It took a full two years for Trapeze to release this follow up to the critically acclaimed “Medusa”. A long gap, particularly in a time where three albums over two years was a standard record deal. To put this in some sort of perspective in the time between the release of “Medusa” and of “You Are The Music … We’re Just The Band” Deep Purple had released “Fireball” and “Machine Head” and Black Sabbath had released “Master of Reality” and “Volume 4” and that is just two examples of many. It’s not surprising therefore that for many Trapeze had fallen off the radar. At least in the UK as during the countless US tours Trapeze undertook in those early years of the seventies America virtually claimed them as their own. And who could blame them as the music was far different to anything anyone else was coming up with at the time. With a far greater influence of black soul and funk music in their style and delivery than any other hard hitting rock band they were pretty unique. Rare visits back to the UK were still well recieved by those in the know but no-one could blame them for concentrating on the American market where they were playing to crowds the size of which they would never have commanded in their homeland
If they had been a different band when they recorded the previous album then by the time they entered the studio to record their second album as a trio they were in many ways a different band again. Whereas the transition from the debut album to “Medusa” had been hippy sixties pop to UK hard progresive rock, the transition between “Medusa” and “You Are The Music” was more subtle but just as evident. If the former was their UK rock album with its dark sabbathesque lyrical themes and hard riffing then this one was far more American in style and feel with far more light and shade and intricate little melodies alongside a huge fusion of jazz and funk runs. The overall feel being far more upbeat and positive than on the more English industrial setting feel of “Medusa”. The voice of that album is of three guys who still feared they could spend their life working in a car factory in Birmingham. The feel on this one is more akin to ‘we’ve broken free of the life fate had in store for us and we’re enjoying every minute of it’. Glenn Hughes in particular had already started to change his vocal delivery from that of a standard UK rock singer to that of a soul or jazz funk singer, something that is evident on a number of the tracks here.
Opening track ‘Keepin Time’ appears at first as though it would not have been out of place on “Medusa” with its hard hitting opening. However after about a minute the first of the albums jazzy little breaks takes the song in a totally different direction to the one expected. My one criticism of it is that it ends too soon as I would have liked to hear the instrumental passage extended especially as BJ Cole guests on steel guitar. Second track ‘Coast To Coast’ is a slow acoustic guitar and electric piano lead ballad which once again features a guest appearence from Cole on steel gutar as well as Rod Argent on the aforementioned electric piano. It has almost become Glenn Hughes’s signature song over the years. He delivers a vocal full of feeling and emotion which would knock many an exponent of that type of song into a cocked hat. For me it perfectly highlights the quality in his voice when it is kept under control. Regular readers of mine will know of my infuriation with his tendancy to vocal acrobatics and the need to display every range of his undoubted vocal talent at every opportunity. Something which, for me and many others, marred much of his live work toward the end of his time with Deep Purple and through his patchy nineties and early noughties solo albums. That particular idiosyncracy hadn’t surfaced yet at the time of this recording though and it is all the better for it. The quality doesn’t drop on the other two tracks that make up the first half of the album. ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’ is an atmospheric laid back groove encompassing rock jazz blues and funk in its five and three quarter minute duration. Make no mistake this is as good as anything much bigger named bands were putting out at the time. Mel Galley as ever performing in a beautifully subtle and understated way whilst Dave Holland drives the thing along with a great display of drumming. ‘Way Back To The Bone’ has a great staccato riff throughout and once again transcends many a style as well as featuring a classic rock guitar solo from Galley.
The second half of the album kicks off with the barnstorming romp of ‘Feelin So Much Better Now’. Hughes surely singing higher than on any other track throughout his career during a song which in places veers into southern boogie glam rock territory. This makes the contrast on the next track even more evident as ‘Will Our Love End’ is almost ‘Coast To Coast’ revisited. That is not to take anything away from it though as at times it is superior to the better known track. The use of Frank Ricotti on vibes and Jimmy Hastings on alto lifting the track to a higher level. The whole track has a very Jess Roden feel about it and I would have loved to hear him cover it. ‘Loser’ sees the band going back to the hard rock sound of the previous album and Hughes delivers a powerful rock vocal which surely must have lead to some discussion in the Deep Purple camp as to whether he should be allowed to handle the lead vocal position. On the evidence of ‘Loser’ you’d be tempted to agree with Hughes that he was more than capable of fronting Purple. So much so that the mischevious might suggest that a certain David Coverdale owes his career to the stubborness of Ritchie Blackmore. The album closes with another uptempo jam in the shape of the title track. Hughes delivering another quality vocal over the mid tempo boogie groove. Once again, as on the opener, Galley throws in some interesting and tasteful runs. What in essence is a pretty ordinary composition is transformed into a classic by three top notch musicians playing at the top of their game. The enthusiasm is infectious and leaps out from the start of the track until the fade out. That being my only criticism, it is one of those tracks that shouldn’t fade out.
On the subject of composition it also interesting to note that the three more standard rock like tracks are Mel and Tom Galley compositions and the other five jazzier more experimental songs were written by Hughes alone. Had Deep Purple not come a knocking on Hughes door you can’t help but wonder how long he would have been content in the constraints of the group. As good as Galley and Holland were it is evident that Hughes was beginning to out grow them as a performer and composer by the time this album was recorded. Whereas “Medusa” was a band album with all members deserving equal accolades “You Are The Music … We’re Just The Band” is very much a showcase for Glenn Hughes. In fact the band actually hired a new bass player for live performances to enable Hughes to concentrate more on fronting the band. However the lure of Deep Purple was to much to turn down and within months of “You Are The Music … We’re Just The Band” hitting the streets Glenn Hughes was jetissoned into the big league and things would never be quite the same again.
To conclude then this may well be Glenn Hughes’s best all round album. It is positively drowning in his character and style and is far more representative of him and his abilities than any of his solo albums or any of his other recordings with Trapeze or Deep Purple.
© Martin Leedham. First Published on RYM April 2011