What does it sound like?:
Back in the late sixties, with the advent of prog, along came Colosseum with their very own take on that brand, combining the genre with a strong jazz, rock and blues influence.
Recorded in 1968, their debut album, Those Who Are About To Die, combines freestyle jazz with British blues, and showcases the instrumental dexterity of the members to full effect, sometimes to too much effect in fact as one or two of the pieces wander on rather too long. Nevertheless, on the more successful tracks like Walking In The Park and Pretty Hard Luck, the band spread their wings and produce a great combination of sax, organ and guitar. Beware The Ides Of March even throws in a little Bach reference for good measure. This remastered edition also has three bonus tracks recorded at the time, of which I Can’t Live Without You is the best of the bunch for me. It’s not a bad album, although some of it seems rather of its time now, and overall it’s not aged that well.
Released just six months later, Valentyne Suite is, I think, the band’s best album, bringing a more focussed and tighter feel to their sound. The centrepiece is the lengthy three part title track, an early example perhaps of what prog was to bring in the next few years, but that’s not to neglect the great groove of opener The Kettle, nor the epic The Machine Demands A Sacrifice, with typically obscure lyrics by Pete Brown. This album has one extra track, Tell me Now, tacked rather incongruously on the end of disc one – it’s nothing special and seems a little bit of an afterthought, coming after the album proper has concluded. The second cd in this edition has the US only 1970 album The Grass Is Greener. This duplicates three tracks from the UK album, but in remixed form and featuring Clem Clempson on guitar, replacing the departed James Litherland. The remaining five songs were unreleased in the UK at the time – the strongest is Rope Ladder To The Moon, perhaps more well known in the incarnation by Jack Bruce, while the strangest is their take on Ravel’s Bolero ! For me, the album, while demonstrating the band’s undoubted virtuosity, wanders off the point a bit too much and too often.
What does it all *mean*?
As I said earlier, Those About To Die, although a stunning debut at the time, hasn’t aged that well. The follow up is a vast improvement, and was the highpoint of the band’s career for me. I do much prefer the original UK album on the first cd of that set though, the second disc having a tendency to veer off into rather too much noodling for my taste.
Goes well with…
The music of other ‘fusion’ artists from in and around that era.
Might suit people who like…
The dreaded three words – jazz rock fusion!