Trapeze: Don’t Stop The Music – Complete Recordings Vol. 1 – 1970-1992 (6CD Box Set)


I’ve always wondered to what degree, the members that formed the original five-piece Trapeze looked beyond the Wolverhampton Ring Road and the major roadworks underway to Birmingham, looked at The Move and The Moody Blues, and thought, “A supergroup? That’ll do nicely!” Thus, it was that singer John Jones and keyboard player Terry Rowley, of singles hit act The Montanas, looked to form just such a band. Rowley recommended former Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours drummer Dave Holland, who had subsequently joined Finders Keepers, helmed by local hotshot guitarist Mel Galley, and a guitarist now on bass named Glenn Hughes.

Musically, there was a passing nod to those other Midlands bands. The beat scene of the late sixties was still prevalent, and lip service given to the psychedelic sounds doing the rounds but just as much the airy-fairy side of folk when their self-titled long player hit the stores. Signed to The Moody Blues’ record label, Threshold, with John Lodge producing, a symphonic suite of songs are captured that could have seen them stealing Barclay James Harvest’s “poor man’s Moody Blues” tag line had they continued in that vein.

Bookended either side of the original vinyl release by the brief and fragmentary ‘It’s Only A Dream’, coupled with its Hellenic styled cover our minds are cast eternally towards A Midsummer Night’s Dream scenario. But, as Jones, with blunt sageness aptly puts it in the sleeve notes regarding both the Victoria & Albert Museum front cover and Henry Van Dyke poem on the back, “Yes, it was very pretentious but this was 1970, when pretentiousness was at its peak!”

Certainly as the numbers tumble forth, simplified fantasy is welcomed with open arms in a time where Robert Plant is reworking Tolkien storylines into Zeppelin thunder-rockers and we have Game of Thrones and power metal to contend with.

Trapeze give us the bright and knightly ‘The Giant’s Dead Hoorah!’ with bold and brisk Townsend-goes folk rock chords from Galley, while the rhythm section swing and the four-strong vocal team that was their greatest strength go off in various beatnik-derived refrains, their closest ally in such quarters frankly having to be Yes. Lyrically, it’s more Disney-time than Brothers Grimm, but for little more than three and half minutes it’s an impressive arrangement.

More Fairport Convention flavoured is the melancholy reminisces of a love gone sour in ‘Over’, the first of several co-writes by Jones and Galley; there’s a walking bassline from Hughes that’s highly effective, almost if it’s being dragged along reluctantly and hardly heard on the original vinyl editions. ‘Nancy Grey’ sung solo and written by Hughes again falls into the fictional medieval modal pattern the band seem to have accidentality found themselves in, a pretty ballad not unlike the work of Clifford T Ward prior to the lads all joining to great choral effect towards conclusion.

All rather subdued thus far. Anyone who’s caught the fuzzy clips of them performing on TV show Colour Me Pop, doing the rounds on YouTube, can see they knew how to stomp and groove when the mood caught them. Thus, the Jones/Galley writing partnership gives us ‘Medley: Fairytale/Verily Verily/Fairytale’ – it’s a sprightly little rocker for the local discotheque, Galley wailing out on guitar and Rowley giving it some on organ, prior to the middle section going more formally jazz piano mannered and more of those gentle fol-de-rol vocal rolls.

The existential philosophising of ‘It’s My Life’ is possibly their most Moody Blues-like number, Galley’s bleeding guitar notes grafting life to this dreamy and a little dreary downhearted blues. ‘Am I’ takes the inner questioning further, the classically-derived acoustic guitars weaving in and out with exquisite beauty. Reaching either climax or a true nadir, ‘Suicide’ comes next; leaving the concept behind the actual song to one side, it’s a blast! From Hughes’ infectious bass riff, some glorious harmonies, onto Rowley making out like Keith Emerson on organ. Rowley and Hughes co-wrote ‘Wings’, a guitar-riffed number with a structure not unlike The Beatles’ ‘Paperback Writer’, slightly hippy-dippy lyrics but welcomed optimism after such downer numbers prior to, in its last 45 seconds or so the essence of the band they will become is felt.

Galley, Hughes and Jones co-write the blue-eyed soul of ‘Another Day’, but it’s trumped by Rowley’s ‘Send Me No More Letters’ from his stately keyboard arrangements to Holland’s casual drum rolls and changing front vocal melodies and wailing asides, this is up there with The Righteous Brothers’ hits. Released as a single, claims are made a record plant strike prevented it becoming a hit. The reality of that, who knows, certainly in terms of quality it was. But, with musical box like notation, ‘It’s Only A Dream’ returns to wave goodbye to what might have been.

The reason the two blokes who’d formed the band left remain a politely argued discussion on which no one quite agrees. I’d say age has as much to do with that, but of the three reasons given in the booklet presented with this collection, there’s a fourth I’ve heard and I reckon it’s as likely a bit of one, or other, version, all spiced-up to make it sound more interesting. Suffice to say, the music industry was changing to a heavier scene, guitars were to the fore. Suffice to say, Trapeze supported Free and individuals were impressed.

Down to a trio, would the general record buying public have really known or cared at first? Medusa by its very title and fronted by a suitably abstract front cover would have been taken with a pinch of salt and viewed by fantasy-theme pop-pickers of the time as continuing just as before. ‘Medusa’ the track however, would have begun to inform listeners otherwise. From its acoustic intro through to power-chording, lyrically Hughes has stepped up to the plate this time, and there’s an evocative narrative unleashed; and the chances that Cream’s ‘Tales Of Brave Ulysses’ at least ignited the idea seems highly probable, and worked most effectively for this new three piece. Play the end section of this to anyone in the world, and if they can’t tell from the high wailing vocals and deadly guitar crunch what part of England’s once green and pleasant land this sound originated they need taking round the back and given a good whipping.

But that’s the closing number on what was Side 2, there was a whole new aural landscape to be explored before you got there. Without Jones, Mel Galley turned to his brother Tom, where in a back garden one summer they wrote the bulk of these songs. Glenn Hughes would deliver a couple solo, and a jam turned into song was credited to Holland, Hughes and Galley: ‘Your Love Is Alright’ was that number, a stop-start abrupt strut of a funk rocked number. The riff is simple, there was a long period of time where you could go into rehearsal rooms in the Midlands and in the distance hear some band or other playing a variation on it.

The album opens with what’s possibly the Trapeze classic, in ‘Black Cloud’. There’s an element of Free through it, noticeably how Holland’s drums roll out in juxtaposition to Galley’s hard rocking guitar lines, only it also takes several other musical diversions within this structure – from acoustic guitar arpeggios over which we hear first Hughes’ solo vocals that impress even more as the record continues, moving onto a laid back rhythm section groove and a guitar solo that wriggles out in unique lyrical query, then, as if satisfied with explanation given fades away, albeit gruffly. It’s a song about never getting a break, and to some degree told the Trapeze story.

For those who presumed Trapeze might become a fully-fledged prog rock band, aside from ‘Medusa’ there was the epic eight-minute long ‘Jury’, once more moving between acoustic and rock sounds, I’ve had it on good authority this one was influenced by Yes (the Pete Banks, Tony Kaye version) musically while the lyrics are about the crowd at Wolverhampton LaFayette’s who used to pass verdict on whether the acts playing there were up to snuff. These two tracks may have shown that while they had lost the full range of talents afforded by Terry Rowley being a member, they were learning to arrange and layer patterns and themes within their rockier framework.

Choosing another rocker in ‘Touch My Life’ to open the vinyl edition’s Side 2, Galley affords a tempered riff, with a tonal sound not unlike that he’d applied on the debut album’s ‘Wings’. Again, there’s an element of Free here, always more in ambient approach than actual stylisations, the number’s subtle, with varying degrees of sensuality and power applied by all three members. Hughes ballad ‘Seafull’ follows, tearful sustained lead lines dropped at every turn in this tale of a love lost, though it carries within it some of the soul-searching feel of the earlier Jones-written material while edging to one side of the more mythological bent soon found earnestly on ‘Medusa’. More explicit in its intent is ‘Makes You Wanna Cry’ a more laid back funk-partner to ‘Your Love Is Alright’, where Galley inlays the most casual of nuanced phrasings in a variety of exemplary styles, all in service to the song.

Medusa was British rock of its time; where it was about the compatibility of the musicians not the ego-breaking virtuosity of one member or another. Some fifty odd years later that the young men involved had begun to seek an identity of their own remains readily apparent, that they were allowed to grow and expand their new raison d’être demonstrated in what would come next. By the time, You Are The Music… We’re Just The Band hit Woolworth’s and its fellow high street’s record stands, Trapeze had toured the States, soaking up the Dixie-fried rhythm ‘n blues and genuine soul sounds of a hundred radio stations as they drove from gig to gig, getting tighter as a band, evolving, with one eye looking towards the cherry on the cake that could be fame.

Hughes’ role as frontman had secured his confidence. Vocally, he was at his most versatile, the depth and tone of his larynx strong and powerfully masterful. The choice of Fender may have had something to do with it, but previously on Trapeze records it often felt he was mimicking Lodge’s sound. Galley’s ear was getting ever keener picking out nuances of sound that were completely his own, seemingly ignoring the half-hour long solo-stomping antics that make too many a record of yesteryear a chore to listen to now, instead unravelling a chord’s hidden depths with inversions, the manner his right hand struck the strings and the time he allowed them to breath. Picture other drummers, with higher profiles, they could not bring the same symbiotic approach to the music that Dave Holland left as testimony on the trio’s final studio album together. Hughes took the bulk of the song-writing chores for You Are The Music…, the Galley brothers continuing their collaboration penning but three, two of them arguably the best on the album and bridging both ends of the record. The mighty ‘Keepin’ Time’ leads the chase, while power chords are wrought down hard it’s Holland’s hammering of the gods that strikes home best (this section is basically the forerunner to Judas Priest’s ‘Exciter’, and peculiar adverse music biz spiel that he couldn’t play fast enough when he joined that band is laughable aside from not making economic sense). But it not only rocks out the pace slows, tension growing and working up into a fizz only to open out into the funkiest of bogies and several points in between, all while Hughes is hitting ever higher notes, all emotively driven.

BJ Cole’s featured on slide on that track, and there are other guest musicians, notably on keyboards, with Hughes also playing piano. For this record, still on the Threshold label, Neil Slaven was brought in as producer. Noted for his work with blues bands, he gave the band a much better and more balanced bottom end, a priority for those seeking rock radio in the USA, and too the guests that with several decades of listening may have overpowered the ballads.

Making its record debut was Hughes’ ‘Coast To Coast’, a number he’d rerecord several times over the years, and this remains the best version, a romantic ballad that is yacht rock in-waiting. Cole is present again, as is Rod Argent, their playing reserved, Galley’s exiting solo extemporising on Hugh’s earnest vocals. Far too undervalued to my mind is the glorious ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’ that follows. Hughes exudes passion, vitality, and a standout vocal performance with assorted mannerisms portrayed as he implore the lady in his life what she desires. Throughout, Galley is caressing his guitar with jazz like intonations, pre-empting the chilled nightclub rock of Steely Dan and a million LA session guitarists without the sterility, prior to digging deep and the raunchy gibe he unleashes sending Hughes into orgasming histrionics as the role for a woman he has planned is left in no doubt. John Odgen, a vital component in Trapeze’s ongoing local popularity due to his journalistic role at Wolverhampton’s Express & Star, adds sensually spicy understated congos on this track.

Shaking its funky rock ass is ‘Way Back To The Bone’ as the three slam down hard, get juicy the next, with several points along the way you just know are primed for live jamming alongside some serious audience interaction. Side 2 of the vinyl version opened with ‘Feelin’ So Much Better Now’. In some ways, a throwback to Free-like rock template of Medusa, but with Hughes doubletracking on the high-pitched vocals and coming on like a black vocal group, something the band would do for real once he’d left.

Another ballad follows with ‘Will Our Love End’. It’s exquisitely produced and would’ve been a minor hit if covered by an out and out soul band. Jimmy Hastings’ alto sax remains a delight, but what was once a pleasure to listen now comes across as too busy, if not overwrought. ‘Loser’ echoes the sentiments of Medusa’s ‘Black Cloud’, and so it plays in a similar musical ballpark, but more forthright. The baton is continued with concluding number, title track, ‘You Are The Music’… It’s loud, proud, rocks and struts itself like a peacock, getting funky, a little southern boogie and some wide-eyed soul. A declaration of the bond between band and audience it ends things in fine form. All that was needed was to test drive the songs live and wait to slowly creep up the Stateside charts…

Three more CDS round out this collection, all live. Should you have purchase the Trapeze albums released individually a couple of years back, you’ll be aware they featured live material too, but different. The joy of those live recordings was listening to how what have become classic favourites, developed and took on new forms in such environments – The intuition that Galley, Holland and Hughes had developed between each other, was both impressive and aurally entertaining.

Cherry Red have added value to this collection by including live material not previously released, and Discs 4 and 5 feature a 1973 show in Dallas, Texas. The problem you have, however, is that the trio were in fact only together such a short time, and with only two albums to play songs from, any live set list tends to repeat itself, a rare inclusion of ‘Seafull’ offsets that familiarity on this collection. There’s a very clear, high-pitched tone to much of the set, the bass low in the mix (albeit it does park up when Hughes isn’t singing), and it kind of feels like it might’ve been previously transmitted on US radio, but just as likely the equipment of the time, and that’s the joy of bands of this vintage: you hear them play live, and they react to what’s coming out of an amp, unable to stop feedback they deal with it by incorporating into the song, it adds to the excitement, he danger of the moment: will they fall flat on their face or come up with something really innovative they played in that moment but can’t recall it so are unable to repeat it. The interplay between Galley and Holland when it beefs up during ‘Jury’ gives Rush a run for their money, while on ‘Your Love Is Alright’ the drummer follows his guitarist down that many rabbit holes you’re amazed they come out alive. Sonically the tone of Galley’s guitar is often akin to that Jeff Beck applied just prior to Blow By Blow, while the opening to ‘Black Cloud’ offers a glimpse of what Bad Company might’ve turned out like if Aerial Bender had supplanted Mick Ralphs again, after Mott The Hoople.

Hughes is in fine form vocally, though a little excited here and there, and it’s amusing to hear his Staffordshire brogue still intact but trying on 70’s Yankee jive talk. Overall, the band come on like The James Gang meets Rare Earth. Fast forward another twenty years, and the power trio version of Trapeze had configured a number of times in the intervening years, though there always seemed to be one problem or another going on. Previously released on CD, Welcome To The Real World’s provenance has been questioned in the past, in that the band hadn’t agreed to its release. Again, you’ll find the usual suspects track wise, but here somewhat leaner. While technology has moved on, Galley’s hand having been damaged he’s using a device termed “the claw” to assist his playing, though it’s only the lack of exposition compared to previous live releases where you really notice. That said, for the most part, it’s more about seasoned players performing old tunes than working on the same telepathic wavelength they once did.

The reunions afforded audiences to hear Hughes play bass on the odd track recorded after he’d left, and where Galley took lead vocals, such as ‘Midnight Flyer’ here. There are also infrequent backing vocals from one or other of the pair, as there are on previous live releases; and that’s where I believe they’d stopped playing to a strength on record after the five-piece folded, and only partly took up again when Pete Goalby had joined.

There is also the addition of Yes and Asia keyboard player Geoff Downes on certain tracks. Back in the nineties, this gave it a contemporary AOR ambiance, now it tends to date it. We do, however, get two new tracks in ‘Welcome To The Real World’ and ‘Homeland’, the latter of which ended up on Hughes’ From Now On CD, lyrically a love song to Cannock Chase, and pre-empting ‘the singer’s supergroup number Black Country’ by over a decade. Snippets of ‘Georgia’ and the KLF, less appropriate for a band show.

Trapeze afficionados are likely to have most of these records already, but for those testing the waters what better place to start; then right after they need to check out Cherry Red’s individual album releases because the additional live footage on those is pretty phenomenal.

  • Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
  • Complete Recordings Vol. 1 is released via Cherry Red Records and available now (from here).

Track list:

Disc One: Trapeze (1970)

  1. It’s Only A Dream
  2. The Giant’s Dead Hoorah!
  3. Over
  4. Nancy Gray
  5. Medley: Fairytale/Verily Verily/Fairytale
  6. It’s My Life
  7. Am I
  8. Suicide
  9. Wings
  10. Another Day
  11. Send Me No More Letters
  12. It’s Only A Dream

Disc Two: Medusa (1970)

  1. Black Cloud
  2. Jury
  3. Your Love Is Alright
  4. Touch My Life
  5. Seafull
  6. Makes You Wanna Cry
  7. Medusa

Disc Three: You Are The Music We’re Just The Band (1972)

  1. Keepin’ Time
  2. Coast To Coast
  3. What Is A Woman’s Role
  4. Way Back To The Bone
  5. Feelin’ So Much Better Now
  6. Will Our Love End
  7. Loser
  8. You Are The Music

Disc Four: Live In Dallas – Part 1 (1973), Recorded live at the Majestic Theatre, Dallas, Texas, USA, 27th April 1973 & Previously Unreleased

  1. Way Back To The Bone
  2. You Are The Music
  3. Jury
  4. Seafull
  5. Your Love Is Alright

Disc Five: Live In Dallas – Part 2 (1973), Recorded live at the Majestic Theatre, Dallas, Texas, USA, 27th April 1973 & Previously Unreleased

  1. Medusa
  2. Black Cloud
  3. Keepin’ Time
  4. Touch My Life

Disc Six: Welcome To The Real World – Live (1992), Recorded live at The Borderline, London, 16th May 1992

  1. You Are The Music
  2. Way Back To The Bone
  3. Welcome To The Real World
  4. Coast To Coast
  5. Midnight Flyer
  6. Homeland
  7. Touch My Life
  8. Your Love Is Alright
  9. Black Cloud