RAY FENWICK – Playing Through The Changes: The Anthology 1964-2020

The 1960’s spawned a generation of guitarists who paved their way to stardom through vast amount of session work. Arguably the most celebrated of these players are Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page, but for these genuine megastars, there were a legion of other six string heroes who worked every bit as hard – or harder – but never reached “household name” status. Unless you’re the kind of fan who devours sleeve notes and credits with as much enthusiasm as the music itself, names like Clem Clempson, Geoff Whitehorn and Jim Sullivan, for example, might not be too familiar, and yet, if you love 60s, 70s and 80s rock, chances are you own a record or two featuring those guys.

Ray Fenwick is another musician who has maintained a presence for several decades, but has never seemed to get his full due. Beginning as a session man in the 60s, he’s played with some of the greats. ‘Playing Through The Changes’ – a three disc anthology from 2021 – shows off a chunk of his legacy more than admirably, pulling tracks from a very busy career. What it may lack in consistency it makes up for with variety, and unlike so many rock-based anthologies devoted to a singular talent, it doesn’t rely on too many really obvious recordings you’ll own elsewhere – purely because the nature of Fenwick’s work means there aren’t any obvious compilation filling hits and standards. There are a lot of oddities – which aren’t all good, naturally – but, in the main, it’s an enjoyable musical adventure.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Looking Through A Glass Onion: The Beatles’ Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72

The Beatles can arguably claim to being the most covered band in the history of recorded music.  Pretty much everything they released between 1962-1970 has been covered at some time, and by bands and artists from right across the musical spectrum. Dig deep enough into the internet, you’ll even find other people reinterpreting ‘Revolution 9’, surely the most marginal of Beatles recordings. Even while the band was still active – long before being considered of any real historical importance – their work was being reinterpreted by high profile artists in a disparate range of styles. Most notably, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. & The MG’s, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley put their own stamp on various Fab Four classics, but for every hit interpretation, several dozen others could be found languishing on cult albums and under-bought singles.

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TRAPEZE – You Are The Music, We’re Just The Band

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…

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In Appreciation: Martin Birch

Every so often, a record producer comes along whose mastery of the studio takes on a legendary status.  The early years of pop showed off the technical talents of George Martin and Phil Spector; the world of disco gave a platform to Quincy Jones and Geogio Moroder (Quincy’s hand in making Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ a global success cannot be understated – it’s a stunning sounding record) and the rock scene gave Martin Birch plenty to apply a distinctive style.

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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.

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