Cactus – ‘Evil Is Going On – The Complete ATCO Recordings 1970-1972’ (2022)
The foursome released three studio albums in 1970 and 1971, before Day and McCarty exited. Bogert and Appice carried on as a quintet, releasing a fourth LP in 1972 before the band called it a day. Cherry Red Records, UK, has compiled the group’s studio albums, supplemented by single sides and outtakes, along with four discs of live material unavailable until 2007, in a massive new eight disc box set.
The first three discs contain the studio output of the original quartet from 1970 and 1971. The band’s self-titled debut album released on July 1, 1970, like its successors, was a mix of band originals and covers. The group compositions combined heavy, blues based rock melodies supplied by McCarty, Bogert and Appice with gritty, introspectively hedonistic lyrics from Day. The LP opens with a rocked up version of Mose Allison’s jazz blues standard ‘Parchman Farm’, McCarty’s fiery riff and lead line joined by Bogert’s booming bass and Day’s explicit, drug inspired interpretation of Allison’s lyrics “I’m sitting over here on Parchaman farm, all I ever did was shoot my arm.” ‘My Lady From South Of Detroit’ delves into balladish territory as Day sings “she’s my lady from south of Detroit, and even though sometimes she’s bad, I’m so sorry she’s gone, cause my memory lives on, she’s the best lover I ever had.” McCarty contributes a gentle solo while Bogert and Appice maintain a restrained riff. ‘Bros. Bill’ embodies the gangster lifestyle of Day who laments the loss of a close friend, “people said it was cocaine, people said it was gin, but I knew the girl and the do-house man that did my brother in, they put the last clean shirt on my poor brother Bill.” A bluesy, hard rock cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’ was released, in an edited version, as the band’s debut single’. McCarty’s guitar and Bogert’s bass roar on the tune which features tempo changes, part of Cactus’ signature sound. ‘Let Me Swim’ combines Day’s gritty lyrics with guitar blasts from McCarty. ‘No Need To Worry’ is a slow-burn blues tune led by McCarty and Bogert’s heavy groove. ‘Oleo’ opens with a slide guitar riff from McCarty, with Bogert and Appice adding bass and drum solos. Album closer ‘Feels So Good’ is a showcase for Appice who contributes an extended drum solo, McCarty adding a driving lead line and Bogert a booming bass line. The album is supplemented by four bonus cuts, the single edit of ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover’, followed by three album outtakes, ‘Rumblin’ Man’ the band’s take on Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’, a run through of Jimmy Reed’s ‘The Sun Is Shining’ with Day singing over a simple rif, and the hard rocking, guitar driven ‘Sweet Little 16’.
Disc two focuses on ‘One Way. . . Or Another’, the band’s February 1971 sophomore album. The LP opens with an incendiary cover of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ led by McCarty’s screaming guitar and released as the group’s second single. ‘Rockout, Whatever You Feel Like’ is a mid-tempo number sung by Bogert. ‘Rock N’ Roll Children’ is a commercially accessible tune with a heavy lead line and an accelerated guitar midsection reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. ‘Big Mama Boogie-Parts 1 & 2’ opens as an acoustic boogie before exploding into a hard rock sonic attack. ‘Song For Aries’ shows the subtlety which Cactus was able to deliver. ‘Hometown Bust’ is another tale of Day’s dangerous lifestyle with McCarty delivering hot solos and the band employing its signature tempo changes. The album closes with ‘Hound Dog Sniffin’’, a mid-tempo blues tune with Day observing “I feel sorry for the people who have done me wrong and lived” before adding “I feel sorry for you Bobby” in reference to a fellow musician who had set up the vocalist up in a drug deal. The disc adds four bonus tracks, three single edits of ‘Long Tall Sally’ and an alternate version of ‘Hound Dog Sniffin’’.
Disc three contains the eight tracks comprising ‘Restrictions’ the October 1971 LP which would prove to be the last released by the band’s original incarnation. The title track is a heavy rocker with McCarty contributing two solos and slide guitar to the tale lamenting people facing restrictions in their lives. ‘Token Chokin’ is a light rocker with tasty slide work by Ron Leejack who joined the band for a short period, filling out Cactus’ sound with a second guitar. ‘Guiltless Glider’ is an epic tune with McCarty, Bogert and Appice all soloing and Day contributing almost mystical lyrics “guiltless glider, freedom fighter…. you want something?, you need something?, well I have something, and you can share with me.” McCarty and Bogert shine on the band’s cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Evil’ with its insistent riff supplied by Bogert and Appice. ‘Alaska’ is a gentle tune with McCarty’s guitar and Day’s mouth harp to the fore and playful lyrics “I will build me an igloo, live alone in my dome of blues, buy me a low mileage dogsled and some alligator snow shoes.” ‘Sweet 16’ is a hard driving remake of a tune intended for ‘Cactus’ with McCarty’s guitar and Bogert’s bass featured as lead instruments and Appice pounding out the beat. ‘Bag Drag’ is Day’s Vietnam protest song with McCarty settling into a heavy riff before soloing. The album closes with the mellow folk blues tune ‘Mean Night In Cleveland’ dominated by McCarty’s acoustic guitar and Day’s mouth harp.
Disc four centers around the August 1972 album ‘’Ot ‘n’ Sweaty’ which features Bogert and Appice joined by vocalist Peter French, guitarist Werner Fritzschings and keyboard player Duane Hitchings. The LP’s first side was recorded live at the Mar Y Sol Festival in Puerto Rico on April 3, 1972, with side two consisting of studio tracks. ‘Swim’ features hot, wah wah aided, lead guitar by Fritzschings, who solos as does Hitchings on piano. ‘Bad Mother Boogie’ is a full-tilt boogie rocker with Fritzschings’ guitar and Hitchings’ electric piano joined by the racing rhythm section of Bogert and Appice as French belts out the vocals. ‘Our Lil Rock-n-Roll Thing’ is a 1950’s style rocker given an updated treatment. Bogert’s full-throated bass solos along with Fritzschings’ guitar before the tempo changes and Hitchings solos on piano. Following another tempo change Bogert’s bass takes charge, driving the tune to a close. ‘Bad Stuff’ begins the studio material with a ‘Foxy Lady’ style intro and guttural vocals, Fritzschings and Hitchings soloing on guitar and organ while Bogert adds fuzz bass. ‘Bringing Me Down’ has a laid-back Allman Bros. feel dominated by tempo changes and Fritzschings’ guitar solos. ‘Bedroom Mazurka’ is another rocker with Fritzschings, Bogert and Appice soloing and Hitchings adding piano accents. ‘Telling You’ is a boogie number with Fritzschings soloing effortlessly and Hitchings contributing a piano interlude. The British cabaret tune ‘Underneath The Arches’ is a short, under thirty seconds, album closer. The disc is fleshed out with the stereo and mono single edits of ‘Bringing Me Down.’
Disc five starts the live half of the box set and opens with eight tracks from a gig at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee on December 19, 1971 by the original quartet of Day, McCarty, Bogert and Appice. The first tune, Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ opens with a roaring, feedback filled intro by McCarty. After quoting ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ the band hits stride as McCarty solos, Bogert’s bass blasts and Appice pounds out the rhythm. ‘Bag Drag’ has McCarty and Bogert playing lead and Appice keeping time to Day’s commentary on the war in Vietnam. A take on Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Evil’ has a fiery McCarty intro, and a feedback laden solo as he and Bogert play twin lead, with Appice contributing an extended drum solo. Day screams his vocals as the band rock the tune out with McCarty and Bogert soloing. McCarty’s lead line gives ‘Parchman Farm’ a Blue Cheer feel, while Day’s vocals foreshadow his 1982 death from a drug deal gone bad. The band slows it down with ‘Alaska’ as Day takes poetic license speaking of the state as the home of penguins and walruses among other things. Day introduces ‘Oleo’ by saying “this is the one where we let Tim play that big thing in front of him.” Bogert’s bass booms and McCarty’s guitar roars, both soloing throughout the tune as the band calmly changes tempos. Cactus stretches out with a workout on ‘No Need To Worry’ a showcase for McCarty whose lead line and solos are the focus from beginning to end and Day proclaims “where there’s a will, there’s a way” before ending the tune with “there ain’t no need to worry, no need to worry.” The disc closes with ‘Let Me Swim’ which opens with a crescendo as McCarty’s guitar roars before a tempo change allows the riff to build again, McCarty soloing over the top, Bogert soloing down low and Appice driving the beat as Day closes the tune proclaiming “there’s a river inside me baby, let it flow to your sea.”
Disc six opens with two more tunes from the Memphis gig. ‘Big Mama Boogie-Parts 1 & 2’ begins as a mellow blues number with mouth harp, vocal harmonies and tambourine joining Day’s talking blues and McCarty’s restrained guitar. Mid-tune McCarty and Bogert turn up the heat, the band changing tempo before McCarty and Bogert solo the song out. A medley of ‘Heebie Jeebies’/’Money’/’Hound Dog’/’What’d I Say’ lets Cactus rock up some 1950’s classics. McCarty, Bogert and Appice take turns soloing with Day making reference to his “cocaine bill” and “integrating Arkansas”, the band quoting “Turn On Your Lovelight” along the way, before the tune ends in a crescendo of feedback. Two tracks from the Isle Of Wight Festival of August 28, 1970 follow. ‘No Need To Worry’ features a climbing, feedback filled solo by McCarty as Day screams the vocals and plays mouth harp. The band races through ‘Parchman Farm’ at breakneck speed with pile driving drums from Appice and snarling guitar from McCarty. Two tunes from a June 1971 gig at Gilligan’s in Buffalo begin with ‘One Way…Or Another’ as McCarty shows off his Hendrix type chops leading to more Cactus signature feedback and tempo changes. Day’s vocals and mouth harp are front and center on ‘Bros. Bill’ as he laments the loss of a friend to life in the fast lane with McCarty and Leejack adding solos. The disc closes with four tracks from the Mar Y Sol Festival in Puerto Rico on April 3, 1972. The first three are included on the ‘’Ot ‘N’ Sweaty’ LP, joined here by a run through ‘Bedroom Mazurka’ in which Fritzschings solos with Hitchings’ electric piano adding texture, Appice taking a short solo before the band joins to play the song out.
Discs seven and eight contain the complete gig from Gilligan’s in Buffalo, New York on June 26, 1971. After being introduced Cactus opens the show with a take on ‘Long Tall Sally’ showcasing McCarty’s lead line and smoking solo. The band is heating up as it takes a run through ‘Parchman Farm’ more instrumentally based than the Memphis recording, while McCarty’s guitar and Day’s ad-libbed lyrics shine . A take on Willie Dixon’s ‘Mellow Down Easy’ lives up to its title thanks to Day’s harp and McCarty’s restrained solos, the second an extended string bender, with Bogert’s bass racing the song to a close. A heavy, bluesy take on Chuck Willis’ ‘Feel So Bad’ finds Day screaming over McCarty’s feedback laden guitar. McCarty’s guitar is again the focus on ‘Walkin’ Blues’ before a tempo change leads to a Leejack slide solo as Day wails “woke up this mornin’ someone robbed me for my shoes, I believe I got them old, them old walkin’ blues.” The medley of ‘Scrambler’/’One Way…Or Another’ showcases McCarty and Leejack’s guitars as Day reminds the crowd that in the end “one way or another we’re all the same.” ‘Oleo’ gives the band a chance to show their chops. Leejack’s slide riff blends nicely with McCarty’s flat-picked six string. Their solos complement the extended fuzz bass solo of Bogert as the song plays out. ‘Bros. Bill’ found here runs two minutes longer than the version from Memphis on disc six. Day introduces ‘Token Chokin’’ as ‘Smokin’ Tokin’’, his ode to smoking weed, given a country rock feel thanks to the guitars of McCarty and Leejack. An extended jam titled ‘Slow Blues’ opens with McCarty and Leejack’s guitars front and center, Day adding mouth harp, while Bogert and Appice hold a relaxed groove. McCarty quotes ‘No Need To Worry’ as Day sings “we’re all here together” and “where there’s a will there’s a way” before proclaiming “let’s hear it for cocaine” and “three cheers for marijuana” then “and a little one for mescaline” before finally proclaiming “I don’t approve of harmful drugs, I just haven’t taken any that are harmful this year” as McCarty and Leejack’s guitars duel the song to a close. A medley of ‘Heebie Jeebies’/’What’d I Say’ gives the band a chance to play some snappy rockin’ R & B, with Bogert’s bass thundering, Appice offering a short drum solo and the crowd interacting with Day’s call and response vocals. Bogert stretches out and solos as do McCarty and Leejack driving the song and gig to a close. Crowd calls result in a fiery encore of ‘Evil’ with McCarty, Bogert and Appice all soloing before Day declares “evil, evil is going on” as the song, concert and box set come to an end.
The eight discs of ‘Evil Is Going On-The ATCO Albums 1970-1972’ each come in their own cardboard replica mini-LP sleeves which slip neatly into a clamshell box. The set also comes with a 24 page full color booklet which includes full track listings and liner notes by Malcolm Dome. The collection is lavishly illustrated with photos of the band as well as album and single artwork. Cactus has never sounded better thanks to the mastering job of Tony Dixon. This box set will appeal to fans of hard rock, blues rock, stoner rock and classic rock in general and is highly recommended.
Cactus – ‘Evil Is Goin’ On-The Complete ATCO Recordings 1970-1972’ (Cherry Red Records, 2022)