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Colosseum - Valentyne Suite CD (album) cover

VALENTYNE SUITE

Colosseum

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.20 | 248 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars One small step for a man.

"Valentyne's suite" was originally released on Vertigo records famous "swirl" label, being that label's first album. Interestingly, when the band later moved to Island records subsidiary Bronze, "Valentyne's suite" was selected for re-release on their budget "HELP" label, selling for substantially less than the full price of an LP. Other such releases included Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Pictures at an exhibition" (Catalogue number HELP1), and King Crimson's "Earthbound" (HELP6). Valentine's suite was HELP4. Unlike most of that series though, this is a studio recording.

If Colosseum's first album "Those who are about to die salute you" found the band members still rooted in their jazz origins, "Valentyne's suite" sees them moving quickly into the rock arena. The jazz and blues influences are still very much in evidence, but the freeform sections are briefer and less indulgent, the album having a generally more accessible feel.

The opening "The Kettle" with its light multi-tracked pop vocals and nonsense lyrics is among the band's most commercial works, but still manages to feature some fine guitar work by James Litherland. The commercial, more rock orientated feel is maintained with the vocals dominated "Elegy", while "Butty's blues" is a more traditional blues/jazz number. "The machine demands a sacrifice" is a wandering piece with an avante garde ending.

The focus of the album though is of course the title suite in 3 sections. While credited as a band composition, parts 1 and 2 are primarily the work of Dave Greenslade, while the final part was written by Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith. Greenslade's organ playing therefore features strongly in the piece, as he engages in instrumental "conversations" with the other band members. If only he had been as forthright and dynamic with his eponymous band, and had perhaps not bothered with the mellotron purchase (sacrilege I know, but some expoit it better than others!), Greenslade could have been a much bigger player in the developing prog of the early 70's.

The suite is by far Colosseum's finest recording. It balances their blues and jazz influences with genuinely progressive moments. The rock themes on which the track is based seldom permit the music to stray too far into improvisation, the jazz rock sound being much closer to early Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears.

Bearing in mind that the piece was recorded in 1969 (the sleeve notes affirm that they were written as the first man was stepping on the moon), "The Valentyne suite" pre- dates many of the prog epics which followed in the early 1970's. How influential it was on those epics is open to debate, but there is no doubt that Colosseum were pioneers in the field. That in itself does not make the album essential listening, and for me the four tracks which occupy side one are pleasant but dispensable diversions. The title suite however is worthy of any respectable prog collection.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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