Episode #246 – Colosseum II – Strange New Flesh (with Ian Desrosiers)

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Lead up to the Album:

  • Jon Hiseman had previously been in a band called Tempest. The band released two albums before breaking up. Out of its ashes arose Colosseum II.
  • Hiseman had previously had a band named Colosseum from 1968 to 1971. Colosseum II was intended to be more jazz-fusion based and as of the breakup of Tempest only Gary Moore was named as a member.
  • Gary had seen Tempest play at the end of April in 1974 at one of their last gigs at the Marquee. He went backstage and suggested that he and Hiseman form a band.
  • They hadn’t solidified working together or a project but met again at the recording of the rock version of Peter and The Wolf that JAck Lancaster and Robin Lumley were working on.
  • There they decided to form a band and they went to Germany to play with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble (UJRE). This was a group of very highly trained musicians. Gary was nervous about playing with them as he would have been one of the only ones that didn’t read music.
  • Hiseman called Moore a “modern player” rather than a blues player and ranked him higher than Clapton for that reason.  Hiseman defined him as a true original.
  • Gary said in an interview in Sounds magazine: “The first time I played with Jon, I alwmost fell through the floor. He played everything I’ve always heard in my head, everything that I thought a drummer should play and a lot more besides. It was just astonishing.”
  • The goal was to fuse strong songs and vocals with technical jazz rock.  Gary stated that there were bands that had a great jazz-fusion background and bands with great vocalists but no one that was doing both.
  • They got a loan for 7,000 as they didn’t have any gigs or a manager and used that to pay Gary 10 a week.
  • They rehearsed in a studio underneath railway arches in London.  Mark Clarke and Graham Bell were brought in. Mark left shortly thereafter to join Uriah Heep’s keyboardist Ken Hensley and Graham Bell left softly thereafter. Andy Pyle also played with them briefly.
  • Eventually they found a singer, Mike Starrs but they struggled to find a keyboard player.
  • Gary dealt with a lot of fear and anxiety and used alcohol to cope with it.  During this time Gary and his girlfriend donna went to a bar and ran into one of Donna’s ex boyfriends.  They got into an altercation and Gary got his face smashed with a bottle which lead to his signature chin scar.  They went to the hospital but Gary wouldn’t even let the doctor finish stitching it up.
  • In April or May of 1975 Jon and Gary found Don Airey. Airey had been in Cozy Powell’s Hammer with Neil Murray. Neil had been auditioning for bands but had a short scale bass and thought he wasn’t getting gigs because he didn’t look professional.  He said that he was able to get a Precision Bass before auditioning for Colosseum II and that’s what got him the job.
  • Gary said that he and Don didn’t see eye to eye on the composition. Gary would do things on piano and Don would tell him that you couldn’t do that.  They eventually figured out a way to work together and create music and Gary would do a very good job of communicating what he wanted to hear to Don.
  • Mike Starrs said that they music was “completely alien” to him.
  • Hiseman went to Gerry Bron who had financed Tempest to get support for the new project.
  • Up until this point the band was being called Ghosts and Bron said that had to change.  He urged Jon to reprise the name fo Colosseum and they changed their name.  They entered Gerry Bron’s Roundhouse studios to record the album in August of 1975. According to Harry Shapiro in the official Gary Moore biography. It was recorded between August and January.
  • Wikipedia states the album was recorded in the winter of 1975-1976 at Roundhouse Studios.
    • London based recording studio, properly titled “Roundhouse Recording Studios”, established in 1975 by Gerry Bron. It was the studio arm of Bronze Records. Bron formed this studio after producing Uriah Heep’s debut album “Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble.”
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerry_Bron
  • Jon said Gary never really understood players like John McLaughlin or Larry Coryell. When it finally flicked and he could understand what they were doing is when his playing really took off. Jon had a jazz background and got Gary listening to Coltrane and Roland Kirk.
  • Don Airey said that it was at this time that Gary’s playing reached a peak. Don Airey compared Gary’s peak and how he maintained it to Oscar Peterson.

Core Band:


  • Engineer – Ashley Howe
    • Worked with Uriah Heep, Snafu, Spencer Davis Group, Babe Ruth, Ken Hensley, David Byron, 
  • Engineer [Assistant] – John Gallen
  • Engineer [Assistant] – Trevor Hallesy
    • Also worked with a lot of the same artists as well as Peter Frampton.

Album Art & Booklet Review

  • Design – Ian Emes
    • Did album covers for Roger Waters, Duran Duran, Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann, 

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Album Tracks:

Side One:

  1. Dark Side of the Moog (Airey/Moore)
    • Track is in 13/8 and features the piano, organ, and synthesizers.
  2. Down to You (Joni Mitchell)
    • The album’s title was taken from one of the lyrics in the Joni Mitchell song. Gary was a huge Joni Mitchell fan. Hiseman said, “I get shivers listening to this . . . we took the melody and did it in different ways. From where the piano comes in, it is all arranged by Don and we have used Joni’s song as a piece of musical theatre . . . it develops in an orchestral way and I feel lucky to have the musicians who can play this.”
  3. Gemini and Leo (Moore/Hiseman)

Side Two:

  1. Secret Places (Moore/Hiseman)
  2. On Second Thoughts (Moore)
  3. Winds (Moore/Hiseman)

Bustin’ Out The Spreadsheet

Reception and Charts:

  • The album was released in April of 1976 but did not chart.


  • Chris Welch called the album “an imaginative and exuberant debut.”
  • Gary and Jon were not thrilled with the album. They referred to it as a studio performance and called it “dead.”

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