Cactus, 1969-1972, was a heavy rock band that influenced such future bands as Van Halen, Aerosmith, Montrose, .38 Special and a host of others. Bassist Tim Bogert, drummer Carmine Appice (both of Vanilla Fudge), guitarist Jim McCarty (Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels), and vocalist Rusty Day combined to produce one of the heavier sounds of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Bogert and Appice have consistently been one of the better rock and roll rhythm sections of the last four plus decades but the key is guitarist McCarty. When you hear him play, you assume it is two guitarists. When his playing is placed on top of the rhythm section, it produces an ominous and oppressive sound that few bands have been able to re-produce.
Cactus lasted for just under four years and issued four studio albums. If you want to get to the heart of the band’s music or of heavy rock and roll itself, just track down their self-titled 1970 album or 1971’s One Way ….. Or Another.
After splitting, Day formed a band under the same name during the mid-1970’s but he was the only original member. He was murdered in early June of 1982 and the case has never been solved.
The lights went back on for Cactus in 2005 when Bogert, Appice, and McCarty reformed the band and added singer Jimmy Kunes, formally of Savoy Brown, and harmonica player Randy Pratt. One of their first performances was at B. B. King’s Club in New York City during early June of 2006. Live In The USA is a chronicle of that performance.
They may be a bit ragged around the edges, probably due to a lack of practice, but they do a good job at re-creating the Cactus sound. Bogert and Appice have lost none of their chemistry and McCarty remains one of rock’s underappreciated guitarists. Kunes may not be able to channel Day’s vocals completely but he is more than capable. Harmonica player Pratt is a good addition as he brings some new elements to the music and pushes the band in a more bluesy direction.
“Long Tall Sally,” “Parchment Farm,” and “One Way …. Or Another” formed part of their live repertoire back in the early 1970’s and here they may be a little more sedate but the musicianship remains excellent. The back and forth between McCarty and the rhythm section drive the songs along and Pratt provides some extra textures by filling in the gaps.
“Cactus Boogie” chugs along and Muddy Waters “Evil” contains the blues in the midst of their rock and roll. “Oleo” features a tasty solo by McCarty.
The Cactus of 2006 may not be the same as forty 45 years ago but they do a good job at reviving their music. Live In The USA is an entertaining trip back in time.