Steamhammer 1999 / Purple 2017
Renaissance man gets back on track to give his rock a solid whack.
The ’90s were an era when Glenn Hughes reined in his demons and got his act together – literally so. Whereas “Feel” and “Addiction” reflected, respectively, light and dark aspects of the veteran’s modus operandi, soul and metal reigning over his signature funk groove, “The Way It Is” saw Hughes deliver a heady mix of styles that set Glenn on a solid, liberating course he’s been cruising on ever since. Not for nothing there’s a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Freedom” in the midst of the artist’s own compositions which makes a return, in Lol Tolhurst’s remix, for the album’s finale; not for nothing freedom is also referenced in the wah-wah-whammied “The Truth Will Set Me Free” and in the title track, laying the singer’s psyche on the line, from its electronica-spiced bass throb onward and upward.
There’s this feeling of being born anew, rather than reborn, in such a statement of fact which is wrapped in Marc Bonilla’s strings and given a slider caress by J.J. Marsh. But then there’s also “You Kill Me” whose “Black Dog”-derived stop-and-resume method built a foundation for a few BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION songs, while Glenn’s’ BLACK SABBATH pedigree is revealed in the even heavier “Neverafter” where serrated riff and soft release rule the game to stress its spiritual nature. Further on down the road, Mellotron and Wurlitzer add a wobbly psychedelia layer to the balladry of “Curse,” and “Rain On Me” pays modern homage to Hughes’ rhythm-and-blues idols, although they’re not the kind of deities that fill “Stoned In The Temple” – as ragged, hot and intoxicating as only a epistle to Scott Weiland could be, aided and abetted by Keith Emerson’s organ.
The same solemn ivories spice up the transparent “Don’t Look Away” that ebbs and flows and grows in scope exponentially and emotionally, and “Too Far Gone” demonstrates a similar fantastic ripple – all guitar picking and piano twinkling – serving as an undercurrent to Glenn’s velvet voice before he takes it higher to crash against the rocks. Yet the record was going to be much sharper initially, Hughes working with Stevie Salas and Matt Sorum before abandoning the slim trio format with only three rough cuts laid down, including “Second Son” which is throwing its raw, dynamic weight all around, albeit this bubbling tune’s weaker than the rest of them, lyrically and melodically. That’s how contrast was created here, to bring things into focus, because for an artist variety is the way to go – and that’s the way it is.
This remastered reissue comes augmented with an official bootleg recording from a 2000 concert which shows Glenn Hughes truly coming alive with the way he’d declared the previous year. New pieces in his repertoire were testament to it.