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Hughes, Glenn: The Way It Is
While many decry the fine line Glenn Hughes walks between rock and funk, for his fans, that path is very blurred indeed, the heaviness of most of his material more than enough to carry the funk, soul and blues he employs to places most wouldn't even dream of. However, after his honest and raw album Feel, where the ex-Trapeze, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath man quite forcefully raged at the demons he was overcoming, The Way It Is saw a more reflective singer and bassist utilise a different approach to bare his soul - in more ways than one.
Here a softer, more reflective tone graces a lot of this 1999 album and, for some, will be the album that maybe tips things too far away from the rock that Hughes made his name with, a tumble of soul and gentle funk coming together across thirteen tracks. And yet, as ever with Hughes, things are never quite so simple, a collaboration with respected guitarist Stevie Salas and The Cult/Guns N Roses drummer Matt Sorum resulting in the hard and heavy "You Kill Me" and confident "Second Son", the more powerful power-trio approach a little out of place as Hughes included the brushed up demos from the session (a third track making the This Time Around compilation album). Alongside the smooth "Take You Down" and almost Bruce Hornsby like "Too Far Gone", they make for strange bedfellows. It's not that any of these cuts aren't captivating and involving, it's more that brought together they leave more questions unanswered than they do create conclusions. In fact Salas himself in the Malcolm Dome penned liner notes wonders why Hughes didn't take things further after the threesome played some storming shows and then recorded the excellent songs displayed here. Hughes doesn't really find a suitable answer either, but instead moved on with guitarists Marc Bonilla and Joakim 'JJ' Marsh, who split the fret work across the other ten tracks.
So what of the thirteenth song I hear you ask? Well, it's a second version of Jimi Hendrix's "Freedom", a straight cover featuring Marsh on guitar and Hughes-Thrall drummer Gary Ferguson arriving with a thump at the halfway point of the album. However closing things out is the "Shagmeister Mix" of the same song, courtesy of The Cure's Lol Tolhurst, and as you can with most of these extra tracks, you can replace the word "mix" with "utterly throwaway dance nonsense".
Hughes, as you'd expect, is in amazingly fine voice, his five octave vocal range as astounding as ever, "Curse" exploring the 'curse' of his vocal gift, where, according to Glenn, utilising it has made things difficult for the singer to play it safe over the years. While "Stoned In The Temple" is revealed in the liner notes, for the very first time, to be Hughes' ode to Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland in hope of dissuading him from his life of excess (and Hughes should know), which, tragically the man who also fronted Velvet Revolver didn't heed.
As with all of these Hughes reissues, this all comes excellently remastered and with a bonus live disc. Confusingly TWII comes with Live At The Astoria 2, London 2000, meaning this live performance contains songs from Hughes next album, Return Of Crystal Karma, while the reissue of that album comes with a 1999 show from the tour promoting The Way It Is…? More a good bootleg than a proper live recording, while there's still a lot to like about the Astoria show, there's no denying that it's going to be a fan only experience if taken more than once, crowd chatter and overlong stage banter all left unedited. However with a classy "Purple Melody" and the likes of "Gone" and "Midnight Meditated" from R.O.C.K. appearing alongside the more expected Trapeze numbers like "Coast To Coast" and Deep Purple's "Might Just Take Your Life", there's still a lot to like.
If you're a committed Glenn Hughes fan, there's a good chance that The Way It Is ranks as one of your favourite moments of his wide and varied catalogue. However for the more casual observers, if there's one solo outing from 'the voice of rock' to approach with caution, this is probably it.
1. THE WAY IT IS
2. YOU KILL ME
4. RAIN ON ME
7. THE TRUTH WILL SET ME FREE
8. STONED IN THE TEMPLE
9. TOO FAR GONE
10. SECOND SON
11. TAKE YOU DOWN
12. DON'T LOOK AWAY
13. FREEDOM (SHAGMEISTER MIX)
DISC TWO LIVE AT THE LONDON ASTORIA 2 – 22nd NOVEMBER 2000 THE OFFICIAL BOOTLEG – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
1. THE STATE I'M IN
2. MIDNIGHT MEDITATED
4. MIGHT JUST TAKE YOUR LIFE
5. MUSCLE AND BLOOD
6. YOU KILL ME
8. YOU ARE THE MUSIC
9. YOUR LOVE IS ALRIGHT
10. COAST TO COAST
11. PURPLE MEDLEY: OWED TO "G"/ SAIL AWAY / LAY DOWN STAY DOWN / GETTIN' TIGHTER
Added: September 9th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Way It Is at Cherry Red
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