Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Legendary Kings Of Boogie Cactus Tear Up BB King's On 'Cactus Live' DVD

Cactus Live (DVD)

Review by Nightwatcher

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, drummer Carmine Appice, bassist Tim Bogert, guitarist Jim McCarty and vocalist 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, being cited by such luminaries as Van Halen, Ted Nugent, King's X and others as helping to form their musical visions.

Due to internal conflicts, guitarist McCarty and Day left the band in 1971, and the band carried on with Atomic Rooster/current Leaf Hound vocalist Pete French. With ever diminishing results, the band finally called it a day after one more album, and on March 6, 1982, Rusty Day died from gunshots as a victim of a drug deal gone bad.

So, that would seem was that. However, miraculously in June 2006, at BB King's Blues Club in New York City with former Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown) vocalist Jimmy Kunes in place behind the mic for the late Day, Cactus performed its first live show since 1972. The results of that night, filmed in front of a sold out crowd, form the basis for this live DVD document of that first public reunion gig.

And the results, even after so much time away were as good as can be hoped for after such a prolonged absence. Appice and Bogert have worked together for many years off and on, and still form one of rock's most formidable rhythm sections. McCarty, although being gone from the heavy rock scene since the demise of The Rockets, playing in his blues band Mystery Train around Detroit, still shows the chops which made none other than Ted Nugent exclaim, "Remember the name Jimmy McCarty. He is as important as Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Les Paul...A god on guitar." And Jimmy Kunes proved that night to be a more than worthwhile replacement for the late Day; while not possessing the anarchic danger that the frontman exuded, he still is convincing as he tears through such classics as their bruising covers of Howlin' Wolf''s 'Evil', Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" or the frenetic "Parchman Farm", a song which in many ways is the predecessor and blueprint for the Van Halen classic "Hot For Teacher". Mix in inspired versions of Cactus classics "One Way...Or Another" and Let Me Swim" peppered with selections from the band's more than credible reunion disc 'Cactus V' and you end up with one hot night of heavy riff and roll. Aided by The Lizards' bassist Randy Pratt blowing sweet blues harp, and it increases the authenticity of the tasty blues boogie being presented.

Bonus features include lengthy bootleg footage and backstage jams, the bootleg footage being equally worthy making one wish the whole show was included as well. With McCarty at least temporarily leaving the band once again, replaced by his original replacement Werner Fritzschings who was in the band during its tenure with former Atomic Rooster/current Leafhound vocalist Pete French at the helm, this may be the only chance many fans have of witnessing the band in the most complete original lineup as possible. While it would've been nice to have this presented in wide screen, that's a minor quibble when the music is so impressive. Grab this one without reservations if you were a fan of the band back in the day, or if you love heavy blues rock played by some of the finest musicians on the scene. Although not perfect, this is a fine addition to your collection. 8/10

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