As much as I love new bands that are plowing and mining their Dad’s record collections – there are worse things than reinventing Humble Pie, Zeppelin and The Faces – it would be nice to go back and give credit to the lesser known masters. For me, that’s Cactus.
Here’s a review of the recently released live album plus a link to a feature I wrote for Pop Culture Press when I interviewed Carmine Appice. You really need to get the DVD of the show I saw in NYC a couple of summers ago, but hopefully something will finally surface featuring Rusty Day and a fearless Jim McCarty lighting crowds on fire.
Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs, Vol. 2 (Rhino Handmade)
The miracle continues. After 35+ years of existing primarily in the rapidly deteriorating brain cells of those who witnessed the magic, Rhino Handmade has added the third two-CD collection of rediscovered, remastered Cactus magic, this time from a barn-burning concert at a suburban Buffalo rock hole called Gilligan’s. A horribly recorded (and incomplete) bootleg has been circulating for years among collectors. But this version – recorded by Eddie Kramer on the Electric Ladyland mobile unit – is a sparkling and riveting document that should erase any doubt that Cactus were once the biggest baddest blues/boogie mofos walking the Earth.
Opening (as they often did) with a Fudge-like version of “Long Tall Sally”, this 1971 show finds the band blistering tracks from their first three albums as well as a couple of unrecorded rarities (“Mellow Down Easy”) and covers (“What’d I Say”). Augmented by second guitarist Ron Leejack, Jim McCarty got a chance to really cut loose on his solos; “Scrambler/One Way Or Another” is astounding. Between the heavy thunder of the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section, McCarty’s axe pyrotechnics and vocalist Rusty Day’s front man prowess, a mortal audience didn’t stand a chance. Sure there’s a drum solo – it is 1971, after all – but this bittersweet document will make you wonder what might have been if the core could have stuck it out a little longer. Wildman Day was soon forced out of the band, a frustrated McCarty then left to form/join The Rockets, and Bogert and Appice bailed after one more lineup to join Jeff Beck, which imploded even faster.
Rhino Handmade releases well made limited edition packages that often sell out quickly. The two prior Cactus sets, long out of print, fetch in excess of $100 on the market. I highly advise that interested parties grab this latest gem before they finish reading this magazine.