Colosseum II

Colosseum II was an English jazz-rock band that released the album Strange New Flesh on Bronze in 1976, followed by Electric Savage and War Dance on MCA in 1977. They also backed Andrew Lloyd Webber on his 1978 classical-rock album Variations. The band was a followup to Colosseum, which drummer Jon Hiseman led from 1968 to 1971. On this second go-round, the focus was breakneck instrumentals with the occasional vocal number.

Colosseum II functioned as an early showcase for Irish guitar prodigy Gary Moore, who reached new levels of speed and fret-dexterity with this band. Bassist Neil Murray played on the first album en route to National Health and Whitesnake. Keyboardist Don Airey surfaced in Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne‘s backing band.

Members: Jon Hiseman (percussion, drums), Don Airey (synthesizer, keyboards), Gary Moore (guitar, vocals), Mike Starrs (vocals, 1975-76), Neil Murray (bass, 1975-76), John Mole (bass, 1977-78)


Colosseum II was formed in 1975 by drummer Jon Hiseman, who wished to advance the jazz-rock experiments of his earlier band, Colosseum. But whereas that band came from the blues-based brass-rock angle (ala Keef Hartley Band, Greatest Show on Earth), this new band was modeled on the leaner, filigree-laden style of Return to Forever. To that end, Hiseman recruited keyboardist Don Airey, bassist Neil Murray, and Irish guitarist Gary Moore.

Hiseman’s career stretched back to the mid-1960s, when he replaced Ginger Baker in a late-stage lineup of the Graham Bond Organization. From there, he and GBO multi-reedist Dick Heckstall-Smith briefly joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, then formed Colosseum, which released three albums and a live double between 1969 and 1971. After playing on Heckstall-Smith’s 1972 album A Story Ended, Hiseman recorded two albums with the rock trio Tempest, the first with guitarist Allan Holdsworth. (Oddly, Tempest was more hard-rock in nature, despite the overall jazz-rock leanings of Hiseman and Holdsworth.)

Moore first recorded as a teenager in Dublin blues-rockers Skid Row. After working as a session player (Dr. Strangely Strange, Jonathan Kelly), he debuted as a solo artist with the 1973 CBS release Grinding Stone. He then put solo work on hold to start an on-off relationship with Thin Lizzy, appearing on their 1974 album Night Life and serving intermittently as their touring guitarist.

Murray was a founding member of Canterbury jazz-rockers Gilgamesh, but left before their first album. He played on the 1974 Manticore release Magic Dragon by funksters Hanson. Just as Colosseum II was getting underway, he (along with Airey) was one of two bassists on the Babe Ruth swan song Kid’s Stuff. Airey hailed from Cozy Powell‘s Hammer.

For its first album, Colosseum II employed Scottish vocalist Mike Starrs, who’d recently cut a string of singles and the 1974 Telefunkten album Electric Garden with pop producer Tony Atkins.


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