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Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You CD (album) cover

THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE SALUTE YOU

Colosseum

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars First article in series of five

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.

Although only partly interesting for the proghead, this album is a stunning debut, definitely groundbreaking but not really jazz-rock in the form of Miles Davis or Nucleus

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#26295)
Posted Monday, February 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dick Heath
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock Specialist
5 stars An important pioneering album, which melded jazz rock and blues together, and at the time of its release created something quite new. Ironically, way back then the UK music press announced the formation of Colosseum within a few weeks of Timebox announcing they were folding , (sic) 'because there was no call for bands that mixed jazz blues and rock' - Colosseum proved differently (while Timebox became Patto and its vibraphonist Ollie Hassell became the much accomplished guitarist).

TWABTDSY, Colosseum's first, was and still is an ear-opener, showing what excellent musicians playing excellent music, can do. Hiseman had (and continues) played jazz and blues (check out his collaboration on Jack Bruce's first solo "Things We Like"). Dick Heckstall Smith (who could do a Roland Kirk and play several wind instruments simultaneously), had long paid his dues with Graham Bond and John Mayall and had become one the better known UK saxophonists. While the then relative new names of James Litherland (guitar and vocals), Dave Greenslade (keys, son of a musician and bandleader) and Tony Reeves (bass and producer), contributed in their equal ways, to produce an album that remains a classic almost 35 years later.

The album kicks off with the best version of Graham Bond's great R'n'B tune "Walking In The Park", (although Bond's own version, released as a single a few years early, is a close second). The following tunes cover a lot of musical space, as one might expect from the types of musician involved. Straight blues to jazz, and with Dave Greenslade's presence, there is a smattering of serious and even prog rock. The whole drives along, and because of the mix of musical styles and influences should hold your interest throughout - whether with a slow burning blues or a more complex jazz-based solo.

The album coming right at the change of decades, promised the 70's would take rock music to new highs. Alas the hope for better things was short lived. James Litherland left too soon to be replaced by the "veteran" Chris Farrow on vocals. Personally I find Farrow gave Colosseum a rougher, and somewhat rawer sound - which I hadn't particularly liked when he did Rolling Stones covers. In deed, the high point of this special album is the discovery of Litherland's voice. His vocals may be ranked with the very best coming out of Britain's blue-eyed blues period; others included Jack Bruce, Rod Stewart, Chris Youlden, Paul Rodgers and the long forgotten Spit James (of the Keef Hartley Band). Where is James Litherland now - one MO album released about a decade ago, and in the programme credits of rock'n'roll musical as a member of the pit orchestra, touring the UK.

Various members having been previously parts of Graham Bond's and John Mayall's bands, Colosseum did their own splitting only to reform quite a few times. And too, ex-members went on to separately to form memorable British prog and blue rock bands such as Tempest, Greenslade and Mogul Thrash (and in doing so discovering John Wetton). However, the first line-up is my favourite.

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Send comments to Dick Heath (BETA) | Report this review (#26296)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Colosseum are a great band to listen to if you want to hear a quintet of brilliant blues and jazz musicians stumbling around to create nascent progressive rock (not that that's likely to be a term that ever occurred to them at the time). Formed by Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers veterans Jon Hiseman (drums) and Dick Heckstall-Smith (Saxes), Colosseum also included lead vocalist/guitarist James Litherland, bassist Tony Reeves and organist Dave Greenslade.

Their debut album was recorded in late 1968 (albeit released in 1969) and boy does it show! Listening to it one is transported back to those swinging jazz clubs that kept London buzzing at 4 in the morning (well, I was born in 1973 so I'm imagining this part!). It is full of bluesy material like Plenty Hard Luck, Debut and Blackwater Blues that feature fiery solos from Heckstall-Smith and Litherland in particular. It also includes two great jazz-rock songs in the stomping opener Walking In The Park and the elegant hypnotic Heckstall-Smith composition The Road She Walked Before.

Having said that not a lot of this album is really progressive ... the main exception being Mandarin, an instrumental that features Reeves' bass playing alongside some tasty organ and a brief spell of wah-wah playing from Litherland (Hiseman's original liner notes tell us that this tune is based on a Japanese soft scale, by the way). Greenslade gets to shine on the another instrumental Beware The Ides Of March which takes some getting used to as it uses the same Bach chord progression that inspired Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade Of Pale, before breaking into a Santana like percussion-heavy freak-out. The album's concluding tune Those About To Die is an interesting jazzy workout that occassionally sounds a little cheesy.

Ultimately this album was destined to be eclipsed by its astounding successor Valentyne Suite and is perhaps worth listening as much for the historical context as for the actual music it contains. Those who are not fond of straight blues and jazz are warned to stay clear! ... 53% on the MPV scale.

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#26297)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Strong debut of one of the most popular jazz-rock groups.The album comprises jazz- rock, blues and symphonic rock tunes, reflecting musical background and aspirations of band members. It opens with rhytmically furious cover of Graham Bond's 'Walking In The Park' leading us to more jazzier 'Plenty Hard Of Luck' ; 'Mandarin' shows all the skill of Tony Reeves, a bass guitarist extraordinaire , while closing track of the A side of the record is literally their debut, origins of which are coming from John Mayall's superb 'Bare Wires' album. Side B of the record beginns with the proof of how inspirational can one classic piece be for the rock performers; following two numbers show band's blues affinities and closing track is jazz-rock at it's utmost. All in all, this 'Morituri Te Salutant' album has shown Colosseum's enormous potential which will fully explode on their masterpiece follower.

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Send comments to bsurmano (BETA) | Report this review (#73680)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Morituri te Salutant

Formed from the ashes of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Colosseum recorded their first album in 1968. Although very much led and indeed driven by drummer John Hiseman, it is the sax of Dick Heckstall-Smith, the organ and vocals of Dave Greenslade, and the guitar and vocals of James Litherland which are the signatures of the band. The music of Colosseum may be classified as jazz rock, but its roots remain firmly in the jazz and blues of the members' backgrounds.

The opening track "Walking in the park" is slightly deceptive. This Graham Bond composition (Hiseman had played in Bond's "Organisation") has the commercial feel of bands such as CHICAGO or the AVERAGE WHITE BAND, a point exacerbated by the trumpet playing of Henry Lowther.

We quickly move into more traditional jazz territory though with "Plenty hard luck" and "Mandarin", the latter featuring an unnecessarily long bass solo. "Debut", the band's first recording together, continues in the jazz vein with Heckstall-Smith leading the proceedings. Hiseman comes dangerously close to slipping in a drum solo, but fortunately the moment passes. The freeform nature of Heckstall-Smith's playing is too loose for my taste, the track being rescued by some fine organ work by Dave Greenslade.

"Beware the ides of march" may be based on a piece by Bach but it will sound immediately familiar as the central melody to Procol Harum's "A whiter shade of pale". The initial theme is developed by organ and sax until harpsichord and guitar break the mood, spoiling the piece in an unnecessary frenzy of jazz improvisation.

The brief, lighter "The road she walked before" is followed by a straight Ledbetter blues cover featuring guitar by original band member Jim Roche. It is though once again Heckstall-Smith who dominates the extended instrumental passages. The title track which closes the album is a case of more of the same.

Bearing in mind Colosseum's debut album was recorded in 1968, it is an accomplished work. While de facto leader Jon Hiseman may have had a vision for the band as a jazz rock outfit with an emphasis on the rock, they nonetheless played it safe here, exploiting the jazz origins of the participating members. That the performances are of a high standard is of no doubt, but there is little which might be described as progressive and being honest, not that much which appeals to my taste. Those who enjoy the music of bands such as SOFT MACHINE, KING CRIMSON, and later FOCUS should find the album of interest from a "roots" point of view.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#105335)
Posted Wednesday, January 03, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Those Who Are About To Die Salute You is the debut studio album from UK based jazz/ rock/ blues act Colosseum. Colosseum consisted among others of Dave Greenslade on organ and keyboards and Tony Reeves on bass who would later found Greenslade. The album was released in 1969 and has lots of sixties elements without being stuck in that age.

The music has elements from both blues, jazz and rock. Songs like Walking In the Park, The Road She Walked Before and especially Backwater Blues are in the blues vein. James Litherland´s soul/ blues way of singing also points in that direction. But there are songs like Debut, Beware The Ideas of March and Those About to Die which are filled with rock jazzy brass and clever arrangements and those songs really makes this album special. The bluesy songs also have brass arrangements though.

The musicianship is fantastic and one of the biggest treats on this album. They simply seem to be on fire on most of the songs. What a passionate performance. Dick Heckstall-Smith is a very skilled sax player while drummer Jon Hiseman is certainly also an accomplished musician. Powerful intricate drumming from him. Dave Greenslade´s organ playing is clever and the bass from Tony Reeves is precise and rythmic. Singer/ guitarist James Litherland also contributes greatly to the band.

The production from Tony Reeves is excellent. It´s definitely one of the best productions from the sixties.

Ordinarely I wouldn´t enjoy bluesy jazz/ rock much but when it´s played with conviction like this and when the compositions works this well I´m sold and I have to give Those Who Are About To Die Salute You 4 stars. What a great and powerful album.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#184712)
Posted Saturday, October 04, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Those Who Are About To Die Salute You is a really nice debut from Colosseum, but it's nothing groundbreaking. The best I can say about this album is that I like it. I think it's very professionally done, all the players are excellent, the singing ain't that bad and even the production is good considering when it was released.

But it does not excite me very much, even though the music is jazz rock which I usually like very much. The compositions seem fine, but to me they're only half way there and they lack certain spark which would make them more exciting and thrilling. I can't put my finger on it, I just don't get much out of this album. To me it's kind of basic jazz & blues based rock, lacking originality.

There's no denying that the album is good, but the imperative word for me here is that it's only 'nice'. 3 stars.

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Send comments to nikow (BETA) | Report this review (#230469)
Posted Saturday, August 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Colosseum's , early British jazz-rock band, debut album. Recorded in late 60-s, this music has its roots in very different from US competitors soil. Based on Graham Bond Organization and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers ' participated musicians, this album is excellent mix of blue-eyed r'n'b, British blues and jazz.

Compositions are mostly of bluesy structure (and some songs are still just blues as well), all melodic, energetic and catchy. All musicians are great, and saxman Dick Heckstall-Smith shows his best there! Unique balance between jazz-rock drumming, jazzy brass and r'n'b keyboards bring this music at the highest positions of early jazz-rock."Ides of March ", based on JS Bach's chords, sounds as medley between Bach and Procol Harum's "A whiter shade of pale " ! Combination of organ and sax gave the band their characteristic signature. No fillers on the album at all!

Different from American early jazz fusion , this band's debut is British early jazz-rock classics. Really recommended!

My rating 4+

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#290164)
Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is almost two years to this date since I reviewed Colosseum's second album Valentyne Suite. An album I found a bit boring. I may have developed my musical preferences..... or I have become rather retarded. But I kind of like Those Who Are About To Die Salute You, the album I am holding in my hand now and which I am reviewing here.

I have never been a fan of this band and I never will be a fan of them. Their jazz fusion is too much blues. Actually, forget jazz and fusion. This, their debut album, is a slab of commercial blues with a slab of art rock and commercial rock in the mix too. The music is catchy and nice to the ear. Their song Beware The Ides Of March is a pure Whiter Shade Of Pale (Procul Harum) rip off and I doubt Colosseum would had been able to claim any royalties on this song. It is the best song of the album though........ The rest of the album is good and nice to the ear. Nice and dull. Overall, this is a good album which I cannot fault. A good effort it is.

3 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#308097)
Posted Wednesday, November 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This was COLOSSEUM's debut released in 1969. It's very much a Jazz / Blues affair and very commercial sounding at times. I must admit that to my ears this doesn't compare to their next two albums in "Valentyne Suite" and "The Grass Is Greener". I would swear there were at least two horn players but apparently Dick Hectall-Smith could play two at once. Alrighty then.

"Walking In The Park" is catchy with horns and vocals standing out.Guitar before 1 1/2 minutes when the vocals stop but the horns continue to blast.Vocals are back late. "Plenty Hard Luck" is led by the guitar, drums and horns early.Vocals join in quickly though.The organ of Greenslade takes the lead then the horns are back out front.Vocals return 3 1/2 minutes in. Not much of a fan of these first two tracks.

"Mandarin" is my favourite track on here. Love the sound of this one right from the start. We get a bass solo too. Guitar leads after 2 1/2 minutes and we get a full sound before 4 minutes. "Debut" builds then guitar comes in after a minute but it's brief. Catchy stuff. The organ leads after 3 1/2 minutes then we get a drum solo 5 minutes in then the horns return with the organ. More brief guitar.

"Beware The Ides Of March" is perplexing to me with that "Whiter Shade Of Pale" melody. I do like the guitar and dissonant horns though. "The Road She Walked Before" features percussion and vocal melodies before the vocals arrive with horns. Piano leads 1 1/2 minutes in when the vocals stop.

"Backwater Blues" opens with guitar before the vocals come in.This is Bluesy stuff. A sax solo comes in after 3 minutes then the vocals return late.

"Those About To Die" is uptempo with horns, organ and drums leading. Guitar before a minute.

This certainly has it's moments but i'll stick with the two albums they did after this one.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#535166)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The boom occuring in Britain in the 60's resulted in many a terrific band and even more outstanding pieces of music. From America the blues took hold of the Is,es and rock'n'roll became a british affair, dominating the development of music throughout the 1960's. That is my opinion, anyway. Firmly rooted in the blues bands started exploring the boundaries of the genre, expanding it's sound and eventually inventing both progregssive music and hard rock. Cream were probably the leader of the pack, alongside John Mayall, at least when discussing the progressive blues scene. There were other bands aswell, of course. Led Zeppelin, for instance, or Black Sabbath even, who despite being honoured with being the godfathers of metal, still recordeda debut containing alot of mainly seld written progressive blues numbers.

Colosseum was one of these bands and their bluesroots are obvious for anyone. Their approach is somewhat different though, than the bands previoulsy mentioned. First of all the horns are very dominant, making the music very rich, and then they merge genres without effort, it seems, making the music a strange but very appealing brew. Maybe it is their name but I feel there are notes dating back from the ancient world all the way up to the present. Maybe I am raving now.

The albumis pleasant enoughbut really not that amazing. Though I enjoy listening to it and comes back every now and then, I feel the music making not all that big an impression. It is well played and arranged but basically it is progressive blues. Behind all the horns, amazing organ et al the foundation is built around mainly standard blues, though written by the band. It might seem I'm not that keen on the music but I am. Like I said, it is pleasant, grooving and kicking but not so much more.

My favorite track is "Beware the ides of March", with it's warm atmosphere and amazing interplay. Being an instrumental they manage to paint a picture of the death of Julius Caesar, as I interpret the music. Dramatic, pompous and daring. Exraordinary and a hint for the future.

Conclusion: The first album by Colosseum is a progressive blues album and as such it is pleasant and enjoyable. If you want more progressive music than blues, go for the next album - Valentyne suite. This is a great beginning for a short lived band, making great progressive music in a blues/jazz setting. Great but not an outstanding album in any sense of the word.

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Send comments to GruvanDahlman (BETA) | Report this review (#965380)
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 | Review Permalink

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