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




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.64 | 135 ratings

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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.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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