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Colosseum - Colosseum Live  CD (album) cover

COLOSSEUM LIVE

Colosseum

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 87 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

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.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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