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Colosseum - 1978 - "Wardance" (43 min, UK)

Gary Moore   - guitars, vocals (4)
Don Airey    - keyboards
John Mole    - bass
Jon Hiseman  - drums

1. War Dance
2. Major Keys
3. Put it that Way
4. Castles
5. Fighting Talk
6. The Inquisition
7. Star Maiden
8. Last Exit

Written mostly by Moore or Moore / Airey / Hiseman. Produced by Hiseman.

Beginning from 1976, the band is named Colosseum-2, but I can't imagine this reincarnation of the legendary drummer and producer Jon Hiseman's Colosseum as a separate project. Well, the leader of the band Hiseman from then on has played just a second part in the composition of the pieces, but a study of the original style was fully unharmed and even improved. The first album of Colosseum-2 "Strange New Flesh" (1976, featuring Moore, Airey, and Hiseman, with Neil Murray on bass and Mike Starr on vocals) stylistically is absolutely similar to "Daughter of Time" (1970) with strong vocals in place. But the next album, and especially "Wardance", are more mature works with tightly executed compositions based on a superb dueling of electric and acoustic guitars and varying keyboards. And if you're not familiar with Colosseum, you don't have a faintest idea of the greatness of such musicians as Gary Moore and Don Airey, who win a universal respect with anything but Colosseum. When I try to demonstrate this very creative period of Moore to his traditional "Hard-rock" fans, they get most disinterested. I also need to say that Colosseum-1 had played high-quality virtuoso fusion in the vein of more well-known Mahavishnu Orchestra long before the appearance of the latter.

The album. War Dance opens with a keyboard solo supported with a powerful rhythm-section. After a bombastic improvisational intro of truely aggressive bass / drums attacks, the composition moves on into a more symphonic, but extremely heavy, direction. During the next three minutes keyboards play a prominent role by very fast, various and intricate arrangements and improvisations. But I'm not sure that the technical level and originality of Don Airey can be compared to those of the well-known virtuoso Rick Wakeman. Then the battle of keyboards is replaced by dueling driving electric guitars. Wow! This is Moore. You wouldn't recognise him now! A beautiful prog-jam closes the piece with each instrument participating.

The second one, Major Keys, opening with a short drumming, is not so adventurous as the first. A bit more jazzy, with some spacey fragments, this composition is just a nice fusion, where the guitar shows only so-so interesting solos in the track. In Put it that Way the usual fast bombastic sound retains the energetic tempo, but now with varied themes and improvisations of guitar and keyboards. Castles is the only vocals-based composition, very similar to "Strange New Flesh" or the early Colosseum's works (except for Valentine Suite), although you can hear fine synths arrangements in this one too.

The second (longest) part of the album is truly the peak of all Colosseum's creation. Fighting Talk is a great Prog-fusion composition led in turn by a heavy guitar and a virtuoso synthsizer. The next composition, The Inquisition, begins in the same mood, with heavy guitar riffs and solos, crossed by keyboards. But somewhere in the middle the main theme is unexpectedly replaced by another one with long, varied, simply mind-blowing acoustic guitar solos. Nearer to the end this true masterpiece of fusion returns to a heavier realm. Containing all the hallmarks of jazz-rock, as well as of symphonic prog, The Inquisition is the best composition of the band of all times.

Star Maiden, the next one, is, I'm sure, the second best thing from this great band. Unlike the others, Star Maiden is a pure classic symphonic prog-piece. Extremely heavy as usual, but with different etudes. The final Last Exit is stylistically similar to the most heavy tracks of the album, though it's short, and the lead guitar dominates here.

Summary. Hidden for many prog and jazz-rock fans, this is one of the best works of the style. This is progressive fusion of high energy, sometimes in the vein of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return To Forever, but with exceptions. The relentless beautiful interplays between Moore and Airey as well as all the arrangements and improvisations, including jazz, are composed, in contradiction to pure jazz, where improvisation is just a state of mind. Therefore, the fusion made by Colosseum is favourably compared with more traditional jazz-rock bands. This band will give pleasure to jazz-rock fans as well as to symphonic prog-heads. A similar band is Brand X, especially their works in the '90s.

The album is released by "MCA" records, but CD-reissue is made by an independent American label "One Way Records". Unfortunately, the design and, the most important thing, the sound don't boast of an excellent quality. content

VM. 8.10.1998


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