With the death this week of Jon Hiseman, this review became essential and rather poignant.

Hiseman put Colosseum II together after the demise of Tempest and at this point the lineup was settled as Hiseman on drums, Gary Moore on guitar, Don Airey on keyboards and John Mole on bass.
Aside from Mole all of the band had been in successful bands for many years (Mole was a leading session bass player) and were all writers as well as performers. A recipe for ego clashes on an epic scale but such was the respect each had for the others that they worked together from the start to create superb jazz/rock fusion and ‘Wardance’ definitely has the feel of band effort with outstanding syncopation between the multiple strands of the music.

The interplay of Gary Moore and Don Airey is breathtaking and the pace and ferocity of Hiseman’s drumming underpinned by some delightful bass from Mole is the epitome of Jazz/Rock.

Moore almost sounds as though he is free to play with Airey’s keyboards giving him a platform to explode out from while Airey creates huge soundscapes and washes of keyboard.

The band, I believe, recorded the material live so that all four members were able to express themselves and take a lead and the pace of the music was allowed to vary with the individual lead.

Listening to a track such as ‘The Inquisition’ you are immediately struck by the rate of attack of the piece – other than Al Di Meola and Jeff Beck I cannot think of any guitarist who can play with such pace and still keep the musicality of the piece. This isn’t shredding, this is playing and Moore may never have sounded better. Hiseman’s drumming is martial and incredibly powerful but it serves the music and doesn’t steal the stage.

The album is almost entirely instrumental with the exception of ‘Castles’ which features Gary Moore on vocals. ‘Castles’ is spare and loaded with emotion and to my mind it harkens back to the original Colosseum rather than being of a piece with what the rest of the album is about.

Personal favourite track is probably ‘Major Keys’ – loaded with funk and with a jaunty, almost jolly, feel to it.

For all four of the musicians – sadly only Airey is still with us – the feeling was that this was a watershed for them and some of the most enjoyable music to make.

As usual, Esoteric have done a great job in remastering the album and it really sounds fresh and alive.