SPV 2000 / Cherry Red 2017
Long overdue, if instant, gratification from a rocker who got back on track and brought it all home.
“Face with no name” is how Glenn Hughes describes his stance at the start of the album which saw the veteran’s full-blown comeback, but it was actually name with no face that he arrived at at the turn of the century. While “Feel” and “Addiction” found the artist fighting his demons and savoring new sweetness of existence, "The Way It Is" seemed more like an attempt at reattaching one’s roots and bringing the legacy up to date. Once it had been done, “Return Of Crystal Karma” materialized – as brilliant and hard as the record’s title promised.
Assertive and slightly aggressive, in defensive way, opener “The State I’m In” may still cast self-doubt upon the singer’s position, yet the “I don’t know what I’ve become” line gets dissolved in the heavy throb of this track whose infectious groove and soulful vocals restore Hughes’ image to the glory of yore. Not for nothing the album spelled “R.O.C.K.” and appeared at the time when Glenn began branding himself as “The Voice Of Rock” – stressing the last word – although the electronica-tinctured “Switch The Mojo” is where his reluctant readiness for a change and endless questioning are tied in an exquisite knot. That’s why “It’s Alright” has the artist’s optimism streamlined and attuned to modern demands without losing his custom-tailored spank; that’s why those four strings edge to the fore when the purr of “Come to papa” introduce J.J. Marsh’s short, if filigree, guitar solo.
By brandishing bass again and building monumentally memorable choruses, Hughes let loose his organ-oiled angularity and – hence the titular reference – crystallized positive thought in powerplay. It’s the game giving Glenn strength to stave off the bad luck of the chthonic “Gone” that he’d co-written with Tony Iommi much earlier and, saving the mighty riff from a bootleg limbo, dusted down now to contrast the equally toxic “The Other Side Of Me” which flicks frizzy splinters all around. In the same vein, “Angela” could pump blood into the notion of romantic reverie were it not as simultaneously relaxed and coiled as dancefloor moves are, and the wired layers of “Owed To ‘J'” – instrumental piece dedicated to Jeff Beck rather than harking back to DEEP PURPLE’s “Owed to ‘G'” – up the fusion quotient of the ensemble’s telepathy.
There’s a finely wrought funk to fuel the rage of “Midnight Meditated” whence emerged the Hughes everyone knows today, the Hughes that had been lost in the mid-’70s: the performer with a lot of peacock panache and solid substance behind it. Able to taste those flavors anew, albeit – as outlined in the punchy, parents-praising “This Life” – they required a bit of bitterness to be removed, Glenn could also reach for higher ground and scale spirituality in “Days Of Avalon”: an epic ballad refining the veteran’s very essence – his grandiose, if warm, core which would make Hughes even brighter star in the decades to come.
This reissue is accompanied by a live EP, originally a bonus with the album’s limited edition; it’s one of the artist’s greatest on-stage documents, one encompassing his past, with gems such as “First Step Of Love” and “No Stranger To Love” – TRAPEZE’s “Your Love Is Alright” taking the pride of contextual place – and the then-present, on the likes of “Neverafter”… Here’s a nearly immaculate package.