Friends, Ro­mans, coun­try­men, lend this your ears.

Prog - - Intro - CE

Founded in 1968 by two es­capees from the Gra­ham Bond Or­gan­i­sa­tion and John May­all’s Blues­break­ers, Colos­seum com­bined jazz, rock and blues in an in­no­va­tive style. In­deed, the five-piece, led by drum­mer Jon Hise­man and sax­o­phon­ist Dick Heck­stall-Smith, were praised by Tit Bits magazine as “The best in pro­gres­sive Bri­tish mu­sic.”

Stick­ing by their maxim “no drug ad­dicts and no time-wasters”, Colos­seum recorded two al­bums – Those Who Are About To Die Sa­lute You and Va­len­tyne Suite – in one highly pro­duc­tive year.

The pres­ence of the dev­il­ish old gaffer Bond looms from the out­set, with his com­po­si­tion Walk­ing In The Park and the blueswail­ing Plenty Hard Luck. De­but is the kind of up­tempo groove which would have kept the all-night pa­trons of Soho alight, with plenty of room for char­ac­ter­ful so­los. Like Roland Kirk, Dick Heck­stall-Smith was a keen ad­vo­cate of the prin­ci­ple ‘never blow just one sax when two will do the job’. The jaunty glad­i­a­to­rial ti­tle track will be fa­mil­iar to view­ers of 1969’s Su­per­show all-star jam, where it rolled over the cred­its. Things take a melan­choly turn on Be­ware The Ides Of March, rem­i­nis­cent of the King Cur­tis sax ver­sion of A Whiter Shade Of Pale as fea­tured on the OST for drug­gies and time­wasters, With­nail & I.

Sec­ond al­bum Va­len­tyne Suite, in­ci­den­tally the Ver­tigo la­bel’s first swirl, con­tains the im­mor­tal open­ing line ‘Why the ket­tle dry?’ The Machine De­mands A Sac­ri­fice gives up more por­ten­tous verses and just when we think the cow­bell has faded into the dis­tance, back it comes for more. Imag­i­na­tive mu­si­cian­ship abounds and the tri­part Va­len­tyne Suite is a triumph, with key­board mae­stro Dave Greenslade in full flight.

These days singer/guitarist James Lither­land is more of­ten re­ferred to as the fa­ther of James Blake, rather than one of the mem­bers of Colos­seum, who con­tin­ued tour­ing un­til 2015.

So it seems timely to give an­other ap­pre­cia­tive round of ap­plause to the prog pi­o­neers whose per­for­mances rarely fell below peak.

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