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Colosseum - Bread & Circuses CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.10 | 41 ratings

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4 stars COLOSSEUM was/is a progressive jazz-rock band, well known for their first two albums: "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You" and "Valentyne Suite" (and for Dick Heckstall-Smith's ability to play two saxophones simultaneously!). They released five albums between 1969 and 1971 and then...nothing until 1995 when the album of their 1994 reunion concerts came out. The members' creative juices flowed during and after their reunion tour, and the result - "Bread & Circuses" - was released in 1997.

In case the album's title gives you a sense of déjà vu, it's a famous quote from a book by the author Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (known today as Juvenal): "Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddle no more and long eagerly for just two things: bread and circuses". "Bread and circuses" (panem et circenses in Latin) was his reference to the free distribution of food and the gladiatorial contests and chariot races, and he felt that Romans had become utterly distracted by mindless self-gratification. Apart from recalling Juvenal's criticism of his countrymen, the title of this album also reminded me of the long-gone but critically acclaimed Brazilian band OS MUTANTES: a track called 'Panis Et Circensis' (sic) is on their 1968 self-titled album.

Well, enough of the history lesson; what about this album? To paraphrase Jon Hiseman's notes in the (nice) booklet which comes with this CD, if you're looking for "Son of Valentyne Suite" then you can forget it: those days are long gone for the band, and for us too. Is this Progressive Rock? Nope. Is it good? Well, I certainly think so! This is solid blues-jazz-rock. Some funky, pumping bass (Mark Clarke) and drums (Jon Hiseman) with some great guitar (Clem Clempson) on top, not to mention Dave Greenslade's keyboard playing, Dick Heckstall-Smith's sax, and Chris Farlowe's gritty voice belting out the lyrics - he sounds like he's smoked a few packets of Gauloise before getting up on stage in a basement jazz bar. Listening to this album makes me wish I was in the bar listening to them live too.

If you're looking for long tracks, each with umpteen changes in tempo and mood, then forget it. But if you enjoy solid funky rock with a big dose of jazz and blues thrown in then you'll really like this stuff. I'm going to give it 4 stars (Excellent addition to any prog rock collection) even though it's not Prog. Why? Because it's darn good music, that's why! Now, where can I find a smoky bar with good malt whisky and live jazz-rock fusion at this time of night?

Fitzcarraldo | 4/5 |


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