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Glenn Hughes

Soul Mover

(Sanctuary; US: 25 Jan 2005; UK: Available as import)

Although the name is sometimes misspelled without the extra ‘n’, guitarist Glenn Hughes is no stranger to fans of hard, heavy rock and roll. From his early days in Trapeze to his glorious years with Deep Purple and then Black Sabbath, Hughes has always been able to make his guitar do wonderful and often magical things. Now for this latest album, Hughes has recruited some select company to help him out, none more than Chad Smith, the drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers. Added to that is Dave Navarro, he of the Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and most importantly of that asinine television show where he marries Carmen Electra. Nonetheless, the engine of this baby is Hughes, and he still manages to make the old blues rock sound come off as a new found glory. This is especially evident on the gritty style of the opening title track. While not reaching the heights of great lead singers of his generation, Hughes can nail the tune with some great riffs and crunchy licks courtesy of guitarist JJ Marsh with some help from Navarro. The chorus is the payoff with the axes mixing a bit of Hendrix with Stevie Ray’s bluesy side. The bridge seems to fall in line with something Coverdale/Page might have attempted but didn’t find to be LedSnake enough. Think Audioslave finding perfection and you have this ditty in a shiny nutshell.


Fortunately, Hughes never loses the fact that you can’t make a great record with filler, so he keeps things flowing with the slightly Santana-ish, primal-cum-tribal, percussion-fuelled “She Moves Ghostly” which starts off at a gallop’s pace and doesn’t slow down for anything. The chorus is a bit lightweight with Hughes letting his pipes add the accents to the straightforward lines. It collapses into a brief mess to wrap up, but by then it doesn’t really matter. But the heart of this record is the thick blues rock feeling one gets again and again, particularly on the lovely “High Road”, which has a funky groove despite the almost formulaic approach. Smith and Hughes express their synergy all over the album, but they are almost ridiculously tight on this effort. You get the sense that Hughes didn’t spend a lot of time getting these songs right as that energy or intensity is found instantly on “Orion”, a rudimentary rocker that works only if delivered perfectly. And, well, it is here. “Change Yourself” ventures into Queensryche turf and is lighter than the other tracks but not enough to be overtly noticeable.


The surprise is how badly “Let It Go” opens before the guitars get the Led out and turn it into a faster, edgier romp that ebbs and flows throughout. This one is clearly almost Cornell-ish with the vocals gearing up for a powerful chorus and vicious hook. Hughes opts for a classic rock blueprint rather than letting the guitar ride the hell out of the track. The album’s nadir is the mellow, moody “Isolation” which should have isolated itself from the rest of the record. Here Hughes tries a light Steely Dan-ish approach in the verses which seems to rub the rock chorus the wrong way entirely. Enough about the bad stuff though. “Land of the Livin’ (Wonderland)” is a mid-tempo summer sounding rocker that would do well alongside the likes of Thornley, Big Wreck and Big Sugar. Hughes again lets ‘er rip and the bridge is just as capable of living up to its promise.


Somewhere Lenny Kravitz is listening to this album and saying, “Why? Why? Why does this come off so easily for him and not for me?” “Miss Little Insane” is a run-of-the-mill 4/4 number that doesn’t really do anything special but just works quite well with what it’s got. And then we have the anthem-like, tad trippy Southern soul that is “Last Mistake”. Here Hughes takes the tune down a dusty blues road and comes off a bit like the late Bon Scott but definitely The Black Crowes as it hits the chorus.


Never one to end on a downer, Hughes saves the radio-friendly pop for last with “Don’t Let Me Bleed” before building things up for the larger classic rock feel. Hughes might be five decades into his career now, but he will be hard pressed to equal or beat such a strong, cohesive release. It’s a cliché, but this album simply rocks on nearly every level.

Rating:

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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