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Non-Prog CD Reviews


Midnight Flyers: Complete Recordings Volume Two 1974-1981

Review by Gary Hill

In the past I've always put Trapeze under progressive rock, in part because people generally land them there, and in part because the music often fit. I'm breaking that trend here because I don't think this era of the group is very proggy at all. I'd also say that it's a little too by the numbers and generic to stand up to a lot of the earlier stuff That said, it's still strong, even if a little pedestrian.

This five CD set gathers three studio albums (two on the first CD and one on the second) and three live albums. The first two live albums sound like they were probably originally bootleg recordings (although very good bootlegs), while the third sounds like a professional product. I would say that this set is well worth having. It's just not as strong as earlier eras of the group. The box set is encased in a cardboard clamshell box. Each CD comes in its own cardboard sleeve, and there is a fairly extensive booklet here.

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Track by Track Review
CD 1:
Hot Wire (1974)
Back Street Love

Some smoking hot riff-driven hard rock is on the menu here.

Midnight Flyer
Funk is in the driver's seat on this tune. This makes me think of what you might get if you mixed Rare Earth with Grand Funk. It's a nice change and one of my favorites on the first CD. The instrumental break has some classy, almost space rock vibes to it. Yet, the rhythm section still holds down that funk angle throughout. There is some particularly hot guitar soloing on this, too. 
Wake Up, Shake Up
This is another mainstream 1970s rocker. It does have some catchy hooks and a passionate instrumental break. I am again reminded of Kiss here. Then again, since this dates to the very first days of that band, I have to wonder how big an influence Trapeze was on those guys.
Turn It On
The bass starts this with a riff that again brings the funk. As the other instruments join, that concept is intensified. This almost feels like a blues rocking take on Stevie Wonder to me. I really dig the use of synthesizer on this track, even though it's very limited.
Steal a Mile
This is rather understated during the first vocal section. While it has hints of funk, it makes me think of The Doobie Brothers. When the drums join later, and the arrangement fills out, that Doobies thing seems more pronounced. This is more of a pretty by the numbers 1970s rocker.
Goin' Home
Blues guitar gradually rises up as this gets going. This thing gets into some more standard blues rocking territory for a while. Then later, on an instrumental section, they take it out into more of a proggy, trippy, space-rocking zone. That part is so cool and really elevates the whole piece. That's part of the reason I think this is another highlight.
Feel It Inside
Funk, soul and more merge on this tune. It's another that makes me think of Stevie Wonder a little. This song is not bad, but doesn't work that well for me. I think, since this was actually the closer of the album it was originally released on, that had they switched it with the one that preceded it, it would have made for a stronger ending to that record.
Trapeze (1975)
Star Breaker

This has a smoking hot hard rocking sound built into it. The horns are a nice touch. This has some intriguing twist and turns later. It's a strong opener to the original album that originally housed it.

It's Alright
This comes in acoustic driven, much like an old school blues rocker. The tune grows out after the opening verse to a slightly more potent arrangement. The song evolves into something pretty special.
An acoustic guitar based arrangement serves as the background for the first vocals here. We get some organ added to the mix later, lending an almost jazzy, soulful feeling to it.
The Raid
Here we get more scorching hard rocking sounds. This is closer to the piece that opened this second album on this disc. It drops to a piano based jam beyond that first section. Then organ joins as the instrumental break continues. This gets into a proggy sort of jam band thing for a short time. It resolves out from there back into more blazing hot blues rock as the instrumental section continues. There are hints of the Allman Brothers on this in some ways.
On the Sunny Side of the Street
A classic rocking groove is on the menu here. This doesn't work as well as some of the rest here for me.
Gimmie Good Love
A Mountain-styled rocker, this is a powerhouse. It's definitely a step up from the last piece. There aren't any real surprises, bur rather just a very solid song.
They intensify things further on this one. It's another winning entry. It rocks solidly and skillfully. This is another with plenty of blues rock in the mix.
I Need You
While at its heart this is a pretty basic rocker, the instrumental break is purely on fire. The guitar fills bring some killer blues rock angles to it all, too.
Soul Stealer
Another that isn't completely revelatory, but yet very solid, this does have some very minor proggy things in the mix at times. Otherwise it's another pretty straightforward 70s blues rocker.
Nothing for Nothing
The slide guitar on this is classy. The tune itself isn't a big change. Again, I think this might not have been the best choice for disc closer.
CD 2:
Hold On (1979)
Don't Ask Me How I Know

The slide guitar on this really shines. The cut is another that's just sort of a pretty standard blues rocker, though. Still, it's effective and well done.

Take Good Care of Me
Not a big change, this does feel a little bit like they were reaching for a hit single on this. The guitar stands pretty tall, but the tune is sort of an "also ran" for me.
When You Get to Heaven
Now, this is a bit more like it. There is a boogie woogie kind of groove to this track. It's not ground-breaking, but it has some cool hooks and changes and works really well.
Living on Love
This comes in less intense and builds out from there. Again, this is pretty standard 1970s rock, but it's done with a lot of style and charm. I dig the hints of funk. This is another highlight of this second disc.
Hold On
Another that feels like it was probably intended for some serious radio airplay, it's again not a big change, but a more pop-oriented take on the sound. I'm reminded a little of Todd Rundgren at times on this. The track has intriguing changes and a more intense section later is all class.
Don't Break My Heart - Part I
This comes in balladic, with piano serving as the backdrop for the soulful, bluesy vocals while strings lend accompaniment. A while after the two-minute-mark, the cut drives out into more of a standard 1970s blues rocking jam. This is a strong tune. It really makes me think of Grand Funk Railroad later.
Coming in dramatic and a little understated, this really stretches things out here. It has some killer sounds and changes. This is definitely a high-point of the disc, and I'd even say the set. They just managed to elevate everything so well here, and bring some more creative angles to play.
You Are
Another that really stands tall, this has some proggy elements at play. In fact, it's the most prog-like of anything to this point in the set. It's on the mellower end of the spectrum and features a cool vocal arrangement. It still manages to rock out on the choruses. The instrumental section brings both psychedelia and prog things to bear in fine fashion. As good as the previous track was, this manages to be even stronger. There are some hints of Beatles-like concepts at times, too.
Time Will Heal
This is more in keeping with the rest of the album. It has a bluesy rock vibe. It's elevated from some of the rest, though. Again, I think that maybe putting one of the last couple tracks in the closing slot would have made for a stronger release. The instrumental jam later is pretty cool, though. I think the strings on it seem a little over the top, though.
CD 3:
Live at the Boat Club (1975)
Back Street Love

The sound is neither great, nor terrible on this recording. This rocker is pretty standard and by the numbers.

You Are the Music
I dig the funk on this. The sound here seems better. This has a great groove and some cool hooks.
This starts mellower and more reflective. It has some definite hints of prog and psychedelia built into it. It turns to some hard rocking zones after a time. This reminds me just a small bit of "Child in Time" by Deep Purple. It has that same sort of dynamic range and epic quality. There is a percussion and vocal workout mid-track. This piece is 14-minutes long. so it is epic in scale.
Star Breaker
A good solid hard rocker, this works pretty well. It's fairly compact.
Way Back to the Bone
Here we get a somewhat funky live screamer. It's energetic and delivered with style, but a little too generic for me.
This is a Trapeze classic. It has such a great contrast of tones and volume levels. It's a solid tune and one of the standouts of this live CD.
Black Cloud
While not a big change stylistically, this is definitely inspired. That's a good thing, because they turn it into a 15-and-a-half-minute song. It rocks out pretty well with some extended instrumental work.
Sunny Side of the Street
They put in a fun romping version of this old chestnut.
The Raid
They close the show with a straightforward rocker that works well. That said, it's not a big change from the rest here.
CD 4:
Live at Arlington, Texas (1976)
You Are The Music

As this rocker gets underway, it's fast paced and driving. The sound quality isn't bad, but there is a bit of distortion in the mix.

L.A. Cutoff
The guitar sound that opens this almost reminds me of Peter Banks' sound in Flash. This works out to more of a funk rocker from there. The sound on this track is improved from the last one.
I think the performance and recording on this version is superior to the one on the previous disc.
Space High
This isn't a big surprise. It's just another effective rocker.
Coast to Coast

Here we get a soulful, bluesy cut that has a lot of mellower angles to it. This definitely brings both variety and class to the proceedings.

Midnight Flyer
I dig the rocking groove on this one a lot. It's a fun romp that works well in the live performance.
At just over twelve-minutes long, this is one of the epic pieces of this show. It's also a powerful one with a lot of drama and balance between dark and light.
The other epic here, this one is 13-minutes long here. I think I prefer the version from the previous CD, but this one works pretty well, too.
Way Back to the Bone
Another driving rocker, this works pretty well here. I'd consider it one of the more effective songs on this fourth CD. They turn it pretty intense at times, and drop it back at others.
CD 5:
Live in Texas - Dead Armadillos (1981)
Back Street Love

This hard rocker has some great grooves and hooks. The sound quality on this is better than anything on the last couple discs.

Hold On
The chorus hook and changes on this song work pretty well here. It's a bit generic, but still has some shining moments.
Midnight Flyer
There is a healthy helping of funk built into this piece. I really love the instrumental break on the song, too. It's on fire, and the number is one of the best live recordings of this whole set.
You Are the Music We're Just the Band
This classic gets a solid live rendering here.
Black Cloud
Another strong rocker, the instrumental section on this is positively on fire.
Way Back to the Bone
I really dig this rocker here, too. They put in another inspired performance on this thing.
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