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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cactus: Cactus V


1) Doin' Time; 2) Muscle & Soul; 3) Cactus Music; 4) The Groover; 5) High In The City; 6) Day For Night; 7) Living For Today; 8) Shine; 9) Electric Blue; 10) Your Brother's Keeper; 11) Blues For Mr. Day; 12) Part Of The Game; 13) Gone Train Gone; 14) Jazzed.

Look who's back. Seeing as how the 2000s are so totally open to everything, and how there were plenty of youngster bands around playing heavy Seventies-style music, Bogert, Appice, and Jim McCarty came back together — not just for some nostalgic touring, but to record new music as well, with the same old swagger as if the thirty years in between never happened. Of course, the original vocalist was murdered in the interim (Rusty Day was shot to death in 1982 by some drug dealers), but they hire a new one, Jimmy Hunes, who sounds almost exactly like Rusty — and the band plays on precisely the same way that it used to.

Of course, it also sucks precisely the same way that it used to: the fourteen songs recorded here all share the same classic aesthetics — loud, bulgy, brawny, perfect for a dinner party that also involves some mudwrestling and some TV-tossing. The old boys in the rhythm section have not lost a bit of that old power, the guitarist tosses out the same old derivative leaden blues-rock riffs and screechy blueswailin' solos, and the vocalist... well, I do believe he got the contract only under the condition that he'd exclusively do the things that Rusty used to do. Oh, and they also have an additional member on harmonica — Randy Pratt, usually playing with the New-York based Lizards, another one of «those» bands that I mentioned in the last paragraph.

Amusingly, I do not feel nearly as bored by this record as I was by all the other Cactus records (except maybe for the first one). There's a humorous side to some of the tunes, including a rather tongue-in-cheek fast boogie anthem to themselves (ʻCactus Musicʼ); a couple of the songs, like ʻYour Brother's Keeperʼ, are pleasantly funky, mildly reminiscent of classic Aerosmith  (who themselves owed a certain debt to Cactus originally); the last track almost borders on artistic-ex­perimental (the instrumental ʻJazzedʼ, which does not have much to do with jazz, but is an inven­tive synthesis of metal and funk, with a whole bunch of riffs from both genres spliced together, sometimes to cool effect); and a few of the vocal melodies are even catchy in a way — ʻMuscle And Soulʼ makes me want to sing along, as does ʻDoin' Timeʼ.

The biggest flaw of the record is its length — sure it's been a long time, but no time is long enough to make anybody want to sit through a whole sixty minutes of «Cactus music», especially when it includes one too many superslow blues tunes (ʻDay For Nightʼ — why don't you leave this kind of stuff to Buddy Guy?) or power-chord based anthemic screechers (ʻShineʼ). The tiny acoustic tribute to the late Rusty Day is a nice gesture, but unless you are well acquainted with the situation, it's just an extra minute and a half of generic blues plucking. And did they really have to bring back the ʻHow Many More Yearsʼ groove for yet another faceless try (ʻThe Groo­verʼ)? All these numbers are completely expendable.

Okay, so the entire album is expendable, but at least if you really loved the old Cactus, there is no reason for you to stay away from the new (old) Cactus — in terms of consistency and stubborn­ness, the record gets an A++, easy. I do thank them, however, for staying away from the studio ever since, even if as a touring outfit they seemed to be active at least as late as 2012. 

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