If there was a Venn diagram of classical music, progressive rock and metal, you’d find Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Knife-Edge bang in the centre. Taken from the band’s 1970 debut this is dark, heavy stuff with a huge, ominous riff. The formidable British trio rearrange pieces from Janáček and Bach into a stonking Hammond organ bludgeon that is surely what the composers had in mind all along. As a young metal fan this was one of the key gateway tracks that introduced me to the rich, crazy world of prog and it’s still one of my favourite songs of the genre.
“The unrelenting blow that’s cast from down below”
Mott The Hoople’s second album Mad Shadows starts with a wallop. Both penned and sung by future Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs, Thunderbuck Ram has an quiet, haunting intro but then proceeds to thud with a vengeance as Ralphs dishes out some brash and blocky riffing. Songwise it’s a bit slight with just two verses and Ralphs’ vocals are on the histrionic side but the way the band just bludgeons through the whole thing is fantastic. In their early days, Mott often struggled to sound as convincing in the studio as they did live but they don’t have any problems here as they enthusiastically bash Thunderbuck Ram to a barely-controlled climatic wig-out.
HMO salutes Peter Green, who has died aged 73. There are many superb tunes I could pick as a tribute to the gifted guitarist, vocalist and founder of Fleetwood Mac. I toyed with Sandy Mary, Oh Well, Jumping At Shadows, Man Of The World and I Loved Another Woman: all personal faves. But given this is a metal site I’m going to go with The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown). Even if you’re not familiar with Fleetwood Mac, I’m sure you all know this song from Judas Priest’s cover versions on Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed In The East. They turned it into a great souped-up rocker and their interpretation is very enjoyable. But I don’t think this song was really intended to be enjoyable. It was written during a period of LSD-induced mental health struggles and was inspired by a particularly vivid nightmare which Green interpreted as being about the evil of money and success. The Mac version is as dark, ominous and anguished as its subject matter. Doubly so on this extended live take recorded in Boston in 1970. It’s a musical dark night of the soul. Enjoy!
For many years I knew Trapeze as a historical footnote and not much else. Usually prefixed with “ex-” as former members Glenn Hughes (bassist and “Voice of Rock”), the late Mel Galley (guitar/vocals) and Dave Holland (drums) all moved on to higher profile gigs with other bands. Hughes joined Deep Purple, Galley appeared in Whitesnake and Holland served time in Judas Priest before… well… serving time.
In the early ’00s, a run of brilliant Glenn Hughes solo albums finally inspired me to investigate his old band. Medusa was Trapeze’s second album but the first to feature its most famous power trio line-up of Hughes/Galley/Holland. It was released in late 1970 and, as was often the case with the era’s Hard Rockers, it’s an album of light and shade. This means Led Zep often come up as a comparison but I hear more of a Free influence, especially in groovy Rockers like Black Cloud and Touch My Life. Although the funky, stop-start rhythms of Your Love is Alright get a little bit frustrating the band sound tight and confident, leaving plenty of space for everyone’s contributions to be heard. And with the tasteful exception of Mel Galley’s guitar jamming on Makes You Wanna Cry, there is very little instrumental showboating on Medusa which leaves the focus squarely on Glenn’s superb voice.
It’s fascinating to hear him at this early stage, with a rawer tone and delivery that brings to mind Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriott. And his voice is even more remarkable in the album’s longer tracks. Jury, Seafull and the title-track have a more progressive feel. Pastoral acoustic passages build up to intense, heavy climaxes that would appeal to fans of Uriah Heep or early Judas Priest. When Glenn employs his full vocal range at the climax of Jury the results are spine-chilling.
Medusa is an album of real maturity and depth from a group with tangible chemistry. Before going their separate ways, Trapeze would record one more excellent studio album and enjoy some live success in the US but it’s a shame their recorded output didn’t achieve more success or recognition. While it’s unsurprising that the musicians involved went on to bigger things, together they deserved way more than footnote status.