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Colosseum: Breads and Circuses

Glenn Astarita By

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Colosseum: Breads and Circuses Veteran jazz rockers Colosseum have been on and off the scene since 1969. They released 5 albums and as drummer and leader Jon Hiseman proclaims in the liner notes, "The worlds first ever jazz rock group...etc". This statement is clearly debatable; however, in their collective prime they dazzled audiences, released fine cutting edge LP's and were among the finest of the British jazz and jazz-rock musicans.

Hiseman is the leader and has been a staple in the British jazz scene most notably with his wife, British saxophonist Barbara Thompson. Other members including keyboardist Dave Greenslade formed a cutting edge prog-rock band in the 70's, simply called "Greenslade." Guitarist Dave Clempson, who has recorded with Jack Bruce, and multi-reedman Dick Heckstall-Smith are a few of the more recognizable names among this band. Hiseman's drumming was world class. Explosive, dynamic and when necessary, refined. Hiseman also recorded a classic LP called Tempest. This LP was recorded in the early 70's and featured the great guitarist Allan Holdsworth along with Colosseum bassist Mark Clarke. As a young teen I was overwhelmed with the superb musicanship of these chaps. Time passes by and here we have the new release.

Breads and Circuses is the newly released Colosseum effort on Cloud Nine Records. Frankly, I was expecting a 90's version, perhaps with a touch of finesse and refinement in accordance with my personal wishes. Ladies and Gentleman, this is a rock record. This, of course is not intended to be detrimental, but gone are the firey crescendos, maddening pace, inventive interplay.

A rock record and a not a very memorable one at that. There are eleven cuts, including one instrumental called "The One That Got Away." The instrumental track is too little too late. Tracks 1-5 are standard rock ballad fare minus any memorable melodies, creative solos, or, to summarize, anything else to get excited about. Very little in the way of compositional attributes appear throughout this CD. Track 6, "The Playground" is perhaps the best cut, a memorable tune with a nice hook (a tune which draws similarities to that wonderful "Cantebury Prog Scene" of the 1970's). Unfortunately, the majority of these cuts do not justify enough solid material for an entire CD. No one takes control and the effort seems staid, complacent and ordinary. A solid rock beat, a few catchy horn arrangements, crisp vocals, but in a nutshell I struggled to make it through the entire CD without reaching for the "eject" button.

Duke Ellington once said something similar to, good music is good music regardless of the genre, idiom or classification. This CD fails despite the capabilities of these men. Personally, this CD stands as one of the great under-achievements of recent times. These boys can play, but here they wander into territory that others seem to do much better.


Track Listing: Watching Your Every Move; Bread & Circuses; Wherever I Go; High Time; Big Deal; The Playground; No Pleasin; I Could Tell You Tales; Storms Behind the Breeze; The One That Got Away; The Other Side Of The Sky.

Musicians:Jon Hiseman: drums; Chris Farlowe: vocals; Dick Heckstall-Smith: saxes; Clem Clempson: guitar; Mark Clarke: bass, vocals: Additional horns: Barbara Thompson

Title: Breads and Circuses | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Cloud Nine


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