Trapeze – Midnight Flyers: Complete Recordings Volume 2 (1974-1981) (5CD Set)


Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple on bass and vocals, Mel Galley from Whitesnake on guitar and backing vocals and Dave Holland from Judas Priest on drums. What a great rock supergroup that would be… and it was. The only thing is when they formed in 1969 those now famous band names were a long way from the thoughts of the members of the Staffordshire band Trapeze. They recorded their John Lodge (of The Moody Blues fame) produced self-titled debut in 1970 followed by Medusa later that same year and then You Are The Music… We’re Just The Band in 1972 (these three appear on Don’t Stop The Music, Complete Recordings Vol. 1, reviewed here). By 1974 Glenn Hughes had plugged the hole left in Deep Purple by the departure of Roger Glover and Trapeze found themselves recording their first album for Warner Brothers without him. This latest five disc Cherry Red collection, Midnight Flyers: Complete Recordings Volume 2, focuses on the three studio albums which followed Hughes departure Hot Wire, Trapeze (again?) and their final studio album Hold On along with three post Hughes(?) live offerings. So what does this Trapeze newbie think?

Although it must have been a daunting task, Galley takes on his new roll as frontman and lead vocalist with apparent ease as High Wire (1974) heads off with the powerful blues rock of ‘Back Street Love’ followed by Hill’s metronomic rhythms and the pumping guitar and saxophone of ‘Take It On Down The Road’ before the band take on a more funky soul feel often associated closely with the Hughes era on ‘Midnight Flyer’, but Galley manages the high screaming vocal admirably. ‘Wake Up, Shake Up’ is strangely reminiscent of early Kiss’s ‘Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em’ (released two years later) before Pete Wright holds together another funky bassline on ‘Turn It On’ and ‘Steal A Mile’ which finds Galley’s slide guitar and Chris Mercer’s sax injecting a cool country vibe. The album closes with the band returning to the blues they seem most comfortable with as Galley rips through ‘Goin’ Home’ and the soul/rock of the almost nine minutes of ‘Feel It Inside’ proving this revised line-up has all the moves and shapes to flourish without their former frontman and with the Galley brother writing duo why wouldn’t they? Although missing the true soul heart of Hughes vocal, this was a valiant first attempt.

Determined to stamp their mark on the Trapeze brand, the band released their second self-titled album in 1975. Trapeze once again pulled on the strength of the Tom and Mel Galley writing team but following ‘Star Breaker’ they fall into a lighter more radio friendly feel on ‘It’s Alright’, ‘I Need You’ and the “almost there but not quite” of ‘Soul Stealer’. When the hero returns, in the shape of guest vocalist Glenn Hughes for ‘Chances’ and ‘Nothin’ For Nothing’, it becomes very obvious how vital his input and unique vocal style had been. The lack of vocal power is particularly emphasised when the band resort to covering the 1930’s classic ‘Sunny Side Of The Street’, not the wisest move. Don’t get me wrong there are some strong moments here including the blistering guitar on the far to brief ‘The Raid’, the southern rocking ‘Monkey’ along with a shockingly strong vocal performance amongst the boogie beats of ‘Gimme Good Love’ but overall Trapeze can’t attain the high watermark set by the albums between its namesakes debut album and You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band, especially when you end on a Hughes fronted track as strong as ‘Nothin’ For Nothing’.

The band’s sixth and final album (presented here in a rather racy sleeve) wasn’t released until 1979 and by that time Galley, Holland and Wright had been joined by future Uriah Heep man Pete Goalby on guitar and lead vocals and Terry Rowley on Keyboards. With the new decade just around the corner not surprisingly Hold On (released as Running in Germany) takes Trapeze in a much more middle of the road direction leaving the blues firmly behind them. ‘Don’t Ask Me How I Know’ and ‘Take Good Care Of Me’ open proceedings and by the time the almost whiny ‘Living On Love’ arrives the AOR fest is all getting a little to much. Don’t get me wrong, this is a perfectly respectable soft rock album but at a time when Galley’s future employers were putting out Lovehunter and Ready An’ Willing, tracks like ‘Hold On’, ‘You Are’ and ‘Running’ just don’t cut it. The Pat Travers style boogie of ‘When You Get To Heaven’ and ‘Don’t Break My Heart – Part I’ shows some potential but Goalby’s style although well suited to an 80’s rock soundtrack doesn’t have the soulful tones of Hughes (which he tries unsuccessfully to carry off on ‘Time Will Heal’) or the rockier edge of Galley.

Recorded in 1975, but not released until 2006, Live At The Boat House finally makes you realise where Trapeze felt at home…on stage. Galley’s voice sounds every part the substitute for Hughes in the live arena as the band rip into the set with Hot Wire opener ‘Back Street Love’ and the classic ‘You Are The Music’ where Holland pounds out the beat like Animal from the Muppets. One of three Medusa tracks (along with the title track and main set closer ‘Black Cloud’) the almost 14-minutes of ‘Jury’ takes things down to a darker place with its deep Sabbath riffs as Holland shows us why he would later fit like a (leather) glove onto the Priest drum stool. ‘Star Breaker’ gains from a loose improvised feel compared to its studio counterpart giving the Nottingham crowd something to boogie along to and the audience response is well deserved. ‘Way Back To The Bone’ allows Galley plenty room for some impressive soloing during its extended jams before it’s thunderous close. Other than the fact that it would feature on the upcoming Trapeze (II) album why the band decided to include ‘Sunny Side Of The Street’ in the set I will never know. After that it is good to end the set on a high, although as with the studio version the still to short ‘The Raid’ leaves you wanting more. Bar the cover version this live recording would be a great place to start for any Trapeze novice, like myself.

By the time of the performance recorded for Live At Arlington in 1976 Glenn Hughes was back onboard and Trapeze were now a trio (Hughes/Galley/Holland). With a more bootleg quality to the recording compared to The Boathouse but with “The Voice” back in place, the power is evident. Opener ‘You Are The Music’ tears the roof off the Texas venue as the band take turns to spread their wings. Hughes introduces ‘L.A. Cutoff’ as a track from the “upcoming album”, this however would, despite featuring Galley, Holland and Terry Rowley be released as the vocalist’s solo album Play Me Out along with ‘Space High’ from this set with guest Terry Rowley on keyboards. The still epic nine-minutes of ‘Medusa’ remains the perfect vehicle to showcase each member’s skills from the banshee wails of Hughes on vocals, the fast fingered Galley, to the driving synchronisation of the Hughes/Holland rhythm section. Midnight Flyer’ has Galley returning to the microphone ably assisted by Hughes in a supporting roll but unfortunately the sound here lets down what should have been some great interplay. A pair of tracks each from You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band (‘Coast To Coast’ and incendiary finale ‘Way Back To The Bone’) and Medusa (‘Seafull’ and the brooding ‘Jury’) complete a set which shows exactly what this band were capable of at their peek. In a musical environment of Free/Bad Company, Atomic Rooster and Humble Pie who knows what may have been possible for the band had they been able to keep their personalities and egos in check.

When the band returned to Texas to record the Live In Texas: Dead Armadillos album in 1981 they were minus founder member and drummer Holland. Replaced by Steve Bray the Hold on line up took to the stage to run through a set spanning the previous ten years. Although the announcer is desperate to convince the crowd (“one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll bands to hit Texas’) with three post Hughes tracks followed by three Hughes tracks it becomes increasingly evident that Goalby’s range is far from that of his predecessor or even Galley. Only one track from the current line-up is aired in the form of the title track from Hold On but with all of it’s over production and the crowd noise so high in the mix this recording has far to much spit and polish and sounds very much of its time. There are some great moments here, intro ‘Back Street Love’, ‘You Are The Music…’ and ‘Black Cloud’ all have merit but because of the running order by the time ‘Way Back To The Bone’ is performed this seems little more than a time capsule or even a tribute band. Just to slick!

Before listening to this set I knew very little about Trapeze’s music despite having a good knowledge of its various members and I must say that this is a great synopsis of this phase of the band’s career. The set does however show the inconsistencies within the bands output and if I didn’t know better I would think the three live albums were from different outfits, mainly due to line-up changes during what was an ever changing musical landscape. The quality of the individual talents is without doubt and they all proved this within their respective future projects but Trapeze helped set each of those paths in place. Sadly Mel Galley who supplied the words which accompany this release in 2003 passed away in 2008 followed by Holland ten years later. Personally. I found these discs a real ear opener with some real hidden gems (‘Medusa’, ‘Jury’, ‘You Are The Music…’ et al). My Trapeze journey continues.

  • Reviewed By Peter Brockwell.
  • Midnight Flyers – Complete Recordings Volume 2 (1974-1981) is release via Cherry Red Records on 28th April 2023.

Track List:

Disc One: Hot Wire (1974)

1. Back Street Love
2. Take It On Down The Road
3. Midnight Flyer
4. Wake Up, Shake Up
5. Turn It On
6. Steal A Mile
7. Goin’ Home
8. Feel It Inside

Trapeze (1976)

9. Star Breaker
10. It’s Alright
11. Chances
12. The Raid
13. Sunny Side Of The Street
14. Gimme Good Love
15. Monkey
16. I Need You
17. Soul Stealer
18. Nothin’ For Nothing

Disc Two: Hold On (1979)

1. Don’t Ask Me How I Know
2. Take Good Care Of Me
3. When You Get To Heaven
4. Living On Love
5. Hold On
6. Don’t Break My Heart – Part I
7. Running
8. You Are
9. Time Will Heal

Disc Three: Live At The Boat Club (1975)

1. Back Street Love
2. You Are The Music
3. Jury
4. Star Breaker
5. Way Back To The Bone
6. Medusa
7. Black Cloud
8. Sunny Side Of The Street
9. The Raid

Disc Four: Live At Arlington (1976)

1. You Are The Music
2. L.A. Cutoff
3. Medusa
4. Space High
5. Coast To Coast
6. Midnight Flyer
7. Seafull
8. Jury
9. Way Back To The Bone

Disc Five: Live In Texas: Dead Armadillos (1981)

1. Back Street Love
2. Hold On
3. Midnight Flyer
4. You Are The Music We’re Just The Band
5. Black Cloud
6. Way Back To The Bone