Colosseum - Live album review

The jazz rockers, live-r than they’ll ever be

Colosseum Live album cover

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Live albums are often seen as contract fillers, either by the band itching to move to another record company, or by the record company looking to flog the same hits twice. So you might raise a cynical eyebrow on learning that jazz-rockers Colosseum broke up shortly after this album came out in 1971.

But the tracklisting tells a different story. Only one of the tracks on this double album comes from their three earlier studio albums, because that’s how Colosseum operated. Led by drummer Jon Hiseman with wily sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith, Hammond organ maestro Dave Greenslade, and various guitarists and bassists, the band honed their material on stage rather than in the studio. The bonus CD proves the point, consisting largely of the same songs recorded at different venues.

At this point the line-up included guitarist Clem Clempson, en route to Humble Pie, and he gives the band a harder edge. There was also singer Chris Farlowe, whose soulful interjections can sometimes be jarring, but that’s probably deliberate.

They show off their style best on Skellington and their version of Jack Bruce’s Rope Ladder To The Moon. It’s as good as they were going to get and they were probably right to quit while they were ahead.

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.