Bedlam "The Beast" (1973) with Cozy Powell

In many rock-and-roll hearts, April 5th is a date that lives in infamy. Fans of ‘90’s grunge recognize this date as the one on which Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was believed to have taken his own life in 1994, and the date on which Layne Staley of Alice In Chains was believed to have died of a drug overdose in 2002. Other notable figures in rock history who have died on this date include Bob “The Bear” Hite of Canned Heat in 1981, and Marshall amp inventor Jim Marshall in 2012. Another name was added to this list in 2022, when early-‘60’s teen idol Bobby Rydell also passed away on this date.

Yet another noteworthy rock musician on this list is Cozy Powell, who perished in a car crash at age 50 on April 5th of 1998. Born as Colin Trevor Flooks in England in December 1947, Cozy Powell was regarded as one of the greatest drummers in hard rock. After a brief stint with the Jeff Beck Group in the early 1970’s, Powell went on to play with many bands in the hard rock and heavy metal categories, including Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Black Sabbath. In the mid-‘80’s, Powell replaced Carl Palmer in Emerson, Lake and Palmer to form a short-lived configuration called Emerson, Lake and Powell. In total, Powell is believed to have appeared on no less than 66 albums by many different artists. He also scored a solo hit called “Dance With The Devil” in 1973, a mostly instrumental recording dominated by his impressive drumming. The single became a #3 hit in the U.K., and a #49 hit in the U.S.

The success of that single was reportedly one of the factors which led to the breakup of Bedlam, a hard rock band in which Powell was the drummer. The other members of Bedlam were vocalist Frank Aiello (formerly of British pop duo The Truth) and brothers Dave Ball (the guitarist who had recently replaced Robin Trower in Procol Harum) and Denny Ball (bass). Bedlam recorded only one studio album in 1973, which was self-titled in most countries, but known as The Beast (the band’s earlier name) in the U.S. The album was produced by Felix Pappalardi, who had been a member of Mountain and a producer for Cream. This album is worth discovering, not only because it features Powell’s excellent drumming, but also because it displays the equally impressive skills of the other three band members.

Bedlam are sometimes classified as a British metal band, and the first two tracks on The Beast would back up that claim. The opening track “I Believe In You” echoes Deep Purple’s Mk II period, while “Hot Lips” suggests a more melodic Black Sabbath, with prominent use of effects pedals. But the album takes an even more melodic turn from there, with a decent pair of rock ballads, “Sarah” and “Sweet Sister Mary”. These are followed by three energetic blues-rock numbers (“Seven Long Years”, “The Beast”, “Whisky and Wine”) which recall Ten Years After during their post-Woodstock years. Except for the guitar sound, “Looking Through Love’s Eyes” is much like a throwback to British pop styles of the ‘60’s. The last two tracks are potent crunch-rockers: “Putting On The Flesh” has a touch of prog in its chorus; “Set Me Free” comes on like Deep Purple-meets-Cream-in-a-dark-alley. The hard-rocking guitar riffs by the Ball brothers are exciting throughout, sometimes making use of wah-wah pedal effects. Aiello’s versatile vocals rise to every occasion, as he alternately plays the role of an Ian Gillan, a Robert Plant, and an Alvin Lee. The Beast is a fierce and varied hard rock record, and it turned out to be Bedlam’s only one, as Powell moved on to Rainbow and other numerous endeavors.

The Beast – or Bedlam – should not be confused with the commercially available live album Live In London 1973, which has similar cover art. Besides that album, another live Bedlam album surfaced in Europe in 2013, titled Live In Binghampton 1974, and that album is now out of print. This CD was sourced from a radio broadcast which captured Bedlam performing while they were touring with Black Sabbath in ’74. As you might have guessed, the CD does not have the most pristine sound quality, but it does reveal Bedlam to have been a remarkable live band who did not lose their strength in this setting. Powell’s powerful drumming comes through clearer here than it does on the album, though the rest of the band is also in fine form. Although the band is heard to good enough effect with the three selections from the album (particularly on the sizzling version of “Set Me Free”), the chief value of Live In Binghampton 1974 comes from two numbers which were not on the album: “The Great Game” is a mid-tempo rocker marked by the use of effects pedals; “The Fool” is a blazing 21-minute blues-metal-jamming rendition of the Lee Hazlewood rockabilly song that allows the three instrumentalists to demonstrate their talents – and Powell drums up a storm at the end.

Bedlam - Bedlam

Bedlam “The Beast” (Chrysalis CHR 1048) 1973

Track Listing:

1. I Believe In You (Fire In My Body)
2. Hot Lips
3. Sarah
4. Sweet Sister Mary
5. Seven Long Years
6. The Beast
7. Whisky and Wine
8. Looking Through Love’s Eyes (Busy Dreamin’)
9. Putting On The Flesh
10. Set Me Free

Bedlam - Live in Binghampton 1974

Bedlam “Live In Binghampton 1974” (Angel Air SJPCD430) 2013

Track Listing:

1. I Believe In You
2. The Beast
3. The Great Game
4. Set Me Free
5. Interview
6. The Fool
7. The Beast (Studio Remix)