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Colosseum II - Strange New Flesh CD (album) cover


Colosseum II


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.66 | 122 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

After the demise of Tempest and its total lack of success, Hiseman had to reconsider his musical direction and return to a jazzier direction, hence the return to his Colosseum moniker. After parting company with Mark Clarke, Hiseman regrouped around young guitar prodigy Gary Moore (who was still in his love/hate Lizzy phases), keyboardist Don Airey, bassist Neil Murray and singer and used singer Mike Starrs, although I'm not sure he was an actual band member and whether it was a good idea at all to have a singer with the type of music developed by Col II. Indeed, finished are the hard rock and straight rock of Tempest, with Strange New Flesh, we're plunged into a boiling hot JR/F that is relatively typical of the late mid-70's, where the virtuosos are having a field day showing off their talents, as opposed to the early decade's more ambience-driven jazz-rock. All tracks are penned by Gary Moore with Hisemab lyrics, if you'll except the stunning opener and the cover that starts the album, and the stunning artwork depicts the band in full stride.

Starting on the emblematic and instrumental Dark Side Of The Moog (probably Col II's best track over their three albums) with its 100 mph ELP-esque intro and its slower-paced Mahavishnu middle section body, it's clear that Airey is no Emerson, but then again Keith is no Don either. RTF is also not far away on this particular track After the bizarre and interminable (quasi 9 minutes) Joni Mitchell reprise (I guess she was well seen among jazzmen after her homage album to Mingus) and Starrs' dramatic vocal delivery of the first verse, contrasting heavily with the following ones, it's clear that Starr's place in the group could've been occupied by MMEB's Chris Thompson. The following G&L is a funky cowbell affair (excellent Hiseman, here) with softer medium rare middle section.

The tree tracks of the flipside are a bit of the same mould, except maybe for the 10-mins+ Winds, which starts on a drum solo. Indeed Secret Place is probably the weakest track of the album, but since it's the shortest ... but I find Starr's singing intrusive and unbalanced. On Second Thought, this track is particularly insufferable (and not just on the second thought) with its awful first part where Starrs tries to emulate some of the worst Motown divas into soppy love tracks. Once he shuts up, then the last two minutes show some fine music that leads into the closing Winds. Indeed the closer is an RTF or Brand X type of hard fusion, and if Starrs does sing, it's much less present and the four musicians have a ball at it.

Personally I find Starr's voice irritating and mixed way too loud, often over-shadowing the rest of the group, and since he sings wayayayayay too often, it simply ruins the album for me, as I don't want to suffer them vocals to listen to the music behind it. Musically if this first album SNF is a gigantic step in the right direction compared to Tempest's two albums, it's also another long way before approaching the red hot fusion of the next two albums to come and we can't really say that I hear much of the original Colosseum either. Attack this album last, in case you're sure you like the later two albums.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |


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