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COLOSSEUM II

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Colosseum II biography
Founded in 1975 - Disbanded in 1978

COLOSSEUM was one of the seminal progressive bands that emerged in the late Sixties, they disbanded in '71. A few years later drummer and prime mover Jon Hiseman recruted keyboard player Don Airey (nowadays DEEP PURPLE), vocalist Mike Starrs, guitar player Gary Moore (ex-THIN LIZZY) and bass-player John Mole in order to form COLOSSEUM II.

In '76 their first LP titled "Strange New Flesh" came out, it has some fine moments but sounds a bit precarious. After the band dropped the singer COLOSSEUM II the chemistry was there: an instrumental fusion of jazz, rock, symphonic and classic, to be found on the excellent albums "Electric Savage" ('77) and "Wardance" ('78). Both records contain 8 captivating and alternating compositions with powerful and inventive drums, solid and propulsive bass play and tasteful colouring of the keyboards (Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes piano, Solina string-ensemble). But the focus is on Gary Moore's guitarplay: some Spanish guitar and many fiery and biting electric guitar solo's and exciting interplay with Don Airey's dazzling Minimoog flights. Gary Moore sounded far more creative and subtle (a kind of harder-edged blend of HACKETT and Jan AKKERMAN) than he ever did with THIN LIZZY or his later "bluesy period". In my opinion COLOSSEUM II has always been a bit underrated so I would like to recommend their second and a bit more mature third album.

: : : Erik Neuteboom, The NETHERLANDS : : :
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COLOSSEUM II discography


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COLOSSEUM II top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.64 | 132 ratings
Strange New Flesh
1976
3.65 | 114 ratings
Electric Savage
1977
3.68 | 99 ratings
War Dance
1977

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COLOSSEUM II Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Electric Savage by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.65 | 114 ratings

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Electric Savage
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mark-P

4 stars This is the second release of Colosseum II with new line up. All tracks except one, are instrumental, with stronger and more energetic jazz-rock feel. I like the rhythm section (both bass and drum) better than the first album (by their first line up). The sound of each of the instruments are so natural, particularly the sound of the drum set.

The opening track 'Put It This Way' is a fast paced killer track, and a great introduction to John Mole's great bass playing. This track has a fine blend of rock (pretty much from Gary Moore guitar) and jazz (from the rhythm section). 'Desperado' is to me one of the best track from Colosseum II. It has a strong jazz feel, and has a great improvisation sections by Gary Moore and Don Airey.

'Intergalactic Strut' has a strong composition with several mood changes. Alright, if the band is ever compared to Return to Forever, this track might be one of the references. Even Gary Moore guitar solo ? in a few bars ? reminds me to Al di Meola works, perhaps from the similarity in using phrygian scales. 'The Scorch' is anthemic track, with great symphonic prog typical keyboard work and nice influence of classical music style.

Those four tracks are to me the finest tracks in this album. The rest of the tracks are enjoyable, but less superior musically. 'All Skin And Bone' has a wonderful meticulous percussion work, but the song structure is not very strong. 'Rivers' is a light ballad track, with Gary Moore on vocal. Not much to highlight, the song mood is typical Gary Moore ballad that fans of 90's Gary Moore's albums would love. 'Lament' and 'Am I' are also softer instrumental track, and again are quite typical Gary Moore ballad track (even the later is written by Don Airey). As comparison, 'Down to You' cover in their previous album is far more superior and has stronger composition as a ballad track.

Overall, this is a great record of jazz rock music and has several best tracks of Colosseum II.

 War Dance by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.68 | 99 ratings

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War Dance
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Another great album by Colosseum II, similar to the previous album, focus is on instruments and soloing and only one sung and romantic song. The keyboardist shows a vast array of influences including usual synths, Hammond and Moog but also electric piano.

Excellent tasty prog-rock soloing on the first title track and certain Camel influence a la "Moondance" is hearable towards the end. If you want a pompeous jazz-rock or fusion, this is the track mainly due to masterful keyboards.

"Major keys" is a lighter funky fusion number, reminding me of some Czechoslovak Blue Effect/Collegium Musicum around that time but of course they hardly knew about each other at that time ;)

The third track is a typical fast-paced Colosseum II track with excellent rhythm section and soloing by keyboards and guitar - let's put it that way! ;) "Castles" is a romantic ballad and not suiting on the album but with a clever melody and acceptable vocal. For me, keyboard textures are also a highlight.

"Fighting talk" and "Inquisition" are return to the fusion frenzy, mainly because of the speed of the song, although solos remain more faithful to progressive rock. Worth mentioning is Moore's acoustic guitar.

The most complex composition is by far "Star Maiden / Mysterioso / Qua" with sections and very progressive middle section because of irregular beat ending up all instruments running in a straightfoward speed. "Last exit" features wild guitar soloing but the track never actually picks up and feels like it's meant to be the end. Worth listening to as there is enough to explore for a long time.

 Electric Savage by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.65 | 114 ratings

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Electric Savage
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars Sticking to instruments proved to be a great decision in increasing consistency and music quality of their albums. All three lead players are chameleons, well versed in rock and rock-related fashions like jazz-rock and fusion.

To my joy, playing is dynamic, intensive while remaining accessible. Compositions are solid, leaving place to keyboard and guitar soloing. Drumming is very evident in the mix and never static. Fill-ins are superb. Moore does not play a typical jazz guitar, it is rock shaped towards jazz. "Rivers" is a pretty good ballad even if cheesy and not fitting the rest of the album. Then come more intensive tracks with good variety in rhythms. Noteworthy are equlibristic "Desperado" reminiscent of Brand X and "Intergalactic Strut". Colosseum II fusion is closer to prog-rock than any other US fusion band, no wonder since the players weren't orthodox jazz players.

Excellent addition to any prog-rock/fusion collection unless you are a fusion snob and demand more jazz in the sound.

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars The debut album by Colosseum II is crispy but remains a mixed bag of tastes and quality. The main downweight towards mediocrity is the hard-rock/rock vocal and some lightweight melodies that do not fare well with the band's instrumental abilities and potential. Also, this record is closer to progressive rock than fusion.

The album starts very strong with a 5-star "Dark side of the Moog", which is a magnificient celebration of progressive rock. A very memorable and majestic Moog "riffing", Hammond runs, propulsive drumming and fantastic aggressive guitar playing make it an irresistible composition - must heard for each prog-rock fan. Even the mellow section keeps high standard and then increasing speed to remind of Return to Forever. Notice no vocals here - the best track on the album and possibly by the band.

"Down to you" introduces the interesting and emotional vocal singing a soulful radio-friendly melody. Finally, in the middle of the section, we have a fusion influenced instrumental section led by Moog, later a rocking guitar.

"Gemini and Leo" has a groovy funky beat, finally the bass guitar also shines but all in all, it's quite and awkward composition with too affected vocal. "Secret places" has a great rock melody and vocals, they should have left this song without instrumental complexity, it's a good rock number.

You see another composition with over 7 minutes "On second thoughts" but then it starts quietly with a vocal and relaxed laid-back keyboards - not a good sign. The compensation comes much later with guitar and keyboard textures.

"Winds" starts with a drummer's busy solo and fluently evolving to a Canterbury-like drumming, tasty guitar licks. Despite vocal marring it, it's the rhythm section that wins here by a margin, fantastic drums and bass that change dynamically. Another moog solo after a long while.

All in all, I'm very content with keyboards on that album, I find drumming and guitar OK (Moore will improve his fusion playing on next albums). The singer is not bad but joined the wrong band for his vocal.

So take this album with caution, it's much less fusion that expected.

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mark-P

4 stars I have been a big fan of Gary Moore since my teenage years, where he was in his 80-90's rock and blues period. As I realized that he was more than just a blues guitarist (I could feel richer musical influence in his works, at least flamenco and jazz), I started to dig deeper in particular his works with jazz rock oriented band, and Colosseum II is one among them.

'Strange New Flesh' is the debut album of Colosseum II, formed by late Jon Hiseman (he was bandleader of the former Colosseum band) with Gary Moore among the line up. This album has tracks with strong composition and a showcase of the virtuosity of the band members. This band ? and in this album in particular - is kind of more rock oriented version (in a good sense in this case) of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever. Jon Hiseman dexterity in drums is off course one of the highlight (check for example the last track 'Winds'). His duet with Neil Murray on rhythm section is really awesome, whether it is on jazzy, groovy or rock mood. Don Airey ? Gary Moore keyboard and guitar conversations give a lot of great moments.

The first two tracks are for me the best part in the album. 'Dark Side of the Moog' (perhaps a wordplay tribute to Pink Floyd?) is a fast paced instrumental composition with awesome smashing keyboard and guitar intro (the keyboard is the main instrument as the title suggest). The rhythm section is also very nice, with several time signatures and mood changes. 'Down to You' is an adaptation from Joni Mitchell song that is wonderfully re-arranged in jazz rock style. Gary Moore's guitar work is so soulful (those who love his bluesy ballad works like 'Still Got The Blues' should love this track too), particularly the intro and acoustic guitar in the middle of the song. Mike Starrs voice is nicely fitted to the song.

Other tracks are also all great. 'Gemini and Leo' and 'Secret Places' are groovy tracks with fast pace rhythm section, and great bassline and drum fills. 'On Second Thoughts' is a slow track, with nice solo guitar intro and interlude. 'Winds' is the longest track (10:23). Gary Moore use extensively wah effect in his solo. Jon Hiseman machine-gun-like drumming is awesome.

In short, this is an excellent jazz-rock album, with many progressive elements in each tracks. Each track effectively explores the great musicianship of the band members without being lost in too long improvisation.

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Squire Jaco

5 stars This is part of a really cool vein of music that includes a group called Tempest (with Allan Holdsworth and Ollie Halsall on guitars) and, of course an earlier incarnation of a few members of this band, which was simply called Colosseum. The great liner notes that come with this cd are filled with a remarkable bounty of other band names and personnel that seemed to have touched this band in some fashion or other: John Mayall, Rick Wakeman, Cozy Powell, Gilgamesh, National Health, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and many more.

Frequently compared to Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra, their music has a bit more gutsiness and progressive flavor than either of those two great (GREAT) bands. Band leader Jon Hiseman is an incredible drummer in an original style, and Gary Moore shreds on this like few other guitarists of the era could. Don Airey plays some great and varied keys. The production on this re-master is flawless. A few songs into this cd and I was thinking to myself "Where the heck has this fantastic music been all my life?!" It just felt so right to me. It felt like home. I was in love...

Look, you have to hear this stuff to believe it. I can't explain it to you in print. And you get 13 (!) previously unreleased tracks, including the complete BBC In Concert session from 1976. This is primo stuff. One of the most highly-rated albums in my collection. Highly recommended to progressive rock/jazz fusion fans. ESSENTIAL. Essential.

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Colosseum II's formation was announced at the fall of 1974 by ex-Colosseum's drummer Jon Hiseman after the demise of his former group Tempest.The main goal was to come up with a revamped version of Colosseum, intention of Hiseman was to bring over his Colosseum bandmate/bassist Mark Clarke, but only guitarist Gary Moore was an official member as of early 75', while attempts to be joined by ex-Bell + Arc's singer Graham Bell and keyboardist Duncan Mackay were also unsuccesful.By the 75' summer the line-up was eventually completed with Don Airey on keyboards, Neil Murray on bass, previously with Gilgamesh, and Mike Starrs on vocals.Their first album ''Strange new flesh'', recorded during the winter of 75'/76', was eventually released on Bronze Records in 1976.

This was a true supergroup not only on paper, as the music on this debut is really stunning, emotional, virtuosic and intricate in all its aspects.It surely kind of reminds of GREENSLADE at moments with all these influences coming from Jazz, Classical, Blues and Pop Music, but Colloseum II had definitely a more jazzy flavor as a whole plus Airey's keyboard work heavily relies on synthesizers (although some fantastic performances on clavinet and organ are still in the menu) and a revamped version of Colloseum was definitely a succesful description.The result was a captivating, jazzy Progressive Rock, starting from the flawless interplays of ''Dark side of the Moog'' and never cooling off until the very end with Moore offering his technical guitar playing next to the consistent rhythm section and Airey delivering series of monumental keyboard pyrotechnics.The album consists of four long tracks and two shorter pieces, the later being a mix of a more vocal-driven Rock with progressive flourishes in the keyboard parts.The longer ones though are absolutely fascinating Prog Fusion with solid soling, succesful breaks, numerous tempo changes and a touch of accesibility in the vocal moments.Strong jazzy vibes, bluesy guitar moves and dominant symphonic keyboards combine in an awesome way to offer marvelous, solid Progressive Rock with the foot constantly on the gas pedal.

Be informed that lots of reissues do exist with plenty of material coming from unreleased demos and sessions of the band.This is definitely a winner, an impressive combination of diverse influences, connected and executed in a professional way.Highly recommended to all lovers of adventuruous music.

 War Dance by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.68 | 99 ratings

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War Dance
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by richardh
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This was the last of a trio of albums by the line up of Jon Hiseman (drums) , Don Airey (keys) , Gary Moore( guitars and vocals) and John Mole (bass). This was 1977 and punk was in full flight so the kind of music this band were making was almost as far removed from 'trendy' as you could possibly get. But of course we don't care about that! The music is complex but always concise with never a moment wasted. Jazz rock fusion played with tons of energy and invention. The previous album Electric Savage had the great tracks Intergalactic Strut and The Scorch but overall lacked a cohesiveness to make it a truly satisfying listen. This on the other hand feels a like a step forward and a more complete work. Best track for me is The Inquistion. Moore demonstrates some ability on Spanish guitar playing at a hundred mile an hour. It has a mean hook that will bury itself in your brain and never leave. Perhaps the other stand out track is Castles which is the only vocal track on the album. Gary Moore shows what a great vocalist he was developing into and this was to stand him in great stead for his future blues albums.

Overall this is an excellent album and its a shame they didn't stay together much longer except to help a certain Andrew Lloyd Webber for his prog adventure (check it out!).

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by richardh
Prog Reviewer

2 stars This band was the brain child of drummer Jon Hiseman and guitarist Gary Moore who were keen to work together. In order to get the band off the ground the record company insisted that they call themselves 'Colosseum' but in reality this has nothing to do with that original band that made the vitally important Valentyne Suite album.

I recently acquired the 2 disc remaster which includes two different line ups. The first line up for the original album included a specialist vocalist Mike Starrs and bassist Neil Murray as well as keys man Don Airey. The vocalist may have been another concession to the record company to try and make the music accessible to the wider audience.The title track is by far the best track on the album and probably my favourite Colosseum II track. Talk about hitting the ground running. Jazz rock doesn't get any matter After that the playing is still of a very high standard but with vocals. And there lies the problem for me. I simply don' t like the vocals at all. Nothing wrong technically but I just find them irritating a bit overly done and in the way. Who is this Mike Starrs anyway? I would give the album 2 stars.

The Colosseum II I know and love is represented on disc two which is all demos and early versions of new material. Vocal duties when required are done by Moore. There is also a change in bass player. Now this is significant because if they had kept Neil Murray, then along with Hiseman, Moore and Airey CII would have been a bona fide 'supergroup' to match any of the great seventies line ups. Murray's replacement is John Mole who turned out to be a very good player but nevertheless you do think , who??! As for the music the working versions of Intergalactic Strut and The Scorch are not a patch on the final versions that appeared on Electric Savage. Its interesting though to hear Gary Moore singing a lot more on the other tracks that are represented on the bonus disc but still it doesn't add to to a whole hill of beans. They recorded the next album Electric Savage straight off the back of touring to retain the energy , something lacking on the demos.

Overall this is one for the fans with much better to come.

 Strange New Flesh by COLOSSEUM II album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.64 | 132 ratings

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Strange New Flesh
Colosseum II Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Colosseum II is one of the most underrated progressive/jazz fusion bands ever IMO.Colosseum II is a fine combo featuring talented as well as skilled musicians that will influence later one thousands and thousands of musiciands from any genre. First album released in 1976 named Strange new fleash, offers right from the start the hudge potential this band weill have on their all 3 albums released before disbanding in 1978. Probably this album is my least fav from all 3, not because is bad, far from it, is quite excellent and a perfect example is The dark side of the moog, like the rest.complexity meets melodic passages into one unit, the musicianship is top notch, each musician is master at their instruments, specially and I simply love how works Gary Moore in duel with Don Airey, fabulous, and this bond will be even much more explored on the next two albums. So, easy 4 stars, excellent , all 3 albums are recomended, Colosseum II is no less captivating and inventive then any other band from their field like Brand X, Édition Spéciale more well known.
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