This two-CD collection is a companion volume to Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs (2004) and contains the Cactus (1970), One Way. . . Or Another (1971), Restrictions (1971) and 'Ot 'N' Sweaty (1972) LPs and associated extras. The initial aggregate was a supergroup of sorts, with both Carmine Appice (drums) and Tim Bogert (bass) having been the formidable rhythm section behind Vanilla Fudge, Rusty Day (vocals) hailing from the Amboy Dukes, and Jim McCarty (guitar) late of Mitch Ryder's backing ensemble the Detroit Wheels. Even though Cactus was overshadowed by Led Zeppelin, they created their own blues-based fusion, rivalling the likes of MC5 in terms of sheer sonic intensity. While their debut included fiery reworkings of Mose Allison's "Parchment Farm" and Willie Dixon's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover," some of the best material consists of the band's compositions. Among them are the ballad "My Lady From South of Detroit," the heavy rocker "Let Me Swim" and the languid bluesy "No Need to Worry." Barely Contained: The Studio Sessions (2004) also highlights three outtakes from the first album, an original thrasher titled "Sweet Little 16," as well as "The Sun Is Shining" and "Rumblin' Man." The latter originally surfaced on the single-disc Cactology: The Cactus (1996) compilation. The follow-up One Way... Or Another (1971) sported a cohesive and less raw sound, benefiting no doubt from the help of noted engineer Eddie Kramer. However, "Big Mama Boogie" and the propulsive "Rockout, Whatever You Feel Like" are evidence that Cactus remained loud, raucous and driven. The Chicago-style "Hound Dog Sniffin'" is offered here as the sole leftover circa One Way... Or Another. The personnel shifted after their next long-player Restrictions (1971) as former Atomic Rooster frontman Peter French (lead vocals), Werner Fritzsching (guitar) and Duane Hitchings (keyboards) replaced Day and McCarty -- who split at the conclusion of the Restrictions tour. Incidentally, the final performance by the earliest incarnation can be heard on Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs. By the time of the half-studio/half-concert 'Ot 'N' Sweaty (1972), much of the magic had significantly dissipated resulting in an uneven affair. Although "Bad Stuff" -- a blatant rip-off of Jimi Hendrix' "Foxy Lady" -- is a hard groove that soars thanks to Hitchings impressive contributions.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2