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Cactus: Fully Unleashed-The Live Gigs, Vol. 1

Originally released in 2004 by Rhino Handmade, Fully Unleashed-The Live Gigs, Vol. 1, a red hot collection of live material from legendary hard rockers Cactus, has been out of print for a few years but now thanks to the fine folks over at Wounded Bird Records it's back in circulation on CD once again. With recordings spanning from 1971-1972, it covers the original line-up at the top of their game, as well as the subsequent version of Cactus that recorded the Ot 'n' Sweaty album in 1972 before the band broke up for many years.

The first CD kicks things off with an entire concert at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee from 12/19/71, which was the last performance of the original line-up of Carmine Appice (drums), Tim Bogert (bass), Jim McCarty (guitar), and Rusty Day (vocals). This is a pretty scorching affair of heavy blues rock, and despite it being the last show of the classic version of Cactus, the band were still in fine form. "Long Tall Sally" is prime boogie, and "Bag Drag" sees McCarty unleash some ultra-heavy riffs while the rhythm section of Appice & Bogert quakes underneath and Day wails up a storm. Wait till you hear "Evil", which absolutely crushes, with McCarty especially on fire (definitely one of the most underrated guitar players from the '70s hard rock scene in my opinion), delivering some molten riffs and solos on his Gibson Les Paul guitar, as well as some thunderous drum work courtesy of Appice. More bluesy boogie in the form of their popular take on "Parchman Farm", and the laid back "Alaska" allows for some mellower moments, with Day crooning alongside some bluesy harp and McCarty's tasty licks. Bass legend Bogert struts his stuff on the rambling jam that is "Oleo", and McCarty sizzles on the electric blues of "No Need to Worry". The upbeat "Let Me Swim" ends the first disc in fine fashion, a rousing proto-metal piece chock full of grooves, riffs, and scalding solos.

The Memphis show finishes up on DIsc Two, with an extended jam "Big Mama Boogie-Parts 1 & 2" and the lengthy medley "Heeby/Jeebies/Money/Hound Dog/What'd I Say". Overall it's a great performance from a great band. Two songs from the 1971 Isle of Wight Festival are here as well, "No Need to Worry" and "Parchman Farm", both killer versions, and if you close your eyes you can almost see the hundreds of thousands at the famous UK open air festival as the band jammed away. Another two songs also from mid-1971 are here, the ripping "One Way...Or Another" and the bluesy "Bro. Bill", both recorded at Gilligan's in Buffalo, New York. The former is especially lethal, possibly Cactus' heaviest song ever, with McCarty again delivering some stunning, distorted riffs & solos and Day just pouring his lungs out. To close out this set, they've included four songs from the 1972 Mar Y Sol Pop Festival in Puerto Rico, "Swim", "Bad Mother Boogie", "Our Lil Rock-n-Roll Thing", and "Bedroom Mazurka". The first three were originally included on the Cactus album Ot 'N' Sweaty, so I'm not sure what the rationale was to put these in here as well, seeing as most of the other material was not previously available. Some additional rare live cuts, if available, would have been much nicer. The studio version "Bedroom Mazurka" was available on that album, so it's nice to hear a rocking live version on this CD. For these last few songs, Day and McCarty were gone, replaced by vocalist Peter French (ex-Atomic Rooster & Leaf Hound), guitarist Werner Fritzschings, and keyboard player Duane Hitchings. Still a solid line-up, but the magic of the original band was missing.

Cactus were always labeled as the 'American Led Zeppelin', but quite frankly I never quite saw that comparison. These guys were full on heavy rock, blues, and boogie, no time for all the folk & mysticism that often came with Page & Co.. Fans of the bands short career in the '70s will no doubt want to check out this collection of kick ass live recordings, especially the Memphis & Isle of Wight tracks. It's a shame the liner notes on this Wounded Bird reissue are so bare bones (no doubt the Rhino edition was more expansive), but the sound quality is good, and hey, it's available again, so that's really all that matters.

Oh yeah, and the band is still tearing it up on the live circuit with a revised line-up, so be sure and check them out when they come to your town.

Track Listing
Disc One
1) Intro/Long Tall Sally
2) Bag Drag
3) Evil
4) Parchman Farm
5) Alaska
6) Oleo
7) No Need to Worry
8) Let Me Swim

Disc Two
1) Big Mama Boogie-Parts 1 & 2
2) Medley: Heeby/Jeebies/Money/Hound Dog/What'd I Say
3) No Need to Worry
4) Parchman Farm
5) One...Or Another
6) Bro. Bill
7) Swim
8) Bad Mother Boggie
9) Our Lil Rock -n- Roll Thing
10) Bedroom Mazurka

Added: October 22nd 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Wounded Bird Records
Hits: 3446
Language: english

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