimately, you only find yourself reaching for discs 4-6 in the long term.  If you still think two rough shows vs. two good ones is too shoddy in box set terms, just remember this: back in the 90s, you’d have paid almost two thirds of this set’s original asking price for just one bootleg at a record fair; you’d have taken that home without hearing it first…and chances are it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good any of this set’s very best material…

June 2020