Hughes, Glenn: Return Of Crystal Karma (expanded remaster)
With his 1999 album The Way It Is once again heading the one time Trapeze and Deep Purple man, Glenn Hughes, down the funk road, the intent of an album called Return Of Crystal Karma – or R.O.C.K. - was clear. Or was it? The first of Hughes' new millennium albums, while undoubtedly turning a stronger focus on guitars and the riffs they created, is still as much a funk rock record as it is anything else. Maybe thanks to that confusing acronym (that surely wasn't a coincidence) the release found a lukewarm reception when it emerged in 2000, but those already invested in Hughes' chosen style of attack were much more enthusiastic. The 'voice of rock' continuing his fruitful collaboration with guitarist Joakim 'JJ' Marsh and keyboard player Hans Zermüehlen; the trio having a hand in nine of the ten songs. The other, "Gone", is a Hughes and Tony Iommi co-write that had been intended for the pair's mooted follow up album to Seventh Star and which finally saw the light of day in 2004 as The DEP Sessions. Not too surprisingly Marsh struggles to infuse the song with the spirit of Sabbath, but it still makes for a riff monster of a track that rocks hard and heavy. It's an album highlight, even if it doesn't really fit in snuggly with its album mates.
Other heavy hitters do arrive, "The State I'm In" opening the album with a serious wallop, drummer Gary Ferguson (who also played with Hughes in Hughes-Thrall) pounding for all he's worth, while "Midnight Meditated" straddles the rock and funk sides of Hughes to perfection. "Switch The Mojo" adds electronics to stunning effect, as a classic rock sound is giving an altogether fresh twist, while "The Other Side Of Me" proves a schizophrenic mix of smooth soulful asides and ass kicking licks. However, with "Angela" bringing a more poppy funk feel and the stunning instrumental "Owed To J" a cracking tribute to guitarist Jeff Beck – Marsh does him proud – the expected eclecticism is never all that far away. Underrated is a word often used to describe Glenn Hughes' solo work, but it's definitely a fitting description of Return Of Crystal Karma.
As ever from Cherry Red, this reissue comes with a few bells and whistles attached, a welcome remaster from Tony Dixon hitting the spot, while the Malcolm Dome liner notes, which features scene setting contributions from Hughes, also add value. However with no studio bonus cuts included, fans will be intrigued by the second disc featuring a six track live recording from Sao Paulo, Brazil from November 1999. As has become the norm in this reissue campaign, rather oddly, the show doesn't come from the tour of the album it accompanies, this one from before R.O.C.K. was recorded (although with the bonus disc for The Way It Is being from the R.O.C.K. tour, it actually feels like the wrong live show is paired with the wrong album??). Opening with two The Way It Is tracks in the shape of "You Kill Me" and "Neverafter" makes a welcome change, before we get a whistle stop tour of Hughes pre and post Purple work; "First Step Of Love" originally from the Hughes-Thrall gem of an album, "No Stranger To Love" from the singer's time in Black Sabbath. Both are welcome additions here through their less obvious, but still excellent status. Two Trapeze numbers, "Coast To Coast" and "Your Love Is Alright", close things out in more expected fashion and while the sound from this show could hardly be classed as cutting edge, it has to be said that with some scintillating instrumental workouts included, it does make for an engaging experience.
For some reason Glenn Hughes is often seen as a love him, or hate him kind of musician, singer and artist. Return Of Crystal Karma and its ever differing approach goes a long way to revealing both sides of the argument, but if you're a fan, you'll already know this is an excellent album.
1. THE STATE I'M IN
2. MIDNIGHT MEDITATED
3. IT'S ALRIGHT
4. SWITCH THE MOJO
6. THE OTHER SIDE OF ME 7. ANGELA
8. OWED TO "J"
9. THIS LIFE
10. DAYS OF AVALON
DISC TWO LIVE IN SAO PAULO, BRAZIL, 25th NOVEMBER 1999
1. YOU KILL ME
3. FIRST STEP OF LOVE
4. NO STRANGER TO LOVE
5. COAST TO COAST
6. YOUR LOVE IS ALRIGHT
Added: September 9th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Return Of Crystal Karma at Cherry Red
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