COLOSSEUM – Colosseum – (Fontana) – 1969

Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You

aka  "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You".

Jazz-rock English style, or rather, as someone suggests somewhere, "rock jazz".

Either way I approach this with trepidation.

For someone who had a resistance to jazz, or at least certain forms of jazz because of the pretentious aspects to it (well, at least the pretentiousness of its audience) I didn't feel the same about the jazz-rock bands.

I like (a lot) the first Chicago (Transit Authority) album and the first two or three Blood Sweat and Tears albums and a few other bits and pieces but I had reservations.

I suspect that, because I was listening to those albums in the 80s, I could comfortably see, and accept, as a thing of the times, the naff aspects in the music. At the time of release I suspect their music would have been a little pretentious.

Of course when it come to pretentiousness music acts, the English leave everyone for dead … Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Billy Bragg, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis, Gorillaz  etc

There is a reason why, almost, the entire "prog rock" (progressive rock) genre, the height of pretentious rock (google prog rock and pretentious), occurred only in England.

Granted "pretentious" is hard to define in music and harder to quantify but you know it when you see it. People split hairs over when ether act is pretentious or not but, inevitably, they are always, usually, talking about the same bands.

And, of course, just because you are pretentious doesn't mean you can't make great music.

So, having little knowledge about Colosseum apart from the fact that they were jazz rock, English, and had been around for years I turned to wikipedia.

The introductory paragraphs did not instil me with hope …

"Those Who Are About to Die Salute You – Morituri Te Salutant is the debut album by Colosseum, released in 1969 by Fontana. It is one of the pioneering albums of jazz fusion. The title is a translation of the Latin phrase morituri te salutant that according to popular belief (but not academic agreement), gladiators addressed to the emperor before the beginning of a gladiatorial match".                                                                        

"were a pioneering English progressive jazz-rock band, mixing progressive rock and jazz-based improvisation".

Latin writing, prog rock, jazz based improvisation, gladiators, emperors,  …

Allmusic had this to say on them, "One of the most influential of the early British progressive rock bands, Colosseum fused an adventurous approach to rock with strong jazz and blues influences and classical keyboard accents; they earned a loyal and lasting following though they never scored a major breakthrough hit. Colosseum was founded in 1968 by saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, bassist Tony Reeves, and drummer Jon Hiseman; the three had previously worked with John Mayall, playing on his album Bare Wires, and Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman were formerly members of the Graham Bond Organisation. The first lineup was completed with the addition of Dave Greenslade on keyboards, Jim Roche on guitar and vocalist James Litherland, who took over on guitar when Roche soon departed".

Like a lot of English rock acts from the 1960s Colosseum have become rock dinosaurs and their history is rather convoluted.

They only recorded four albums (one a US only release) before breaking up in 1974 reforming in 1994, releasing three more albums and touring through to 2015.

This is their debut album and there is an early history of the band (by the drummer and founding member Hiseman) in the liner notes and it seems that these guys, at least, are authentic jazz (and blues) oriented musicians dating back to the early 1960s.

And, here on this album perhaps (I'm not expert on Colosseum), you hear their roots better than ever. On what I have read the "prog rock" lovers don't love this album because it is too jazz and too blues.

But that is exactly what make it appealing to me. That, and the fact that it isn't fully prog yet!

I really do dislike a lot of prog rock.

Here the jazz elements are turned down and the blues (and rock) elements are way out front. I was a little surprised as I thought the band were more jazz oriented (they were, later). Having said that this isn't slavish 12 bar blues, or "blues hammer" blues. There is a lot thrown into the mix … the aforementioned jazz, eastern, psych, classical and art.

This, is time and place music. And the time and place for mass acceptance probably isn't 2015 (or even 1969).

But, it can be played now, especially in a live setting, for an art house crowd, at a smallish venue.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Walking in the Park – (Bond) –  recorded by Graham Bond and on his " There's a Bond Between Us" (1965) album, and re-released in 1970 as a single. This is a great jazz thumping version.
  • Plenty Hard Luck – (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Litherland/Reeves) – a blues, jazzed up. Some crazy sax-o-mo-phone work going on.
  • Mandarin – (Reeves/Greenslade) – a instrumental blues rock number with psych and eastern influences thrown in. Apparently it is based on a Japanese "soft scale".
  • Debut – (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Reeves) – another instrumental and apparently the first thing the band played together, hence the title.

    Side Two

  • Beware the Ides of March – (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Reeves) – an instrumental that starts out, apparently, as a variation on "A Whiter Shade of Pale" but is as the liner notes say a "manic version of a Bach chord sequence". (Procul Harum took their melody from Bach). The song eventually flies off … nice and without the Procul Harum syrup.
  • The Road She Walked Before – (Heckstall-Smith) – The keyboard and driving beat on this I like a lot
  • Backwater Blues – (Leadbelly) – The song is a standard. Leadbelly recorded it in 1940. This is pretty much standard late 60s electric blues. Perhaps a little ahead of the curve but only just. At 6 minutes it is a little too long for a slow blues.
  • Those About to Die – (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Reeves) – wow, from the opening you know this instrumental is going to be fun ( I think they refernce dave Brubeck's "Take Five" in there). It changes direction a couple of times but this is virtuoso playing and a hoot. Don't try dancing to it though.

And …

A little of this goes a long way and it's not really my cup off tea for repeated listening but some of this certainly goes off …  tape some and sell.

Chart Action





1969 #15


Walking in the Park


Plenty Hard Luck




Beware the Ides of March

mp3 attached

The Road She Walked Before

Backwater Blues

Those About to Die

Live (they go off)






  • Lineup -(and past and future bands: Dave Greenslade – -(The Beazers, Greenslade, Chris Farlowe, Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band) – vocals, organ / Dick Heskstall-Smith – -(Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organization, Hamburg Blues Band , solo, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Manchild, Blues and Beyond) – sax /  Jon Hiseman – -(The New Jazz Orchestra, The Graham Bond Organization, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Tempest, The United Jazz & Rock Ensemble, Colosseum II) – drums, percussion / James Litherland – -(Manchild, Mogul Thrash, Bandit) – vocals, guitar / Tony Reeves – -(Sound's Orchestral, The New Jazz Orchestra, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Mike Taylor Quartet, Curved Air, Greenslade, Big Chief, Blue Amba and The Warthogs) – bass
  • There was a Colosseum II formed in 1975 by drummer Jon Hiseman, naturally enough, as he was one of the main men behind the original Colosseum.  It lasted some  four album.
  • Tony Reeves In late 1964 he suggested for Pye release, and played on, the instrumental UK hit Sounds Orchestral's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" -(#5UK, #10US).
  • Everyone refers to this album as "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You", the words on the front and back but the actual name of the album and what appears on the label of my copy, which is n original, refers to the album as "Colosseum". Being a self titled debut would be more in keeping with tradition.

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at Cheers
This entry was posted in Blues Rock, Jazz Rock Fusion, Prog Rock and Art Rock and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply