Colosseum Live 1969 – 1971
Colosseum, one of the first bands to fuse jazz, rock & blues, were formed in Spring 1968 by drummer Jon Hiseman with tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith, who had previously worked together in the New Jazz Orchestra and in The Graham Bond Organisation, where Hiseman had replaced Ginger Baker in 1966. They met up again early in 1968 when they both played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, during which time they played on the Bare Wires album. Childhood friend Dave Greenslade was quickly recruited on organ, as was bass player Tony Reeves who had also known both Hiseman and Greenslade since being teenage musicians in South East London. The band’s line-up was completed, after lengthy auditions, by Jim Roche on guitar and James Litherland (guitar & vocals), although Roche only recorded one track before departing.
Their first album, Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, which opened with the Bond composition “Walkin’ in the Park”, was released by the Philips’ Fontana label in early 1969. In March the same year they were invited to take part in Supershow, a two-day filmed jam session, along with Modern Jazz Quartet, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Roland Kirk Quartet, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, and Juicy Lucy.
Colosseum’s second album, later in 1969, was Valentyne Suite, notable as the first release on Philip’s newly launched Vertigo label, established to sign and develop artists that did not fit the main Philips’ brand, and the first label to sign heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath.
For the third album, The Grass Is Greener, released only in the United States in 1970, Dave “Clem” Clempson replaced James Litherland. Louis Cennamo then briefly replaced Tony Reeves on bass, but was replaced in turn by Mark Clarke within a month. Then Hiseman recruited vocalist Chris Farlowe to enable Clempson to concentrate on guitar. This lineup had already partly recorded the 1970 album Daughter of Time.
In March 1971, the band recorded concerts at the Big Apple Club in Brighton and at Manchester University. Hiseman was impressed with the atmosphere at the Manchester show, and the band returned five days later for a free concert that was also recorded. The recordings were released as a live double album Colosseum Live in 1971. In October 1971 the original band broke up.
During that time bootlegs were a big part of the scene. Repertoire Records has curated the best of the best and these albums are now ‘officially’ available for digital download for the first time. Physical copies are also on their way fully restored and remastered by Clem Clempson and Eroc.