Colosseum - Those Who Are About to Die Salute You - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Colosseum - Those Who Are About to Die Salute You

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-07-28

This is an excellent Esoteric expanded reissue of Colosseum's first record. It's the original eight track album with three bonus tracks, "I Can't Live Without You," "In the Heat of the Moment," and a demo of "Those About to Die." I"m not a fan of silly additions to the original, but these are worth a listener's time.

Colosseum’s sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith wrote in his autobiography, “In short, I came face to face with my own intellectual bankruptcy, and shortly after that I realized that I had only one reliable ally in my paltry armoury of thought-aids: my skepticism. It was the one tool I needed to make merciless war on comfortable lies.”

That’s why this album is so important.

The music is wonderful blues-jazz-progressive rock. And the band members all have Westminster rock pedigrees. The all star line-up includes Jon Hiseman, Dave Greenslade, Tony Reeves, James Litherland, and the before mentioned Dick Heckstall-Smith. And each one is, as King Crimson’s Robert Fripp once called band mate Mel Collins, a “guvnor player.”

But it’s not King Crimson. It’s must looser than that. Although if the Islands version of Crimso had cut another record, and Fripp cared to play the blues, and the band had a great organist…Well, that never happened.

“Walking in the Park” starts Those Who Are About to Die Salute You. It’s a Graham Bond song. Yeah, this group has British jazz history. It also has John Mayall British blues Bare Wires history. This is pretty standard fare. But there is so much energy. It’s truly amazing that all voices are heard. There was an odd British world music band called 3 Mustaphas who had the motto, “Forward in all directions!” This music is like that. “Pretty Hard Luck” is bluesy with that wonderful sax and then that wonderful organ, and then there’s that wonderful sax again. Jon Hiseman is a monster drummer. James Litherland (later of Mogul Thrash with John Wetton) keeps everything grounded in British wah-wah rock and roll. “Mandarin” and “Debut” are just classic British jazz rock. A comparison can be made to another British band called If who also turned its progressive music toward American tradition rather than English or European sources. Their album Waterfall possesses both jazz-rock brilliance and a very distinctive cover. Music was really quite interesting way back when.

Speaking of interesting, the next tune “Beware the Ides of March” will disqualify any number of contestants in a Name That Tune Contest. No, it’s not Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale.” It’s Bach’s “Air on a G String” (which both Mathew Fisher and our Colosseum borrowed). This is blues-jazz-classical and everything else stuff.

In Mark Twain’s Huck Finn (a book I love to quote) our hero Huckleberry complains about the “victuals” and says “everything was cooked by itself.” That’s the way of the “sivilized” world. Huck prefers his food to “get mixed up” because “the juice kind of swaps around and the things go better.” Yeah, this album “swaps around” and yes, “things go better.” Progressive music “swapped things around.” That’s why it was so interesting. You name the band: Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, Caravan, even Savoy Brown or Ten Years After, they all “swapped things around.”

You know, this music is, indeed, as the sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith claimed, “War on comfortable lies.” It defies limits; it defies comfortable categories. This music opens doors, even “doors of perception.” It is music that, indeed, goes "forward in all directions." This music told some sort of alternative truth (no to be confused with the term alternative facts) to a generation who carried these albums around like a rite of passage. It all ends with “Backwater Blues,” all seven plus minutes of swirling organ, jazzy sax, Litherland’s deep bluesy guitar, and Hiseman’s percussion on a cover of a Huddie Ledbetter song. And the title track, which is a blistering jazz rock workout for all concerned, gave a good glance at what could be done with a three minute pop song in 1968.  Sure, that three minute pop song was comfortable. It was a nice place to live. But this record, like the best of progressive rock, gave a taste of a much more interesting world.

Just a point of confusion: Being a Midwestern American guy who bought the Dunhill release of this record years ago (before imports were available), I was a bit mixed up because the album has an American version with an altered cover and some different tracks. In fact, the “Valentyne Suite” from the second album takes up the second side of this first record.  But it’s all set straight with this Esoteric reissue which is the original English version of Those of You About to Die Salute You with the correct eight tracks, and three bonus tracks to boot. And, to set the record even straighter, Colosseum’s second album Valentyne Suite is also intact (See the next review) with the epic title track back where it belongs. The people at Esoteric Records have included The Grass Is Greener which was a butchered version of Valentyne Suite  (it had the same cover with a different tint) released in America that could not contain the "Suite" because the powers that be way back then had put the thing on the band’s first stateside album. Various CD issues along the way fixed the confusion a bit. But Esoteric fixed everything and included everything. Let’s just say, just for once, life makes some sort of sense. Thank you very much Esoteric Records!

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Colosseum - Those Who Are About to Die Salute You - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Colosseum - Valentyne Suite
  • 07/25/2017
  • By Bill Golembeski