All Judge Steve Power is sittin' over here on a Parchman Farm.
Cactus is back!
Not a lot of people out there know of, or remember Cactus, those who were around for the band's first two superlative albums were probably too stoned to really remember them. I first discovered them around 2001, courtesy of friend and guitar God Dan Moore (the same righteous dude who turned me on to the awesome music of Rory Gallagher, Trouble, Hawkwind, and Blue Cheer). They are often billed as either the world's first supergroup, or more preposterously as "The American Led Zeppelin." Cactus, at their height, was a boogie-woogie rock n roll outfit heavily steeped in Rhythm and Blues. They had a few minor hits, most notably a rocking version of the blues classic, "Parchman Farm." The band most notably consisted of drummer Carmine Appice and Bass Player Tim Bogert of Vanilla Fudge fame as well as guitarist Jim McCarty(Detroit Wheels) and singer Rusty Day.
Few would predict that the band would re-unite in 2006, with Jimmy Kunes replacing the late Rusty Day on vocals after Day was slain in a botched drug deal in 1982. Fewer still could possibly predict that the band would release a new studio album and a new live DVD in time for their 40th anniversary.
Cactus: Live, Loud & Proud is a solid collection of tunes, mostly old, with a smattering of new:
"Let me Swim"
Sure, the guys all look a little stiff, and the venue looks more like a parish hall than a blues bar, but they still know which side of the instruments to play, and they still sound pretty damn awesome. Sadly, the new material is downright hokey and embarrassing standing next to the old tunes, "Cactus Music" in particular is dreadfully bad stuff. The old stuff however, is loud, aggressive, and still wonderfully retro sounding. The Led Zeppelin comparisons only go so far. While they have the same strong base in American blues and rock, they lack any of Zep's sophistication, ingenuity, or ambition. Still, if you're looking for some decent Blues-based hard rock to serve as some background noise, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Cactus.
Sadly, you'll want to listen to this thing rather than watch it. The video production is nothing short of atrocious on all counts. Two cameras were employed, and from the looks of things, they were old Compact VHS handicams. The color is drab and lifeless, the full frame image is fuzzy and pale; even worse, cheesy graphics, split screens, fades, crappy dissolves, and horrid editing give this all the production sheen of a high school prom video from 1987. Title graphics and text look like they came from some early '80s Public access show. Whatever good nature the playing buys is completely destroyed by some of the worst presentation I have ever seen.
MVD doesn't have much to work with; the image is total crap, but the sound is a booming 2.0 stereo mix, though there is definitely something missing…oh yeah…THE CROWD! What band films a live DVD and doesn't mic the crowd? It's one of the many things on the disc that doesn't make a lick of sense. Another is the extras, which consists of horrible home video interviews conducted with the band members, complete with horrid sound quality and Spartan production, and testimonials from other bands. That's right, the band includes testimony of how awesome they are, as though we were watching some cheap-o infomercial. The only people shelling out for a Cactus DVD in 2010 are going to be people who still remember how awesome you were in 1970; this is superfluous, self-aggrandizing, and (I sense a running theme here) cheesy as hell. Lastly there's a sort of freeform meandering jam session featuring the band alongside some other notables like Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers Band), Canadian guitar legend Pat Travers, and American blues virtuoso, Joe Bonamassa.
You can tell this was a project near and dear to the band, and drummer Carmine Appice's heart, but without the technical knowhow and the production crew to back up the awesome playing, I just don't think they should have bothered with this laughable effort. A live CD would have been fine. This doesn't come close to doing the band justice.
Guilty. The sentence is life on the Parchman Farm.
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