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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cactus: 'Ot 'N' Sweaty

CACTUS: 'OT 'N' SWEATY (1972)

1) Swim; 2) Bad Mother Boogie; 3) Our Lil Rock'n'Roll Thing; 4) Bad Stuff; 5) Bringing Me Down; 6) Bedroom Mazurka; 7) Telling You; 8) Underneath The Arches.

If you thought this could not get any worse, you were wrong. By 1972, all that remained of the former spiny glory of Cactus was the Bogert-Appice rhythm section, yet somehow this did not deflate their ambitions — and the «band» plowed on, recruiting new guitarist Werner Fritz­schings (I'm sure everybody must have called him Wiener Schnitzel out of desperation, but who'd ever acknowledge that?), an extra keyboardist (Duane Hitchings) and a new vocalist called Peter French, who'd apparently done a short stint in Atomic Rooster before that, but was largely hired because it's kinda hard to distinguish his bawl from Rusty Day's bawl.

The new lineup persisted well into 1972, eventually releasing this album, a total mess whose only appeal is in how many things go wrong at once (sometimes intentionally). The first side was taken from a live show in Puerto Rico, either because the band did not have enough new studio material or, more probably, because it was high time to demonstrate the Live Power of the Migh­ty Cactus — which, next to a Live At Leeds or a Made In Japan, honestly gives the impression of a deeply drunk Little John with a quarterstaff against a pack of knights in full armor. Not that you wouldn't shed a tear at the fate of the kind fellow with his good motives and all, but a no-win situation is a no-win situation, especially considering that Cactus do not try to do anything except demonstrate sheer brutal boogie power. They cover ʻLet Me Swimʼ from their first record, and then they do two half-improvisatory pieces of boogie, and it hardly matters where they stop and where they start; all that matters is the lumpy dinosaurish swagger, for 17 minutes.

On the second side, they get off to a decent start with ʻBad Stuffʼ, a riff-based blues-rocker with a bit of real bite provided by the scrunchy guitar/bass tones — and if Skynyrd's ʻI Ain't The Oneʼ was not influenced by ʻLet Me Swimʼ after all, then it couldn't have been not influenced by this one at least — the verse melodies are practically identical. But even if we agree that ʻBad Stuffʼ is a bit of a good influence, then ʻBringing Me Downʼ is this band's totally non-sequitur take on rootsy soulfulness, with sentimental keyboards, gospel harmonies, and ecstatic lead vocals, as if the ghost of Leon Russell suddenly visited them in their sleep, or maybe they were inspired by one of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen shows or something. I cannot even honestly state that this is a bad song — it is simply hard to take seriously, sitting there all alone among their drunken antics. The next two songs safely bring us back to more familiar, less shocking, but quickly forgettable territory, although at least ʻBedroom Mazurkaʼ is kind of a special song title (no musical references to Chopin, though — imagine that).

The best thing I can say about the album, and the band in particular, is that the All-Music Guide describes the style of the record as «rambunctious», «rowdy», «celebratory», «boisterous», «freewheeling», «brash», «rousing», «aggressive», «rollicking», «confident», «raucous», and «energetic», and every word of it is absolutely true, so if these are your core values in listening to music, 'Ot 'N' Sweaty should be a pre-defined masterpiece. Maybe with just an extra pinch of melodic invention, subtlety, or individuality, it could even have been a half-decent record. As it is, I think I'll just stick to my Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out — the Stones may not have been so loud and «boisterous» on stage as these guys, but they went out there to play actual songs, rather than simply demonstrate how good they were at generating «rambunctiousness». Thumbs down.

3 comments:

  1. French + Hitchings = Fritzschings.

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  2. Poor Peter French! He did a creditable turn in Atomic Rooster, entering just as things were melting down between Crane and DuCann. Previously, he was at the mic for a true gem, Leafhound's immortal Growers of Mushroom. A damn shame that his luck was true to form on this occasion - jumping into the bowl just as the turd was circling down the drain.

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  3. By the way, George, since we're in the right time frame and section, is there a chance you might leap to Captain Beyond next? After all, they're a true 70's supergroup (composed of ex-Purple and Butterfly members), and they would splendidly illustrate what a synthesis of hard rock swagger and progressive muses would sound like when played with actual forethought, precision, and care. I think a spin of their 1972 debut would wipe the foul taste of Bloodrock and Cactus from your memory banks, once and for all!

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