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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cactus: Restrictions


1) Restrictions; 2) Token Chokin'; 3) Guiltless Glider; 4) Evil; 5) Alaska; 6) Sweet Sixteen; 7) Bag Drag; 8) Mean Night In Cleveland.

If the idea of the album title is that Cactus really knows no restrictions, I am sorry to say that they do, and that they are the exact same restrictions that made their first two albums look idiotic even in their most listenable moments. There are no attempts to change the formula here: we are pre­sented with a third platter of stiff, lumpy, leaden hard rock where thickness of guitar tone, fero­ciousness of percussion attacks, and loudness of lead vocalist matter much more than memorable melodies or, God help us, spiritual depth.

When the experience is over, you will probably want to ask yourself two questions: "Whatever made them rearrange Howlin' Wolf's ʽEvilʼ as a Led Zeppelin II-style rocker with a time signa­ture that makes a confused mess out of the vocals?", and "Is the idea of setting the lyrics of ʽSweet Little Sixteenʼ to the melody of ʽRollin' And Tumblin'ʼ supposed to mean something, or were they just randomly pulling out song titles out of a hat for a fortuitous mash-up?" Not that it's important to know the answers, of course: ever since the days of Vanilla Fudge, Bogert and Appice were the indisputable champions of the «50,000 Ways To Ruin A Good Song» game, so why should Restrictions be an exception?

As for the original songs, there is not a single one here that would be too memorable. The title track and the never-ending ʽGuiltless Gliderʼ, taking up most of Side A, are the obvious candi­dates for top pick, but ʽRestrictionsʼ refuses to come up with a decent riff, and ʽGliderʼ is just too busy riding one rhythm chord for most of its duration (interrupted by a drum solo, which is hardly a consolation). ʽAlaskaʼ quiets down a bit for a jazzier take on the blues, some harmonica solos, and lyrics like "I hear six months a year you get night time all day / I had to practice my harp to keep the polar bears away", and it still sounds silly rather than funny; and the final two minutes, called ʽMean Night In Clevelandʼ, are just slow, simple acoustic blues.

The only thing that could redeem the whole experience is the overall sound: the Bogert/Appice rhythm section is impeccable, so much so that I would probably enjoy this record much more if all the guitars and especially the vocals were deleted. Truly, this is one of those moments when you start lamenting over the absence of corporate songwriting — where the hell was Desmond Child when these guys needed him so much? He probably could have helped them out even while still in high school. Thumbs down.


  1. They follow the same arrangement as Howlin' Wolf's 1968 version, which sounded great -- Rusty Day is just a shit singer.

  2. Say what you want about the early era Grand Funk. They at least had a unique sound and personality that didn't depend on deliberately misshapen blues and 50's rock covers. I'd have to place Cactus at or near the very bottom of the American boogie barrel, even though I hate Bloodrock almost as much. But, again, Bloodrock did at least have an original sound going for them, lumpy as it was.

    I do admit that I'll be curious to see whether George feels they improved after kicking out Rusty Day and hiring Pete French, formerly of Atomic Rooster and the vastly underrated Leafhound.