New Album! Cactus

A classic bootleg gets a proper release.

I’ve certainly waxed poetic about Cactus before. Growing up in the NYC area I was a lot closer to the flame, but as time passes on more people realize that these guys were monsters. Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert were the pulse of the Vanilla Fudge, a Long Island legend made good, while Jim McCarty and Rusty Day made their bones in Detroit.

At a time when album rock and FM radio were forming an unholy alliance, bands that could go deeper and heavier were prowling stages like panthers, and Cactus was capable of blowing anyone off the stage with thundering hard rock and boogie (and often, they did). It’s a shame that their flame only burned brightly for a few years. It’s an even bigger shame that forty years later, people still have to explain who they were.

In 1971, prior to the release of what would be their third and final studio album Restrictions, Cactus commandeered Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead New York for small, by-invitation-only gig that was simulcast on WLIR, Long Island’s premier rock radio station. Given the technology of the day, anyone prescient enough to tape the show had a pedestrian copy at best, and when bootleg versions started showing up years after the band’s demise they were anything but pristine. (When I mentioned this to Carmine, he was unaware that the bootlegs existed at all.)

The master tapes showed up at a swap meet in Austin; now restored and remastered it’s out there for all to enjoy. “Evil” absolutely crushes; one can only imagine the force of frontman Rusty Day contained in this tiny room. Axe whiz Jim McCarty is blazing throughout, and Bogert and Appice are in lockstep groove on bass and drums (obligatory solos aside; this was the 70s after all).

Cactus was no singles band, the hour-long recording features only seven tracks. And while by design it was not a greatest hits set,  it does include both classic halves of “Big Mama Boogie” and a fifteen minute version of their blues classic “No Need To Worry” in addition to live favorite “Oleo” and the rarely played “Token Chokin'” A little blues, a lot of boogie and some incendiary rock, an appetizer platter sampling all three albums. The band is relaxed and having fun, and the sound is astonishingly good considering the age of the recording.

Not long afterwards, both McCarty and Day were gone; a newly assembled roster recorded a half-live, half-studio album (‘Ot and Sweaty)before it was all over. In 2006, with Jimmy Kunes called upon to replace the deceased Rusty Day, the “American Led Zeppelin” reunited to record V and restoke the fires. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the band, and Ultra Sonic Boogie is just one of a series of gems set for release.

Boogie feels good and good in my heart.

August 1st marks the anniversary of Anne Frank‘s last diary entry and the first Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Surely there must be a connection.

(No there isn’t…and don’t call me Shirley)

Today is also the 29th anniversary of MTV, as The BugglesVideo Killed The Radio Star” launched the music video era. Remember when MTV played videos? Remember when Music Television was about music?

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