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Greenslade, 'Greenslade'

Greenslade  (1973,  41.11)  ****/TTTT

Feathered Friends
An English Western
Drowning Man
Temple Song
Mélange
What Are You Doin' to Me
Sundance
Greenslade, 'Bedside Manners Are Extra'

Bedside Manners Are Extra  (1973,  39.20)  ****/TTTT

Bedside Manners Are Extra
Pilgrim's Progress
Time to Dream
Drum Folk
Sunkissed You're Not
Chalkhill
Greenslade, 'Spyglass Guest'

Spyglass Guest  (1974,  38.40)  ***½/TTT

Spirit of the Dance
Little Red Fry-Up
Rainbow
Siam Seesaw
Joie de Vivre

Red Light
Melancholic Race
Theme for an Imaginary Western
Greenslade, 'Time & Tide'

Time & Tide  (1975,  32.23)  ***½/TT

Animal Farm
Newsworth
Time
Tide
Catalan

The Flattery Stakes
Waltz for a Fallen Idol
The Ass's Ears
Doldrums
Gangsters
Greenslade, 'Live'

Live  (1999, recorded 1973/75,  62.39)  ****/TTTT

Sundance
Drowning Man
Feathered Friends
Mélange
Joie de Vivre
Bedside Manners Are Extra
Sundance
Red Light

Spirit of the Dance
Greenslade, 'Live in Stockholm: March 10th, 1975'

Live in Stockholm: March 10th, 1975  (2013,  56.16)  ***½/TTT½

Pilgrim's Progress
Newsworth

The Flattery Stakes
Bedside Manners Are Extra
Joie de Vivre

Waltz for a Fallen Idol
The Ass's Ears
Drum Folk
Spirit of the Dance
Greenslade, 'The Birthday Album: Live Switzerland 1974'

The Birthday Album: Live Switzerland 1974  (2016,  72.39)  ***½/TTTT

An English Western
Sunkissed You're Not
Bedside Manners Are Extra
Pilgrims Progress
Drowning Man
Time to Dream
Sundance
Feathered Friends
Drum Folk
V/A, 'Reading Festival '73' V/A, 'Reading Festival '73'

Reading Festival '73  (1973,  6.00)  ***½/TT½

[Greenslade contribute]
Feathered Friends

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Upon leaving Colosseum, Dave Greenslade (son of orchestral arranger Art Greenslade) put his own band together in 1972, featuring the unusual lineup of two keys (with Dave Lawson, ex-Episode Six/Web/Samurai), old friend and musical sparring partner Tony Reeves on bass and drummer Andrew McCulloch. The most noticeable thing about their take on progressive rock is how much it's rooted in the blues, unlike many of their contemporaries. Now, not everyone's going to see this as a good thing, but they did have a fairly original style for a 'second-generation' band, formed after the first wave had either taken off or sunk without trace.

They released Greenslade in '73, carving their own little niche in the UK music scene, while never being in any real danger of catching up with the market leaders. The album is pretty laid-back, with big themes rather than particularly strong melodies, but they made a good noise, and really didn't sound much like anyone else. On the Mellotron front, as with so many bands, most of the use (by Greenslade himself) is in the large string chord department, although I believe I can hear cellos on the intro to Drowning Man and a faint flute part in Temple Song. The best use is probably in fans' favourite Feathered Friends and What Are You Doin' To Me, although every track has at least a few seconds, taken to a ridiculous extreme by the single closing chord in An English Western.

Greenslade, from 'Reading Festival '73'

Given that it was their second album of the year, Bedside Manners Are Extra is excellent; several strong compositions ensure that this is probably their best album, though those looking for Crimson/Van der Graaf-style prog should, again, probably go elsewhere. The title track and Pilgrims Progress are the best of the bunch, with a good deal of 'Tron strings, especially on the latter. There's a solo flute part in Drum Folk, rescuing the track from being no more than a vehicle for that oddest of things, a studio drum solo. So, once again, 'Tron throughout, and a damn' good album to boot.

Despite containing two of Greenslade's most popular pieces in Spirit Of The Dance and Joie De Vivre, Spyglass Guest shows a slight slacking-off on the quality front, but three albums in two years must have taken its toll. The cracks were already starting to show in the apportioning of roles within the band, with several tracks only featuring the composer on keys, effectively making the band a part-time trio, with several guest musicians appearing, including DG's old colleague, guitarist Clem Clempson from Colosseum. I don't know if Dave Lawson refused to play Mellotron, or was just more interested in pianos and synths, but his compositions are resolutely organ and Mellotron-free. DG's Mellotronic contributions are as good as ever; if only there were more of them. The aforementioned 'best songs on album', Melancholic Race and Spirit Of The Dance are both excellent Mellotronically, too, with overdubbed strings and flute on the latter.

By Time & Tide, all the usual stuff was happening with Greenslade; shorter tracks and more of them (it's a very short album), more straightforward material, and little integration between the two keyboard men. Saying that, Tide is a wonderful piece of music, consisting of no more than DG on Fender Rhodes bass and overdubbed 'Tron strings and choir, with some string work on Catalan and Gangsters, a piece written for a BBC play. The rest of the material's OK, but their glory year(s) were certainly behind them by this stage. Incidentally, there's an excellent pic of the band's stage setup inside the album gatefold, showing that DG had a far cooler keyboard rig than DL. Well, it was his band...

After the band's final split in '76, DG went on to record a couple of progressive-ish solo albums (see below), before moving into full-time TV music work. In the late 1990s, he was instrumental in reforming Colosseum, before deciding that maybe Greenslade were worth a revival, too. Live was released in '99 to test the water, consisting of excerpts from gigs in '73 and '75, including two very different versions of Sundance, showing how the band's approach changed in the space of two years. It's a damn' good album, actually, displaying the band at their best, playing some of their best material; there's also some serious Mellotron action from DG, with most tracks featuring at least a little. Red Light adds some not on the studio version, while Spirit Of The Dance takes it away, but it's all well worth hearing. Incidentally, as you can see, one live track was released way back in '73, on the Reading Festival 1973 various artists LP, along with the Faces, Rory Gallagher, Status Quo etc. It's an excellent version of Feathered Friends, with some well-recorded 'Tron strings, if you can track a copy down. It was re-released in 1990 with a different sleeve, but I don't know if it's turned up on CD.

Now there's something of a story surrounding 2013's Live in Stockholm: March 10th, 1975, at least as far as I'm concerned. I used to have this listed under 'bootlegs', until its official release; what its rather excitable sleevenotes fail to mention is that the source for the release is an unofficial recording that's been doing the rounds since sometime back in the 2000s. An unofficial recording that I made from a cassette (source forgotten) and put out on the bootleg trading circuit; you know, the one that utilised 'trees', 'roots' 'branches' and possibly 'twigs'. The official disc is exactly the same length as the boot, although the EQ's been tweaked slightly, while it's picked up a glitch at the beginning of Drum Folk on its travels that isn't there on my original. So; a barely-cleaned up bootleg, no more or less.

Anyway, their set that night was heavily slanted towards their new (and, as it turned out, last) album, Time & Tide, although all four of their releases are represented here, highlights including opener Pilgrim's Progress, Joie De Vivre and jaunty closer Spirit Of The Dance. Downsides? Dave Lawson's yowling vocals, possibly one of the reasons the band weren't bigger than they were and the chief reason I generally prefer their instrumentals. Sorry, Dave L. Dave G. gets some Mellotron in on most tracks: Pilgrim's Progress is veritably stuffed with flutes and strings, although we only get a few seconds of brass on Newsworth. The strings on Bedside Manners Are Extra and Joie De Vivre are woefully flat, despite Dave's best efforts to get the machine in tune, although things improve for the string and/or flute parts on Drum Folk and Spirit Of The Dance. Listening to this reminds me of the best thing about Greenslade's Mellotron work: big, lush, chordal string parts that rival anything the bigger and better(-known) Genesis and King Crimson could rustle up, at least on that front.

The Birthday Album: Live Switzerland 1974 sounds like another tarted-up bootleg to my ears, albeit not one I've had the privilege to originally edit and circulate. The tracklisting's better than Stockholm, chiefly due to it being recorded a year earlier, the obvious highlight being a killer, seventeen-minute version of Sundance, showing that the band could jam out when they wanted to. Dave G.'s Mellotron on most tracks, with nothing obvious on the first two tracks, but lush strings on Bedside Manners Are Extra, flutes and strings on Pilgrims Progress, Sundance and Drum Folk, cellos and strings on Drowning Man and strings on Time To Dream and Feathered Friends.

To my knowledge, the band are still technically 'together' at the time of writing, although they haven't played live for over a year [n.b. this was written a long time ago]. They actually released a new studio album, Large Afternoon, in 2000, but don't hold your breath on the keyboard front. Both DG and Lawson's replacement, prog journeyman and all-round good guy John Young are all-digital (big surprise, there); live, they didn't even try to recreate the Mellotron sounds of yore. 2002 Live documents the current lineup on stage; good, but not that startling, to be brutally honest, although if you're a fan, you shouldn't be (too) disappointed.

So; what to recommend? I think Live might actually be a good starting point for the uninitiated, given that it collects some of their best tracks together, with the extra 'zing' of a live performance. Other than that, start with Greenslade and work your way through; they were never going to be in prog's Division One, but they were a good little band in their own right, deserving of being heard. Oh, and for the Mellotron, just go by my 'T' ratings above.



Dave Greenslade, 'Cactus Choir'

Cactus Choir  (1976,  42.42)  ***½/T

Pedro's Party
Gettysburg
Swings and Roundabouts
Time Takes My Time
Forever and Ever
Cactus Choir
  The Rider
  Greeley and the Rest
  March at Sunset
Country Dance
Finale
Dave Greenslade, 'The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony'

The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony  (1979,  78.10)  ***/0

Introit
Moondance
Beltempest
Glass
Three Brides
Birds & Bats & Dragonflies
Nursery Hymn
The Minstrel
Fresco/Kashrinn
Barcarole
Dry Land
Forest Kingdom
Vivat Regina
Scream But Not Heard
Mischief
War
Lament for the Sea
Miasma Generator
Exile
Jubilate
The Tiger and the Dove

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

The year after Greenslade (the band) split, erstwhile leader Dave put out his first solo album, Cactus Choir. More than anything else, it sounds like the lost fifth Greenslade album, or maybe a lopsided version of them, minus Dave Lawson's input. Most of the material is good, if a little unexciting, although Time Takes My Time was a mistake, as was Dave's singing on the track. Now we know why Lawson was the band's vocalist, despite everything... About the best thing on the album is the lengthyish closer, Finale, with a string section sounding amazingly like a Mellotron at one point. Talking of which, there's very little Mellotron to be heard here; some choir, though not sounding like the regular 8-voice, on Swings And Roundabouts and something completely inaudible (but listed) on Forever And Ever.

Dave's last regular release for some time was the hugely ambitious The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony; an album out of time if ever there was one. It's actually hard to say whether it's a double album with accompanying hardback book, or a book with albums enclosed; it has both a label number and an ISBN, but we'll treat it primarily as an album for the purposes of this review. The story is the standard fantasy-literature-as-allegory thing, with its tale of a planet's ruination being a fairly obvious ecological metaphor concerning our own world. Very worthy, but how many people by 1979 actually gave a damn, especially considering the packaging? Patrick Woodroffe's artwork is beautiful, in a fantasy art kind of way, but by the end of the '70s the world had moved on (before partially moving back again) and that, combined with the album/book's high selling price meant that few people actually bought a copy. It's actually a lovely collector's item and has recently been reissued as a CD miniature, but that rather misses the point, somehow; its appeal lies in its 12"x12" size, allowing the magnificent detail in the illustrations full reign.

Sad to say, the music (all instrumental) is actually pretty weak; a pale shadow of the stuff Greenslade was producing a few years earlier, although I suppose it was written to fit the concept, while Greenslade (the band) were very much a vocal group. There don't seem to be any particular highlights and, although at one point I'm sure I could hear some faint Mellotron on side 4's Miasma Generator, it doesn't seem to be there any more. Maybe it fell off. Anyway, there's one listed in the sleevenotes, but I'll be buggered if I can hear it anywhere.

links

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