Trapeze – ‘Don’t Stop The Music – Complete Recordings Vol. 1 – 1970-1992’

Uncategorized April 5, 2023

Trapeze – ‘Don’t Stop The Music – Complete Recordings Vol. 1 – 1970-1992’

Best remembered for a pair of early 1970s power trio albums recorded by guitarist/vocalist Mel Galley, drummer Dave Holland and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, British hard rock band Trapeze began life as a quintet with John Jones (trumpet, vocals) and Terry Rowley (keyboards) completing the original lineup.

The band signed to The Moody Blues’ Threshold label, releasing an eponymous progressive rock 1970 debut LP with Moody’s bassist John Lodge as producer, before issuing two albums with the definitive lineup of Galley, Holland and Hughes. Following Hughes’ departure to join Deep Purple and later Black Sabbath, Trapeze would go on, with numerous lineup changes, to release two long players on Warner Bros. and one on Shark Records, before calling it a day. Galley and Holland went on to fame as members of heavy metal bands Whitesnake and Judas Priest respectively, reuniting with Hughes for occasional reunions in the 1990s.

The band’s early years were well documented by three multi-disc 2020 reissues on Cherry Red Records’ Purple Records imprint, but there has never been a complete survey of the group’s work in all its incarnations. Cherry Red is filling that void with two boxed sets. The first, a six disc set, compiles the three Threshold albums, supplemented by two discs containing a previously unreleased Dallas, Texas gig from April 1973 and closing with the ‘Welcome To The Real World-Live 1992’ reunion album by the definitive lineup of Hughes, Galley and Holland joined by guest keyboard player Geoff Downes (Asia, The Buggles, Yes) recorded at The Borderline in London in May 1992.

Disc one consists of the twelve tracks comprising May 1970’s ‘Trapeze’, by far the most progressive rock oriented recording in the Trapeze catalog. The album contains nearly an equal mix of songwriting credits, with Galley writing or co-writing nine of the tunes, Jones seven and Hughes five. The band’s debut showcases their vocal harmonies and melodic instrumental abilities. Neither the LP or its Rowley penned, pop tinged single ‘Send Me No More Letters’ made an impression on the charts. Galley, Hughes and Holland wanted to take the band in a heavier rock direction while Jones and Rowley wanted to continue in the melodic, progressive vein. In the end, the majority ruled with Jones and Rowley departing, and Trapeze shifting to the power trio format they are most identified with.

Disc two contains the November 1970 LP ‘Medusa’. The album’s seven tracks are much longer in duration and much heavier sounding. Galley penned four of the tracks with his brother Tom, Hughes two and one is credited to the band. The band’s sound was dominated by Galley’s guitar and Hughes’ soulful vocals. The long player was again produced by Lodge. The title track, a Hughes composition shows the influence of Roy Wood and The Move, with whom the bassist had been offered a position, especially in its acoustic guitar intro. The LP’s single, ‘Black Cloud’ written by the Galley brothers, is the tale of Tom Galley’s apparent “kiss of death” effect on every company he was employed by. Hughes’ ‘Medusa’ and the album’s longest track ‘Jury’, a Galley brothers tune, have gentle intros which belie the tracks’ heaviness, with Mel Galley contributing blazing solos to each. As had been the case with its predecessor, neither ‘Medusa’ nor its single charted. However, the album’s reputation has grown over time and it established Trapeze as a formidable hard rock band, especially in the United States, and even more specifically in the state of Texas, where the group became a huge live attraction and sold records in quite respectable numbers, setting the stage for the band’s third and most familiar album.

Disc three has the eight tracks making up March 1972’s ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’ Trapeze’s magnum opus. The album consists of five Hughes tunes, with Mel and Tom Galley penning the remaining three. Produced by British blues authority Neil Slaven, the LP includes appearances by steel guitar player B.J. Cole and Rod Argent on electric piano. The album features a much more aggressive performance by Trapeze. The LP is a hard rock classic. The melodic, Hughes penned ‘Coast To Coast’ was released as a single but somehow failed to chart. The long player’s highlight, and closer, however, is its anthemic five and a half minute closing title track written by the Galleys. An FM radio staple in the United States and ever present crowd pleaser in Trapeze live performances, the song continues to get airplay to this day and is given “classic” status by hard rock fans. The tune should have made Trapeze a household name and been the beginning of a long run of success in terms of both record sales and filling arenas for live performances. Sadly, this was not to be the case as Glenn Hughes, disappointed by the band’s support from US distributor, London Records, made the fateful decision to leave Trapeze, replacing Roger Glover as bassist in Deep Purple, something that Hughes has regretted ever since. Thus, as the bassist laments, Trapeze, in his words, remains “the best power trio you’ve never heard of.” The Trapeze story does not end here, but instead takes a major turn, to be continued on ‘Midnight Flyers: Complete Recordings Vol. 2 1974-1981’ which will be reviewed in the near future.

Discs four and five comprise a complete Trapeze gig in Dallas, Texas from April 27, 1973. The nine tunes performed include six from ‘Medusa’ and three from ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’, showcasing the band at its best, playing before an adoring audience in the band’s stronghold of Texas. The show opens with two songs from Trapeze’s most recent album, ‘Way Back To The Bone’ and title track ‘You Are The Music’. Other highlights include ‘Medusa’, ‘Jury’ and the show closer ‘Touch My Life’. The set is filled with incendiary guitar work by Galley, beautiful vocals by Hughes and Galley, and the incredibly tight rhythm section of Hughes and Holland. The band is relaxed, stretching out tunes while moving seamlessly from melodic acoustic intros to full out sonic attacks, the crowd obviously enthralled from the moment the band hits the stage. This concert is a wonderful complement to the live performance from Houston in 1972 included as bonus material on the 2020 reissue of ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’.

Disc six contains a reunion performance by the definitive Trapeze lineup of Galley, Hughes and Holland, aided by Geoff Downes on keyboards, recorded live at The Borderline in London on May 16, 1992 and released in 1998. The band sounds as if it were 1973 again, never missing a beat. Galley’s guitar and Hughes’ vocals sound as fresh as ever on classics such as ‘You Are The Music’, ‘Coast To Coast’ and ‘Black Cloud’ while also performing new material consisting of two tunes co-written by Mel Galley and Glenn Hughes, ‘Homeland’ and the title track to the release ‘Welcome To The Real World’. These tracks were the first, and sadly only, co-written by Galley and Hughes, and at the time offered hope that new studio recordings by Trapeze may lay ahead. This was not in the cards, but thankfully they survive as a reminder of what might have been. It seems somehow fitting that the closing tune was the Galley brothers composed ‘Black Cloud’ as there would be no further releases under the moniker Trapeze, but the song served as a reminder of the quality of the band’s releases, the promise that was always just out of reach and the question of what might have been had Glenn Hughes not departed the group following the release of ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’. That question will never be answered, but the recorded legacy of Trapeze will always remain with us as a reminder.

The six discs of ‘Don’t Stop The Music: Complete Recordings Vol. 1 1970-1992’ come in cardboard mini-LP sleeves which fit snugly in a clamshell box. The box set also includes a 36 page full color booklet with complete track listings, album and single artwork, band photos, essays by the late Malcolm Dome and liner notes for ‘Welcome To The Real World’ by Simon Robinson. ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ will appeal to progressive and as well as rock fans and fans of 1970s rock in general and comes highly recommended.

Kevin Rathert

Trapeze – ‘Don’t Stop The Music – Complete Recordings Vol. 1 – 1970-1992’ (Purple Records, 2023)

Trapeze – ‘Midnight Flyers-Complete Recordings Vol. 2 1974-1981’

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