Monday, February 25, 2008

Unsung Legends Of Rock Profile : Cactus

Formed from the ashes of Vanilla Fudge when that band wound down for the first time in early 1970, hard rockin' blues-boogie purveyors Cactus were, in the words of Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer, "The epitome of the American blues-rock band that kicked serious butt." At times called, "The American Led Zeppelin," this talented quartet, Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, Jim McCarty and Rusty Day released three albums, 'Cactus,' 'One Way...Or Another' and 'Restrictions' that have subsequently become classics of the genre. Cactus never made a huge impression in the charts at the time, the debut 'Cactus' album being the highest charter at #54 on Billboard, but their influence reached far beyond their sales figures.

It's been said that The Velvet Underground never sold that many albums, but every person who bought one started a band, thus in many critic's minds making them a bigger influence, but the bands they influenced sucked in this writer's opinion. However, the bands Cactus influenced, and continue to these days, is a list much more impressive. Van Halen, Ted Nugent, King's X, David Coverdale, Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan, Kid Rock, even present day riff-meisters such as The Muggs have all praised the band, citing them as a major influence and inspiration during interviews. Take a listen to Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher," compare it to Cactus's frantic version of "Parchman Farm" and you'll see exactly where Eddie and Alex got the inspiration for the music for that Van Halen classic. The riff at the opening of "Eruption" is almost a direct lift from "Let Me Swim" from the band's self titled debut. During Van Halen's club days it wasn't uncommon for them to fill a generous portion of their sets with Cactus songs; recently David Lee Roth would play "Evil" on his now defunct radio show on a daily basis. Hell, Hendrix was a fan of the original band, so say no more there!

Amazingly, over 34 years after the last Cactus album, like the mythical Phoenix, the band, with ex Savoy Brown singer Jimmy Kunes replacing the late Rusty Day, have risen once again to lay upon us 'Cactus V', an album (with assistance from The Lizards' Randy Pratt on smokin' blues harp) sounding like they picked up playing after perhaps a month's break rather than over three decades. Featuring 14 rocking originals in the same style as when first together, this is a glorious return to form for these legendary performers. One that must be ranked as one of the finest comeback efforts in the recent history of hard rock.

Check out "One Way...Or Another" from the first Cactus reunion gig at BB King's in New York City, 2006, which can be found on the recently released 'Cactus Live' DVD of the show :

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