❉ These six quality albums mix hard rock and blues to great effect, writes James Turner.
“None of these albums are reinventing the wheel, but for the genre they stride through, they are immaculately produced, performed by a brilliant band, and with vocals of the stature of Glenn Hughes, they absolutely rock.”
I am about to make a controversial statement here, and I stand by every word (internet people, hold your fire – you will not change my mind). Out of the 5 vocalists Deep Purple have had, they can be ranked as follows: 1) Ian Gillan, 2) Glenn Hughes 3) David Coverdale, 4) Rod Evans, 5) Joe Lynn Turner.
There, when Ian Gillan was fed up with Ritchie Blackmore (for the first time) and resigned from Deep Purple back in 1973, the remaining members decided that as well as a frontman, they wanted a bassist who could provide harmony vocals, so (rightly or wrongly) they binned Roger Glover and hired Glenn Hughes who as part of Trapeze had supported them.
After Purple collapsed due to Tommy Bolin (& Glenn’s) drug issues, Glenn had a brief solo career, recorded an album with Pat Thrall, worked with Phenomena, Gary Moore and then fronted Black Sabbath on the Seventh Star album (which was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo album, but was released as Black Sabbath due to record label pressures, ironically replacing Ian Gillan as sabbath vocalist!) .
After taking time out to clean up and get his act back together, Hughes provided vocals for the KLF (America, What Time is Love?) and then he re-embarked on a succesful solo career, kicking things off in 1994 with From Now On (not included in this set).
This set picks up on 1995’s Feel, and runs through the following six albums finishing at 2003’s Songs in the Key of Rock, and features three Deep Purple tracks reimagined, as well as plenty of soulful blues rock that only Glenn can produce.
I was keen to dive into these albums, because at some point in the late 1990s I saw Glenn live at the Leadmill in Sheffield, and it was a superb opportunity to see Deep Purple MK III & IV songs performed live, as the contemporary Deep Purple (fronted by Ian Gillan) ignore this era, as does David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, so Glenn is the only member keeping the flag flying for this legendary era, and not only that, after all his drink and drug issues, luckily his voice has survived intact, and indeed sounds better than ever.
Live, he was a tour de force of blue eyed soul and rock (that was dismissed by Rithcie Blackmore as ‘shoeshine music’ leading to his departure from Purple) and Glenn has mixed that hard rock and blues fusion to great effect in his solo career, which is obvious on these six albums featured here.
I’ll get my little gripes out of the way first, whilst it’s a beautiful (and ecologically friendly) thing having all 6 discs in a clamshell box, and slip cases, the fold out poster that comes with the box is woefully inadequate; there’s no musician credits for CD1 Feel or CD3 That’s the Way It Is; there is a distinct lack of printed lyrics (which were an integral part of the original albums) and, my biggest bugbear when it comes to putting together a remastered and resissued boxed set, there’s absolutely no sleeve notes or additional information that gives any context to these recordings. This lack of detail is unforgivable in this day and age, especially when it retails at £23.99 on the official Cherry Red site – I would expect more background information for my money.
However, getting these six quality albums in one place is a great achievement, and the card sleeves faithfully reproduce the front and back covers (losing any additional artwork) and it’s an interesting anomaly that none of these albums were originally released on the Purple Records label (which was licensed for a while in the late 90s early 2000s to the Official Deep Purple fan club to reissue ‘lost’ & archive Purple releases). Also of interest is the fact that the albums featured here – Feel (1995), Addiction (1996) The Way it Is (1999), Return of Crystal Karma (2000), Building The Machine (2001) and Songs in the Key of Rock (2003) – have already been remastered and reissued individually with an extra bonus disc , and I would imagine copious sleeve notes (Songs in the Key of Rock being a triple set) and yet none of those added extras appear here in this box. How hard would it have been to edit and condense the sleeve notes into an 8 page booklet I wonder?
So, what we’re getting here, is the original albums, and music for those who want the bare bones, and nothing else (I guess the assumption being the hard-core collectors will have already shelled out for the individual CDs) – as a result I am not entirely sure who this set is aimed at, other than maybe a casual purchaser who have some cash to burn.
Onto the music, and there’s a lot to digest here, 72 tracks in fact, including some selected European and Japanese bonus tracks, starting from 1995’s Feel album.
I am pretty sure Feel is the tour I saw Glenn on, and he is fine form throughout this album, with a couple of Hughes/Thrall songs on here (Big Time, Redline) whilst Glenn has never hidden his admiration for Stevie Wonder, and puts in a fantastic vocal turn on his cover of Maybe Your Baby, whilst his revistation of Purple’s Holy Man (one of his definitive vocal performances from his Purple days) is as vital as the original, and was included as a bonus track (maybe a record label ‘suggestion’ to get the Purple People interested?). Either way it still stands up, and as an album Feel didn’t really need any gimmicks, what you get are 12 quality blues rock songs that rightly focus on that voice.
1996’s Addiction sees the start of a writing partnership with guitarist JJ Marsh (whose guitar work and writing contributions run across the remaining 5 albums in this set) and it’s a fruitful partnership that dominates the writing of the album.
From the opening Death of Me, with its swagger and the brilliant title track, Addiction covers all bases from the powerful Justified Man to the closing reboot of the Purple track You Fool No-One, having a consistent writing team gives this album a stronger sense of purpose and coherence than its predeccesor and also shows more confidence from Glenn as he’s rebuilding his musical career.
1999’s The Way It Is, sees Glenn tackling classic Hendrix on Freedom, whilst the rocking Stoned In The Temple (and I’m sure the double meaning here is deliberate) is good fun, and again, the fact that it’s almost the same band that has created these two albums gives this album it’s power.
It’s really great to hear Glenn’s voice in fine form on Too Far Gone or Don’t Look Away, whilst we also end up with an alternative take of Freedom (the ‘Shagmeister Mix’ no less!) and it sounds like he has his swagger back on this album. With a mighty hard rocking band, and a good mix of rock, blues and soul, this is Glenn at his finest. It’s also interesting to see that this confidence is reflected in the fact that there are no Deep Purple cover versions on here as well.
Return of Crystal Karma (2000) is probably one of the strongest albums in this package. There’s a great set of belting songs on here, refining and developing the sound honed over the previous three albums and there’s even a nod to an old DP track Owed to G in the great Owed to ‘J’, whilst songs like Midnight Meditated, Switch the Mojo and Days Of Avalon are awash with great riffs, fantastic performances and plenty of those vocal performances that marked Glenn out for stardom. There’s also a co-write with Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Gone. Interestingly the two recorded the album Fused by Iommi/Hughes which was released in 2005, and can be seen as the spiritual successor to Seventh Star.
The period ‘99-’01 were very productive for Glenn, with Building the Machine being the third album in this period, and of course it’s worth mentioning that not only is Glenn as fantastic vocalist, but he pays a mean bass as well, and his bass work underpins the work throughout these albums, and he has a wonderfully funky fluid bass sound, that is instantly recognisable.
On this album Glenn is also joined by Pat Travers who provides his distinctive guitar and vocals on I Just Want to Celebrate and the co-written Japanese bonus track Cosmic Spell, whilst Glenn makes one more return to the Purple days with a spirited and rocking version of the classic High Ball Shooter. Elsewhere I Can’t Stop the Flood, Feels Like Home and Big Sky are fantastic tracks that stand out on this album.
The last one in the box is 2003’s Songs In The Key Of Rock, which pretty much does what it says on the tin, with the brilliant Get You Stoned and powerful Lost In The Zone working really well here.
Again, evolution rather than revolution is the name of the game, and this album has more melodic moments than its predecessor, with some rather fine jams and longer tracks that allow the band to build the sound up, and of course Glenn to top the magic off with that voice. With hints of psychedelic and free-form blues throughout this album, the two extra tracks Secret Life (European bonus track) and Change (Japanese bonus track) round off this fine collection of tracks.
So, in summary, this is a fantastic collection of blues and rock, and it’s never a chore to listen to Glenn sing, whether it’s covers of Stevie Wonder or Jimi Hendrix, new material or reinterpretations of his Deep Purple days. His voice has only got better with age, and listening through these albums it’s clear to see how his sobriety and confidence has blossomed as a solo performer, and whilst he might not be as well-known as the current Purple line up, or Whitesnake, that is no reflection or diminishment of his natural talent as a bassist and vocalist.
None of these albums are really reinventing the wheel, however for the genre they stride through, they are immaculately produced, performed by a brilliant band, and with vocals of the stature of Glenn Hughes, they absolutely rock.
His career is due a fantastic retrospective boxed set, however this isn’t it unfortunately, whilst the music gets 10/10, the packaging and lack of sleeve notes, rarities or additional tracks from the individual album packages means the packaging itself gets 2/10, must try harder.
❉ Glenn Hughes: ‘Justified Man – The Studio Albums 1995-2003’ (6CD Boxset) is out now from Purple Records (PURPLEBOX020) via Cherry Red Records. RRP £23.99. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records.
❉ James R. Turner is a music and media journalist. Over the last 25 years he has contributed to the Classic Rock Society magazine, BBC online, Albion Online, The Digital Fix, DPRP, Progarchy, ProgRadar and more. James’ debut book is out in September and he is head of PR for Bad Elephant Music. He lives in North Somerset with his fiancee Charlotte, their Westie Dilys & Ridgeback Freja, three cats and too many CDs, records & Blu-Rays.