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Greenslade - Greenslade CD (album) cover

GREENSLADE

Greenslade

 

Symphonic Prog

3.61 | 215 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

cfergmusic1
4 stars Greenslade was one of the few members of that prickliest of musical aggregations, the prog supergroup (a club which also included ELP and, later on, Asia and GTR). The band's namesake and de facto leader, Dave Greenslade (who I will call DG to avoid confusion), and bassist Tony Reeves both came from Colosseum, 2nd keyboardist and lead singer Dave Lawson was a veteran of the Web and Samurai, and drummer Andy McCulloch was in King Crimson for about five minutes, by which I mean his only credit with Fripp & Co. was the Lizard album from 1971. (Funny how a lot of KC alumni go on to join other bands or form their own.) In any event, the combination that grew out of the players' distinct "jazz-ical" influences was a smooth, somewhat perky two-keyboard sound not unlike the earlier Procol Harum, which also carved out its own little prog niche in the process. (In case you're wondering, DG plays most of the keys including organ, electric piano, Mellotron and clavinet, while Lawson handles the acoustic piano and synth work.)

Probably the main source of people's curiosity about this group (including myself) is the Roger Dean covers on almost every album and accompanying Yes font for the band logo. How well does that translate to the music? Well, sub-consciously or not, I get a very strong Rick Wakeman vibe from this record in particular. DG's slightly grungy Hammond and RMI electric piano remind me of Six Wives in a number of respects, while the Mellotron (of which there is plenty in this band) is redolent of the caped Yes-man's best work on CTTE or Tales. In addition, Reeves' bass work and tone is at times strangely similar to Chris Squire (was he using a Rickenbacker as well?), while McCulloch has the feeling of how Bill Bruford might have sounded if he hadn't left Yes and that band had also kept making Fragile-type albums for another couple of years. For all the quirkier Yes influences they exhibit (instrumentally at least), the band admirably avoids sounding like Starcastle or any other band of that ilk.

"Feathered Friends" gets things off to a rocking start with bluesy Hammond from DG and a solid beat from McCulloch before shifting gears into atmospheric ballad mode. The song proper is taken over vocally by Lawson (who by the way sounds nothing like Jon Anderson, even though he certainly has the range) who sings about? nothing in particular, as far as I can tell. Lawson's vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, although he will have one or two great moments later on. Admirably, the two keyboardists complement each other very well throughout the album, and the lack of a guitar is never noticed.

"An English Western" is the first instrumental of the album, a bit more energetic than most of the previous track. A good portion of it sounds as though Keith Emerson hijacked the session (maybe that's why I love it so?). One of the really cool aspects of this tune is the way that the eighth-note beat is added to or subtracted in certain points, so one could conceivably tap their foot and not lose their place when the opening section repeats (to quote legendary jazz guitarist Jim Hall, "trust means never having to say you're sorry"). Great track, although the random Mellotron chord at the very end didn't really need to be there.

"Drowning Man" is mostly a ballad, starting off with low vocals and rich-sounding Mellotron cellos?actually reminding me somewhat of early Genesis. The minor mode of the first minute gives way to a major-key slow waltz that actually enters chorale/hymn territory in the third verse, before the faster instrumental section which develops themes from the verse sections. DG has most of the solo spotlight here although I think I also hear a bit of Lawson's synth during this part of the tune. Good stuff, in any case.

"Temple Song" has a sort of lounge-jazz feel to it due to McCulloch's vibes doubling the vocal melody, as well as other assorted percussion throughout. It's a dreamy, lilting detour which serves as a nice comedown from the previous tracks. DG also gets to stretch out a bit on Fender Rhodes, which may be doubling the vibes with a tremolo effect in other places. Nice way to close out the first side.

"Melange" happens to be the very first Greenslade track I heard, right here on ProgArchives; this was the track that reminded me of Wakeman and led me to explore this group further. (Hey, if you enjoy the work of a certain band or musician, doesn't it make sense to seek out the people they may or may not have inspired?) In, I guess, typical Greenslade fashion, this one alternates between rocking sections and more atmospheric passages, with interest added by a Reeves bass solo (he gets a partial writing credit here, his only one on the album)?until it becomes apparent that said bass solo lasts for the majority of the track's length and isn't terribly interesting (something I didn't realize originally upon hearing the first two minutes of the tune). The bouncy, Bacharach-esque section about halfway through sounds nice, though.

"What Are You Doin' to Me" may be my favorite track here. Lawson is the sole writer credited, and he gives it his all on this one, with easily his most impassioned vocals on the album. (Must have been teed off about a bad relationship when he wrote it.) The music reflects the struggle in the lyrics as well, alternating from a 12/8 Hammond pattern to a slower jazz-rock section to some of the darkest Mellotron passages I've heard yet from any group. Somehow it all works.

The final track, "Sundance," is also the longest and apparently the one that went through the most changes in live performance, if certain archival performances are to be trusted. It's a rather meandering instrumental, with several really nice themes throughout; unfortunately, it seems to end somewhat abruptly after 8 1/2 minutes, as if the band couldn't think of a way to tie it all together. DG once again gets some nice licks in to close out the proceedings.

My verdict? Well, with a band like Greenslade, it's difficult to point to any one album as being representative because they changed their sound seemingly with every album. Most people point to this and the follow-up, Bedside Manners Are Extra (whatever that means), as generally being the best ones, and it's pretty hard to argue with that. Having said that, this band/album will mostly appeal to keyboard freaks such as myself, since a band with lots of keys and no guitars may be tough to take for some. If you have a craving to hear more obscure prog bands such as this, I recommend starting with the debut and, if you like it, working your way forward through their discography. 4 stars out of 5.

cfergmusic1 | 4/5 |

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