Live Review – Magnum at Hull City Hall – February 25th 2018 – by Progradar

Let’s keep music alive. There have been many posts on social media about venues shutting down and sparse audiences for many live gigs but, if Magnum’s gig as guests of Saxon at Hull City Hall last Sunday is anything to go by then the older generation are happy to go out and support live music in their hundreds (if not thousands!).

Now I was there on a press pass to review the Magnum gig so you’ll not hear too much about the other artists here but, suffice to say, it was varied enough to suit all rock music tastes and while Rock Goddess sounded good from the bar (I was in the bar, not the band), Diamond Head were consummate performers with a drummer who was a dead ringer for Matt Sorum of Guns n’ Roses fame. However the vocalist just didn’t gel for me, not to say he didn’t have a good voice, it just wasn’t one for me.

As for Saxon well, they put on a hell of a show, a very LOUD show which the packed crowd absolutely loved. There was a bit of argy bargy in the mosh pit at the front but a few well aimed expletives from a resplendently attired Biff Byford soon calmed that down. What a voice he has got too, you’d never guess he was nearly 70, he hit every note with power and glory. For me it was a shame that new material from ‘Thunderbolt’ just seemed to blend into one but the classic tracks like 747 (Strangers In The Night) actually threatened to bring the house down!

For me Magnum were the definite highlight of the evening and put on one hell of a live show, Bob Catley wanders the stage like your favourite uncle nowadays but, boy, does he still have one hell of a voice. Opening the set with crowd pleaser When We Were Younger from ‘Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow’, the band never hit a duff note and silent assassin Tony Clarkin showed just what a genius he is on the guitar, orchestrating the band’s every move with precision.  A powerful version of Sacred Blood, Divine Lies (from the album of the same name) had the crowd in rapture as Bob’s partner in crime Al Barrow provided a bassline powerful enough to knock over mountains. It has to be said that Hull City Hall doesn’t have the best acoustics but the guys were on top form so it hardly seemed to matter, Tony firing off a wicked solo and the applause threatening to drown out the sound.

Next came the first (and title) track from the new album and Rick Benton’s first chance to really shine on the keyboards, I have a feeling Lost on the Road to Eternity is going to become a firm fan favourite at live gigs and seemed to fit the setlist perfectly. A wild rock ride with Bob leading the way, there were middle-aged (and older) people rocking away in front of me and it was great to see more than a smattering of young faces joining the fun. The slow burning intro of Crazy Old Mothers ramps up the anticipation of this anthemic track. Bob had the crowd in the palm of his hand on the emotive verse before Lee Morris leads in the mighty chorus with his thunderous drums. A song and atmosphere that just had you riding the crest of a wave with a ridiculous grin on  your face.

We return to the new album for the balls out rocker Peaches and Cream with Tony’s hard rocking riffing and the energetic drumming from Lee leading the way. It’s hard to believe Bob and Tony are both over 70 as they can rock with the rest of them and, boy, can they write a banging tune! The crowd are starting to jump and wave in the air and the energy can be felt throughout the hall, Mr Catley still has huge lungs, his vocal power is amazing and his voice has lost none of its whiskey soaked edge. We head back to the 1980’s and the wonderfully evocative Les Mortes Dansant from the band’s classic album ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ and what a spine tingling version it is, Bob’s voice and Rick’s keyboards have the hairs on the back of your neck rising. I’m surprised there were no lighters lifted up (or is it iPhones nowadays?). An emotional and truly stirring rendition with a compelling vocal and mighty guitar, wonderful stuff!

The new album has some excellent rock standards on it, as well as the already played Peaches and Cream there’s the excellent Show Me Your Hands where guitar and keyboard lead us on a rollercoaster ride of hard rock and Bob has virtually the whole audience raising their hands and swinging them from  side to side. I swear the applause, cheering and whistling gets louder after each song. Another classic from On A Storyteller’s Night’ follows and it’s a track I’ve not heard much, the hard rocking All England’s Eyes is accorded a great welcome from the knowledgeable crowd and the band proceed to give us a dynamic and forceful version of the song that, once again, has us all dancing and singing along. To my eyes (and ears) the guys are really enjoying themselves and are on top form tonight.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better the band launched into a rocking version of the classic Vigilante (from the album of the same name) and it gets the audience bouncing even more, as soon as the highly recognisable riff begins they are off. Just like Bob actually, he is really on it tonight, his voice and presence commanding the stage and hall, everyone in the crowd are in the zone and enjoying every note. The mountain crushing rhythm section of Lee and Al go into overdrive on this song and you can feel it right in your solar plexus, I’m singing along to the chorus as if I was 19 again! Too soon it is time for the show to come to an end but Magnum go out with a bang with one of my favourite tracks of theirs. ‘Wings of Heaven’ was the band’s biggest album, released in the late 1980’s and spawned a few hit songs but it also contained the lengthy Don’t Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young), ten minutes of almost progressive tinged hard rock and we are treated to a superb version this night. Bob prowls the stage like the leader of the pride and the crowd are in rapt attention as Rick delivers the slow burning keyboard section. You can feel the tension rising in the hall as the music plays, Bob’s vocal building up to the compelling chorus and the crowd finally bursts out along with Bob to sing, “Too old to die young, too big to cry, too old to die young, say goodbye…”. I went along with some friends who didn’t really know much about Magnum and they were absolutely blown away, especially by this track and it surely took me back many a decade but that’s what music does, isn’t it? When a night is as good as this, it’s always a shame for it to come to a close but the guys finished to rapturous applause, cheers and whistles and a see of happy faces.

A fantastic evening of music and a wonderful performance from one of my favourite bands, music, for me, is fantastic and life affirming and live, like tonight, it just doesn’t get any better.

 

 

Melodic Revolution Records is thrilled to sign International prog band TEN JINN for a multi-album deal.

“Sisyphus” was originally released in Europe in early 2017 as a digital-only release by Ten Jinn, however, there has been a large demand for a CD release and even a vinyl release. The CD is set for an early spring (2018) release.

About The Album

Sisyphus is an eight-part programmatic work that tells the story of the founder and King of Corinth after whom it is named. Because of affronts to the gods while alive, Sisyphus was condemned in death to spend eternity in Hades rolling a boulder to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down each time he completed the task; this also speaks to the essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus, who used the myth as a means to comment on the senseless, repetitive drudgery of modern life.

Originally written as a classical work (a symphonic poem for string orchestra and piano) the Ten Jinn production involved reworking the piece to include the addition of rock instrumentation. We got the idea to add vocals to make it more consistent with earlier Ten Jinn albums, and the plan was then to fill out the record with other new material; however, at one point during the process we decided to do an instrumental mix and use it as a “flip-side,” instead, because we wanted to include a version that was representative of the original idea, which had its own unique “flavor.”

The Band

John Paul Strauss: Lead and backing vocals, Keyboards

Mark Wickliffe: Drums, Bass & backing vocals

Ken Skoglund: Guitars & backing vocals

Mike Matier: Guitars

A Statement from John Strauss

I have known about Nick Katona of Melodic Revolution Records for a while now, having seen him at RosFest for several years in a row (donning his signature top hat with a classy presentation of product second to none). However, it was only during the 2017 iteration that I finally had a chance to speak with him at great length. What I found was a passionate, intelligent man; a kindred spirit in attitude towards life in general, and music in particular.

I went to his website and checked out a number of the artists on his label. What I found was an eclectic offering of artists all with one thing in common – superior musical talent. Along with a laid-back, yet serious, approach to getting this music heard, I thought that his label would be the perfect partner for Ten Jinn. So, I handed him a promo copy our new record Sisyphus, we spoke again a while later and decided to work together. I speak for myself, and rest of the band, when I say that I am very excited about our upcoming CD release of Sisyphus on MRR, and hope this will be the first of many more to come.

Follow Ten Jinn
Website:
http://www.tenjinn.com
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/Ten-Jinn-380683175392072/
Twitter
https://twitter.com/ten_jinn

 

Review – John Holden – Capture Light – by Progradar

Life never stands still, the world rotates on its axis at around 1000mph (it’s less as you get North but you get my drift!) and day becomes night. The years pass quicker, or so it seems, and the sheer volume of music that is released gets bigger and bigger all the time.

Because of this it is impossible for me to hear every new release that would perhaps pique my musical curiosity and it pains me to think that I will have missed some gems as the clock keeps ticking. However, I can console myself with the wonderful releases that I do get to hear and enjoy.

I’ve been talking to John Holden about his great musical collaboration ‘Capture Light’ for well over a year now and I was honoured to be one of the first to receive the completed article a couple of months ago. I have listened to it multiple times and now feel ready to write my review…

Over two years in the making, an immersive and evolving album opens with the Joe Payne sung track Tears From The Sun. A symphonic and operatic tour-de-force featuring Oliver Wakeman’s keyboards, it has a feel of where The Enid could be now if they hadn’t imploded. After a quelled opening the bombast begins with multi-layered instrumentation before Joe’s distinctive vocal gives the track life and shape. As opening tracks go, this really does take some beating with John’s great music being complimented by his and Elizabeth Buckley’s fine lyrical accomplishment. A complex musical mosaic that keeps your rapt attention all the way through, Joe is on fine form and gives the song a flamboyant drama.

Crimson Sky takes a more symphonic rock oriented route with Julie Gater’s vocal giving it a Celtic rock infused tone. Hard edged and heavier, there’s a feel of early Karnataka to my ears. The powerful music is complimented perfectly by Julie’s dulcet tones, especially on the catchy chorus. Listen out for the superb guitar solo from Billy Sherwood (yes, THE Billy Sherwood) which adds a real sheen of class to what is already a pretty impressive song. I’m already beginning to love the diversity that John has brought to this album and we’re only two tracks in!

John proves he can tell a great story with the excellent title track, full of drama and intrigue, you’ll have to buy the CD to get the whole story but the musical journey is an engrossing and compelling one that will hold your attention throughout and I had to read the credits twice to realise it was Joe Payne who was performing the fantastic vocals again, this guy is pure talent. Oliver Wakeman’s elegant piano playing once again graces the song and adds real pathos to what is already a dramatic and emotional piece of music and let’s not forget Oliver Day’s stylish guitar, lute and mandolin. Let’s be fair, music has forever been about telling stories and John Holden is already proving to be very adept at it. Capture Light will be one of the most enjoyable and absorbing history lessons you’ll ever have…

A choral mantra that could fit a Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice musical, Ancient of Days is an uplifting track that just seems to bring a ray of sunshine along with it with it’s tribal feeling music and the great vocals of Jean Pageau, ably backed by Lee-Anne Beecher and Marc Atkinson. I could quite imagine this song being part of something like Lion King or Joseph with its great theatrical feel. A real shout out must go to Emily Dolan Davies whose skill on the drum kit is utterly evident here.

A song all about Jesse Owens and THAT race in Berlin, One Race is possibly the most progressive track on the album while not being that progressive (if that makes sense?). Joe Payne delivers another consummate vocal performance and the harmonised parts with Max Read give a real Celtic overtone, in fact the whole track reminds me of Clannad or Enya in places. It’s another well crafted song with a great storyline that works brilliantly along with the rest of the tracks on the album and the guitar playing just gives added impetus to the sensation of running along with the narrative.

Now onto the one track that I didn’t click with straightaway, Dreamcatching seemed a bit trite and twee to me on first listen, not quite gelling with the other songs on the album. Trying to explain the legend behind dreamcatchers using spoken word, song and music, this piece of music will either captivate or alienate in my opinion. Repeated listens have led me to appreciate it a lot more, while not actually loving it like I do the majority of the other songs. What does work very well though is the lovely flute and sax work from the ubiquitous Peter Jones who does a good job of adding whimsy and warmth as well as backing vocals along with Julie Gater.

London Grammar, that’s what I thought when I heard the first ultra-cool strains from No Man’s Land with it’s jazzy backdrop to Julie Gater’s silky smooth vocals. A song for lazy days in hazy summers, its chilled and easygoing vibe seems to seep into your very being. The feel good atmosphere seems to infuse every instrument, Gary O’Toole’s polished drum playing and Oliver Wakeman’s relaxed piano and keyboards are the height of sophistication.

A dreamy and contemplative song, Seaglass Hearts is full of longing and the vocals give pause with their elegant reminiscing. A nice interplay between the voices of Peter Jones and Julie Gater give a modern folk feel to the track, one full of wonder and playfulness along with Peter’s soulful sax playing. A sentimental ending to the album, enforced by the sparse piano that fades us out to a close.

A captivating journey through the mystical and historical, ‘Capture Light’ is an accessible, melodic tour-de-force that reveals more of its hidden depths with each listen. John Holden has collected an impressive group of musicians and given us a release that could well be a highlight of the year already.

Released 23rd March 2018

Pre-order ‘Capture Light’ on digital from bandcamp here

Pre-orders for the CD will be available from John Holden’s website soon at this link

Single Review – Sleeperman – You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That – by Progradar

So, the Sleeperman singles production line has released the second of their ‘new single every month’ releases and I have the pleasure of reviewing it.

This time the East Yorkshire quartet seem to have taken a chill pill with new track ‘You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That’ and ‘B’ side ‘Black Ice’.

The CD single comes in the usual faux 45rpm vinyl 7″ packaging which is becoming a really nice touch but, much as I’m a sucker for great packaging and album covers, it’s the music that is ‘inside’ that counts!

As is becoming patently obvious with Sleeperman it’s not just the well crafted music that counts, it is also the clever, pithy and pertinent lyrics that make their songs stand out and the wistful, nostalgic grace of ‘You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That’ is no exception. John Hilton’s wonderfully laconic and laid back vocal delivery once again delivers wry observations that make you smile, his occasionally sardonic voice is a perfect fit for the roots and alt-country inspired guitar playing of Neil Scott and makes the song a wonderfully laid back three minutes of near empathetic perfection.

“The saddest thing I ever saw was an old man alone in the light from a corner shop, his coat was too big, he was crying into his cupped hands…”

The ‘B’ side ‘Black Ice’ is a bit of a departure for the band and takes a different musical direction to what they delivered before. The repetitive, urgent and yet low key guitar intro give a feeling of hesitancy and John’s vocal has a pleading tone. It’s another intelligent three minutes that grabs your attention and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Pared back and minimalist, it almost ghosts across your senses and leaves you in a state of calm bewilderment.

They’re a clever lot Sleeperman and what they are doing is taking us back to the great era of music when the anticipation of newly released singles was almost too much to bear. Not only that, they are delivering on that anticipation big style, this is music for the music lover, music to cherish and not the usual throw away rubbish that seems to assault the charts nowadays. I take my hat off to them and long may it continue!

Released 4th February 2018

Get ‘You Would Not Be Seen Dead In A Shirt Like That’ from iTunes here

GAZPACHO REVEAL DETAILS OF NEW STUDIO ALBUM ‘SOYUZ’ – RELEASE FIRST SINGLE ‘SOYUZ ONE’

Norwegian Art-rock progressive outfit Gazpacho are set to release their brand-new studio album ‘Soyuz’ through Kscope on 18th May 2018.

Known for their distinctive art rock that balances tense and beautiful arrangements, sinister and soulful melodic lines, Gazpacho’s Soyuz furthers their experimental output.  To launch Soyuz the band have revealed their first single “Soyuz One”:

A band who are used to seizing headlines with bizarre stories, including The Independent (UK) branding Molok as “An album that could destroy the world”, Gazpacho have a holistic approach to the album writing process, imbuing each with a captivating concept. The themes of ‘Soyuz’ were born from the idea of how beautiful moments pass and cannot “be saved for later”, so within ‘Soyuz’ are interconnected tales of people and lives “frozen in time”. Taking inspiration from a multitude of eras and subject matters , including the doomed Russian space capsule Soyuz and its iconic captain Komarov; the Tibetan Buddhist funeral practice in “Sky Burial”; the inclusion of the oldest recording of the human voice from 1860 and the Hans Christian Andersen inspired “Emperor Bespoke”.

Recorded at Krypton Planet & St. Croix Fredrikstad in Norway, engineered by Thomas Andersen, Kristian Torp and Mikael Kroemer, mixed by John Rausch and mastered by Sonovo Mastering’s Thor Legvold. The artwork, designed by painter Antonio Seijas, is inspired by Russian Cold War colours and fonts from the Soyuz One flight era.

Soyuz Tracklisting 

1. Soyuz One

2. Hypomania

3. Exit Suite

4. Emperor Bespoke

5. Sky Burial

6. Fleeting Things

7. Soyuz Out

8. Rappaccini

Soyuz will be released on CD / LP and digitally (with pre orders receiving “Soyuz One” as an instant download) and is available to pre-order HERE

Gazpacho have confirmed they will be taking Soyuz on the road this summer with a series of headline shows and an appearance at Be Prog! My Friend Festival in Barcelona, with more dates to follow:

Soyuz Tour 2018
24/05 – NL –  Maastricht, Muziekgieterij,
25/05 – NL-  Uden, De Pul
26/05 – NL-  Zoetermeer, De Boerderij,
28/05 – UK – London, The Dome
31/05 – DE – Aschaffenburg, Colos-saal
01/06 – DE – Cologne Die Kantine,
02/06 – NL – Leeuwarden, Neushoorn,

23/06 – NO – Oslo, John Dee

30/06 – ESP – Barcelona, Be Prog! My Friend Festival

For tickets see www.gazpachoworld.com

Gazpacho are:

Jan Henrik Ohme (vocals)

Thomas Andersen (keyboards, programming)

Jon-Arne Vilbo (guitars)
Mikael Krømer (violin, mandolin)
Kristian Torp (bass)

Robert Risberget Johansen (drums & percussion)

Band Photography Credit Justin Lambert.

Artwork Credit Antonio Seijas.

 

MIDAS FALL SHARE LATEST TRACK ‘SOVERAINE’

This April, Midas Fall, the Scottish duo comprised of Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn — will release their fourth studio offering, ‘Evaporate.’

A visceral display of ferocious beauty straight from the desperate, savage cacophony of album opener “Bruise Pusher” to the heavenly crush of final track “Howling At The Clouds,” ‘Evaporate’ conjures stunning soundscapes at every turn. Captured in Argyll, Scotland, the album shimmers with a dark, gothic grace, delicate, and brutal in equal measure.

As a precursor to its release, the ethereal post-rock outfit have shared the poignant sounds of “Soveraine” for public feasting.

Writing ‘Soveraine’ was like entering new territory for us and a big deviation from our last album,” notes Heaton of the weighty track. “It was born from an improvisation with just cello and vocals but turned into the type of song we had wanted to write for a long time. We wanted to show restraint with the guitars and drums and instead layer in instruments to culminate in a subtle but powerful and atmospheric ending. The song centers around the theme of resentment and trying and failing to let go.”

Midas Fall’s Evaporate’ will be released worldwide by Monotreme Records on April 27th on CD and digital formats, as well as a limited pressing of 500 LPs on 180-gram vinyl (200 black and 300 clear blue/black).

Preorder the album now – http://monotremerecords.limitedrun.com/products/610709

Listen to the title track:

BLACK MOTH SHARE VIDEO FOR ‘SISTERS OF THE STONE’

Following this month’s UK tour, Black Moth have shared a new video for the track ‘Sisters of The Stone’, described by vocalist Harriet Hyde as ‘an anthem for wronged women’. The video by Noomi Spook, ‘depicts glimpses of female power, lovingly hunted and excavated from the swathes of old footage of the Stepford Wives advertising domestic bliss to dead-eyed sex dolls selling automobiles. Noomi paints a picture of the wild woman in all us’, adds Harriet.

While their first 2 albums were released by New Heavy SoundsBlack Moth will have their latest / third studio album issued worldwide via Candlelight Records on March 2nd 2018, the result of an alliance between Candlelight and NHS.

Produced by Andy Hawkins (Hawk Eyes, Maximo Park) with Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir) handling the mix, this 10-track affair sees the Leeds / London outfit – vocalist Harriet Hyde, guitarists Jim Swainston & Federica Gialanze’, bassist Dave Vachon and drummer Dom McCready –  further honing the various elements of their sound to make the hooks more barbed and the focus more collective.

What’s for sure is that ‘Anatomical Venus’ is the heaviest Black Moth album to date, taking the signature Mothic sound – a dark and heady swirl of garage rock, mind-blowin’ psychedelia and amplified over-drive – down a more targetted path, effectively opening a new chapter in a career that stretches back to an inaugural single in 2010 and a debut album, ‘The Killing Jar’, in 2012.

For ‘The Killing Jar’ and its 2014 follow-up, ‘Condemned To Hope’, the band brought in Jim Sclavunos (a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since 1994) to handle production and mixing duties, and the results immediately connected with fans and media alike…

“Like Electric Wizard meets Band Of Skulls, in a dungeon” is one press description that sticks in the mind, with other points of reference including Black Sabbath, the Stooges, PJ Harvey, Melvins, Kyuss and Patti Smith; however, with ‘Anatomical Venus’ Black Moth are seeking to forge their own path, both musically and conceptually. 

 

GLEB KOLYADIN, THE VIRTUOSO IAMTHEMORNING PIANIST, DEBUT SELF TITLED SOLO ALBUM – OUT TODAY – NEW VIDEO FOR “STORYTELLER” FEAT. JORDAN RUDESS OF DREAM THEATER

With the debut self-titled album from Gleb Kolyadin (iamthemorning) released today on Kscope, the Russian virtuoso pianist premieres a new video for the song “Storyteller” which features special guest Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater

Gleb comments on the song and the Kolyadin/Rudess collaboration “Storyteller is the final point of this musical journey.  After passing through intricate corridors and stairs, the character finds a secret room where he comes to understand himself and everything that is happening with him. The room is a real mystical location in which time and space are intertwined. 

I think no one could play the solo part better than Jordan. His rocking piece is the true magic. I’m happy that everything turned out the way it did: his part was the most important detail that breathe new life into the track.”

Gleb Kolyadin is an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure, built around the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs, which is accented at its focal points by guest appearances from Steve Hogarth, Jordan Rudess, Mick Moss and Theo Travis.

The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.

Gleb Kolyadin is available on CD / LP and digitally and is available HERE

Follow Gleb Kolyadin: https://www.facebook.com/iamthemorningpage/

Reviews – Colosseum Reissues – by James R Turner

Released and remastered on Esoteric Recordings, these are the first three studio albums from musical pioneers Colosseum, covering a magical musical period in their life from 1968-1970, and complete with in depth sleeve notes, bonus tracks, and on ‘Valentyne Suite’, the complete American version of the album ‘The Grass is Greener’, which differs substantially from the English version.

As a band Colosseum were to have a massive impact on the nascent progressive music scene (a differentiation from what has been lumped together as prog, subtle but vitally important to understand) where they came from the ranks of the Great British Blues bands that stalked the land and led to the emergence of other bands as important as Fleetwood Mac, Cream and CCS among others.

These three groundbreaking albums came from the time when musicians were keen on creating something new, something vital, something brave and original and it shows here, these are no mere copyists doing what someone else does because that’s how it’s done, these are some of the true pioneers of musical innovation.

From John Mayall and Graham Bonds bands came Jon Hiseman, band leader and renowned drummer, Dick Heckstall-Smith legendary jazz saxophonist (whose solo album ‘A Story Ended’ is a tour de force of musical genius) bassist Tony ReevesDave Greenslade came from working with Chris Farlowe and there’s James Litherland on guitar fresh from the Manchester music scene.

Having worked together the core of Jon, Tony, Dave and Dick were already musically tight, and with James adding extra guitar and vocals, the band appeared almost fully formed, and with lots of experience in the jazz and blues scene, and a very clear vision from Jon Hiseman about what the band wanted to achieve.

As a result the debut album, released in March 1969, ‘Those Who Are About to Die Salute You’ (from the phrase Roman Gladiators said to the Emperor before going into the Colosseum – Hiseman is a bit of a Roman History buff) which is reflected in the bands name, and indeed a rather spectacular track Ides of March, which is where they start with a Bach piece and end with a stunning musical moment between Litherlands guitar and Greenslades organ work.

As is usual with debut albums from this period, the majority of the music is what was the band’s live set, recorded on the hoof in between gigs, and features a couple of covers in amongst the bands originals, setting out their stall with a cover of the Graham Bond classic Walking in the Park, complete with Henry Lowther guesting on trumpet, this lays out the band’s stall right at the start.

They were an amazingly tight musical unit, and the combination of Hiseman and Reeves on drums and bass, provide the foundations for Litherland’s guitar, Greenslade’s organ and Heckstall-Smith’s sax to flow freely.

Coming from that loose improvisational musical scene, the melding of the jazz and blues influence into a harder rockier sound comes naturally to the band, and on songs like the Leadbelly cover Backwater Blues, Litherlands vocals, and the astonishing sax of Heckstall-Smith’ takes the blues and pushes it into a completely different direction to the one taken by other former blues merchants like Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin.

Original material like Dick’s The Road she Walked Before, or the sort of title track Those About to Die, which has some amazingly taut musical twists and turns, with some fantastic jazz rock drumming from Hiseman, who always seems to be overlooked when lists of ‘best drummers’ appear, and yet on here he combines power and subtlety as well as being the timekeeper, and holding the band together, again you only get music as good as this from musicians who have all played live together, and can turn that spontaneity and improvisational skill into great music.

To modern ideas it seems inconceivable that you can literally tour and then pop into a studio and bang out your live set as a new release, you know that if you did that today then it would be up on You Tube or some Russian Streaming site before the lights had gone up.

By the second album, ‘Valentyne Suite’, (the three part title track of which makes up the original second side of the vinyl) the band had made an impact, and their debut had made number 15 in the album charts (again with the perspective of time and distance, it’s hard to imagine that happening in this day and age with the whole industry fragmented). With the same line up, and the same producers of bassist Tony Reeves and Gerry Bron, the band had by this time started improvising and writing new material to fit into their live shows.

Again the band were a hard working band, and the albums would be recorded in the daytime before they would fly off in their van to another gig in another town.

The ‘Valentyne Suite‘ record is notable for a number of different reasons, 1) it was the first record released on the nascent Vertigo label, 2) It features that stunning enigmatic cover by Marcus Keef in his own inimitable style, 3) it’s a bloody good record.

From the opening The Kettle, the band have melded into a tight and powerful unit, and that shows in the fact that the only guest writer was Pete Brown (Jack Bruce lyricist and friend of the band) who contributed the exceedingly accurate lyrics, foreshadowing events in his usual style, to The Machine Demands a Sacrifice, James Litherland’s maturity as a songwriter and guitarist shows here as he adds his vocals to the damn fine Elegy, as well as the driving Butty’s Blues.

However the centrepiece here, and one of the most important tracks on the album, and indeed in the bands career, is the three piece suite Valentyne Suite, which with it’s linked parts, musical themes and powerful performance was responsible for showing bands how long suites can work on record, and is as fine a piece of true progressive music as ever there was. From recurring musical motifs, some sublime sax work from Dick Heckstall-Smith (there is nothing finer in the world than hearing a sax solo in full flight) and the combined musical prowess of the band, every member shines as the Valentyne Suite propels music forward at a rate of knots. Flitting dexterously from jazz to blues, to rock, and with recurring themes and riffs reappearing, the idea that rock music can create mini concerto’s is shown here to best effect, with the band making it seem effortless as the music fills the room. Ably aided by arrangements by Neil Ardley throughout the album the band’s ambition matches their performance. The Valentyne Suite is an absolutely brilliant piece of music, and released in November 1969, a scant 8 months after their debut was released, it shows just how far they had come in terms of compositional style and musical prowess.

This expanded edition includes the American release ‘The Grass is Greener’ (named after the closing section of the Valentyne Suite) in January 1970, by which time James Litherland had left the band and been replaced by Bakerloo guitarist Clem Clempson (and if you haven’t heard Bakerloo’s album, it’s worth a spin) and this release took the tracks Elegy, Butty’s Blues, The Machine Demands a Sacrifice and The Grass is always Greener, remixed and with Litherland’s guitar work replaced by Clempsons (although Litherland’s vocals remain on Elegy) and 4 new tracks recorded by the new line-up, the powerful rock song Jumping off the Sun (a track given to Hiseman by the late Mike Taylor) which shows Clempson’s different style to Litherland, and how easily he fitted into the ethos and sound of Colosseum, whilst the Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith composition Lost Angeles (with Clempson’s superb vocals adding to the sound), with the power underneath, hints at how the band were developing, especially with Clempson’s sublime solo work. Rope Ladder to the Moon is a cover version of the Jack Bruce song, with some great swinging performances from Heckstall-Smith and Greenslade, showing how versatile this band could be, whilst Bolero is exactly as it says on the tin, Ravel’s Bolero Colosseumed up to the max, with some great guitar work from Clempson, and some musically deft touches from Greenslade.

As a holding exercise, this is a great album, and one that shows the power of this line-up, being the only music recorded prior to Tony Reeves departure, and now again it’s inconceivable that the same band would have a record released in the States that was different to the one in the UK.

Pulling together this collection is great as it shows how the band were evolving and developing as they grew. I would say if you are a fan of truly progressive music (not just prog) then you need the ‘Valentyne Suite’ in your life, and it’s probably as good a place as any to start with Colosseum.

Released in December 1970, their third album ‘Daughter of Time’ saw the bands line-up evolve even more when Tony Reeves left to go into production, being replaced initially by Louis Cennamo from Renaissance, who didn’t quite fit, so Mark Clarke came in on bass joining the core of Hiseman, Greenslade, Heckstall-Smith and Clempson. The band also decided that they needed a vocalist, so Greenslade approached his old colleague Chris Farlowe, who surprisingly said yes.

This is a revelation of this album, as the bands compositional scope grew, so did their musical ambitions, and with Neil Ardley helping with arrangements for brass and string sections augmenting the mighty six piece, this is an album that could only have been recorded and released in 1970.

That doesn’t mean it has aged or dated at all, it just has that power, that scope and that imagination that musicians in those days had, the idea that nothing was beyond your reach or aim and that freedom to do what you wanted.

The opener Three Score and Ten, Amen is a statement of intent, with Farlowe’s powerful vocals even stronger than Ian Gillan’s, and the addition of Clarke on bass to replace Reeves is perfect, as he works so well with Hiseman, and throughout the musical confidence is so strong that this is a track that grabs you by the scruff of the neck, pulls you in and demands you listen.

On this, what would turn out to be their last original studio album, the only cover is the Jack Bruce/Pete Brown track Theme From an Imaginary Western, given some real musical clout here (and again showing how close these bands all were, with members of Colosseum having played with Bruce in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, as well as contributing to his solo albums) and Farlowe is again outstanding on vocals.

Musically at this point Colosseum were a big band, and they needed someone with the vocal chops to stamp his mark all over the material, and Farlowe more than puts his stamp over it.

Again when you look at your Gillans, your Plants and your Rod Stewarts from this era, its astonishing Farlowe doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as he has everything on this album, power, swagger, an amazing range, and in parts his voice is another instrument to be utilised.

New boys Clarke and Clempson fit right into this incendiary musical mix, as Dave Greenslade stamps his personality on this, with all but two of the original tracks being co-writes (and in certain areas you can see where he’d go next with his eponymous band).

The fantastic Take Me Back to Doomsday features Clempson on lead vocals, recorded prior to Farlowe joining, and it sounds amazing, and Clempson, despite having a superb voice would rather focus on his guitar work.

That is not to the detriment of the album, each musician, particularly Greenslade, Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith had developed a groove and a natural way of working together, and as Clempson, Farlowe and Clarke gelled so well, this album is the most accomplished, most satisfying and most ambitious of the three studio sets.

Of course, this being 1970 it features a drum solo by Hiseman, recorded live and included on the record called The Time Machine (because that’s what he was) and yes, it’s a drum solo, but John Bonham was doing them, even Ringo Starr did on Abbey Road, so it’s very of it’s time, but as an example of Hiseman’s musical prowess it is a fantastic calling card.

This was a fantastic run of musical quality by anyone’s standards, and it just seems that in this musical world today there aren’t enough musicians out there willing to take the risks that Colosseum did, and make this kind of music.

If you are looking for real progressive music and not just prog, then this is for you. This is musicians flying by the seats of their pants, doing it because they could and working their arses off touring it and playing it, working on the old adage if we make it they will come.

Now whilst these were the only studio albums, prior to them splitting they did release one live album, the imaginatively titled ‘Colosseum Live’ was released in 1971, and remastered and expanded back in 2016 on Esoteric, but I thought it worth revisiting it here as part of the bands original story.

This is the classic ‘Daughter of Time’ Colosseum line up of Hiseman, Greenslade, Heckstall-Smith, Clempson, Farlowe and Clarke, and whilst they are imaginative on record, live they had to adapt as they didn’t have the brass and string section from the studio. But as all great bands prove live is where there power came to the fore, and this is a double disc expanded set of the legendary double album from 1971.

The original album contained only a couple of tracks that had been on the studio recordings, with material like Rope Ladder to the Moon and Lost Angeles only being available on the American ‘Grass is Always Greener’, and Walking in the Park kicking off their debut album.

Here, the 6 piece band were at the peak of the powers, and this set reaffirmed their skill and power, as they adeptly worked their way through a collection of classic live tracks like Skellington and Tanglewood ’63 and the musicianship throughout is superb, as Hiseman’s drums and Clarke’s bass anchor the sound, allowing Greenslade’s organ and Heckstall-Smith’s sax free range whilst Clempson’s guitar work is superb and, as you would expect, Chris Farlowe is never less than magnificent. Originally released on two LP’s the original live album is now on disc one of the set. Meanwhile it’s on the second disc of additional live material recorded at the same time that we get a full live version of their Valentyne Suite, which is worth the price of admission alone, the ambitious musical works getting an amazing live rendition, which not only does the original work justice, but adds so much to it, as any live performance honed over the years really perfects the track.

I see with bands like Colosseum the studio works being the starting point, and it’s only as the band work and perform and improvise and hone the music night after night, do you get the finished product (well at that particular gig anyway) as the music grows and evolves, and listening to this album you see how far the band have travelled in such a short space of time, before they splintered and continued on solo or other group journeys, where they took the Colosseum ethos and spread it even further across the genres.

This was a highly regarded live album from a potent live band who managed to straddle a multitude of genres and create something genuinely new when they arrived on the scene, and with the bonus tracks it just reminds us of what an innovative and powerful band Colosseum were.

Order all the Colosseum reissues from Cheery Red Records at this link