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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Cactus

Tightrope

Review by Gary Hill

Cactus is a band with a long and rich history. They are really the stuff of legend. This new album (featuring the modern version of the band) really captures the old sound of the group, while updating it. It is a fine addition to the band's catalog. If you dig hard-edged, classic bluesy rock, you are certain to find plenty to appreciate about this album.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Tightrope
They waste no time, firing out into a hard rocking jam to get things underway. There is rather funky and meaty. For some reason I am reminded a bit of the Dio era of Rainbow on this stomper. The guitar solo on this is positively on fire. The whole tune rocks like crazy, making it a great opening.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone
Drums bring this cover into being. As they launch out from there, I'm again reminded just a little of Rainbow. When it drops down to the mellower, funky groove, that comparison drifts away. This is a killer updating of the classic tune. They really manage to pull some of that Motown sound in the piece while also infusing some real hard rock. I think Rare Earth might be a fair comparison point here. However you label this, though, it's on fire.
All Shook Up
This powerhouse is perhaps closer to something AC/DC might do. It's definitely a fierce blues rocker. It leans toward metal at times.
Poison in Paradise
More of a traditional blues grind is at the core of this cool tune. It makes its way into some seriously hard rocking zones before it's over and done, but overall those electric blues concepts are the driving features of this song.
Third Time Gone
While at its' core it's more of a straight blues rock tune, some harmonica and other aspects bring more pure blues. This is edgy, classic and potent.
Shake That Thing
Raunch and roll is on the menu here. This has a killer hard rocking sound and groove. It's magic incarnate.
Primitive Touch
This is high energy. It is another hard rocking groove. There are definite blues edges here, but also some hints of metal and funk. I really dig the meaty guitar soloing on this number.
Preaching Woman Man Blues
Edgy hard rocking sounds drive the intro to this stomper. As it works to the harmonica-laden movement that leads to the vocal movement, I'm definitely reminded of the blues side of the Doors. Once the vocals join that still holds true. The chorus is a bit more pure electric blues rock, though. The combination of sounds works really well. It turns more hard-edged before it's done, and is another standout tune on a disc without any weak music.
Elevation
Another high energy rocker, this isn't a huge change. That said, it's another powerhouse tune that just works really well.
Suite 1 & 2: Everlong, All the Madmen
Now, this is completely different. It comes in with a mysterious and dramatic ballad-like texture and builds on that concept in interesting ways. The second half of the tune makes me think of what you might think if you mashed up The Beatles, Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N' Roses. It's a change for the rest of the album, and a good one at that. It has some more scorching guitar work at play.
Headed for a Fall
Here we get a fast-paced blues jam that has some AC/DC in the mix. The harmonica is on fire on this thing. There is more pure blues as it works out later, but it's of the fast shuffling variety. This is really a cool tune with some intriguing blends of sound.
Wear It Out
This is a definite change, too. The harmonica that shows up does bring some of that blues rock edge. Overall, though, this is more of a pop rocker that has a lot of psychedelia in the mix. It's a classy tune that's among the best music here. That makes it a great closer.
 
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