It was four years between the release of Bo's last album of all-new cuts, 500% More Man, and this album, during which time he'd spent time recording with Chess' top bluesmen, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. The death of Leonard Chess in October of 1969 resulted in the sale of the label to the GRT corporation, and cost the company what little artistic guidance it had. The result was The Black Gladiator, an attempt to reshape Bo into a funk artist, in the manner of Sly and the Family Stone. As an experiment it's understandable, and Bo tries very hard (even making another song-length sexual boast on "You, Bo Diddley," which also ends with a great guitar/organ duet between Bo and Bobby Alexis), but he finally fails to find a groove that works. Despite some good guitar here and there, this record falls into the same category as Muddy's Electric Mud and After the Rain albums, and Howlin' Wolf's New Album, all of which attempted to transform each into a psychedelic rocker. "Power House" is a pretty good cut, using a modified Muddy Waters-"I'm a Man"/"Mannish Boy" beat and lyrics. Much of the rest is for absolute completists only, however. ~ Bruce Eder
Mojo (Publisher) (p.99) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "GLADIATOR is a raw, muscular fist-fight of an album....A joyous garage-blues gumbo that will still rankle the traditionalists."
Uncut (magazine) (p.92) - "[A] wild, id-run-amok, proto-funk/soul/blues stew....Bo was on the cusp of a brave new sound."