Cactus is a band whose name I had always heard, but I never knew anything about them. When I discovered that Monster Magnet had copped their arrangement of the old blues tune "Evil" from Cactus (thanks Dan!), I thought that it was time that I check 'em out!I found this collection, Cactology
(Rhino Records), and discovered that this was a minor super-group, featuring ex-members of Vanilla Fudge (Bogart and Appice - later of Beck, Bogart and Appice among many others), the Amboy Dukes, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and even Buddy Miles' band! This was yet another early 70's Detroit heavy-rock band!
Bogart and Appice had tired of the Vanilla Fudge and were actually trying to put together a band with Jeff Beck (which came later) and Jeff couldn’t do it at the time, so they grabbed Jim McCarty (from the Detroit Wheels and Buddy Miles) and singer Rusty Day (formerly of the Amboy Dukes). The idea was to create a heavy-blues band in the vein of the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin.
They certainly succeeded in doing that! The overall sound is very similar to these bands, with a superb, massive guitar tone played over a powerful rhythm section. Rusty is a rockin’, raw singer, too and adds harp to fill out the sound, as well.
This collection covers most of their career. Starting with the version of “Evil”, they blast out loud, rude, blues with real originality. “Parchment Farm” is played at super-sonic speed with tons of fast leads and another cool arrangement. I’m sure they were familiar with Blue Cheer’s version, as they cop their line “all I did was shoot my arm”!
“You Can’t Judge a Book By The Cover” is more of a groover and this is followed by their own “One Way…Or Another”. This riff-rocker has a vaguely Hendrix feel – another big influence on the band.
The collection isn’t perfect by any means and “Alaska” simply sounds like a forgettable joke song. But “Long Tall Sally” is given a Humble Pie treatment – this would fit right at home on the Rockin’ the Fillmore
album (which I love!). “Rock’n’Roll Children” sounds like a take-off of a Frost song, which isn’t very far-fetched considering they’re both Detroit bands from the same time period.
Some of the later songs are a little lacking, but the guitar work is consistently great throughout, which makes them enjoyable for me! But the previously unreleased “Rumblin’ Man” is an eye-opener! This is an extremely clamorous and ear-splittingly over-the-top take on Link Wray’s “Rumble” with some shouted lyrics over it! This is crazed in the extreme and I wish that they had done more things that sound like this!
Fans of 70’s blues-rock guitar should definitely check this out! Great playing and some truly original takes on the blues genre!