For a lot of rock fans, Glenn Hughes first came to prominence when he joined Deep Purple in 1974. In the few years leading up to that big breakthrough, he’d spent time working as bassist/vocalist with British rock band Trapeze. Although not big sellers, their first two albums were solid affairs, that showcased some talented musicians. 1970’s ‘Trapeze’ (produced by Moody Blues man John Lodge) presented a five piece band indulging in 60s freakouts and although enjoyable in its own way, almost felt dated by the time of its release in the May of that year. With Black Sabbath’s debut (released three months earlier) opening up new avenues for rock and the release of Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock’ literally a few weeks away, it was clear that Trapeze already sounded like yesterday’s men. By November, Trapeze had undergone an overhaul in both line up and sound and for their second album,‘Medusa’, the band’s core of Glenn Hughes (vox/bass), Mel Galley (guitar) and Dave Holland (drums) had reinvented themselves as a hard rocking power trio, cranking riffs in a style that often sounded like a tougher version of Free. With the previous hazy psychedelia having morphed into something harder and clearer, Hughes’s vocals were allowed to truly soar for the first time. A solid album, ‘Medusa’ showed a band who were truly on their way, but the best was yet to come…
Combining blues, rock, funk and even bits of soul – thanks to Glenn’s versatile vocal range – with 1972’s ‘You Are The Music, We’re Just The Band’, Trapeze not only released their finest LP, but also released one of the all time great albums of the early 70s. Like so many great albums, it didn’t really find a huge audience upon release, but thanks to Glenn’s involvement with Purple, it became an album that attracted a cult following over the decades. However, in direct comparison to those three Deep Purple albums and the mighty Hughes/Thrall album from 1982, it still doesn’t get the full respect it truly deserves.
‘You Are The Music…’s all round brilliance asserts itself within the first two tracks, and the fact that these numbers have been sequenced to show off almost the full range of Trapeze’s talents, this means that potential fans know exactly what they’re getting within the first eight minutes. The lead track ‘Keepin’ Time’ hits hard with an opening riff that sounds like a dead ringer for early Thin Lizzy, over which Glenn opts for a full scale rock wail. The voice from “The Voice” is instantly recognisable as the one from Purple’s classic ‘Burn’ LP, before everything scales back to contrast the harder elements with a soulful vocal and instrumental bridges that drop into the kind of funk rock beloved by The James Gang and Tommy Bolin solo works. The fantastic groove that’s set in place shows how tight Trapeze are as a unit, but their decision to bolster this with a world of southern rock influenced steel guitar licks (played by Cochise’s BJ Cole) is a master stroke. Yes, there are times when this track sounds like three half-formed ideas welded together, but between Trapeze’s obvious talent and a lot of balls, it truly works. In contrast, ‘Coast To Coast’ casts Trapeze in full on soulful mode. Its laid back style might seem cheesy to some, but the way understated riffs are used to evoke beaches and space is brilliant, as is guitarist Mel Galley’s featured solo, used to close the track effectively with some fine blues tinged sounds. Through it all, there’s Glenn reaching within himself for a great vocal performance. Free of squealing intensities, he approaches the material in a rich and measured fashion, almost pre-empting his great vocal take on ‘This Time Around’ from Deep Purple’s ‘Come Taste The Band’ from ’76. ‘Coast To Coast’, of course, will already be familiar to most in a reworked version by Hughes/Thrall, and although that band’s 1982 recording is almost identical, the Trapeze version has the edge, coming across with a slightly warmer production sound.
Keeping with the soulful, ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’ presents the perfect hybrid of soft rock and funk, showing off Hughes’s love of US R&B at every turn. Almost a dry run for his 1977 solo release ‘Play Me Out’, his voice shows a great confidence throughout, with some great crying notes complimenting a solid bass groove. Those approaching Trapeze for a dose of hard rock might feel indifferent towards this track at first but – much like ‘Coast To Coast’ – Mel’s bluesy accompaniments and Glenn’s flawless performance are truly rewarded with repeat listens. This tune has so many layers that show off the band as superior musicians. Likewise, the even softer ‘Will Our Love End’ finds Glenn digging even deeper into his love of soul. A world of warm basslines underscoring smooth electric piano and a jazzy sax (played by Caravan/Soft Machine man Jimmy Hastings) often gives the music more in common with classic works by Roberta Flack than any of the era’s best loved rock. Another number showing how Trapeze were capable of absolutely nailing any musical style that came their way, you have to wonder how this album wasn’t a massive success…
Changing the mood for some straight up 70s rock, ‘Feelin’ So Much Better Now’ casts Trapeze in the mould of a proto-Bad Company, with Galley casting out a chunky riff and Hughes roughing up his voice to suit. During the verses, with the band enjoying a chunky groove while a stabbed piano (supplied by the legendary Rod Argent), there’s a defiant swagger driving almost every note. Although enjoyable fare with its great riff and near timeless sound, it actually manages to be the album’s weak link due to a misjudged chorus with intensive, squealing vocals that are so jarring they threaten to derail everything. With these, fans will surely detect the root of a few Purple live takes, but the vocals are very much a case of “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should”! That said, it isn’t a skipper and Galley’s meaty guitar work always counters any vocal misgivings. Applying Trapeze’s rockier edge to some serious funk, ‘Way Back To The Bone’ puts drummer Dave Holland in the driving seat. The way he drives the track by constantly shifting between hard rock anger and a softer groove allows Galley to move between heavy funk chops and overdtiven rock riffs accordingly, while Hughes turns in another brilliant performance. There are a couple of moments where his bass seems a little low in the mix for such a funk influenced banger, but this is more than made up for during Mel’s angry lead solo, where Hughes can be heard playing in a heavy, grinding style that captures his most aggressive playing during this set of tunes.
Exploring yet another musical avenue, ‘Loser’ kicks off like a heavier take on an old Doobie Brothers tune (or a side step from Edgar Winter’s ‘Free Ride’, if you’d prefer) really showing off Galley’s rhythm guitar sound, while Glenn opts for a great rock performance, taking his voice to places that very much pave the way for his Purple debut. Holding the groove, Holland’s drumming is solid rather than flashy, and the mix of funky verses and rocking choruses come together in perfect style – very much the kind of track you’ll wheel out for a first time listener. Finally, taking the funk of their own ‘Keepin’ Time’, applying an almost southern shuffle and with Holland dopping in a few jazzy fills, the title track almost feels like Trapeze mixing hard rock tropes with the groove of Little Feat. In doing so, each of the musicians really shines. Hughes’s vocals are on point at all times (not so easy whilst dropping a complex funk bass groove) and Galley’s lead work displays a very confident bluesy edge, suggesting he could take the band into an extended jam at any time.
With it’s constant push and pull between rock, driving funk and pure soul, ‘You Are The Music…’ is a fascinating document of an era and of an act who clearly never wanted to be pigeon-holed as just another rock band. On tracks like ‘Keepin’ Time’ and ‘You Are The Music’ especially, the brilliance of their scaled back power trio format is clear for all to hear, while the lean thirty seven minute playing time lends itself to a filler free disc. In an ideal world, this record deserves to be loved as much as Deep Purple’s ‘Come Taste The Band’ and Tommy Bolin’s ‘Teaser’.
Likely due to ‘You Ate The Music…’s lack of UK chart success in the 70s, vinyl copies of the original LP have been increasingly hard to find. By the mid 90s, it was rarely seen at record fairs and unlikely to turn up in your second-hand emporium of choice. By that time, most Trapeze albums seemed elusive, except for 1975’s self-titled album, recorded after Glenn’s departure. Even the CD reissue of ‘You Are The Music…’ (Lemon Records, 2003) didn’t seem particularly easy to track down in the bricks and mortar real world.
With that in mind, the 2020 deluxe edition is a very welcome release indeed. The original album gets to be heard in all of its glory (for the first time by some, no doubt), but just as exciting are a plethora of bonus materials, rounding up various studio and live recordings in one place. The two previously unreleased studio tracks from the ‘Final Swing’ compilation (‘Good Love’ and ‘Dat’s It’) round out the studio material along with a mono single edit of ‘Coast To Coast, while a wealth of live recordings should keep fans busy for some time.
Of historical interest, a four song BBC ‘In Concert’ is included from private off air tapes and much like the Free and Kinks off-airs that appeared years after the fact, these are pretty rough. Even so, it’s nice to hear Glenn and the lads giving their all on ‘You Are The Music’ and even though the wavering sound quality is dominated by busy percussion work, the vocal and guitar regains more of a balance midway. ‘Way Back To The Bone’ feels similarly cluttered, but you can still tell the performance had a definite quality on the night, while ‘Your Love Is Alright fares a little better due to a more spacious performance, with Galley’s blues licks taking a dominant role. The best of these BBC recordings comes via ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’, with it’s quieter tones allowing Hughes to come through more clearly. Being only a couple of steps above “recorded with a hand-held microphone by a speaker” clarity, these tracks are definitely “for fans only”, but with the original tapes long wiped, it’s the best we’ll get.
Broader in appeal – and showing off Trapeze’s live skills in a more positive way – a complete 1972 show from Houston features a storming set. An eight minute ‘Way Back To The Bone’ delivers waves of heavy funk bass and choppy guitar work throughout, followed by a heavier jam on ‘You Are The Music’ with Glenn in full wail. The instrumental breaks during this tune really demonstrate Hughes’s bass mastery and although the unfiltered recording makes his bass a little distorted at times, you can really lose yourself in his relentlessly busy style.
A step back to ‘Medusa’ brings a thirteen minute version of ‘Jury’ where the Zeppelin-fuelled riff is presented in a much more aggressive fashion than its studio counterpart and Galley’s lead work really impresses (he didn’t get to play anything as interesting after joining Whitesnake). In terms of 70s hard rock thrills, it doesn’t get much better. A long neglected ‘Seafull’ brings some fine, epic blues and a very assured rendition of ‘Medusa’ shows why Glenn would’ve been considered a good fit for Deep Purple. There’s so much about this performance that sounds like a forerunner to tunes like ‘Sail Away’ and ‘Mistreated’. Moving through equally impressive versions of ‘Black Cloud’, ‘Your Love Is Alright’ and ‘Touch My Life’, the set is heavily weighted towards ‘Medusa’ material, but this isn’t a bad thing; the studio album was a fine effort, but Trapeze had grown so much as musicians during the following year or two, so it’s great to hear a fully confident band wringing the riffs for everything they’re worth. In closing, a semi-distorted ‘Keepin’ Time’ hits the crowd with something that’s so tight, you’d never guess it was brand new to the Trapeze live set. [Fans of ‘Black Cloud’ will be pleased to know that an alternate live performance from a show in Dallas is also included, but all pointers suggest its the version from the ‘Way Back To The Bone’ live collection.]
Any reissue of ‘You Are The Music…’ would have suggested a worthwhile addition to record shop shelves, but the fact that Purple Records have gone all-out in the bonus materials department makes this a fantastic set. One of the finest releases within the Glenn Hughes catalogue has finally been given the treatment it truly deserved.
[The 3CD version of ‘You Are The Music…’ was released in September 2020. A 2CD version of ‘Trapeze’ and a 3CD ‘Medusa’ are also available.]
Further reading: Glenn Hughes – Feel