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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cactus - Restrictions

Name: Cactus
Album: Restrictions
Year: 1971
Style: Southern Bluesy Rock
Similar Bands: Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, CSNY, Black Crows, Blind Melon, 70's Kinks,
"One-Word" Review: Lame-Musician's-Musicians-Jammy-Rock
Based Out Of: Long Island, NY
Label: Atco, Atlantic,
Restrictions - Cover & Record
Restrictions - Back & Record

Restrictions (1971)
  1. Restrictions 6:17
  2. Token Chokin' 3:07
  3. Guiltless Glider 8:45 /
  4. Evil 3:14
  5. Alaska 3:38
  6. Sweet Sixteen 3:17
  7. Bag Drag 5:11
  8. Mean Night In Cleveland 2:10
Album Rating (1-10): 4.5

Members & Other Bands:Carmine Appice - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vox (Vanilla Fudge, Beck Bogert & Appice, Rod Stewart Band, King Kobra, Pearl)
Tim Bogert - Bass, Backing Vox (Chessmen, Pigeons, Vanilla Fudge, Beck Bogert & Appice, Pieces, Boxer)
Rusty Day - Lead Vox, Harmonica, Percussion (Amboy Dukes)
Jim McCarty - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar (Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels, Buddy Miles Express, Rockets)
Ron LeeJack - Slide Guitar
Albhy Galuten - Piano
Eddie Kramer - Recording Engineer
Dave Palmer - Recording Engineer, Mixing
Gene Paul - Recording Engineer
Ronnie Albert - Recording Engineer
Carl Richardson - Recording Engineer
Geoffrey Haslam - Mixing, Producer
Patrick D'Angelo - Cover Painting & Design
Jeff Mayer - Liner Photo

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of these guys, but when I saw the simple name and the interesting surrealism artwork, I wanted to give it a shot. Would it be wacky prog, or catchy new wave? From the hippie appearance on the back cover, I am assuming it will be more of a light 70’s rock feel. The packaging is in bad shape, but I do like the cover; especially the phallic cactus bursting out of the ground…nice touch, Cactus.

Album Review: I’ve looked around about this band a bit and discovered that they were greatly compared as the American Led Zeppelin and/or a choice fall back band for Dead fans. Either case, the band was created as a supergroup, where the rhythm section of Vanilla Fudge was trying to attract Jeff Beck, who could not make it due to an auto accident, and Rod Stewart, who also faded as a candidate due to the accident. All in all, I’d say this has the prospect of being funky, jammy, and for my tastes, somewhat boring.
“Restrictions” begins with drums, then electric guitar soon to follow, blasting off then retreating quickly for the quiet vocal introduction. Then the song finds its bluesy southern rock groove, and reminds me a lot of the Black Crows. Vocally, the singer could be trying to capture the raspiness of Jimmy Page, and the guitar solo whines and rocks out. But the heart of the song is the bluesy backing vocals and bar room atmosphere. Around 3:30, the song breaks from its driving force for a Blind Melon like quiet breakdown. The song then returns for few minutes of meandering jamming before it fades out with the repeating backing chorus.“Token Chokin'” is another southern song, this one more swampy and dripping than before. It’s played in the Kinks 70’s jug band style, but without the hooks and catchiness the Kinks have. I hear a bit of the Rolling Stones in the vocals here too. Parts of the song are really good, like the build up that doesn’t slink back into the boring chorus, but picks up and carries the pace and momentum a while longer. Unfortunately, my record was badly scratched and I cannot play this entire song…only about 2:20 through. But I got the idea.
“Guiltless Glider” is a long 8:30+ song that begins with a slinky, marching bass line. The drums come in for support, and the lead guitar wails and croons as it travels its own way. By the first minute, they’ve developed a nice hook. But the echoing vocals make this feel like a dirty 90’s hair/alternative band. I’m thinking of an Ugly Kid Joe ballad, or something. The vintage 70’s hair band metal chimes in at about 3 minutes with the Page (but a little more contained) like vocals and the commanding guitar backing him up. The guitars, drums and bass all get to play together in the middle of the song for the instrumental breakdown, which fills the space very nicely. The interplay is interesting and never dull as it builds until it seems to loose all energy. The drums take over for a true-solo, giving the rest a rest. Then after the instruments come back for a short prog-like section, the original bass line picks up again to finish out the song with a fade.

“Evil” feels like Led Zep, repeating powerful guitar sections broken up with drum fills and raspy angry-like vocals. This is the typical atmosphere you might picture if a gospel church turned over and worshipped the other imaginary side. It is like an evil gospel, so I can see why metal music is often equated with satanic ritual…that is what the music and vocals suggest. The music is good, it continuously builds and rotates around, where it could go on in its riff forever.“Alaska” sounds like the opposite of what you would imagine for Alaska…it is full of harmonica and gives off the air of a hot southern summer porch jug band stomp. It is bluesy, but the vocals are all about Alaskan things, so it ends up trying to juxtapose the two areas together, but the bluesy south wins out over the vocal context of penguins and snow shoes. “Sweet Sixteen’s” first couple of notes remind me terribly of the Matchbox 20 song “Smooth.” But it quickly turns into a driving guitar powered southern metal song. And I’m ashamed I even thought about that song in the first place, but that does not mean I like the song. It had a loud and abrasive electric guitar instrumental section. The song ends very abruptly“Bad Drag” took me back to watching Dazed and Confused. I’m reminded at first of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” but the song is tamer than that, and by far more funky. Perhaps a bit Psychedelic, like Iron Butterfly. The screaming agony of how bad the drag is seems out of place a bit, and is definitely over the top. The song ends with people talking.
“Bad Night In Cleveland” ends the album with a quiet fade in and does not begin until around 25 seconds. It is a bluesy ballad, and gives the image of one guy out on his front porch playing the guitar and complaining about the weather, his dog, or wife. Or in this case, a bad night in Cleveland, I guess. It is mostly instrumental, and it adds the harmonica at the end. It is sad and toe tapping depressing, but it is the blues, so it’s how it is supposed to be.

Stand Out Track: Token Chokin' 

Cactus Webpage
Columbus Dispatch Newspaper
Star Online
Tim Bogert
Carmine Appice