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The Record Vault – Colosseum II

I saw this at a record fair in the 90’s and as soon as I saw the name Gary Moore attached to it, well it was a straight up grab.

Released in 1977, when Punk was starting to rule the airwaves around the world.

Gary Moore is on guitars and vocals, Don Airey is on all things Moog and Organ related, John Mole is on drums and John Hiseman on drums. It’s important that this project is not confused with Colosseum which was more of a jazz band whereas Colosseum II is more progressive rock. Same drummer in both bands.

And hearing this album, I was blown away at how many different career paths Gary Moore has had/tried. A true virtuoso.

Hard Rock. Tick. Blues Rock. Tick. Blues. Tick. Jazz. Tick. Progressive Rock. Tick. Acoustic Spanish Flamenco. Tick. Heavy Metal. Tick. Folk Rock. Tick.

It’s the third album of Colosseum II and it’s all instrumental apart from the terrible “Castles” which is a vocal track.

“Wardance” has a 2 minute introduction which sounds like it came from an ELP or Yes album. I was putting my armour on, swording up and ready to go to war. I swear I heard something similar on “Ben Hur”.

Don Airey can really play that Moog/Organ whereas in the hard rock setting he was just adding flavours to the songs. Here, he is a lead instrument.

“Major Keys” is a funk jazz jam, very similar to the stuff that Yes put out on their first three albums.

“Put It This Way” has a lot of interplay between Moore and Airey and a lot of chromatic like riffs, with fast blues grooves.

“Fighting Talk” is like a 12 bar blues shuffle, sped up. And Airey really shines on this with his Moog leads while Moore counters with his growling Gibson.

“Inquisition” is like an Al DiMeola track and I love it. Gary Moore really shreds on this on both the electric and acoustic.

And at 6 minutes long, I wasn’t bored.

At its centerpiece is a mood that evokes the metal, dungeons, dragons, doom and exotic scales that Malmsteen would bring forth on the first four “Rising Force” albums.

The spacey trilogy of “Star Maiden/Mysterioso/Quasar” has this guitar piece in “Mysterioso” that I call the Rush section but it happened before Rush did it.

And the band knew that this was their last album, so they got out with a bang on “Last Exit”. It starts off slowly as it percolates. Credit to bassist Jon Mole for laying down a solid foundation and Airey this time around is more in support.

And then Moore starts soloing.

It is so emotive and heartfelt, the hairs rise up on the back of my neck.

And he’s gone as well.

Taken from us and we will never hear another new note from him.

For fans of Moore’s hard rock career, this song is essential listening.

Essential. Okay.

In other words, Gary Moore really shines here.

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