Cactus, One Way… or Another (1971)
“I know some of you people like to dance
And I know some of you people just like to roll and rock
And roll and rock
So come on honey, it’s alright
We’ll do whatever YOU feel like…”
— Cactus, “Whatever You Feel Like”
The exact recording dates, I’m not sure, but Cactus‘ second album, 1971’s One Way… or Another, was put to tape at Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan sometime after the release of their 1970 debut, and listening to Tim Bogert swagger out the second “roll and rock” in “Whatever You Feel Like,” no question Jimi Hendrix was a presence in mind at the time. All that’s missing is a little “uh huh” after “rock.” Considering the studio opened in Aug. 1970 and Hendrix was dead less than a month later, it seems only fair to think Cactus would’ve been working with some of his influence in following up their first record, their fluid tempo shifts on “Rock and Roll Children” and the wah/acoustic layering on “Song for Aries” are easy enough to see in that light as well, though of course Cactus were foremost indebted to blues rock, and there’s plenty of that to be had on One Way… or Another as well.
Immediately, as it happens. One Way… or Another opens with the Little Richard cover “Long Tall Sally,” also done by Elvis and The Beatles and many, many others. But Cactus take the original and slow it down to a vicious, sleazy groove, guitarist Jim McCarty basically giving bassist Tim Bogert — who usually handled backup vocals to Rusty Day‘s leads, but took the fore on “Whatever You Feel Like” (Day got his moment in a harmonica solo) — and drummer Carmine Appice all the room they could ever ask for to swing through and then some. Cactus‘ Cactus was a little more unhinged, a little more dangerous overall, but the fullness of sound and tonal satisfaction that One Way… or Another provides isn’t to be understated. That’s not to say “Big Bad Mother Boogie” doesn’t have its edge, just that if you listen back to their take on “Parchman Farm” from the first record it sounds like the song is about to fly out from under them.
Their take on Chuck Willis‘ “Feel so Bad” gives a bluesy start to a side B that branches out soon with “Song for Aries” and hits possibly its most righteous note in “Hometown Bust,” a heavy return that’s as huge as anything that might’ve been called metal at a later point in the decade, McCarty wailing out a lead that, yeah, there’s Hendrix again, and killing it in the process while Day throws in some chops on harmonica. The closing title-track rests on an up-down nod of a riff not frantic but still maddening in its turns, Bogert and McCarty playing off each other brilliantly before the last chorus return, Day‘s vocals doubled for maximum effect en route to the last, all-too-quick fade.
Cactus had one more album, 1971’s Restrictions, with the same lineup, though the changes that would result in lineup shifts for 1972’s ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty – bringing in Leaf Hound‘s Peter French to replace Rusty Day — were already taking root. I’m not sure which I’d pick over the other, Cactus or One Way… or Another, but both are heavy rock classics and definitely the sophomore record makes some compelling arguments in its case, the upped Hendrixery among them.
Hope you enjoy.
In case you’re also wondering, no, I have no idea where November went. Next week is Thanksgiving, which is another one of those US holidays celebrating a fiction — this one about peace between European colonists and the native people being colonized — like Xmas or Columbus Day or Labor Day, and so on and so on, but screw it, a day off is hard to argue with. The Patient Mrs. and I are heading south for the occasion — I know you’re shocked — to New Jersey. I expect family time will consume the bulk of the week, but I’ll have some posts along the way where and when I am able as well, including a new podcast on Wednesday, so if you’re traveling for the holiday, or just sitting on your ass (it works either way), you might want to grab that when it’s up. I’m gonna shoot for Wednesday morning, but we’ll see how it goes.
Also look out for a Murcielago review hopefully on Monday and something or other on Tuesday to fill time while I pack to head to Jersey on Tuesday night. I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends and, if I’m honest, to not being in the house for a while but also knowing where I’m going, ever. After a year of where-the-hell-am-I-what’s-the-fastest-way-to-the-highway-and-which-highway-do-I-want-anyway, it’s starting to wear a little thin. Novelty fades. Inconvenience is forever.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of the holidays by sitting as quietly and as still as possible. It’s like meditation except it involves watching hours of Star Trek episodes at a time.
Be well, and please check out the forum and radio stream.