Archive for December, 2010

Interlude – Holidays

I have to apologize to all the faithful readers of this blog for having more or less dropped off the face of the earth in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, there are times in which our creative vein seems to have dried off, when coming up with something interesting (or even coherent) becomes an ordeal rather than a pleasure. For a number of reasons, in the past month or so I have hit such a patch, and that has inevitably affected my output as a reviewer, as well as my overall motivation.

My biggest apology goes to all those musicians who have sent me their material to review, and to whom I promised to produce something in short order. I hope that they, as creative artists, will understand my plight, and be  willing to wait a little longer for me to produce a decent write-up on their material. As things stand now, I would probably turn out  something definitely sub-par, and disappoint their expectations.

It is therefore a lucky coincidence that an almost three-week trip to Italy is coming up in a few days, which will allow me to unplug and recharge my batteries, so to speak – staying away from computers, spending time with family and friends, or just walking through the streets of Rome (which I have been missing so badly) and enjoying the festive atmosphere. I believe I burned myself out when churning out 12 reviews per month, and now need to regain afresh my enthusiasm for this very rewarding activity.

On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity for me to wish the very best to all of you who have supported my blog in the past few months, and made sure it gets a fair number of visits every week, even when new posts are few and far between as they have been this month of December. I hope you will all spend a great holiday season with your family and friends, and then be ready to face a new year full of exciting musical challenges. Thank you for your friendship and support, and see you in 2011!

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1. Three Score And Ten, Amen (5:36)
2. Time Lament (6:04)
3. Take Me Back To Doomsday (4:26)
4. The Daughter Of Time (3:30)
5. Theme For An Imaginary Western (4:05)
6. Bring Out Your Dead (4:25)
7. Downhill And Shadows (6:11)
8. The Time Machine (8:12)

Jon Hiseman – drums
Dick-Heckstall-Smith – saxes
Dave Greenslade – organ, piano, vibes
Clem Clempson – guitar, vocals
Mark Clarke  – bass
Chris Farlowe – vocals

Barbara Thompson – flute, saxes
Louis Cennamo – bass

Colosseum’s first studio album since the departure of singer/guitarist James Litherland (who went on to form the short-lived Mogul Thrash, known for having been John Wetton’s first band) sounds at the same time similar and unlike its illustrious predecessor, Valentyne Suite.  In comparison with the latter, it is a bluesier, jazzier effort, somewhat ‘bigger’-sounding, and with a harder, more guitar-oriented edge.

While progressive rock  fans will find a lot to enjoy in Daughter of Time, at least as regards the instrumental performances, new singer Chris Farlowe’s powerful, blues-tinged vocals do not fit with many people’s expectations of what a prog singer should sound like, and for some they may even be an acquired taste. To these ears, though, his voice is simply stunning, and complements perfectly the epic sweep and overall uplifting mood of the album.

I set great store by the opening track of an album, and “Three Score and Ten, Amen” does not disappoint, with Farlowe’s commanding vocals fitting perfectly into the lush texture of Colosseum’s music. Saxophonist  Dick Heckstall-Smith is joined by Barbara Thompson (Jon Hiseman’s wife) on flute, so that the presence of a mini brass section boosts the band’s already dramatic sound, providing a foil for Hiseman’s textbook-perfect drumming. Clem Clempson’s brilliant guitar work shines throughout the album,  and the instrumental section of “Time Lament” showcases his sadly underrated skills as a six-stringer. “Take Me Back to Doomsday”, my own personal favourite, is an exhilarating ride dominated by an awesome vocal performance by Farlowe and Greenslade’s scintillating piano, as well as a soothing, tasteful flute section.

While the title-track may sound slightly too bombastic for comfort, “Theme for an Imaginary Western” is another vocal tour-de-force for Farlowe, though of a somewhat more understated nature than his trademark, over-the-top style. Originally written by legendary bassist Jack Bruce for his 1969 album, Songs for a Tailor, it is a melancholy ballad vaguely reminiscent of Procol Harum’s best efforts. The intricate instrumental “Bring Out Your Dead” “, featuring sterling organ work by Dave Greenslade, comes closest to the band’s sound on Valentyne Suite; while the powerful, bluesy “Downhill and Shadows” introduces the live recording of “The Time Machine”, mainly an extended solo by master drummer Jon Hiseman. Even if drum solos have the reputation of being all too often terminally boring, this one is eminently listenable even for non-musicians.

The release of Daughter of Time was followed in 1971 by the legendary  Colosseum Live!, and then by the rather unexpected demise of the band.  The same line-up got back together in 1994 for a tour, which led to a permanent reformation of Colosseum.  Barbara Thompson, who had often guested in the band’s live performances, eventually replaced Dick Heckstall-Smith after his untimely passing in 2004.  On any account, though not as ground-breaking as Valentyne Suite, and slightly less cohesive, Daughter of Time is an excellent offering, blending jazz, blues, classic rock and progressive stylings in a single package – as well as lashings of genuine emotion. A highly recommended release from one of the landmark years in the history of rock.

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