Colosseum Live / An Introduction To Colosseum (Sanctuary Records)

Following on from Sanctuary Records recent release of the previous three albums by Colosseum, they now bring for you, either a reappraisal or an introduction depending on whether you were a long time aficionado wanting to replace your battered vinyl or are curious about this stalwart group of the late Sixties progressive rock scene. An Introduction To Colosseum is an eleven track sampler of tracks from the bands four albums which is the best place for beginners, but to experience the band in its natural habitat head for Colosseum Live.

Things were looking good at the end of 1970 for Colosseum with a reputation for exciting live performances which had been helped by numerous sessions for John Peel and other BBC Radio shows and had also resulted in chart positions for the bands first three albums, a feat not enjoyed by many of their equally hard gigging contemporaries. It would have seemed obvious to capture the band in the environment they excelled in - the live performance, but the record company Bronze were not so keen so leader Jon Hiseman used the success of the Who's recent "Live At Leeds" as the leverage to persuade them to record the band live.

Most of Colosseum Live is taken from one gig at Manchester University in March 1971 and although the band were unhappy with their performance they got an ecstatic reception from the audience. The six tracks were originally spread across two vinyl LPs, but are now condensed on to one CD. By now the line-up consisted of what leader Jon Hiseman considered to be the classic Colosseum - Dave "Clem" Thompson (guitar vocals), Dave Greenslade (Keyboards), Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxes, sometimes two at a time), Mark Clarke (bass, vocals) with Chris Farlowe on lead vocals - who had the distinction of being at number one with his version of the Rolling Stones "Out Of Time" when England won the World Cup in 1966.

The album opens with a version of ex Cream member Jack Bruce's surreal "Rope Ladder To The Moon" followed by "Walking In The Park" the song by British blues veteran Graham Bond which Colosseum almost claimed as their own with it being a staple of their live shows. The bands jazz chops are to the fore on Tanglewood 63", a tune from jazz arranger Michael Gibbs. The bands improvisation skills are to the fore on "Stormy Monday Blues", an unreleased encore. All throughout the album you can experience 'almost telepathic interplay' between the marvellous musicians.

Derek McCann

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