Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You / Valentyne Suite (Sanctuary)

These two reissues are the first two albums by the late sixties / early seventies British band Colosseum who fuse the progressive rock of the time with the experimentation of modern jazz. In a career that lasted a little over three years the band were one of the most popular bands on the progressive rock circuit due to their constant gigging and many sessions recorded for the BBC. They did eight sessions for Radio One within the space of twelve months.

The bands leader was drummer Jon Hiseman, who along with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, after stints with early British R&B group The Graham Bond Organization, and the short lived John Mayall's Bluesbreakers big band line-up which recorded the legendary album "Bare Wired", wanted to form a group "in which there were no drug addicts or other time wasters, no passengers". They were joined by Dave Greenslade on organ who had played with the very popular soul covers band "Geno Washington And The Ran Jam Band", and bassist Tony Reeves who had both played with Hiseman as teenagers in a couple of bands around South East London.

The debut "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You", the title taken from the gladiators of ancient Rome, was released in March 1969. The album consisted of mainly sturdy instrumentals with each musician being given the chance to take the spotlight, unlike certain other groups of the era who were basically a vehicle for one member to hog the limelight. The bonus tracks on this CD reissue are mainly BBC sessions of the album tracks.

The bands second album was a more adventurous affair with the second side (this was in the days of vinyl remember( taken up with the four parts of the "Valentyne Suite" which gave the album its title. On the other side were four tracks including "Elegy" with a string section backing the band, and "The Kettle" a slab of post-psychedelic hard rock recently sampled by Fatboy Slim. There is a bonus disc in this issue presenting the bands second American album release which featured some of the "Valentyne Suite" and some newly recorded numbers such as a cover of Jack Bruce's surreal "Rope Ladder To The Moon" and an adaptation of Ravels "Bolero".

Both these CDs are an excellent introduction to what, as founder member Dave Greenslade said of the band "probably the first Jazz Rock band in Europe"

Derek McCann

Post your Colosseum reviews / comments on the Message Board