Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Peter Lemer Quintet - 1968 - Local Colour

Peter Lemer Quintet
Local Colour

01. Ictus 6:52
02. City 7:38
03. Flowville 7:30
04. In The Out 9:20
05. Carmen 10:35
06. Enahenado 2:50

Nisar Ahmad Khan: tenor saxophone
John Surman: baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone
Peter Lemer: piano
Tony Reeves: bass
Jon Hiseman: drums

Recorded 1966 in London

British pianist Peter Lemer studied with Jaki Byard, Paul Bley, and Bill Dixon, so his roots in jazz are strong. His lengthy and distinguished career has found him in a wide variety of settings. As an avant-garde jazz pianist, he recorded with Spontaneous Music Ensemble; in the jazz fusion realm, he was a member of Gilgamesh and Paraphernalia; as a progressive rock keyboardist, he played with Gong, Baker Gurvitz Army, the Mike Oldfield Group, Seventh Wave, and In Cahoots. Sideman credits include work with Annette Peacock, Harry Beckett, and more.

Surprisingly, Local Colour – his debut recording – is Lemer's only album as a leader. Recorded in London in 1966, before jazz fusion or prog-rock even existed, it belongs in the collection of anyone who cares about the British jazz scene, and not only because of Lemer's talents. Everyone in this quintet went on to notable achievements. This was sax great John Surman's recording debut; he is now arguably the premiere British jazz saxophonist, with a prolific and much-praised discography. Chances to hear the also scintillating sax sound of the more obscure Nisar Ahmad Khan (AKA George Khan) in a jazz context are much rarer, though prog-rock fans may remember his appearance on Robert Wyatt's Ruth Is Stranger than Richard and his work with Cream lyricist Pete Brown and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Drummer Jon (then going by John) Hiseman had already established himself on the British jazz scene by co-founding the New Jazz Orchestra in 1964; two years after the Local Colour session he started Colosseum, one of the most successful British jazz-rock bands, and he even collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musical Cats. Bassist Tony Reeves had had a hit single in 1965 with Sounds Orchestral ("Cast Your Fate to the Wind"); after a brief stint with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Reeves joined Hiseman in Colosseum; he was also a member of Greenslade and Curved Air in addition to session work with Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny and guitarist John Martyn.

British pianist Peter Lemer is one of the U.K. jazz scene's primary links between '60s free jazz and '70s fusion, but his sole album as a leader, recorded in 1966, sticks closely to the former. Lemer, a former student of Paul Bley, opens the set with a rattling version of Carla Bley's "Ictus," then runs through a program of originals that run from fairly "out" ("City" has some absolutely frenzied free blowing by saxophonists Nisar Ahmad Khan and John Surman, accompanied at one point by Lemer banging on the top of his piano) to relatively restrained (the melody of "Frowville" wouldn't sound out of place on a Dave Brubeck album). Although Lemer's often highly rhythmic piano playing drives the band, Khan and Surman are the stars of the album, taking most of the solos. (The bass solo comes late in "In the Out" -- have your fast-forward finger ready accordingly, but don't miss the remarkable Khan/Surman duel right after.) Even the most experimental pieces, however, keep the traditional theme-solos-theme structure, so Local Colour is the sort of album that's useful for the free jazz novice. It's just traditional enough that it's not scary, but neither is it so traditional that it's boring. It's a shame this group didn't get a chance to record more.

Andrew Lloyd Webber - 1978 - Variations

Andrew Lloyd Webber

01. Introduction
02. Theme (Paganini Caprice In A Minor No.24) And Variations 1-4
03. Variations 5 And 6
04. Variation 7
05. Variation 8
06. Variation 9
07. Variation 10
08. Variations 11-15 (Including Tributes)
09. Variation 9
10. Variation 13-14 (Varied)
11. Variation 17
12. Variation 18
13. Variations 19, 20 And 5 (varied)
14. Variations 21 And 22
15. Variation 23

- Don Airey / Grand Piano, ARP Odyssey, Mini Moog, Solina String Ensemble, Fender Piano
- Rod Argent / Grand Piano, Mini Moog, Roland RS 202, Yamaha CS80
- Gary Moore / Guitars
- Barbara Thomson / Flute, Alto Flute, Tenor Saxophone
- Jon Hiseman / Arbiter Auto Tune Drums, Paiste Cymbals & Gongs, Percussion
- John Mole / Fender Precision Bass, Hayman Fretless Bass Guitar
- Julian Lloyd Webber / Cello
- Dave Caddick / Piano
- Phil Collins / Drums and Percussion
- Herbie Flowers / Bass
- Bill LeSage / Vibes
- Andrew Lloyd Webber / Synthesisers

"We've done the Electric Savage album, I think, with Colosseum II, and Andrew Lloyd Webber was with the same record company, MCA. He was in the offices one day, heard this music and said, "Oh, that's wonderful! Who's that?" They said, "It's a drummer called Jon Hiseman, he's got a band, Colosseum II", so he rang me up and said, "You don't know me, dear boy, but I've written this work for my brother Julian, on cello, and I need exactly that combination to do it, which would be interesting". So I went to his home, and he played the music for me on the piano, for an hour, explaining what would happen. I didn't remember much of it, but I went back to Gary and said, "This guy really know what he's doing, and I think we should get involved". Gary thought it was a bit weird, but he agreed because the guy was going to pay us well. We went in the studio for two weeks and made this album, called "Variations". After then, Gary went off and did his own thing, of course, because Colosseum II broke up, but I stayed with Andrew all the way through to Requiem. We - Rod Argent, myself, Barbara, John Mole - only ever did three weeks in the shows in London, the first three weeks, and then handed it over to people who did that for a living."
Jon Hiseman - November 2004

Consider this as a Colosseum II album with special guests, and music pre-composed by a promising young composer who had already written the world's first Rock Opera proper (Jesus Christ Superstar), and had, in all likelihood, inspired The Who to write their opus "Tommy" with his first Rock Operetta "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat".

This was not yet the writer of horrors like Cats, Phantom of the Opera et al, but a composer in the right place and time and with the right potential to have produced something great.

He was a bit late for Prog Rock's 1st wave, in which style this set is based, but that doesn't stop his Variations on a Theme of Paganini from being every bit a masterpiece as Rakhmaninov's - only a rock and roll version, ya dig?

It should be noted that the theme from Paganini's Caprice in A minor on which this set of Variations is built has also been variegated by composers and musicians as varied and notable as Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Benny Goodman - so there are plenty of other sets to compare this one to.

Lloyd Webber's effort is not utterly flawless, but where it shines, it's the equal of the greatest prog tunes you can think of, and at it's worst, it's better than... well, I'd probably get into trouble for making direct comparisons, but I've heard Rick Wakeman produce worse material on more than one occasion, and at least Airey and Argent had the grace to keep the boxing gloves off, unlike certain Emersons of this world. And there's no equivalent of "More Fool Me" on here - in fact, hardly a note is wasted or used as filler.

In fact, in terms of execution, this album IS flawless - virtually every note perfectly in place, yet this is not a precision technical snorefest - it feels like a live rock band swinging into action; Nay! a PROG Rock band, as we have unusual instrumentation and a wide variety of styles making this a set of Variations that are arguably as good as those by any of the umpteen other composers who also wrote Variations on Paganini's Caprice - with blistering guitarwork from Gary Moore that wouldn't have impressed Paganini with it's speed, but would have blown his powdered wig off with it's intensity and smoked him out of his boots.

So, a long intro even by my standards - shall we get into the music?

A dark swirling mass of keyboards in the introduction gives way to the statement of the Caprice and Variations 1-4, AKA the theme to the South Bank Show (long- running UK TV show).

Julian Lloyd Webber leads the way with basic percussion - the juxtaposition of cello and drums works surprisingly well.

The lovely scrunchy piano entry that heralds the flute melody, seguing perfectly into a Moog squelchfest sets the scene for dramatically shifting music of a surprisingly wide pallete of tone colours and mini variations.

Variations 5 and 6 are a more acoustic affair, with an aching, wistful melody on the flute sensitively coloured by acoustic guitar and small electric guitar details, before opening into a broad, sweeping Cello theme... yes, you really can perform academic analysis on this music.

Variation 6 ends with a dark Moog using a low pedal to provide dramatic tension that builds amazingly into Variation 7, a complex riff fest with tight arhythmic percussion and atonal power chords in a brilliant prog rock style passage. The guitar solo that follows is the first nod towards the fireworks of Paganini, and is full of tension and dischord.

We mellow out a little with variation 8, and variation 9 is a more laid back, jazzy affair led by the sensual sax of Barbara Thompson.

Variation 10 appears to grow out of nowhere, with a spacey quality. The Cello takes the lead this time, with another wistful melody. The flute picks this up - and we can hear Lloyd Webbers show-tune writing abilities shining through.

While I'm not sure if the latter is a good thing or not, Variations 11-15 are more like it, with powerful guitar interspersed with keyboard, and twists and turns a-plenty. Despite the many tangents, Lloyd Webber expertly manages to maintain a coherent direction by keeping all the material related, and the twists and turns themselves morph into mini masterpieces that lesser bands would have dragged out for much longer - it seems you're just getting into one great idea, then everything changes. This is Variation writing as it was intended - and also Prog Rock as it should be played.

And now we allegedly return to Variation 16 - which is actually a variation of variation 7... Another delicious heavy riff is mashed up by Moog lines, then exposed and returned to. The main theme trickles through, but is broken down in a mini maelstrom of sound that maybe loses a little power by being so controlled and precise, but nevertheless maintains a momentum that is quite breathtaking. The ending to this variation is one of my favourite bits, so no spoilers here.

An alleged return to Variations 14-15 display yet more mastery at the form - earlier ideas are explored, developed, moved on from in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it-fest of compositional fireworks.

We then hop mysteriously into Variation 17. This is a Moog driven affair that sounds like it came out of the BBC Radiophonic workshop for an early episode of Dr Who - but loses nothing for it!

There were beautiful melodies in earlier variations, but Lloyd Webber has saved one of the best for Variation 18 - again taken up by his brother on the Cello with minimal backing from Moore and Mole. Around halfway through Moore takes up the melody and really shines with a wondrous guitar tone, but sadly the reins are returned to JLW to close the variation in syrupy style.

Next we have Variations 19, 20 and 6 (varied), another giddying, swirling demonstration of why this album is the Masterpiece I hold it to be. The main theme gets some prominence, but it is halted in its tracks before it can get going, and new material is presented before Variation 6 returns in majestrial glory.

But now I turn your attention swiftly to Variations 21 and 22. Gary Moore is allowed a free rein here, and dominates with aplomb. Variation 22 suddenly drops the music into a chasm with a surprisingly spacey sound given that the main instrument is the piano. Using motifs that hearken back to serialism, using quasi-cells or mini note- rows, flavours of Schoenberg create this dark feeling and underscore the fact that Lloyd Webber understood and had mastered a wide variety of compositional styles and had the potential to become a truly great composer of relevant art/rock material.

Variation 23 ends the set in pounding style, with Lloyd Webber turning in a performance that Paganini may have snickered at - but is most suitable for what is.

At the end of the day, this is a Prog Rock album with more than just pretensions to "Classical" music - it is rooted in just about every style contemporary in 1977/8 except punk rock and while it sounds "of its time", mainly due to the production, it is every bit as good as the Prog Rock album of your choice from 5 years earlier.

If you think Camel blended rock and orchestral well in "The Snow Goose" (which they did), Camel's sterling efforts pale into amateurish meandering in comparison to the masterful composisiton and arrangements presented here. Theme and Variations is one of the hardest compositional styles to master. This is a superb example of how it should be done.

Go Geddit - don't be ashamed to own this Andrew Lloyd Webber album!

Colosseum II - 1977 - War Dance

Colosseum II 
War Dance

01. Wardance (6:09)
02. Major Keys (5:18)
03. Put It This Way (3:42)
04. Castles (5:50)
05. Fighting Back (5:54)
06. The Inquisition (5:50)
07. Star Maiden / Mysterioso / Quasar (6:24)
08. Last Exit (3:30)

- Gary Moore / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals (4)
- Don Airey / Fender Rhodes, Steinway grand piano, ARP Odyssey, ARP Solina, Mini-Moog, Hammond organ, clavinet, tubular bells
- John Mole / bass
- Jon Hiseman / drums, percussion, gong, timpani, co-producer

Third and last album from Colosseum II (and yet hardly the weakest) with an unchanged line-up compared with ES, released the same year on the same label and a strange goofy house-cleaning glove dance artwork, Wardance closes Hiseman's forays into rock territory, as he will concentrate on jazz in the future.
Unleashing the beast inside the Colosseum, it enters a frenzy Wardance that's intricate and complex enough to Return To forever and buy the Brand X. Moore and Airey combine lead lines that could be slightly reminiscent of the Eleventh House or Isotope as well. The aptly-titled Major Keys plays with all kinds of them in a ultra funky mode, somewhere between Yes and GG. The following amusing wink to ES' Put It This Way now tells you otherwise, but the two tracks are fairly close to each other. One of the saddest things to see is that the group still resorted to having sung tracks, this time the awful Castles, and furthermore atrociously sung by Gary Moore (ES' Rivers was much better, partly because it was less cheesy, but Gary wasn't laughable there)

On the flipside, Fighting Talk is another typical hard-fusion track that were becoming Colosseum II's specialty and the two frontmen engage in a war of note exchanges and solos abound, while Hiseman keeps them hot and ready with his intense drumming. Actually his drumming is so tense, that it becomes a little too much for the music and certainly more so to unaccustomed ears and even if it fits the Spanish dramatic track called The Inquisition, one can't help but thinking that we're close to useless show of virtuosity: As Miles once said: "Why play so many notes?..... Just play the good ones". This is not to say that there are bad notes in Col II's music, but a lot of them are effectively probably not necessary, but nevertheless they're not wasted either. The spacey trilogy of Star Maiden/Quasar is definitely another Intergalactic Slut, but it's got its charms as do most (but not all) sluts. The three chapters are divided by space winds, and most likely written in the Mole/Moore/Airey order. Obviously the group sort of knew this was their last album and decided to go out on a BANG, with the aptly titled Last Exit, starting out slowly on Mole's bass growls over Hiseman's last triumphant tom bangings, but soon growing increasingly tense with dramatic Moore guitar solos and Airey synth underrlines and the endless crescendo finally stopped by... A fade-out.. if you can believe it!!!!!

Colosseum II - 1977 - Electric Savage

Colosseum II 
Electric Savage

01. Put It This Way (4:54)
02. All Skin And Bone (3:49)
03. Rivers (5:48)
04. The Scorch (6:02)
05. Lament (4:38)
06. Desperado (5:58)
07. Am I (4:15)
08. Intergalactic Strut (6:00)

- Gary Moore / guitars, vocals (3)
- Don Airey / Fender Rhodes, Steinway grand piano, ARP Odyssey, ARP Solina, Mini-Moog, Hammond organ, clavinet
- John Mole / bass
- Jon Hiseman / drums, tubular bells, Latin percussion, gong, producer

Two small changes in Colosseum II's second album: Neil Murray left the group to join National Health (I believe), replaced by unknown John Mole, and most important the group became an almost-instrumental beast, which for their kind of music fit them best. If I say Almost-instrumental, it's because Gary Moore sings on one track, sounding a bit like Steve Winwood, but let's face it, Colosseum II doesn't need a singer!! Coming with a bizarre electronic tribal neon artwork, Electric Savage heads further into RTF and Brand X fusion than ever before. If most of the music is still penned by Gary Moore, there is a tendency towards more democracy as Airey pens two himself, while Hiseman co-writes four.
Opening on Hackett-ian (solo) guitar lines, Put It This Way dives head first hard fusion filled with power riffs, Brand X-style. All Skin & Bone is a fantastic percussive track that uses the same Hackett-ian guitar and probably the album's highlight. Rivers is the only sung track of the album, and as mentioned above, it sounds like a Steve Winwood solo track. The group also had a more progressive slant and here The Scorch is the prime example of it, where the group moves through a series of rhythm pattern and moods, but mostly doing so in a fury, as would indicate the title. Very classical exit of this track and a brilliant quartet, especially Hiseman.

The flipside starts on the cheesy Lament, but it's not an over-ripe camembert, either, just a slightly pompous facet of their prog moods, a bit the logical continuation of Scorch. Next up, Desperado returns to the 100 MPH fusion of Brand X that we'd visited in the album opener. The album closes on two Airey compositions, the first is a great crescendoing airy (pun intended) track, where Don & Gary exchange wild leads on a mid-tempo and background synth layers, while its alter ego Intergalactic Strut shines among a thousand galaxy, hinting at RTF's seventh. If I say shine, there is a slight eclipse with

While it was not so obvious on SNF, Moore has more problems being himself on such a blatant jazz rock album, than he does on a blues or hard rock album, and here , he's more credible when either crunching riffs away or pulling blues wails from his axe, than really adding a jazzy blue note. When he does try, he seems either taken by Hackett or goes purelt classical. Incidentally.  Outside a few loonies (like Mooney), Hiseman's drumming is still miles ahead of many of his English peers (Bruford, Collins & Dunbar excepted) and he mixes himself a tad higher in the group's overall sound, but it's nothing shocking, on the contrary.. It even enhances his insane playing.

Colosseum II - 1976 - Strange New Flesh

Colosseum II 
Strange New Flesh

01. Dark Side Of The Moog (6:17)
02. Down To You (9:05)
03. Gemini And Leo (4:48)
04. Secret Places (3:59)
05. On Second Thoughts (7:30)
06. Winds (10:23)

Bonus tracks on 2005 remaster::
07. Castles Version 1. (Demo 1975) (11:09) *
08. Gary's Lament (Demo 1975) (7:00) *
09. Walking The Park (Demo 1975) (7:05) *

Bonus CD from 2005 remaster:
01. Night Creeper (Demo 1976) (3:46) *
02. The Awakening (Demo 1976) (11:43) *
03. Siren Song (Demo 1976) (6:55) *
04. Castles Version 2. (Demo 1976) (5:00) *
05. The Scorch (Demo 1976) (4:39) *
06. Rivers (Demo 1976) (4:27) *
07. Interplanetary Slut (Demo 1976) (5:32) *
08. Dark Side Of The Moog (Live #) (9:00)
09. Siren Song (Live #) (12:13)
10. The Awakening (Live #) (15:46)

* Previously unreleased
# BBC session, In Concert, June 1976

Mike Starrs / lead vocals (excl. bonus CD)
Gary Moore / guitars, vocals
Don Airey / Fender Rhodes, Steinway grand piano, ARP Odyssey, ARP Solina, Mini-Moog, Hammond organ, clavinet
Neil Murray / bass (excl. bonus CD)
Jon Hiseman / drums, percussion, timpani, gong, producer

John Mole / bass (bonus CD 2005)

First of all, for those who are not in the know, let's get one thing straight: in spite of the name, this outfit has very little to do with the original Colosseum - one of the seminal jazz-rock bands of the late '60s and early 70's - but for the presence of monster skinsman Jon Hiseman (so conveniently forgotten in those boring "best drummer" polls, where everybody seems to think that Mike Portnoy is God's gift to drumming...). Colosseum II, showcasing the amazing talents of keyboard maestro Don Airey (currently with Deep Purple, where he replaced one Mr Jon Lord) and, especially, the fiery fretboard prowess of then 22-year-old Gary Moore - one of THE guitar gods, whatever you may think of his later career - were definitely harder-edged than the band's former incarnation. Nowadays better known for having played with Whitesnake and Black Sabbath, bassist Neil Murray tends to be given less credit than other four-stringers - however, before joining Colosseum II, Murray had played bass with Canterbury outfit Gilgamesh, and would later join National Health, taking the place that should have been occupied by Richard Sinclair. The musical proficiency of somebody who can keep up with both Jon Hiseman and Pip Pyle cannot be so easily disregarded.
Unlike other jazz-rock bands, though, Colosseum II didn't start out as a purely instrumental outfit, enlisting the vocal talents of former Cozy Powell's Hammer vocalist Mike Starrs. For many people, the sometimes overpowering presence of Starrs's otherwise excellent vocals (which, at times, oddly remind me of a richer, more controlled version of James LaBrie) detracts from the overall instrumental brilliance of the album. Personally, I quite like Starrs's singing, but I must also admit to having a slight preference for the instrumental tracks - then, let's face it, Gary Moore's backing vocals can be rather excruciating. I love his guitar playing to bits, and in later years he developed quite a respectable singing voice - but at this stage he couldn't sing to save his life, as proved by the two following Colosseum II albums.

Moore wrote most of the tracks on the album, with the exception of the Joni Mitchell cover "Down to You" - apparently a strange choice, yet rather successful, especially owing to Mike Starrs' passionate vocal performarce and Moore's melodic guitar. The album, however, opens in a completely different vein, with the blistering keyboard and guitar tour de force that is the aptly-titled "Dark Side of the Moog". "Gemini and Leo" is a funkier, jazzier track, with Starrs sounding a bit like Glenn Hughes in his Trapeze years. The following tracks, "Secret Place" and On Second Thoughts" continue in much the same vein, all featuring superb interplay between the four virtuoso musicians, as well as soaring, powerful vocals. Hiseman and Murray's propulsive rythm section is masterful throughout, but Moore and Airey are the ones who really steal the show. Original album closer "Winds" is a 10-minute-plus epic that summarises all that's great about this record, at the same time jazzy and hard-edged, with complex rythm changes and THAT magnificent guitar sound.

The recently released expanded edition contains some real treats for lovers of the band, including some live tracks on the second CD (with a killer version of "Dark Side of the Moog") and quite a few unreleased demos of songs, part of which would end up on the band's following albums, "Electric Savage" and "Wardance" - notably the original versions of blistering, intricate "Intergalactic Strut" (here bearing the amusing title of "Interplanetary Slut") and of beautiful Moore showcase "Gary's Lament", with his guitar at its melodic,wistful best. Shredders of the world, please take note - there's a guy who can really make his instrument speak with an almost human voice. Highly recommended to all lovers of great musicianship combined with heart and soul.

Colosseum - 1970-08-22 - Ruisrock

August 22, 1970
Ruisrock Festival
Turku, Finland

01. Rope Ladder To The Moon (10:28)
02. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (10:54)
03. Downhill And Shadows (12:11)
04. Lost Angeles  (11:29)
05. Walking in the Park (6:12)

Dick Heckstall Smith: sax
John Hiseman: drums
Dave " Clem" Clempson: guitar
Dave Greenslade. keyboards, vibes
Mark Clarke : bass
Chris Farlowe  : vocals

There's a lot happening in the world right now of tremendous historical importance for sure hence deserving of much attention, however I just read Clem Clempson's post on the passing of our friend Jon Hiseman, supreme drummer and overall musician, an intelligent man and true gentleman too. who contributed so much in various guises & outfits, to make the UK such a formidable force in the history of music, from cheerful "60's bubble gum" all the way to the most sophisticated Jazz and everything in between, him & his kit were behind it all. Rest in Peace.

Colosseum - 2014 - Time on Our Side

Time on Our Side

01. Safe As Houses (4:31)
02. Blues To Music (4:55)
03. The Way You Waved Goodbye (5:10)
04. Dick's Licks (4:28)
05. City Of Love (5:43)
06. Nowhere To Be Found (4:10)
07. You Just Don't Get It (6:28)
08. New Day (3:53)
09. Anno Domini (6:04)
10. Morning Story (7:22)

- Chris Farlowe / lead vocals
- David Clempson / guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Dave Greenslade / keyboards
- Barbara Thompson / tenor, soprano & baritone saxophones
- Mark Clarke / bass, vocals
- Jon Hiseman / drums

Colosseum’s last recorded offering Time On Your Side is looking forward as drummer John Hiseman, who co-founded the ground-breaking British group in 1968; “We never try to recreate the past,” This album has a unique sound that refuses to be painted with a music brush of any specific style; whilst encapsulating the album in a box firmly tied with Colosseum ribbon and given the bands stamp of approval.

Opening with a drum and Hammond duo, ‘Safe As Houses’; is hard-hitting lyrically with harmonious interludes and the saxophone from Barbara has a hard edge matching the poignancy of the story unfolding in the lyrics, the track has a distinctive 1960’s feel with its protests and rock mixing it up. Change of tempo and Colosseum tip their hat at the blues with Blues To Music; again the sax stands out and the harmonising of the duet vocals from Chris Farlowe whose association with Colosseum goes back a long way and writer of the track Ana Gracey who guests singing the track she wrote.

We had the blues inspired track now Dick’s Licks play homage to Jazz, with drum, keys and saxophone setting the mood before the vocals join in walking with you as the story is shaped that is recognizably a tribute to the late jazz blues saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Clempson’s guitar has a quality that adds a zinging layer of tonal interest as the notes ping from bended string to swill and curl around the instrumentation linking joining and providing the perfect springboard for the vocals perfectly shown on the glorious track You Just Don’t Get It , well I get it! This is simply good music.

If you want a prog-rock sound that is reminiscent of previous Colosseum offerings then Anno Domini is the track for you here. Closing the album with a Jack Bruce cover from Harmony Row album, Morning Story is a fitting way to end the album with Farlowe’s vocals inspired as the band pay tribute to a man who was so influential to the British Blues and Jazz scene.

As the music unfolds you know this is an album that will intrigue and hold your musical interest. They have created a music inspired buffet of inspiration and influences, this is the plate that has blended and created a cohesive sound that suits your musical palette as it teases and shapes the sounds of Jazz, blues and at times classical baroque into an original and exciting sound that is R’N’B/rock and so much more. This is definitely an album you want to listen too again and again so sit back and enjoy.

Colosseum - 2007 - Live05


101. Showtime (0:34)
102. Come Right Back (5:00)
103. Theme for an Imaginary Wastern (6:35)
104. Lights (0:32)
105. Rope Ladder to the Moon (8:35)
The Valentine Suite:
106. January's Search (6:46)
107. February's Valentine (5:09)
108. The Grass Is Always Greener (11:09)

201. Those About to Die (5:00)
202. Stormy Monday Blues (10:14)
203. No Pleasin' (7:50)
204. Tomorrow's Blues (12:10)
205. Drum Intro To LA (2:57)
206. Lost Angeles (16:24)

1/2/3/6/7/8 recorded at the Theaterhaus Stuttgart 11/06/05
4/5 recorded at Music Hall Worpswede 23/4/05
9/10/11/12/13/14 recorded at the Treibhaus Innsbruck 30/06/05
Produced by Clem Clempson, Dave Greenslade and Jon Hiseman

Line-up / Musicians
- Chris Farlowe / vocals
- Clem Clempson / guitars, vocals
- Mark Clarke / bass, vocals
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, electric piano
- Barbara Thompson / saxophones (alto, soprano and tenor)
- Jon Hiseman / drums

Once more, the extraordinary musicians of Colosseum have produced an equally extraordinary and first-class live album. During the summer tour of 2005 Miles Ashton, the great live sound engineer who runs his own studio in Watford, recorded all of Colosseum’s concerts to 24-track digital. Guitarist Clem Clempson and Keyboard player Dave Greenslade spent long days at Clem’s studio auditioning all the performances looking for that magical mix of performance and natural sound quality and put together a complete show to run over two CD’s. So now, you can enjoy a complete Colosseum concert with the fanstastic voice of Chris Farlowe, the virtuoso playing of Clem Clemspon, Dave Greenslade and Barbara Thompson plus the outstanding bass player Mark Clarke – and of course drumming legend Jon Hiseman.

The first set features performances from The Theaterhaus in Stuttgart / Germany ( June 11th 2005) together with the both “Lights” and the Jack Bruce Classic “Rope Ladder To The Moon” from The Music Hall in Worpswede / Germany ( April 23rd 2005 ). The second set was recorded at The Treibhaus in Innsbruck / Austria ( June 11th 2005 ).

Although Barbara Thompson played alongside Dick Heckstall-Smith on the first three original albums this new release is the first featuring her with the band – and she has bought a whole new dimension with her. 

Top notch performance and production & song selection. Chris Farlowe's voice seems to get better with age. Only a couple of slow moments. Wanted one live audio to go along with the 1994 video and decided between this one, the 1971 live album & 1994 reunion and I think I made a good choice. All players seem to get better and better. All are accomplished studio musicians and it really shows. They really get into a groove that you just don't hear in today's bands.

Colosseum - 2004 - Live Cologne 1994

Live Cologne 1994

01. Those About To Die
02. Skelington
03. Tanglewood '63
04. Rope Ladder To The Moon
05. Stormy Monday Blues
06. Walking In The Park

01. Those About To Die
02. Skelington
03. Elegy
04. Tanglewood '63
05. January's Search (The Valentyne Suite)
06. February's Valentyne (The Valentyne Suite)
07. Grass Is Always Greener (The Valentyne Suite)
08. Rope Ladder To The Moon
09. Theme For An Imaginary Western
10. Machine Demands Another Sacrifice
11. Solo Colonia
12. Lost Angeles
13. Stormy Monday Blues
14. Walking In The Park

Recorded at the E-Werk Cologne October 28th, 1994.

- Jon Hiseman / drums
- Dick-Heckstall-Smith / saxes
- Dave Greenslade / organ, piano, vibes
- Clem Clempson / guitar, vocals
- Mark Clarke / bass
- Chris Farlowe / vocals

As befitting a band named Colosseum, this DVD is genuinely colossal in length. It includes not just a 1994 German reunion concert that itself lasts nearly two hours, but also a full 90-minute documentary of the band that was produced around the same time. It's certainly a good value, then, although both segments of the disc have good and bad points. Starting with the better aspects of the concert portion, the filming and audio are quite good and professional. The audience and venue -- at least in the eyes of American viewers who are ignorant of the devotion of some of the band's European following -- are surprisingly large, so much so that you find yourself wondering whether Colosseum really were that much bigger in Germany than the U.S. Plus, the band -- with all six original members aboard from its final early-'70s lineup, including singer Chris Farlowe -- plays well, sounding much the same as it did in its original incarnation (and Dave Greenslade, thankfully, primarily relies on the Hammond organ rather than more modern synthetic keyboards). The 14-song set includes several of the most popular numbers from their vintage albums, like "Those About to Die," "Walking in the Park," and the three-part "The Valentyne Suite," as well as covers of the Jack Bruce-Pete Brown compositions "Rope Ladder to the Moon" and "Theme for an Imaginary Western." Still, the songs, and especially the solos, tend to go on waaay too long, particularly Jon Hiseman's drum solo in "Solo Colonia." Heckstall-Smith's saxophone soloing in "Tanglewood '63" is more welcome, if only because sax solos are so much less common in rock concerts than guitar and drum spotlights.

The 90-minute documentary The Story of Colosseum is the more interesting section of the DVD, covering the band's career in reasonable depth and detail. Filmed in the mid-'90s, the first few minutes come perilously close to being an infomercial for the reunion, but it does promptly settle down into a conventional documentary format focusing on their 1968-1971 heyday. Everyone from the original Colosseum lineups -- including two early ones that didn't take part in the reunion, guitarist James Litherland and bassist Tony Reeves -- is interviewed, as well as management and record company figures. A few vintage clips (though it would have been nice to see more) from the late '60s and early '70s are seen, and these frankly display a certain vigor not present in the footage of the reunited lineup, as accomplished as that aggregation is. Also seen is some amateur movie footage taken of the band during its tours by Hiseman himself, as well as some scenes of the band working on a mid-'90s reunion studio album. It's just as professionally filmed and smoothly edited as the concert segment, and the combination of the two sections onto one DVD should ensure that any serious Colosseum fan finds something of note here.

This one of those DVDs where everything comes together in a perfect package. The main feature is the complete reunion concert of Colosseum when they played in Germany in 1994. They kick off with "Those About To Die" and play many of their most well known pieces, such as "The Valentyne Suite". It is strange to think that it was some twenty years since they had last been together ? it is as if they had never been away. As a unit the band are incredibly tight, and produce music that is extremely complex with enough time changes and note density to please even the most unconvinced prog head. Add to that the power and presence of Chris Farlowe, who proves that he is still a vocalist to be reckoned with, and this concert is a joy from start to finish.

Colosseum - 2003 - Tomorrow's Blues

Tomorrow's Blues

01. Tomorrow's Blues (6:41)
02. Come Right Back (4:32)
03. In The Heat Of The Night (5:37)
04. Hard Times Rising (6:41)
05. Arena In The Sun (instrumental) (3:25)
06. Thief In The Night (5:47)
07. Take The Dark Times With The Sun (5:12)
08. The Net Man (instrumental) (5:39)
09. Leisure Complex Blues (5:12)
10. No Demons (4:31)

Recorded spring 2003 at the Temple Music Studio, Sutton, Surrey, U.K.

- Chris Farlowe / lead vocals
- David Clempson / lead guitar, Fender Rhodes, backing vocals
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, grand piano
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor, baritone & soprano saxophones
- Mark Clarke / bass, lead (9) & backing vocals
- Jon Hiseman / drums

- Chris White / tenor sax (2,7)
- Simon Gardner / trumpet (2,7)
- Steve Sidwell / trumpet (2,7)

Released in 2003, Tomorrow's Blues was the second post reformation album from Colosseum. There's a big clue in the title on what to expect here and basically what we have is a Blues album in the main but unfortunately not a fantastic one. This album will likely remain the last one (in studio anyway) with Colosseum's No 2-man Dick Hecktall-Smith's recent passing away. The CD kicks off brilliantly with the title track, Tomorrow's Blues. Rhythmically inventive, lovely arpeggio Guitar playing from "Clem" Clempson, nice solo too and excellent vocals from the wonderful voice of Chris Farlowe. Some great swathes of sound from Dave Greenslades organ and piano, the HUGE bass lines bubbling along with every track from Mark Clarke - and, of course, the ONE and ONLY Jon Hiseman on hitting-things very fast.

Amongst certain other web-based reviews there is the feeling that this is one of their weaker albums, one that doesn't have the same weight as the albums from their short earlier period but I have to disagree. This is a more mature work, an album that carries the years of experience that the personnel have accrued since those early days. If you are looking for a carbon-copy of the earlier work you won't find it here and that's for the better. What you will find is a well-crafted album by a bunch of seasoned pros who have by no means lost their chops. This is no 'sit back and repeat the past' session in nostalgia. It is an original-voiced excursion into rock/blues by Jon Hiseman, Mark Clarke, Dave Greenslade, David ('Clem') Clempson, Chris Farlowe and the sadly departed Dick Heckstall-Smith. If I wanted anything more, it would be to hear more of Mr. Heckstall-Smith. This was to be his last Colosseum album before his sad demise and he doesn't feature enough. Whether that was because of his health at the time I don't know but his featured strong blowing is missed and that would be worth another star above. He's there, just not enough. Even so, this is an album, like all of the Colosseum oeuvre, worth checking out.

Colosseum - 1997 - Bread & Circuses

Bread & Circuses

01. Watching Your Every Move (4:03)
02. Bread & Circuses (3:37)
03. Wherever I Go (4:15)
04. High Time (4:06)
05. Big Deal (5:11)
06. The Playground (5:07)
07. No Pleasin' (5:02)
08. I Could Tell You Tales (5:04)
09. Storms Behind The Breeze (4:42)
10. The One That Got Away (Instr.) (4:15)
11. The Other Side Of The Sky (4:42)

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Temple Music Studio between April 1996 and July 1997

- Chris Farlowe / lead vocals
- David Clempson / electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, piano, synth
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor, baritone & soprano saxophones
- Mark Clarke / bass, lead (6) & backing vocals
- Jon Hiseman / drums

- Chris "Snake" Davis / sax
- Dave O' Higgins / sax
- Barbara Thompson / Coda brass arrangement (7)

The members' creative juices flowed during and after their reunion tour, and the result - "Bread & Circuses" - was released in 1997.
In case the album's title gives you a sense of déjà vu, it's a famous quote from a book by the author Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (known today as Juvenal): "Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddle no more and long eagerly for just two things: bread and circuses". "Bread and circuses" (panem et circenses in Latin) was his reference to the free distribution of food and the gladiatorial contests and chariot races, and he felt that Romans had become utterly distracted by mindless self-gratification. Apart from recalling Juvenal's criticism of his countrymen, the title of this album also reminded me of the long-gone but critically acclaimed Brazilian band OS MUTANTES: a track called 'Panis Et Circensis' (sic) is on their 1968 self-titled album.

Well, enough of the history lesson; what about this album? To paraphrase Jon Hiseman's notes in the (nice) booklet which comes with this CD, if you're looking for "Son of Valentyne Suite" then you can forget it: those days are long gone for the band, and for us too. Is this Progressive Rock? Nope. Is it good? Well, I certainly think so! This is solid blues-jazz-rock. Some funky, pumping bass (Mark Clarke) and drums (Jon Hiseman) with some great guitar (Clem Clempson) on top, not to mention Dave Greenslade's keyboard playing, Dick Heckstall-Smith's sax, and Chris Farlowe's gritty voice belting out the lyrics - he sounds like he's smoked a few packets of Gauloise before getting up on stage in a basement jazz bar. Listening to this album makes me wish I was in the bar listening to them live too.

If you're looking for long tracks, each with umpteen changes in tempo and mood, then forget it. But if you enjoy solid funky rock with a big dose of jazz and blues thrown in then you'll really like this stuff. I'm going to give it 4 stars (Excellent addition to any prog rock collection) even though it's not Prog. Why? Because it's darn good music, that's why! Now, where can I find a smoky bar with good malt whisky and live jazz-rock fusion at this time of night?

Colosseum - 1995 - Colosseum LiveS

Colosseum LiveS 

01. Those about to die ...
02. Elegy
03. The valentyne suite: a) January's search
04. The valentyne suite: b) February's valentyne
05. The valentyne suite: c) The grass is always greener
06. Theme for an imaginary western
07. The machine demands another sacrifice
08. Solo Colonia
09. Lost angeles
10. Stormy Monday blues

- Chris Farlowe / vocals
- Dave Greenslade / organ (Hammond), vibraphone, remixing, EMU Proteus 2, Roland U20
- Mark Clarke / bass, vocals, amplifiers
- Dave Clempson ('Clem') / electric & acoustic guitar, vocals
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / Soprano sax, Tenor sax
- Jon Hiseman / Gong, Pearl drums, Paiste cymbals

1, 8: Freiburg Concert Multitrack Recording at the Zelt-Musik-Festival June, 24th 1994
2 to 7: Cologne Concert Multitrack Recording at the E-Werk October, 28th 1994

Drummer Jon Hiseman seemingly had low expectations for a Colosseum reunion. The group decided to re-form at keyboardist Dave Greenslade's 50th birthday party, although Hiseman wasn't sure the timing was right. He was hopeful his German bookers could maybe put together six shows; they swiftly found 30, with Colosseum going on to play over 100 gigs during 1994-1995. And why not? In their three-year lifespan, the group racked up three U.K. Top 20 albums, while simultaneously blowing the socks off of Germany and much of Europe. And coming back together after two decades was, judging by the music here, a lot like coming home. The Reunion Concert Cologne 1994 took place at the E-Werk in Cologne, and was the band's second gig together. Filmed for German television, it resulted in the Reunion Concerts 1994 live album which was released the following year. A video of the gig also hit the shelves, and later a DVD, with this two-disc set completing the package, as the CD features the songs left off the original live album. Those include an exuberant sax-led take on "Those About to Die," a wild ride through "Skellington," and a quartet of excellent covers which all featured on the band's 1971 Colosseum Live album. It was this lineup that let loose that set, and they sound just as good 20-plus years later, with the group eagerly swinging into their legendary "The Valentyne Suite" and other grand numbers from their heyday across the DVD. A splendid show now finally available in its entirety.

Considering the band were only in existence for three years they had enormous impact on the progressive and jazz rock scenes, and to hear them again some twenty-two years after they broke up is quite something (even more remarkable is that they are soon to release a new studio album and are touring again!). The band came from many backgrounds, but brought into the rock arena a strong love and understanding for both the blues and jazz.
Jon Hiseman has long been rated as one of the best jazz drummers around; while there can be few sax players in the world that can stay the pace with Dick Heckstall-Smith. Add to that the guitar skills of Clem Clempson and keyboard playing of Dave Greenslade, with the vocals of Chris Farlowe (surely one of our most under-rated singers) and bassist Mark Clarke and here was the 1971 line-up back in full flow.

Not really a band made for singles or the radio, this is a band that strived on improvisation and building on each other, and so many years later that is still very evident in their performance. Yes, there are loads of solos and long instrumental passages, but the music just sounds right ? created by people with tremendous skill and mastery of their craft but at the same time not being overindulgent (well, not too much). They know when the time is right to bring the rest of the band back in.

A tremendous gig by a band on top form! Hiseman says that the years apart have meant that they now play better than ever, he could well be right.

Colosseum - 1971 - Colosseum Live

Colosseum Live

01. Rope Ladder To The Moon
02. Walking In The Park
03. Skelington
04. Tanglewood '63
05. Encore... Stormy Monday Blues
06. Lost Angeles

2 CD Reissue 2016

101. Rope Ladder To The Moon
102. Walking In The Park
103. Skelington
104. I Can't Live Without You
105. Tanglewood '63
106. Encore...Stormy Monday Blues
107. Lost Angeles

201. Rope Ladder To The Moon
202. Skellington
203. I Can't Live Without You
a Time Machine
b The Machine Demands A Sacrifice
204. Stormy Monday Blues
205. The Valentyne Suite:
I January's Search
II Theme Two - February's Valentyne
III Theme Three - The Grass Is Greener

Tracks 1-1 to 1-7 originally released as 2-LP in 1971.

Tracks 1-1 to 1-7 recorded at Manchester University, Manchester, UK (March 18, 1971) and the Big Apple, Brighton, UK (March 27, 1971), on the "Daughter of Time" tour. ( Wikipedia )
Tracks 2-1 & 2-2 recorded at The Big Apple, Brighton, 1971;
Track 2-3 recorded at Manchester University, March 1971;
Track 2-4 recorded in Bristol, 1971;
Track 2-5 recorded at Manchester University, March 1971.

- Chris Farlowe / vocals
- Dave Greenslade / organ, vibraphone
- Mark Clarke / bass, vocals
- Dave "Clem" Clempson / guitar, vocals
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / soprano & tenor saxophones

After a relatively disappointing third record (artistically only because it was still a strong seller), Colosseum hit the road, something it does best, really. Gerry Bron, their manager, was providing them still with as many gigs as humanly feasible by then, and the group was touring heavily Continental Europe and the States, but with no more recording contract, he created his own record label called Bronze Records (which Uriah Heep would soon join, too). One of the first things this new label did was issue a budget double live record of Colosseum. I believe still to this day, Colosseum is the only band to ever have had the first album of a record label TWICE.

Hastily produced and packaged (with one of the blandest cover for a prog act in those years), this double live record contained just six extended tracks (the shortest being almost 8 minutes) but the overall length was anything but extraordinary since the Cd reissue boasts an 8 min bonus track. As I did with the previous album, I will review the Cd re-issue so the track sequence will not be the same as on the vinyl. Starting off in another rather interesting track from Jack Bruce and Pete Brown (after the cover of Theme From An Imaginary Western on the previous record) and a surprising rendition it is. Farlowe's impressive vocals bring much depth to Bruce's composition without altering its nature and the group is in fine form behind him, especially compared to the version that Clempson had sung on the North America-only The Grass Is Greener. Comes in a lenghty version of opening Colosseum track, the Graham Bond cover of Walking In The Park, quite beefed-up compared to their earlier studio version. I wish I had heard a live recording of the first line-up to compare with Farlowe is like a fish in water on tracks such as these. The 15 min Skellington (I would suppose a play on words with skeleton and Duke Ellington) is clearly not one of my favourite, as the standard blues-rock quickly goes nowhere and becomes an excuse for soloing past the first few verses Clempson clearly taking himself for Jimmy Page here. Farlowe is clearly on top of his game with this kind of track giving him plenty of room to move and yell like a madman

The bonus track is rather surprisingly a Litherland-penned bluesish RnB song where Greenslade is finally heard, but the track is not a standout either, but certainly fits well in the fold of the rest of the album. Tanglewood 63 is one of those weird covers they chose to include in their shows, but I fail to see the exact reason why. I suppose this was pushed by Farlowe with DH-S, but it does no harm either. However, the use of the encore as Stormy Monday might just be the drop that overflows the bucket for the proghead, slowly losing patience on the Cd version (I remember a different track sequence on the vinyl) and it brings nothing new to the Allman Brothers Band version either.

But the proghead's patience is finally rewarded as the major track of the second line-up of Colosseum is at hand. This song has been in my mind for almost thirty years, now as I first discovered it on a trip to California in the late 70's and this legendary city (LA) being actually a real nightmare and a hell-pit and us just wanting to get the hell away but not finding the exit easily (went-up north to Frisco and Seattle while the tape was playing endlessly this track in the car on the escape), so this song is extra special to me, and I must say that aside Valentyne Suite, this ranks as their best one. But the two tracks share a few similarities, mostly being written and dominated by Greenslade (even if Farlowe is simply awesome with his growling desperate vocals. Shivers down your spine guaranteed, and Clempson's epic guitar solo is also a textbook case of the paragon of taste. Compared to the early studio version (released on the odd album The Grass Is Greener) this track has a new life of its own here.

After a few more months of touring and the fun and inspiration waning, Clem Clempson will leave the group with Hiseman's approval, but in a surprise move Hiseman will fold the band not even trying to find a replacement for him, citing today Colosseum a spent force. Most of the other musicians willingly recognize today that the end of the road was inevitable at that point. But for three years Colosseum had live a full life and all of the musos that played in the band are ready to declare that this was THE band they will remember. Knowing their respective career, I can agree with that, although Chris Farlowe will enjoy a superb stint with Atomic Rooster next. But this is another story.

Colosseum - 1970 - Daughter Of Time

Daughter Of Time

01. Three Score And Ten, Amen (5:36)
02. Time Lament (6:04)
03. Take Me Back To Doomsday (4:26)
04. The Daughter Of Time (3:30)
05. Theme For An Imaginary Western (4:05)
06. Bring Out Your Dead (4:25)
07. Downhill And Shadows (6:11)
08. The Time Machine (Live at the Royal Albert Hall July 1970) (8:12)

Bonus track on 1996 & 2004 reissues:
09. Jumping Off The Sun (1971 Chris Farlowe version) (3:25)

- Chris Farlowe / vocals (1,2,5,7)
- David Clempson / guitar, vocals (3)
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, piano, vibes, backing vocals
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor & soprano saxophones, narration (1)
- Mark Clarke / bass (1,5,7)
- Jon Hiseman / drums, percussion

- Barbara Thompson / flute & saxes & vocals (1-4)
- Louis Cennamo / bass (2-4,6)
- Tony Reeves / bass (8) - uncredited
- Neil Ardley / brass & string arrangements (2,4)
- Nicholas Kraemer / viola (2,4)
- Jack Rothstein / violin (2,4)
- Trevor Williams / violin (2,4)
- Charles Tunnell / cello (2,4)
- Fred Alexander / cello (2,4)
- Derek Wadsworth / trombone (2,4)
- Harold Beckett / trumpet & flugelhorn (2,4)

With their previous album a resounding success (artistically certainly and commercially also), but touring constantly, the line-up change seeing the two guitars of the group disappearing, being replaced by a more fitting (not necessarily more virtuoso) duo, there was no clear cut singer. Dave Greenslade then remembered his old Thunderbird days, where he was backing one of the best and strongest soul voices (along with Traffic's Stevie Winwood) Chris Farlowe, and in a surprising and daring move offered him the job. An incredibly bold choice as Farlowe's impressive stature (the man is tall but also had survived a polio attack, but deforming his body) was not really an obvious frontman candidate. Farlowe's soulful voice was not that evident either to fit the group, but again the magic that had operated for the first line-up worked but at a cost: the songwriting. Bringing such a forceful singer as Farlowe in but to use him as little as there were vocals in the first two albums was of course impossible. So the main difference between this album and the previous two, is that there is a lot more singing. And as incredible as Farlowe's voice is, it is not to everyone's taste either, but no-one can claim that there are not some incredibly spine-tingling moments on this album and that they are mostly due to his voice. So now, Colosseum is a sextet!!
Right from the opening track, you can feel that the exuberance of the first two albums will be much absent, but not the solemnity. Greenslade's organ is mixed much lower than previously, but still well present and countering Farlowe's incredible vocal soaring leaps. The following Time Lament has a difficult start, but once it gets settled, Farlowe's howling, answered by DH-S's sax lines (he was almost absent in the opener) are pushing the track into an impressive progression (but it does need repetitive listenings to fully dig it). Doomsday is a much less impressive piano-led track, even if the lyrics should please the more Tolkien-esque appetites, and a rare flute (Barbara Thompson who gets in many sax parts also and future Mrs Hiseman) appears. Clearly Clempson (the singer on this track) is not at ease with lead singing, though. The rather short title track is slow in starting and takes it time before Farlowe pulls in another one of his tricks, but again his voice sort of dominates the rest of the players. Assuredly the mixing and engineering of the album could've been bettered at the time, and the remastering job has not brought the expected results (at least for this writer).

The opening salvo of side B is a Jack Bruce (Cream but also an ex-RnB colleague) and Pete Brown (the leading UK Beat poet that had links with everyone from jazz to rock) track. If Farlowe really understands what Bruce was singing and duplicates quite well, this is not one of the stronger Brown lyrics (the man had gotten us used to She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow lines ;-), but overall a cool cover of that classic track. The instrumental Bring Out Your Dead is clearly a return to old Colosseum track (Ides Of March-type) and unfortunately shows us that the integration of such a powerful voice is not an easy task: the obvious and glaring proof is here. One can recognize Louis Cennamo (Renaissance, Illusion and Steamhammer) bass lines in the track - as official bassist mark Clarke only plays on three tracks, probably due to his late arrival in the group. Downhill And Shadows is a mix and messed-up blend of again slow-starting blues with all the usual heroics from Clempson and Farlowe and the typical Clarke on bass. The last track, the cynically-titled Time Machine is not only a filler but also a throw-away drum solo (remember that the drummer is the boss in this group) recorded live, and even if the guy is clearly an ace at his instrument (the man is impressive in concert), this kind of exercise is really not my cup of tea, a fortiori even more when lasting over 8 minutes. I suspect that this is exactly the type of tracks that terminated the partnership between Vertigo and the group.

Constant touring, a shifting line-up, the lack of time to write songs (maybe even a few too ideas also), a new balance to find between the six members and maybe a lesser production, all these factors might make this album is clearly a bit of a let-down, but ultimately with repeated listenings it slowly unveils its merits.

Colosseum - 1970 - The Grass Is Greener

The Grass Is Greener

01. Jumping Off The Sun (3:00)
02. Lost Angeles (5:30)
03. Elegy (3:26)
04. Butty's Blues (6:45)
05. Rope Ladder To The Moon (3:42)
06. Bolero (5:28)
07. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (2:48)
08. The Grass Is Greener (7:31)

David Clempson / guitar, vocals
Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, piano, percussion
Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor & soprano saxophones, woodwind
Tony Reeves / bass, co-producer
Jon Hiseman / drums

- James Litherland / vocals (3)
- Neil Ardley / string quartet arrangements (3), big-band arrangements (4)

This hybrid album is a North American release only and a sort of bastardised products with a mix of tracks released elsewhere but in a different version and a different line-up. It even takes the artwork from the Valentyne Suite album, and an almost similar inner gatefold also. Yet in my eyes, this album is much deserving many attention from fans (and even almost the right to be an full-blown studio album in their discography) as there are two completely new tracks , two more that were to be featured on the double Live album, and from the four remaining tracks, three are a different version than the ones you can get on the two UK releases. As this album states, Clem Clempson is now the guitarist and Butty Litherland only appears on one track, the superb Elegy. But clearly Clempson is not a good lead vocalist, although he is fine back-up vocalist), and it is no wonder the Colosseum will be hiring Chris Farlowe for the next full release.
Jumping Off The Sun is a very interesting tracks loaded with vibes and bells and great time sig, but Clempson's voice can do no match to what Litherland or Farlowe would've done for this track. Lost Angeles is yet another very interesting but not well exploited idea, and if you compare to the extended live version of Colosseum Live, it will pale in comparison, but it is still superb on this vinyl, as you can hear the greatness of the Greenslade/DHS composition. Elegy might just be the only tracl present on this album that might come in the same previously available one, although slightly shorter. Butty's Blues is another track from Valentyne Suite, but stick with the previous version, as Clempson's vocals are no match for Litherland's and there is a full blown big band on the other .

The Jack Bruce-track Rope Ladder To The Moon is the first of a few tracks that will have Pete Brown lyrics and if the instrumentation is great (especially Greenslade's percussions) the greatly expanded-live version with Chris Farlowe is more impressive. Bolero is is unavailable-elsewhere track and might just be the first example of Ravel's piece with rock instrumentation, a few months before Crimson's and two full years before ELP's. It is probably the best version of all three because it is the one straying farthest from the monotony of Ravel's piece. Machine is a shorter version of the track on Valentyne Suite. The last track is the third movement of the Valentyne Suite that hat had been released in North America as The Ides Of March on the first UK release. Did you say confusing? ;-(

Although this album is a bit lost in the jungle, it was never released as a CD on either side of the Atlantic, but recently new expanded re-issue of Valentyne Suite with the tracks from both album was issued. I can only warmly recommend it if you do not own the album yet, and if you do already and you are a major fan of Colosseum, you might just have to dip in your pocket again.

Colosseum - 1969 - Valentyne Suite

Valentyne Suite

01. The Kettle (4:25)
02. Elegy (3:10)
03. Butty's Blues (6:44)
04. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (3:52)
05. The Valentyne Suite (16:51)
- Theme One: January's Search (6:25)
- Theme Two: February's Valentyne (3:33)
- Theme Three: The Grass Is Always Greener (6:55)

Bonus tracks on 2002 & 2006 reissues:
06. Arthur's Moustache (Live *) (6:29)
07. Lost Angeles (Live *) (8:37)

* Recorded 22/11/69, BBC John Peel's "Top Gear" show

Bonus CD from 2002 expanded remaster - 'The Grass Is Greener' :
01. Jumping Off The Sun (3:00)
02. Lost Angeles (5:30)
03. Elegy (3:26)
04. Butty's Blues (6:45)
05. Rope Ladder To The Moon (3:42)
06. Bolero (5:28)
07. The Machine Demands A Sacrifice (2:48)
08. The Grass Is Greener (7:31)

- James Litherland / guitar, lead vocals
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, piano & vibes (5), backing vocals (4)
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor & soprano (2) saxophones, flute (4)
- Tony Reeves / bass, co-producer
- Jon Hiseman / drums, drum machine ( 4)

- Neil Ardley / string quartet arrangements (2) & conducting (3)
- David Clempson / guitar & vocals (2002 Bonus CD)
- Barbara Thompson / sax & flute (6,7)

Words By – Pete Brown

Second album from this groundbreaking quintet that had offered us much of a thrill with their debut. Again here, if you are looking for the vinyl, please be aware that this album came out with a very close-looking version in America, but a completely different track list and is titled, The Grass Is Greener 5BTW, I distinctly remember a first version of Lost Angeles on this version of the album). Again here I will review the Cd version as to not complicate things uselessly. What one must realize is that this album was the first released by progressive label Vertigo and the first vinyl to have that superb spiral spinning around the vortex of the record. A real delight to watch it spinning especially while listening to the second side of the vinyl. As if that label and that track were made for each other.
Starting in the same fashion as their debut on an incredibly positive, joyously-communicative (bordering on the epidemic contagion ;-), with Litherland stealing the show both with his superb voice and his wild guitar wailings, James "Butty" is reaching his moment of glory in this RnB-infested rock track. A real gas even if you are not that much in RnB music. Elegy has absolutely nothing to envy its predecessor both in happiness but here DH-S's sax takes the centre-stage and the group is accompanied by a superb string section, which at times draws chills in your back. As you might have guessed, the next track is a rather slow blues with an infectious organ groove and heavy brass section, and Butty Litherland unleashing his heart onto an unsuspecting microphone and your disbelieving here. Orgasmic. Closing of the A-side is a much-more Sacrifice-Demanding Machine, which confirms the progressive qualities detected in the debut album, even if the tracks is also starting as a blues, but this time much more oppressive than previous tracks and it has mid-track fade out (well this is not yet the 70's, so one can forgive the less successful experimentations such as this one. The track ends in a total chaos, which still shows that ideas were there, but not always perfectly laid out on wax.

But all you progheads are giving a hoot about is my coming down to describing the chef d'oeuvre that is coming out and filling (and fulfilling you) the B-side. Starting out a bit like Brubeck's Blue Rondo a La Turc (or more like The Nice's version of it), the track soon diverges from it as Greeenslade's delicious vibraphone descending lines reach directly into your heart, blocks the main vein and all you have to do is wait for the vibes to return before the strokes gets to you. But Dave is a gentleman and happily obliges some more life-saving orgasmic vibes lines. Clearly, this track is Greenslade's "Heure De Gloire", the track he will forever remembered for and as the first movement ends with him having switched to piano (McCoy Tyner-influenced) with DH-S approaching the feel of this writer's ultimate musician, John Coltrane during A Love Supreme!!!!!! Needless to say that Hiseman was playing along as if he was Elvin Jones. 30 years down the road this passage still nails me to the floor with tears of joy flowing out uncontrollably. The main Berstein-inspired theme then takes over again with Greenslade now taking more liberties with the harmonies, while the track is only made possible by Hiseman's wild drumming. As the track is again calming down, Butty Litherland comes in along with the others for some superb angelic vocalizing superbly underlined by D H-S's sax lines. To say that much of this track was written on the day that mankind walked on the moon (although only 6 at the time, I remember that day vividly) is simply so telling, July 21, 69!!! The third part is letting more part to the guitar, but Greenslade is dominating the debate again, and there are some incredibly delightful exchanges between the two but DHS is never far away either. Clearly, TVS is taking off where The Ides Of March had left it on the debut album. But as orgasmic this track is, there is also a feel that the many influences it draws from, even if well-digested are a bit too obvious and this might just be the ultimate reason why Colosseum will never break the big leagues like Yes or Crimson.

Unfortunately for him Litherland was to be sacked because he was mostly a blues player, and Hiseman being the boss he was (the group's official name is John Hiseman's Closseum), and having the opportunity to snatch Clempson from Bakerloo. Tony Reeves left also on musical grounds but of his own. So Clempson will bring in Mark Clarke into the band also. This second album while still not completely progressive, is certainly as historically important as The Nice's debut or Crimson's first. Awesome Stuff!

Colosseum - 1969 - Those Who Are About To Die

Those Who Are About To Die

01. Walking In The Park (3:51)
02. Plenty Hard Luck (4:23)
03. Mandarin (4:27)
04. Debut (6:20)
05. Beware The Ides Of March (5:34)
06. The Road She Walked Before (2:39)
07. Backwater Blues (7:35)
08. Those About To Die (4:49)

Bonus tracks on reissues:
09. I Can't Live Without You (Studio Outtake) (4:16)
10. A Whiter Spade Than Mayall (Top Gear 1969 broadcast) (4:51)
11. Walking In The Park (Symonds On Sunday 1969 broadcast) (3:44)
12. Beware The Ides Of March (Symonds On Sunday 1969 broadcast) (4:09)
13. Plenty Hard Luck (Symonds On Sunday 1969 broadcast) (2:42)
14. Walking In The Park (TOTP, with Brian Matthews voiceover) (3:16)

Track list from US 1969 LP :
A1. The Kettle (4:19)
A2. Plenty Hard Luck (4:20)
A3. Debut (5:13)
A4. Those Who Are About To Die, Salute You (4:47)
B1. Valentyne Suite (15:18) :
- a) Theme One: January's Search
- b) Theme Two: February's Valentyne
- c) Theme Three: Beware the Ides Of March
B2. Walking In The Park (3:49)

- James Litherland / guitar, lead vocals
- Dave Greenslade / Hammond organ, piano, vibes, backing vocals (6)
- Dick Heckstall-Smith / tenor & soprano saxophones
- Tony Reeves / bass, co-producer
- Jon Hiseman / drums

- Henry Lowther / trumpet (1)
- Jim Roche / guitar (7)

Releases information
Sub-titled "Morituri Te Salutant"

Coming from the British RnB (via the Graham Bond Organization), the blues boon (John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers), the general countercultures via Beat poets (Pete Brown of Cream lyrics fame), came to be this amalgam of musicians but the group was clearly lead by drummer John Hiseman (a self-confessed control freak) and his partner in music Dick Heckstall-Smith. Joining the group was ex-Thunderbirds (Chris Farlowe's backing band) Greenslade with his astounding organ playing and Reeves, and finally young blues singer/guitarist James Litherland. Saxman Dick Heckstall-Smith (DH-S for sort) is also known for his ability to play two wind instruments at a time, in this respect equalling VDGG's Dave Jackson, but both being strongly influenced jazzman Roland "Rashaan" Kirk (who will also greatly influenced Tull's Ian Anderson) actually managing three wind instruments at a time. While the brass was an important part of the Colosseum sound, over the years, critics and writer have tended to over-emphasise this aspect and some even claiming that they had invented Brass Rock, something that I would like to dispel a bit here in these reviews. Sure Colosseum had a jazzy sound (Hiseman although quite a rock drummer was also jazz-inspired and lead the group like many jazz band leaders were drummers), but jazz influences + wind instruments does not make brass rock like Chicago or B,S&T.

With such a RnB-rooted line-up most would not expect a very progressive group, but the chemistry that came out from those five was such that their music, that seems to flow so effortlessly, quickly became groundbreaking, while staying amazingly accessible. Their debut record on Fontana came out and sold in good quantities and good management got them countless gigs, so these guys had an excellent chemistry plainly heard on this album. It should be noted that this album and the next came out across the Atlantic with fairly similar artwork, but with titles and track list completely shambled. The debut album in the US holds Valentyne Suite. We now will review the Cd rather than the vinyls to avoid the confusion. Whatever the version of the vinyl, both artworks were slightly different but stunning gatefold sleeves and its title a citation of gladiators saluting the Roman emperor in the Coliseum.

Lead-off track Walking in the Park (a cover from Graham Bond) is the band's signature tracks with its exhilarating good moods, but so proud of its RnB roots and its very brassy feel (DH-S gets some help from a buddy). Plain-bluesy Plenty Hard Luck is a great showcase of Litherland's vocals and Greenslade's organs. With Mandarin, we now reach a definitely more serious level of composing with bassist Reeves showing us the way to enlightenment and the path to many rhythm changes and time sigs, this instrumental track is the first sign that this group had something really special and culminating in an unrefined (as in unpolished) guitar solo. Following tracks called debut is according to them, the first thing they played, and is again quite happily-communicative and it does sound like the ideal training ground for a band to get their stuff and tricks together.

Ides of March is one of the first musical crime that they commit and clearly it was a first draft of the Valentyne Suite to come in the next album. Based on the same Bach chord sequence than Procol's Whiter Shade of pale, the tracks evolves into a harpsichord and searing bluesy guitar wailings while D H-S is wailing freely on his reeds (like a lover;-). Poly-rhythms dictate a fairly paced and atmospheric track, while remaining very swingy as the piano takes over in boogie constrasting strongly with the wordless vocals scattings. Slow blues is again showing where Litherland's strengths were but ultimately, this would also prove his own undoing in the band as well. For a proghead, this track overstays a bit too much its welcome, but in its own genre this track is a killer. Title track closing off the album is a very up-tempoed jazzy-laced RnB with plenty of rhythm and sigs, Hiseman driving his musos like footsoldiers through marshes and swamp alike as the Roman emperor would if he was out to conquer new grounds. RnB does not really get much better than this baby, guys.