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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Medusa (3 CD Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a classy set. I used to own the Medusa album on vinyl many years ago. I don't remember being all that impressed with it. Listening to it now, I don't know why. It really was a great album. It combined blues rock with psychedelia, proto-prog and early metal. It was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, and it had some exceptional songs. This new set features the main album on the first disc along with some live tracks and a couple single versions on the other two discs. It's all packaged in a digipack and includes a nice booklet. I should say that this is precisely not a tight fit under prog, but this act is often considered prog, and some of this qualifies. So, that's where I've landed it.

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Track by Track Review
Disc One: Medusa (1970)
Black Cloud

I dig the cool rock riff that opens this track a lot. The number works to a melodic rock concept as it continues. I love the killer guitar work on this cut. The tune makes me think of Humble Pie a bit.

A big contrast, this comes in as a dramatic and proggy ballad. It grows out after the first chorus into a jam that makes me think of early Judas Priest in a lot of ways. After the two-and-a-half minute mark it shifts to a jam that is part progressive rock and part early metal. There is a healthy helping of psychedelia built into this number, too. The number drops back to the opening modes further down and then climbs back up into the Priest-like section to end. This song is just so classy and strong. It might be my all-time favorite from Trapeze. It's worth the price of admission all by itself.
Your Love Is Alright
We're back into more Humble Pie like zones with this rather bluesy rocker. A faster paced groove later is just so much fun. That elevates that track from just solid to quite effective.
Touch My Life
Another rocker that calls to mind Humble Pie, this definitely lives in that zone, but Glenn Hughes is unmistakable on this song. While not a standout, this works pretty well.
A slower jam brings this into being. The cut works out with a classy prog meets psychedelia and blues rock approach. I dig the guitar lines on this extended introduction. The number evolves as the vocals join. I'm reminded a bit of the more sublime and thoughtful side of Grand Funk Railroad, but as much as I like that band, this is so much more powerful and effective. Of course, this also predates a lot of their output. The keys that come in later lend more magic and drama to the piece. This is a dynamic powerhouse that's another essential song.
Makes You Wanna Cry
Early heavy metal is merged with psychedelic rock and blues rock on this classy number. It has a bouncing kind of groove and feels quite a bit like Cream. It's interesting that this song is sort of an "also ran" here, but it would be a highlight on some albums.
The title track comes in with a dramatic balladic movement. It's both psychedelic and proggy. A harder rocking, riff driven movement rises up and allows Hughes to really shine in his vocal role. This is a dynamic number that gets into some seriously hard rocking zones along the musical road.
Disc Two: Bonus Tracks
Black Cloud (stereo edit)

Just what you imagine this would be, it is a pretty solid version of the song we heard on the main album.

Black Cloud (mono edit)
This version somehow seems to work better than the previous one did. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I think this sounds better in the mono format.
Pop Workshop (1st July 1970)
Makes you Wanna Cry

This rocker is effective in this live telling.

I almost think I prefer the immediacy and intensity of this live version of the song to the studio cut.
Live at Colden Hall - Flushing, NY (23rd March 1971)
Black Cloud

Here we get a live take on the single. The instrumental jamming mid-track gets pretty intense.

This cut takes on an ever rawer and more metallic vibe in this live performance. It's a real screamer. I definitely prefer the studio take, though. It has more of a sense of magic and drama that is largely missing here, but this presents a version that has different charms. This does have its moments, too, particularly the closing section.
Touch My Life
While not really anything special (at least compared to the rest), this rocker works well.
Starting with a rocking, but slow-paced jam, as this drops to the mellower zones, the drama and prog elements emerge. The cut grows out in style from there as they continue driving forward. This is one of the stronger tunes in this live performance.
Your Love is Alright
This live version works well. It's not the strongest thing in this show, but also not the weakest.
This live take works pretty well but doesn't stand up to the studio takes. Also there are some tape issues later that really detract from it. It sounds like the tape might have been crinkled and then straightened back out.
Disc Three: Bonus Tracks
Live (1971)
Black Cloud

The first minute plus on this is taken up with stage banter and preparations. The cut fires out from there. The recording has some distortion at times, but overall isn't bad. The song seems to work a bit better here than in any of the other versions. I'm not sure why, but it just seems to groove and flow a bit more.

This comes across quite strong here. The distortion is a bit of an issue, though, as the recording quality is less than perfect. There is a section that sounds like a vocal improv movement later that's not really my taste. There is some odd jamming after that also doesn't work all that well to my ears.
Way Back to the Bone
I dig this bluesy rocking jam quite a bit in this live telling. It's a fun one.
Touch My Life
This rocking groove is entertaining, and the live performance is pretty good. It gets pretty crazed and noisy before it's over.
They put in a solid live rendering of the title track here. The sound is pretty good on the recording. I think the dynamic range helps, although there are some moments where their performance seems a bit sloppy. This is definitely no competition for the studio version.
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