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Colosseum II - 1976 Strange New Flesh

ARTIST: Colosseum II
ALBUM: Strange New Flesh
LABEL: Bronze
YEAR: 1976
CD REISSUE: 1999, Castle Music (UK), CMACD 513

LINEUP: Don Airey - synthesizer, keyboards * Jon Hiseman - drums, percussion * Gary Moore - guitars, vocals * Neil Murray - bass * Mike Starrs - vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Dark Side Of The Moog * 02 Down To You * 03 Gemini And Leo * 04 Secret Places * 05 Winds

In a world dominated by Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and ELP, Colosseum were a groundbreaking band that often gets short changed in progressive rock history. Colosseum's mixture of rock, blues and jazz styles were not only groundbreaking in their originality, but powerful and at times devastatingly beautiful. The albums 'Valentyne Suite' and the group's final studio recording 'Daughter Of Time' are essential in any serious prog collection. Moving forward four years and far removed from the early progressive/jazz rock sounds of Colosseum, drummer John Hiseman resurrected the group in 1975 only this time following a high energy fusion direction patterned after Return To Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Just look at this stellar line-up, a who's who of classic rock with resumes too long and extensive to list here. Gary Moore, Don Airey, Neil Murray along with Hiseman's brilliant drumming and Scottish vocalist Mike Starrs; Colosseum II was a recipe for success albeit short lived. Following this record and tour of Europe and North America, Starrs and Murray were sent their walking papers by the record label, although the band would record two more albums 'Electric Savage' and 'Wardance' with bassist John Mole.

The Songs
In my opinion, this is the best of the group's three albums simply because it's more accessible thanks in part to the vocals of Mike Starrs. I have often heard complaints from other progressive fans that Mike Starrs vocal stylizations are a 'turn off' which is something I just can't understand, especially considering he has a classic rock voice and so many prog vocalists are.. well let's be honest vocals have never been the genre's strong suit. Back to the album at hand, the instrumental fireworks explode of the first track 'Dark Side Of The Moog' with breathtaking keyboard work from Don Airey. The Joni Mitchell penned 'Down To You' slows things down a bit and so far based on just these two tracks, the first three Journey albums are the closest comparisons I can come up with. This is a beautiful song with typically stellar guitar work from Moore. What else would you expect? I am not that enamored with the funky 'Gemini And Leo', but 'Secret Places' is a return to form as is 'Second Thoughts' and the mind-blowing closer 'Winds' again bringing to mind 'Next' period Journey and will certainly bring much joy to fans of the band's pre-Perry era.

In Summary
'Strange New Flesh' has been reissued twice on CD, recently with a brace of unreleased material. Following the split with this lineup Neil Murray managed a brief stint with Canterbury favourites National Health and of course followed up with appearances on several classic Whitesnake albums. Mike Starrs would replace John Lawton in Lucifer's Friend for two albums and recently has turned up in German AOR faves Lake who have recently released a studio disc and live DVD.

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#1 | dangerzone on February 14 2008 00:45:43
Great band, I think i reviewed their best of here somewhere. Some of the best fusion ever played. Moore was at his best with this band.
#2 | gdazegod on February 14 2008 01:39:31
You're right Alun. It was a Gary Moore compilation from 1996 - with Colosseum II tracks onboard. Just had to double check.
#3 | Eric on February 14 2008 14:04:07
Odd nothing was included from this album on the comp Alun. While the other two albums (in particular 'Wargames') are excellent, 'Strange New Flesh' is the best by far.

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