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Colosseum II: War Dance

Glenn Astarita By

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Colosseum was established in 1968, following drummer Jon Hiseman—who sadly passed away in 2018 —and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith's affiliation with Graham Bond's Organisation, and John Mayall's now historic Bluesbreakers collective. As history dictates these bands became proving grounds for artists such as guitarists John McLaughlin (Graham Bond) and Eric Clapton (Bluesbreakers) amid others notables too numerous in scope to cite here. And a similar storyline could be attributed to Colosseum where many fine musicians, including keyboardist Dave Greenslade (Greenslade) and guitarist Dave "Clem" Clempson (Humble Pie), and Jack Bruce cut their teeth within a progressive rock, blues and jazz fusion format.

In 1975 Hiseman founded Colosseum II after the breakup of the initial group and his short-lived prog rock outfit Tempest, featuring nascent guitar god Allan Holdsworth, who appeared on the band's first album, released in 1973. Moving forward, Colosseum II issued its third effort, War Dance (MCA, 1977), with future hard rock and blues rock guitar god Gary Moore, keyboardist Don Airey and bassist John Mole, which was the result of some reshuffling from the previous lineups. It's easily the ensemble's finest outing, and perhaps a minor classic from that era. On the flip side, none of the band's albums generated much revenue due to lackluster sales. But on War Dance, the musicians' hyper-mode amalgamation of progressive rock, blues rock and jazz fusion is an unrelenting force field, packed with Moore and Airey's blistering and often fast-paced soloing sprees among other positive aspects.

The musicians perform with a vengeance, as these robust pieces are bristling with melodic hooks and climactic overtures, along with regimented unison choruses and the drummer's polyrhythmic ferocity and pulsating backbeats. During several movements of the opener "War Dance" the frontline renders sprightly regal choruses and muscular phrasings, escalated by Airey's fluid synth lines and Moore's fast and furious blitzes, spiced with the rhythm section's precision-oriented time signatures, executed with the greatest of ease. Moore and Airy often go toe-to toe, but tone it down on "Castles," which is a lovely ballad sung by Moore. Interestingly enough, the album notes advise that this was Moore's inaugural stint as a vocalist, leading to his subsequent and long-running solo career within blues and hard rock idioms prior to his untimely death in 2011.

"Fighting Talk" is a straightforward boogie blues rocker, where Moore bends his strings into submission and trades torrid fours with Airy as the duo's upper register voicings, and Moore's oscillating notes rendered with his whammy bar, yield the KO punch. Moreover, "Last Exit" is abetted by the guitarist's crunching rock chords and howling single note lines that ride above Hiseman and Mole's pungent support.

For all the collectors who wore out the original LP, and others interested in listening to these gifted instrumentalists, Esoteric/Cherry Red remastered this edition from the master tapes, including the original art work; liner notes, an essay by writer Malcolm Dome, and an interview with Jon Hiseman.

Track Listing

Wardance; Major Keys; Put It That Way; Castles; Fighting Talk; The Inquisition; Star Maiden / Mysterioso / Quasar; Last Exit.

Personnel

Gary Moore: guitar, vocals; Jon Hiseman: drums; Don Airey: keyboards; John Mole: bass.

Album information

Title: War Dance | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Esoteric Recordings

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