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Greenslade - Bedside Manners Are Extra CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.55 | 215 ratings

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3 stars So remember my review of Greenslade's debut album, where I said that they sounded like an alternate version of Yes? I think we can pretty much discount that aspect of their sound entirely with this release. I'm not sure if anyone else in 1973 noticed the similarities that I touched upon in my previous review, but months of touring and rehearsing for this album must have given them some different ideas. Obviously it didn't take long for these guys to develop their sound into something unique, which is not unexpected considering the pedigree of all the musicians involved.

The title track, which is deservedly a fan favorite, is a good example of Greenslade streamlining their sound and eliminating the clutter that sometimes found its way into their compositions. It's a gentle, pop-prog ballad, backed mostly by Lawson's acoustic piano, which avoids sentimentality through the use of several logical key modulations throughout. This is one of the few band tunes where both DG and Lawson have a turn at solos; the first solo section about halfway through features DG's very tremolo-ed Wurlitzer, and the reprise of that section, under McCartney-esque backing vocals, gives Lawson a turn on his yawning, nasal ARP Soloist. (There's no rundown of who plays what, but I think it's safe to assume that DG's and Lawson's keyboard setups remained much the same throughout the band's existence.) Elements of the softer, more melodic side of prog (notably Supertramp) can be found here with good results.

"Pilgrim's Progress" is perhaps the group's definitive instrumental, introduced by Mellotron and eventually giving way to a synth theme that signals the quick shuffle groove that takes up most of the track. In fact, several of Greenslade's most recognizable themes can be found here, alternating between loud and soft, fast and slow, easy and hard listening; remarkably, they are all well developed and the 7-minute track generally does not outstay its welcome. This reminds me of the sort of thing that Styx tried and failed to do for most of their career (in other words, much better musically than DeYoung and crew).

"Time to Dream" is a more straightforward (by Greenslade standards) rock number to close out side one. Strange Tron pads and oblique chord movement outline some of Lawson's more fantastical lyrics, and he also gets to play around with his ARP in the middle, but not before DG's own solo on Rhodes. After some stops and starts, the piece finally ends with some huge keyboard cadences (they just couldn't help themselves).

"Drum Folk," which opens up side two, is sort of the cousin of "Melange" from Greenslade's debut, only this time there's a drum solo instead of bass?and not only that, there's two of them (uh-oh!). Once again, the actual themes are wonderful (including one quick march-like number near the beginning that reminds me of "Karn Evil 9, 3rd Impression"); however, as you've probably guessed, I'm not a huge fan of in-studio drum solos unless they're purely in the jazz realm. I'm still not sure why there needed to be two on the record, let alone the single track, but at least they're short, possibly due to after-the-fact editing. Also, DG sure likes using wah-wah pedal on his RMI, doesn't he? Ah, the 70s.

Thankfully we're back to more palatable territory with "Sunkissed You're Not," another fan fave which shows the band getting down and funky with their bad selves (in 5/4, no less). This one sounds more jazzy than most of the band's oeuvre, highlighted by Lawson's best ever lyrics for the band and a crackling Wurly solo from DG that builds to a very satisfying climax and eventually calms down for the final verses. (Ironic that my favorite tracks in the early days of this band were written entirely by Lawson and not the band's namesake.)

"Chalkhill" is the album-closing instrumental, much in the same vein as "Pilgrim's Progress" but not quite as memorable until the second half, with some great Hammond from DG and a recurring line underneath, played on ARP synth tones that almost predate techno music, some 20 odd years later. The piece ends pleasantly, with Lawson's acoustic piano riding out a gentle ballad theme with DG's Rhodes in the background.

Despite the best songs here being highlights of Greenslade's career in general, and the fact that they didn't just make the debut album over again, the rest of it doesn't exactly measure up quality-wise, and so I've rated it slightly lower than the debut which is more consistent overall. Prog fans will still find plenty to like, though, so make this the second album you hear from this band (after the debut, of course). 3.5 stars out of 5.

P.S. Anyone else get the impression that the black panther on the back cover was pretty much recycled for Yes' Drama album 7 years later? Oh, Roger Dean, you sly fox, you.

cfergmusic1 | 3/5 |


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