Monday, February 4, 2013

Glenn Hughes & Deep Purple - A Brief Look Back In The Meantime

Glenn Hughes and Deep Purple are two names that intertwine many times in the history of rock, and whilst we anxiously await new material from both camps (Hughes is said to be working on a very exciting secret project as we speak, and Deep Purple's new, as yet untitled album will see light of day April 30), fans of both should be quite satisfied with two new re-released, remastered live sets - Deep Purple - Live In Paris 1975, and Glenn Hughes - Live In Wolverhampton.

Glenn Hughes never lets grass grow under his feet - his globetrotting makes it difficult to track at times, and 2013 seems like no exception. He made the end of 2012 exciting with both the release of Black Country Communion's Afterglow, and the subsequent brouhaha concerning the lack of a follow up tour - not to fear, it would appear, according to a few comments overheard this past weekend in Los Angeles that implied that we have not yet heard the end of that particular rock and roll juggernaut. Perhaps cooler heads have prevailed, and maybe for a change the music, and subsequently the fans will win. For reasons I'm still not sure of, I got way too involved in that bit of controversy, and I'll say it again - I love all the guys involved, the band is the best hard rock entity of this century, and I sincerely hope they find a way to happily make music together for many years.

Hughes is also said to be involved in a new project that is being kept under tighter wraps than Los Alamos in the 1940s. He's said little of it, but when he has spoken it has been with a wide grin and a gleam in his eyes. I'll leave it to the man to let things develop in his time - he's certainly earned that right. But first, let's go back a few years.

Deep Purple has a new record in the waiting, and after speaking briefly with Steve Morse this past week in Los Angeles at the NAMM show, I'm guessing it will be very special - Steve is a very laid back fellow, but again, the grin on his face was palpable, and the excitement in his voice unmistakeable - he's now been in the band much longer than any other guitarist, and I really can't wait to hear the new album, but in the meantime, lets look briefly towards their past.

Deep Purple - Live In Paris 1975, captures the entirety of Ritchie Blackmore's final show with the Mark III version of this warhorse. What a way to go out - this might be the ultimate document of this iteration, and this remastered update marks the first time the show has been presented in full. Prepare for goosebumps - when David Coverdale and Hughes storm into the first verse of The Gypsy after Blackmore's soulful intro, I realize that this band never nearly got its due acclaim. And, as great as Coverdale, Hughes and Blackmore sound, they are matched every step of the way by the late and great Jon Lord, and Ian Paice - both are way up in the mix, and it's a damned thrill a minute.

Coming out of the gate with two classic rockers like Burn, and Stormbringer, how could they lose - the world had no idea what it was about to lose when this was recorded, and to this minute Deep Purple Mark III remain as powerful, and talented as any hard rock troupe that ever trod the boards. Ritchie knew he was leaving, and this is almost like a final blistering kiss-off. His solo on Stormbringer may be the best Blackmore I've ever heard - how the strings stayed on the neck is beyond me.

It's long been said that Ritchie Blackmore had no love for the Stormbringer album, but you'd never know that to hear him tearing through Lady Double Dealer - he's hammering on ferociously, giving a master class in melodic alternate picking - up and down the fretboard he flies, painting an incredible portrait of the guitarist as artist. He follows this lesson with a magnificently brawny version of Mistreated - just when you think it's been done enough, here is a take with yet another brilliantly unique take on the solo. This album makes me mourn the fact that this band never reassembled in this form - this whole album is testimony to just how powerful and majestic a machine Mark III could be.

Smoke On The Water is given the full treatment, a ten minute tour that never gets less fantastic than Ritchie's jazzy blues rock intro. Ian Paice's swinging lifts this classic far above the heavy metal drudgery the tune has been accused of - sure every kid can play it, but not like this, and when Coverdale and Hughes trade verses it is transcendent hard rock.

From beginning to end, this two CD set is golden - even the twenty minute interview segment is a great listen. Deep Purple Mark III was a marvelous force of nature, and this is a most welcome addition to the catalog. Highly recommended - maybe the best live Deep Purple album of them all.

The years following this historic recording saw the world of Glenn Hughes through many amazing twists and turns, and after surviving about every risk a rock star ever took, Hughes has ended up firmly back on top. After many years as the planet's leading exponent of funk rock, Hughes has returned to the  more brightly lit path of classic hard rock with the sensation that has been Black Country Communion, but Live In Wolverhampton comes from a year earlier, and sees 'The Voice of Rock" revisiting many of the steps along the path, from Trapeze to Purple to solo stardom.

Live In Wolverhampton straddles the various styles Hughes employs, and as always, he spares no change on his band, and the wildly underrated Jeff Kollman covers Blackmore, Thrall, and Mel Galley with a consistently respectful, but adventurous bent. I'd buy this disc for the guitar playing alone, but there's so much more to dig - keyboardist Anders Olinder provides very tasty support throughout, and drummer Steve Stephens is downright masterful.

Hughes is the show, though. This album would be a great primer for anyone interested in the true musical mastery that Glenn embodies - his songs are the height of soulful sophistication, and to my mind's eye, he's every bit the musician as his idol Stevie Wonder - and don't think I don't realize the gravity of this statement. Stevie's moved many more units, but song for song, I think that while Hughes is not as outrightly commercial, he's captured the essence of true musical artistry. The man follows his muse to an amazing degree.

Recorded over two nights in 2009, this record is Glenn Hughes presenting his musical history to his hometown of Bilston, Wolverhampton, England. For the run of the mill hard rock fan, I'd recommend jumping straight into the Deep Purple classic, Mistreated - it's announced by a brilliant five and a half minute guitar solo by Jeff Kollman, and it follows no previous template for the tune, he's on his own and it is stunning. Hughes is in fantastic shape vocally ( as always), and his rock steady heavy bass line commandeers the band. Medusa, the title track to Trapeze's 1970 sophomore effort, will also thrill lovers of classic rock. It's delicate and heavy as hell - the hard rock template writ large.

I find both discs in this set to be equally remarkable - mostly for the fact that many of these songs will be new to many listeners, and for those listeners it should be a pretty thrilling trip. Both the Trapeze retrospective that fills disc 2, and the first disc, which mainly follows Hughes on his past post-Trapeze path contain an amazing amount of live magic. This is an incredible display of musicianship. It delivers on all the promises of the near-miss Hughes Thrall Project.

I'm anxious to hear what Glenn has up his sleeve - he got burned a bit last year, and he's playing his cards close to the heart, but I'm pretty sure that it will be well worth the wait, and the wondering. At any rate, these discs will give the loyal much joy in the meantime, and will amaze anyone just joining the party.

Deep Purple - I am hoping their new album brings them all they deserve, and that they continue their amazing success. In the meantime, this live set serves to remind us of the legacy and the band's greatness.

Special mention to LA guitar wiz Jeff Kollman - his work on the Hughes record is as much star turn as there ever was.

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