With a mixture of members from Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and the Amboy Dukes, it’s hard to believe that Cactus didn’t really succeed in their time. Often derided for being second-rate boogie rock, the band simply did what it did, and part of the allure of the style is its sloppy, second-rate nature. This 1971 release may not see the band at their peak, but it surely showcases the occasionally thundering rhythm section of Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. Why a song like “Token Chokin'” was never a hit and why it has yet to be embraced by the classic rock-loving public is a complete mystery. The song is some of the most heels-up, thundering, so-brainless-it’s-genius rock that has ever been to tape. It’s complete with big guitars, big sing-alongs, and a bass-and-drum combo that could knock out windows. Somebody needs to revive this track. Songs like “Evil” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” are all scorching guitars and long-haired riffing. It’s a testament to the blues-inspired power they could surely muster up onstage. Other tracks seem to fall apart like the opener, “Restrictions,” and “Guiltless Glider,” which starts off thick and heavy á la Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla,” but goes on for about six minutes too long.
To buffer some of the more blustery elements of the record, there are competent acoustic blues numbers like “Mean Night in Cleveland” and “Alaska,” the latter an ode to said state featuring lyrics about penguins, Santa Claus, and the aurora borealis. Nobody has ever said that boogie rock is grad school material, and Cactus are certainly no exception — they did manage to make a big, bearded racket that is both groan-inducing and a lot of fun.