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Time On Our Side
As well as giving label space to a considerable quotient of promising and energetic youthful bluesers, Ruf Records, less-frequently but admirably, gives encouragement to more mature pioneers who remain key to the development of the complex polygon that is modern blues.
With Jon Hiseman, the late Dick Heckstall-Smith and Hammond pilot Dave Greenslade aboard, the first Colosseum tip-toed around ‘the blues’ at the jazzier end of its spectrum, the experimental and improvisational nature of recordings and gigs earning them the respect of prog fans into the bargain. The 2014 incarnation of the band sees Hiseman, Greenslade and fellow original member Clem Clempson aboard. They are supplemented by Hiseman’s wife, saxophonist Barbara Thompson, an occasional uncredited contributor to early Colosseum releases, bassman Mark Clarke and Chris Farlowe, both of whose history with Colosseum goes back to 1970.
And it’s that same willingness to elbow their way out of genre straitjackets that defines Time On Our Side, where Colosseum are content to pick and mix licks and tricks from the rock n roll smorgasbord and beyond as their strong, well-structured songs demand.
Clempson’s bluesy guitar coils around arrangements, with his contribution of tasteful and ethereal bottleneck snaking through the vocals on ‘You Don’t Get It’. His memorable, almost geometric guitar figure underpins a rousing rock climax to ‘Anno Domini’, the working title for the album, it seems, where Farlowe soars soulfully over almost Baroque keyboard and saxophone interplay. The singer’s album highlight is ‘City Of Love’, where Colosseum jazz swing perches solidly on Mark Clarke’s massive walking bass riff.
Hiseman and Thompson’s daughter, singer and writer Ana Gracey guests, singing her own ‘Blues To Music’ with panache and soul.
The band feels privileged to have Barbara still aboard as her constant battle with illness is a frequent limiter to recording and touring. Yet, she has rarely sounded freer and more energised than on Time On Our Side, scorching the reeds on ‘Safe As Houses’ and adding beautiful emotional brass embellishments from start to finish.
Hiseman’s original vision for Colosseum was, ‘…rocky, jazzy rhythms, vocals with intelligent words, improvised solos”.
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