Colosseum - Daughter of Time

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-09-01

Colosseum’s Valentyne Suite is a symbiotic organic blend of jazz, blues, and progressive rock. This third album, Daughter of Time, contains those same elements, but the resulting record is a hybrid musical (civil) civil war, with new vocalist Chris Farlowe leading the charge with his overly dramatic delivery. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s just an opinion.

Jon Hiseman, Colosseum’s legendary drummer and master of ceremonies, expressed a different view in the liner notes to the old Castle CD reissue as he said, “However, the band I consider ‘Classic Colosseum’ had found itself” with his album.

Now, that’s probably a much better opinion because my entire academic musical legacy rests on one claim to have earned a B grade in a college music major introduction course. To tell the truth, everyone else in the class always sported a colorful band camp tee-shirt and played several instruments; I wore John Fogerty flannel and could sort of tune my own guitar. The college professor, who was one hell of a nice teacher, offered the more than passing grade if I vowed then and there to never take another music class at the university. I think he was telling me not to quit my day job, and, perhaps, find another major.

Honestly, after all these years, I believe both Jon Hiseman and my “old saxophone player college professor” to be correct. And there is a lot to love about this album. Any fan of Uriah Heep in mid-Salisbury and Look at Yourself mode will enjoy this music. Gerry Bron managed both bands. And, quite frankly, the title track lends a few notes to the Heep’s later Sweet Freedom album. The dramatic jazz rock will also appeal to fans of King Crimson as they morphed from In the Wake of Poseidon into Lizard. The opening song “Three Score and Ten” is an example: The sax wails; Clem Clempson’s guitar wah wahs; and there is a poetry bit recited about “running swiftly down the tunnel of time.” The song “Time Lament” has a Crimson “Indoor Games” feel with the addition of classical strings.

However, both Uriah Heep and Crimson calmed the chaos every once in a while. As Ken Hensley said with some rock ‘n’ roll profundity in his liner notes for Heep’s Look at Yourself, “We were looking for a contrast because, you know, the ‘heavy’ thing gets, well heavy sometimes.” And Crimson’s oddball Lizard nestled into the quiet autumnal grove with “Lady of the Dancing Water.” Colosseum, even its quietest moments on this record, plays with the intensity needle burning into a red zone warning. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Now, as I have said, Chris Farlowe’s dramatic vocals may be an acquired taste. I prefer the more subdued approach of the former singer and guitar player James Litherland from Valentyne Suite. But, again, that’s just an opinion. And, the amazing sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith (whose playing is sublime through this record) expressed a contrary thought as he wrote in his autobiography, “Chis Farlowe joined Colosseum. Now we were a six-piece, with on lead vocals a veritable master.”

Again, my musical credibility is rather tenuous. Although, I do remember the kindly professor saying I could return to one of his classes if I ever developed an ear that could discern the difference between a 2nd and 7th interval. And in all fairness, Chris Farlowe went on to grace my one my favorite bands, Atomic Rooster, for their Made in England album, so none other than Vincent Crane gave the guy the nod. And really, he does sound like a cross between Bachman Turner Overdrive’s burley C. F. (I love volume) Turner and the great Phil Minton of Mike Westbrook and solo fame.  I love both singers.

Well, “Take Me Back to Doomsday” has the future Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson on vocals. That may or may not be a welcome relief. And Dave Greenslade’s keyboard imprint cuts deep and dynamic grooves. Jon Hiseman is correct: This is an ace band with the addition of Mark Clarke (of momentary Uriah Heep fame) on bass guitar. The band does a nice cover of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s “Theme for an Imaginary Western” which is an entirely different animal from the song on Songs from a Tailor.

Now, with all this discussion of my academic music studies, I have to say that until recently, I held onto the thin thread of a hope that Donald Trump University, once it had produced a cornucopia of real estate savants and several millionaires, would perhaps expand its palette to include a musical degree program, which, if paid enough cash and with the erudition of his “hand-picked instructors,” could find some way to teach me that difference between those illusive 2nd and 7th intervals. Sadly, what with The Donald becoming President and the 25 million dollar law suit about the fraud and all of that, I doubt my dream will ever be realized. So let’s just say I still won’t be able to quit my day job.

The album ends with the triad beginning with the instrumental “Bring Out Your Dead” (which is later reprised in demo version as a bonus track) and the bluesy “Downhill and Shadows.” But then the unforgivable sin: the final track, “The Time Machine,” is eight minutes of a live Jon Hiseman drum solo. My friend, Kilda Defnut, who has created her own theology based on books, music, and dogs, stated in her Sacred Maxim XXIV: “There’s only one thing worse than an eight minute drum solo smack dab in the middle of a record, and that’s an eight minute drum solo at the end of a record.” I was weaned on great album finales. The Beatles had “A Day in the Life.” Wishbone Ash ended the epic Argus with “Throw Down the Sword.” Jethro Tull wound up Aqualung with “Wind Up.” Genesis ended Foxtrot with a vision of God. And this album closed its curtains with a long drum solo. Yeah, it was like opening the last Christmas present as a kid only to sadly find a pair of socks instead of the much desired Green Lantern action figure.

No, on second thought it was much worse: This was a rock album with a cruddy ending, so it was a magnified tragedy to my teenaged ears.

 Perhaps, that’s my bone of contention that’s still a bone of contention even after all these years.

My suggestion, without any desire to destroy history and heritage, is to shuttlecock that drum solo with digital freedom off to a fairly muted level of Dante’s Inferno and call up, as an ending tune, the lengthy bonus  track “Pirate’s Dream,” which sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith said, “took six months in rehearsal.” It’s a pretty wonderful track. Unfortunately, bands that care enough to dissect a song into a scientific specimen pretty much end up with textbook perfection and a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Ultimately, this is a very different album from its predecessor. Yeah, I loved Valentyne Suite. That one was time-tested and organically grown through concert performance. This is very much a studio album. In some ways, it’s a much better album; but in other ways, it just is too claustrophobic for my taste. So let’s just say Colosseum was a great band with immense talent; they were a great band for three albums and then a live one. And they have had a few reunion gigs. Let’s just say they made music for everyone. And let’s just say that everyone, even a music school dropout who managed to earn a sympathetic B in an intro class, can still love this music.

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