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Glenn Hughes

Songs in the Key of Rock 3 CD Edition

Review by Gary Hill

This is a new release in a series of Glenn Hughes reissues. The bulk of the discs in this series are two-CD editions. This one has three. The first disc of the set is the studio album bearing the same title as the set. That is one of Hughes' more purely rock based discs. It's also one of his best. The first of the two bonus discs is a live album from 2003. These sets typically include live discs, and I have to say that this one might be the best of the bunch. The performance is purely on fire and the recording quality is quite good. The third disc is a short one. It's a recording of an unplugged show from 2003. The biggest issue there is the recording quality. It was obviously a bootleg, and it sounds like it. Still, it really is a bonus and the other two discs are well worth having. That third one is valuable as a record of a rare acoustic performance. All in all, this is one of the best of these Hughes reissues. It's certainly one to have.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc One: Songs in the Key of Rock (2003)
              
In My Blood

Hughes and company waste no time. This comes in with a power chord that gives way to a jam that's very much like the kind of stuff Hughes did with Deep Purple. There is a bit of a metal edge to this thing. It's a really screaming hot rocker that works so well in the opening slot. The organ presence here really brings the DP comparisons.

Lost in the Zone

There is a bluesy kind of vibe to this hot rocker. It's built on some Led Zeppelin/Whitesnake kind of territory. The chorus has more of a Living Colour vibe to it in some ways. Whatever you call it, though, this is a screamer.

Gasoline

There is a definite Living Colour rocking edge to this in a lot of ways. I love the guitar solo on this. It calls to mind Ritchie Blackmore quite a bit. This has so much energy and drive. It's a screamer.

Higher Places (Song for Bonzo)

A cool rocker, this is more on the melodic side. That said, it doesn't lose the rock edge. The vocals are really the star of this particular show. I love the filled-out vocal arrangement on the choruses, but every bit of this features strong vocals. This might not be the most powerhouse number here, but it is one of the standouts. And, that said, this is clearly not a ballad. It's packed with passion and style, too.

Get You Stoned

This is more of a dropped back bluesy rocker. Still, the more powered up sections land closer to the metal end of the spectrum. It drops to a trippy kind of jam mid-track that's soulful and very cool.

Written All Over Your Face

This time around we're more in the vein of soulful melodic rock. That said, this still manages to drive pretty hard-edged. This has a lot of passion built into it. There is also a particularly expressive guitar solo in this piece.

Standing on the Rock

There is a punk meets metal edge to this screamer. It actually makes me think of Motorhead just a bit. Of course, the vocals separate this from Motorhead. It's still a powerhouse hard rocker with a lot of drive.

Courageous

More of a mainstream melodic rocker, this feels even mellower coming after that previous screaming hot tune.

The Truth

Another that is more on the melodic rocker end of things, this has a powered up and catchy chorus. There is a bit of crunch here, but it's one of the less fiery tunes overall. It also has a really soulful vocal delivery.

Wherever You Go

Here we get a fast paced, screaming hot rocker. This is another that makes me think of Hughes' tenure in Purple to a large degree. The closing section gets so powerful with the combination of fiery guitar work and potent vocal delivery.

Higher Places (Reprise)

This revisit is based on just keys and vocals. The result has a real soul vibe, almost in the gospel vein.

Secret Life (European Bonus Track)
This bonus track is another screaming hard rocker with a great blues meets soul vibe to it.
Change (Japan Bonus Track)

Frantic and scorching at the start, this is another effective rocker that really works well.

Disc Two: Freak Flag Flyin' Live UK, 2003
       
In My Blood
The opener from the studio album also starts off this show. It's still a stomper and works really well in that slot. The instrumental break here really lets both the guitar and organ shine.
Higher Places (Song for Bonzo)

They open this with just drums, appropriate for a song that's dedicated to Bonzo. It works out from there to a killer rendition of the cut from the studio disc. I think I might like this live take better than the studio version.

Seafull / Beyond the Numb

A killer, slow blues rocking jam is the first half of this two-fer cut. This feels like the kind of thing Gary Moore would do, but delivered with Glenn Hughes' vocals. It gets incredibly soulful before we get to the end of that part of the ride. From there we are taken into a cool jam that has a lot of jazz in the mix. It works out to some killer faster paced stuff that really works incredibly well. I love the soaring guitar solo. The keyboard solo later is on fire, too.

Written All Over Your Face

Another cut from the studio album in this set. It has a lot of passion. The tune has some exceptionally strong instrumental work further down the road in some extended non-vocal movements.  They really make this into something of near epic scope. This surpasses the studio take by a lot. Given how strong that was, that says a lot.

Can't Stop the Flood

We're back into seriously hard rocking territory here. This is a killer rocker that makes me think of Living Colour a bit.

Seventh Star

Keyboards start this cut from Hughes' tenure in Black Sabbath. It powers out from there into a riff driven jam that is trademark Sabbath. This cut has such a cool vibe to it and really rocks. The break mid-track has some real Middle-Eastern vibes.

Mistreated

With an extended instrumental introduction, this is a killer take on the Deep Purple classic. I've always loved this song in every format I've ever heard it. This rendition has a lot of passion and fire. It's a great one. I love the balance between mellower and more rocking stuff on this. There are some intriguing things going on in the instrumental section. There is also a vocal showcase segment as it approaches the end of the tune.

Gettin' Tighter

This is another fast paced rocking tune. It has plenty of soulful vibe built into it. It is such a fun rocker. This gets so intense as they jam it out further down the road. It drops down for a cool bass solo. That thing is funky, processed and on fire. After that we're taken to more of a soulful melodic vocal movement before they scream it out again. This is one of the best numbers of the live set, really. It's just so powerful.

You Keep on Moving

More of a mellow sound is on hand here. This is classy stuff for sure with a bit of a bluesy edge. They pull this through a number of changes and flavors. There are some screaming hot rocking parts and some more introspective ones. It never loses sight of the passionate fire, though. This is another powerhouse cut.

Wherever You Go
The closer is another powerhouse hard rocker, this one from the studio album included here. I think this is stronger in this live take than it was there.
Disc Three: Live in Rome 23rd May 2003
        
Stormbringer
There is a lot of audience sound and some warming up at the start of this. I don't really think that the acoustic arrangement on this works as well as one would hope. Still, Hughes' vocals stand tall. I've always loved the original Deep Purple version of this song. I'm just not sure that it completely captures that magic. That said, the recording quality on this doesn't help. It's a bit lost in the audience sound. At one point Hughes apparently figures out that the delay is switched on the wrong mic. He makes that point in a very pointed way, bringing a parental advisory.
Mistreated

Now, this Deep Purple classic works better in this format. I love the sound of the bass guitar on this, although it is a bit high in the mix (at least in terms of this rough recording). Hughes' vocals really shine on this thing.

A Whiter Shade of Pale
This is a great cover of the classic Procol Harum song. It works quite well in this acoustic arrangement. The vocals seem to have a bit too much echo on them, though.
Coast to Coast

A song dating back to the Trapeze days, this has a real trippy, mellow kid of vibe to it. It gets into rockier territory later. Someone in the audience is singing along and really ruining the performance, though. The bass playing later in the track is purely on fire.

You Keep on Moving

This works pretty well in this unplugged live version. The audience carries a lot of the chorus in a good way.

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