Cactus was born from the detritus of Vanilla Fudge in 1970 when drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert were planning to start a band with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. Beck came close to dying in a car crash, so plans for that band were put on hold (Bogert and Appice would team up with Beck a couple of years later), while the rhythm section went on to recruit guitarist Jim McCarty and singer Rusty Day, and called the new group Cactus.With four albums recorded in two years and killer live shows to boot, Cactus was often called the ‘American Led Zeppelin’. After the original group disbanded in 1972, Day tried to carry the Cactus flag with various incarnations, but his tragic murder in 1982 put the kibosh on that. Then in 2006, Bogert, Appice and McCarty regrouped with singer Jimmy Kunes and harmonica player Randy Pratt for an album and tour. Ten years later with a new bass player (Pete Bremy replaced the retiring Bogert in 2011), Cactus is back with their sixth studio album, Black Dawn.
On this 10-song release, Cactus make more heavy American rock. Tunes like the mighty stomp of “Mamma Bring It Home” is epitome of what this band is all about — heavy and driving with catchy choruses you can’t get out of your head. McCarty lays back in a simple single-note slicing lead here lifts the song even higher.
“Dynamite” makes use of Pratt behind Appice’s snapping drums and another catchy chorus. Two previously unreleased Cactus tracks featuring the original lineup end the CD. “Another Way Or Another” is a jangly guitar instrumental with big loud moments of McCarty’s wah-wah lead, and “C-70 Blues” features a growling bass and guitar feedback before it launches into a hard rock groove. As a package, the 2016 version of Cactus lives up to the legend on Black Dawn.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.